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ORPHEUS

Ancient Sources/References
to Orpheus
• Orpheus is not mentioned by the earliest Greek
poets, Homer and Hesiod.
• The earliest literary reference to Orpheus is a two-
word fragment of the sixth-century BCE lyric poet
Ibycus: onomaklyton Orphēn ("Orpheus famous-of-
name”)
• Pindar (6th-century) calls Orpheus "the father of
songs" and identifies him as a son of the Thracian
king Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope.
Ancient Sources/References
to Orpheus
• List of those Permitted to Return from the Underworld:
Hyginus 251
• Orpheus the Argonaut: Hyginus 14
• Orpheus and the Sirens (Apollodorus. Argonautica) 4
• Orpheus and Eurydice: Apollodorus 1.3.2
• Vergil's Georgics IV / Ovid's Metamorphoses X
• Death of Orpheus: Vergil's Georgics IV / Ovid's
Metamorphoses XI
• Orpheus’ Lyre: Hyginus Astronomica 2.7
• Orphic Hymns
Important Themes
• Orpheus and the power of song
• Separated lovers
• The Hero who descends to the
Underworld and returns
• The Death of Orpheus: Orpheus and
Maenads
• Orpheus as the founder of Orphism
Orpheus the Singer
• Orpheus’ parents the Muse Calliope
and the god Apollo are also singers
• Orpheus shares with his parents the
attribute of a lyre (stringed musical
instrument).
Orpheus’ Parents
• son of Oeagrus (Apollodorus,
1.19.16)
• son of the Muse Calliope and
Oeagrus (Apollodorus. Astronomica
II.7)
• Now Calliope bore to Oeagrus or,
nominally, to Apollo, a son Linus,38
whom Hercules slew; and another
son, Orpheus (Apollodorus Library
1.3.2)

Muse Calliope, Athenian red-figure pyxis


C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Apollo

• son of Zeus and Leto

• God of music

• maybe father of Orpheus

• leader of the Muses


A kylix depicting the god Apollo pouring a libation
and holding an early version of the lyre (chelys)
which was made from the shell of a tortoise. The
bird may represent the crow which announced
the marriage of the nymph Aigle-Korone, the
daughter of King Phlegyas. Provenance: Delphi,
480-470 BCE, artist unknown. (Delphi
Archaeological Museum).
Orpheus’ Lyre
Read here what happens to Orpheus Lyre
after his death: Hyginus Astronomica
2.7
The Musician / Bard

In a society without writing -- history,


cultural knowledge and sacred stories
were preserved in poetry.
People with the capacity for
remembering and performing song –
bards – were honored.
Poets often claimed divine inspiration,
to explain their gift and its truthfulness.
Homer and Hesiod, whose works (?)
are preserved, were heroes.
Orpheus, a mythic poet, was regarded Fresco of a bard with a
as greater still. lyre from Pylos. 13th
cent. B.C.
Orpheus Singing and Playing his Lyre for Thracians
Red-figure.
5th cent. B.C.
Altes Museum Berlin
Note how
Orpheus’ lyre
is usually
replaced in
later art with a
violin, as in
this painting.

