The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

60

ORPHEUS.

these names are Olen, Linus, Orpheus, Musaeus, Eumolpus, Pamphus, Thamyris, and Philammon.

Of these names that of Orpheus is the most im­portant, and at the same time the one involving the greatest difficulties. These difficulties arise from the scantiness of the early traditions re­specting him, in tracing which we are rather im­peded than aided by the many marvels which later writers connected with his story ; and also from the very different religious positions which are assigned to him. On this last point it may be remarked in general that the earliest opinions respecting him seem to have invariably connected him with Apollo ; while his name was afterwards adopted as the central point of one system of Dio-n}rsiac worship.

One of the most essential points in such an in­quiry as the present is, to observe the history of the traditions themselves. The name of Orpheus does not occur in the Homeric or Hesiodic poems ; but, during the lyric period, it had attained to great celebrity. Ibycus, who flourished about the middle of the sixth century b. c., mentions him as " the renowned Orpheus" (dvo/j.aK\vr6v "Op^rj*', Ibyc. Fr. No. 22, Schneidewin, No. 9, Bergk, ap. Pris-cian. vol. i. p. 283, Krehl). Pindar enumerates him among the Argonauts as the celebrated harp player, father of songs, and as sent forth by Apollo (Pyth. iv. 315. s. 176) : elsewhere he mentioned him as the son of Oeagrus (Schol. ad he.). The historians Hellanicus and Pherecydes record his name, the former making him the ancestor both of Homer and of Hesiod (Fr. Nos. 5, 6, Miiller, ap. Prod. Vit. ffes. p. 141,b., Vit. Horn. Ined.} ; the latter stating that it was not Orpheus, but Philam­mon, who was the bard of the Argonauts (Fr. 63, Miiller, ap. Scliol. ad Apollon. i. 23), and this is also the account which Apollonius Rhodius followed. In the dramatic poets there are several references to Orpheus. Aeschylus alludes to the fable of his leading after him trees charmed by the sound of his lyre(^. 1612,1613,Wellauer, 1629,1630,Dind.) ; and there is an important statement preserved by Eratosthenes (c. 24), who quotes the Bassarides of the same poet, that " Orpheus did not honour Dionysus, but believed the sun to be the greatest of the gods, whom also he called Apollo ; and rising up in the night, he ascended before dawn to the mountain called Pangaeum, that he might see the sun first, at which Dionysus being enraged sent upon him the Bassaridae, as the poet Aeschylus says, who tore him in pieces, and scattered his limbs abroad ; but the Muses collected them, and buried them at the place called Leibethra:" but the quotation itself shows the impossibility of de­termining how much of this account is to be con­sidered as given by Aeschylus. Sophocles does not mention Orpheus, but he is repeatedly referred to by Euripides, in whom we find the first allusion to the connection of Orpheus with Dionysus and the infernal regions : he speaks of him as related to the Muses (Rhes. 944, 946) ; mentions the power of his song over rocks, trees, and wild beasts (Med. 543, Iph. in Aul. 1211, Bacch. 561, and a jocular allusion in Cyc. 646) ; refers to his charming the infernal powers {Ale. 357) ; connects him with Bacchanalian orgies (Hippol. 953) ; ascribes to him the origin of sacred mysteries (RJies. 943), and places the scene of his activity among the forests of Olympus. (Bacch. 561.) He is mentioned once only, but in an important passage, by Aristophanes

ORPHEUS.

(Ran. 1032), who enumerates, as the oldest poets, Orpheus, Musaeus, Hesiod, and Homer, and makes Orpheus the teacher of religious initiations and of abstinence from murder :

reAeras <f>dvov t* O

Passages exactly parallel to this are found in Plato (Apol. p. 41, a., Prolog, p. 316, d.), who frequently refers to Orpheus, his followers, and his works. He calls him the son of Oeagrus (Sympos. p. 179, d.), mentions him as a musician and inventor (Ion, p. 533, c., Leg. iii. p. 677, d.), refers to the miraculous power of his lyre (Protag. p. 315, a.), and gives a singular version of the story of his descent into Hades : the gods, he says, imposed upon the poet, by showing him only a phan­tasm of his lost wife, because he had not the courage to die, like Alcestis, but contrived to enter Hades alive, and, as a further punishment for his cowardice, he met his death at the hands of women (Sympos. p. 179, d. ; comp. Polit. x. p. 620, a.). This account is quite discordant with the notions of the early Greeks respecting the value of life, and even with the example quoted by Plato himself, as far as Admetus is concerned. Plato seems to have misunderstood the reason why Orpheus's " contriving to enter Hades alive," called down the anger of the gods, namely, as a presumptuous transgression of the limits assigned to the condition of mortal men : this point will have to be considered again. As the followers of Orpheus, Plato mentions both poets and religionists (Prot. p. 316, d., Ion, p. 536, b., Cratyl. p, 400, c.), and in the passage last quoted, he tells us that the followers of Orpheus held the doctrine, that the soul is imprisoned in the body as a punishment for some previous sins. He makes several quo­tations from the writings ascribed to Orpheus, of which one, if not more, is from the Theogony (Cratyl. p. 402, b., Phileb. p. 66, c., Leg. ii. p. 669, d.), and in one passage he speaks of col­lections of books, which went under the names of Orpheus and Musaeus, and contained rules for religious ceremonies. (Polit. ii. p. 364, e.)

The writings mentioned in the last passage were evidently regarded by Plato as spurious, but, from the other passages quoted, he seems to have believed at least in the existence of Orpheus and in the genuineness of his TJieogony. Not so, however, Aristotle, who held that no such person as Orpheus ever existed, and that the works ascribed to him were forged by Cercops and Onomacritus. [onomacritus.]

Proceeding to the mythographers, and the later poets, from , Apollodoius downwards, we find the legends of Orpheus amplified by details, the whole of which it is impossible here to enumerate ; we give an outline of the most important of them.

Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus and Calliope, lived in Thrace at the period of the Argonauts, whom he accompanied in their expedition. Presented with the lyre by Apollo, and instructed by the Muses in its use, he enchanted with its music not only the wild beasts, but the trees and rocks upon Olympus, so that they moved from their places to follow the sound of his golden harp. The power of his music caused the Argonauts to seek his aid, which contributed materially to the success of their expedition : at the sound of his lyre the Argo glided down into the sea ; the Argonauts

Pages
About | First

58

59

60
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.