The Ancient Library

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On this page: Orpheus – Orsilochia – Oscan Plans – Oschophoria – Osiris



Orosius of Spain, a presbyter in Lusitania. About 417 a.d., and at the wish of Augustine, whom he had sought out in Africa, he composed his history against the heathen (Histories contra Pagdnos) in seven books, the h'rst attempt at a Christian universal history, from Adam to 410 a.d. The theory of his work is, that the whole history of mankind is directed by the one God who created them, and it aims at refuting the charges brought against Christianity by showing, that it was not to Christianity and the abolition of the heathen religion that the calamities of the time were due, but that such calamities had always existed, and to a still greater degree before Christian times. His chief authority is Justin, be­sides whom he mainly used Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eutropius. His view of the four kingdoms of the world, Babylon, Macedon, Carthage, and Rome, prevailed throughout the whole of the Middle Ages.

Orpheus, the famous mythical poet, son of (Eagrus and the Muse Calliope, who gave birth to him on the banks of the Hebrus in Thrace. Such was his power in song, that he could move trees and rocks and tame wild beasts thereby. When his wife, the Nymph Eurydice, died of a serpent's bite (see arist^eus), he descended into the lower world, and so moved Persephone by the music of his song, that she permitted him to take Eurydice back with him to the upper world, on condition of his not looking round during his passage through the realm of the dead. In spite of this, his impatience led him to gaze back, and Enrydice had to return for ever to Hades [Vergil, Oeorg. iv 453-527]

Mythology describes him as taking part in the Argonautic expedition, and repre­sents him as encouraging and assisting his comrades by his song on many occasions, especially while they were passing the Sirens. He was torn in pieces upon Hsemus by the Thracian Maenads, either for having opposed the celebration of their orgies, or because, after losing Eurydice, he conceived a hatred of all other women. His scattered limbs were buried by the Muses in the dis­trict of PiSria on Olympus; but his head and lyre, which the Maenads had cast into the Hebrus, floated down into the sea, and across it to Lesbos, the isle of poets in later days; and here they were buried at Methymna [Lucian, Adv. Indoctum, 11]. The name of Orpheus (apparently not known to Homer and Hesiod) was assumed by the mystic and religious sect of the Orphici, who claimed

him as their founder. They arose at some time after the 6th century b.c. In opposi­tion to the received views concerning the gods, and especially concerning the state of the soul after death, and in close connexion with Oriental and Egyptian ideas, they taught the necessity of a purification of a soul by religious consecration and the use of the methods of expiation alleged to have been made known by Orpheus. They declared that Orpheus was the most ancient of the poets, living long before Homer, and attri­buted to him a number of poems of mythical


(Rome, Villa Albani; Naples; Paris.)

purport. Out of this apocryphal Orphic literature there have been preserved from the time of the decay of paganism: (1) an epic poem on the exploits of Orpheus during the Argonautic expedition (Argonautlea}; (2) eighty-eight songs of consecration or hymns, prayers to various gods and demons, written in hexameter verse and in a bom­bastic style, intended to be recited at blood­less offerings of incense; (3) an epic poem upon the magical powers of precious stones (Llthica).

Orslldchla. See iphigenia.

Oscan Plays. See atellana.

Oschdphdria. At Athens a festival in honour of Dionysus. (See further Dio-nysia, 1.)

Osiris. An Egyptian god, who, with his sister and wife Isis (q.v.), enjoyed in Egypt the most general worship of all the gods. He is the male god of the fructification of the land. Prom him comes every blessing

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.