The Ancient Library

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tore themselves away from the pleasures of Lemnos ; the Symplegadae, or moving rocks, vrhich threatened to crush the ship between them, were fixed in their places ; and the Colchian dragon, which guarded the golden fleece, was lulled to sleep : other legends of the same kind may be read in the Argonautica, which bears the name of Orpheus. After his return from the Argonautic expedition he took up his abode in a cave in Thrace, and employed himself in the civilisation of its wild inhabitants. There is also a legend of his having visited Egypt. The legends respecting the loss and recovery of his wife, and his own death, are very various. His wife was a nymph named Agriope or Eurydice. In the older accounts the cause of her death is not referred to, but the legend followed in the well-known passages of Virgil and Ovid, which ascribes the death of Eurydice to the bite of a serpent, is no doubt of high antiquity, but the introduction of Aristaeus into the legend cannot be traced to any writer older than Virgil himself. (Died. iv. 25 ; Conon, 45 ; Paus. ix. 30. § 4 ; Hygin. Fab. 164.) He followed his lost wife into the abodes of Hades, where the charms of his lyre suspended the torments of the damned, and won back his wife from the most inexorable of all deities ; but his prayer was only granted upon this condition, that he should not look back upon his restored wife, till they had arrived in the upper world : at the very moment when they were about to pass the fatal bounds, the anxiety of love overcame the poet ; he looked round to see that Eurydice was following him ; and he beheld her caught back into the infernal regions. The form of the myth, as told by Plato, has been given above. The later poets, forgetting the religious meaning of the legend, connected his death with the second loss of Eurydice, his grief for whom led him to treat with contempt the Thracian women, who in revenge tore him to pieces under the excitement of their Bacchanalian orgies. Other causes are assigned for the fury of the Thracian Maenads ; but the most ancient form of the legend seems to be that already mentioned as quoted by Era­tosthenes from Aeschylus. The variation, by which Aphrodite is made the instigator of his death, from motives of jealousy, is of course merely a fancy of some late poet (Conon, 45). Another form of the legend, which deserves much more attention, is that which was embodied in an inscription upon what was said to be the tomb, in which the bones of Orpheus were buried, at Dium near Pydna, in Macedonia, which ascribed his death to the thunderbolts of Zeus : —



Tr;5' ' Zeus

*Oj> K

(Diog. Laert. Prooem. 5 ; Paus. ix. 30. § 5 ; A nth. Graec. Epig. Inc. No. 483 ; Brunck, Anal. vol. iii. p. 253.)

After his death, according to the more common form of the legend, the Muses collected the frag­ments of his body, and buried them at Leibethra at the foot of Olympus, where the nightingale sang sweetly over his grave. The subsequent transference of his bones to Dium is evidently a local legend. (Paus. 1. c.) His head was thrown upon the Hebrus, down which it rolled to the sea, and was borne across to Lesbos, where the grave in which it was interred was shown at Antissa.


His lyre was also said to have been carried to Lesbos ; and both traditions are simply poetical expressions of the historical fact that Lesbos was the first great seat of the music of the lyre : indeed Antissa itself was the birth-place of Terpander, the earliest historical musician. (Phanocles, ap. Stob. Tit. Ixii. p. 399). The astronomers taught that the lyre of Orpheus was placed by Zeus among the stars, at the intercession of Apollo and the Muses (Eratosth. 24 ; Hygin. Astr. ii. 7; Ma-nil. Astron. i. 324).

In these legends there are some points which require but little explanation. The invention of music, in connection with the services of Apollo and the Muses, its first great application to the worship of the gods, which Orpheus is therefore said to have introduced, its power over the pas­sions, and the importance which the Greeks at­tached to the knowledge of it, as intimately allied with the very existence of all social order,—are pro­bably the chief elementary ideas of the whole legend. But then comes in one of the dark fea­tures of the Greek religion, in which the gods envy the advancement of man in knowledge and civilisation, and severely punish any one who transgresses the bounds assigned to humanity, as may be seen in the legend of Prometheus, and in the sudden death, or blindness, or other calamities of the early poets and musicians. In a later age, the conflict was no longer viewed as between the gods and man, but between the worshippers of dif­ferent divinities ; and especially between Apollo, the symbol of pure intellect, and Dionysus, the deity of the senses: hence Orpheus, the servant of Apollo, falls a victim to the jealousy of Dionysus, and the fury of his worshippers. There are, how­ever, other points in the legend which are of the utmost difficulty, and which would require far more discussion than can be entered upon here. For these matters the reader is referred to Lobeck's Aglaophamus, Muller's Prolegomena zu einer wis-senschaftlicJien Mytliologie, and Klausen's article in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclop'ddie. Concerning the localities of the legend, see Muller's Literature of Ancient Greece, p. 26, and Klausen. The works of art representing Orpheus are enumerated by Klausen.

Orphic Societies and Mysteries.—All that part of the mythology of Orpheus which connects him with Dionysus must be considered as a later in­vention, quite irreconcilable with the original le­gends, in which he is the servant of Apollo and the Muses: the discrepancy extends even to the instrument of his music, which was always the lyre, and never the flute. It is almost hopeless to explain the transition. It is enough to remark here that, about the time of the first development of Greek philosophy, societies were formed, which assumed the name of Orpheus, and which cele­brated peculiar mysteries, quite different from those of Eleusis. They are thus described by Muller (Hist. Lit. Anc. Gr. p. 231.): —

" On the other hand there was a society of persons, who performed the rites of a mystical worship, but were not exclusively attached to a particular temple and festival, and who did not confine their notions to the initiated, but published them to others, and committed them to literary works. These were the followers of Orplieus (of *Op(f>iKoi); that is to say, associations of per­sons, who, under the [pretended] guidance of the

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