Károly Ferenczy (1862–1917) . Orpheus


1894, oil on canvas
Height: 98.2 cm (38.7 in). Width: 117.5 cm (46.3 in).
Hungarian National Gallery
Orpheus’ Lyre
Question: How do ancient myths and art
emphasize the importance of Orpheus’
lyre?
Orpheus and the Power of
Song
Many elements in Orpheus myth
emphasize the great power of his
song. For example, the Roman
poet Ovid says the following at
the beginning of Metamorphoses
11:
“The poet of Thrace, with songs
like these, drew to himself the
trees, the souls of wild beasts,
Orpheus surrounded by animals.
and the stones that followed him.”
Ancient Roman floor mosaic, from
Palermo, now in the. Museo
archeologico regionale di Palermo
Orpheus’ power to charm nature with his song is a frequent
theme in ancient art, especially floor mosiacs, such as this
one and the one from Palermo on the previous slide.
Orpheus the Argonaut
Opheus’ Role in the Argonautic
Expedition also illustrates the
power of his song. Look,
especially, at his role the story
about the Sirens.
• Orpheus the Argonaut:
Hyginus 14 Roman mosaic:
Odysseus and the Sirens
• Orpheus and the Sirens
(Bardo National
(Apollodorus. Argonautica) 4
Museum)
Poet as Orpheus with Two Sirens; Greek, made in Taras,
Italy; 350-300 BCE; terracotta, pigment.
Getty Villa, Malibu CA
Question: Summarize the ways that ancient myths and
art about Orpheus illustrate the importance and power
of song and singers.
Orpheus’ Name
Here are some possible linguistics associations
with Orpheus’ name:
• Hypothetical proto-Indo-European (PIE) verb
*orbhao- “to be deprived”
• From PIE *orbh- “to put asunder, separate”
• Greek orphe- “darkness”
• Greek orphanos- “fatherless, orphan”
• Related to Latin goao- “to lament, sing
Question: How do these associations relate
to the myth of Orpheus?
Orpheus and Eurydice
Now read these three ancient versions
of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
• Orpheus and Eurydice: Apollodorus
1.3.2
• Vergil's Georgics IV
• Ovid's Metamorphoses X
Be sure to pay attention to how each
version is similar and different.
Questions
• What reason does Vergil offer in the Georgics to explain why Orpheus looked
back at Eurydice? How does Eurydice respond to what Orpheus did?
• What does Vergil say about Orpheus’ head after the singer is killed by the
Maenads? How does this enhance Orpheus’ power as a singer? How does it
increase the pathos of the story?
• Describe the way Ovid in his Metamorphoses says each of the following
respond to Orpheus’ song as in the Underworld: the bloodless spirits, Tantalus,
Ixion, Sisyphus, the vultures eating Tityus, the Danaids, and Hades/Persephone.
What do these responses suggest about Orpheus’ abilities as a singer?
• In his Metamorphoses Ovid describes the ways that Orpheus responded to the
loss of Eurydice a second time. Make a list of the things Orpheus did after this
happened.
• Compare Vergil’s and Ovid’s stories of Orpheus and Eurydice. List three ways
they are similar and three ways they are different.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Now for some artistic versions of the
story:
Louis Ducis (1775-1847). Orphée Et Euridice. Oil on canvas 1825.
46.7 x 38.8 cm. (18.39" x 15.28"). Private collection
Charles Nanteuil 1792-1865:
Eurydice mourante (Eurydice
Dying). Musée de Picardie,
Amiens.
Hermes Psychopompos
Takes Eurydice Away
Relief
Sculpture,
c. Museo
Archeologi
co
Nazionale,
Naples.
(From L to
R: Hermes,
Eurydice,
Orpheus)
H. W. Bissen, 1798-1868: Orpheus pleading with Pluto
and Proserpina to restore Eurydice to him.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Orpheus Leading Eurydice. Camille Corot, 1861.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Orpheus and Eurydice.
Painting from 1806 by
C. G. Kratzenstein-
Stub, 1793-1860. Ny
Carlsberg Glyptotek,
Copenhagen.
Orpheus and Eurydice in Art
Question: What do these artistic
representations of the story of Orpheus
and Eurydice add to your understanding
of the myth?
Interpretation
Question: What does the myth of Orpheus
and Eurydice suggest about ancient
Greek attitudes towards love, death and
song?
Orpheus in Music, Literature Film, and Song
Numerous OPERAS about Oprheus, including:
• Christoph Willibald Gluck- "Orphee et Eurydice" (1762)
• Jacques Offenbach. Orpheus in the Underworld (1858)

FILM
• Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus (1959)
• Jean Cocteau’s Orphic film triology (1930-1960)

LITERATURE
• Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer, 1801
"...Did Thracian shepherd by the grave
Of Orpheus hear a sweeter melody...“

SONG
• Carly Simon “Orpheus” (1983) See next slide
ORPHEUS (Carly Simon)
Orpheus, it could have been
you could have held me again
You said your songs had all gone
And that the road back up was too long
But it was there for us
It was there for us Simon, Carly. “Orpheus.”
I loved you all along
Orpheus Perf. Carly Simon. On “Hello
The part of me that died
Was ready to be reborn Big Man” album. Warner
And you called of the hounds
Of hell with your songs Bros., 1983.
Orpheus, Orpheus
I loved you all along, Orpheus Available on the “Clouds in
Orpheus, It could have been
You could have held me again My Coffee 1965-1995” album.
But you couldn’t wait
Somewhere along the road Artista, 1995. #8221879828.
you lost your faith
Out of despair and believing
I was gone
You gave up on my love Listen to it here:
you gave up on us
But it was there for us, https://open.spotify.com/track/46
It was there for us
I loved you all along 9USuQkMDkOCq3blRpCP2
Orpheus
Question
Why has the Orpheus myth been so
popular in modern media like opera, film
and song?
The Death of Orpheus
Now read about the death of Orpheus:
• Vergil's Georgics IV
• Ovid's Metamorphoses XI
• Orpheus’ Lyre: Hyginus Astronomica
2.7
The death of Orpheus at the hand of a Maenad. Red-figured
amphora from Nola, Italy, 450-440 BCE Terracotta, height: 32 cm
Inv. G 436 Louvre, Departement des Antiquites
Grecques/Romaines, Paris, France
Maenads
Maenads attacking Pentheus (Roman wall painting from the
House of the Vettii, Pompeii) Furious Maenad,carrying a thyrsus and a leopard, with a snake
rolled up over her head.Tondo of an Ancient Greek Attic white-
ground kylix 490–480 BC from Vulci.Staatliche
Antikensammlungen Munich Germany.

Orpheus is torn apart limb from limb by


Maenads (female followers of Dionysus)
Sparagmos: ritual tearing apart of a
sacrificial victim in the worship of
Dionysus. (See especially the death of
Pentheus in Euripides’ Bacchae)
Reasons for Orpheus’s Death
Vary in the Sources
• Some also have said that Venus and Proserpina came to Jove for his
decision, asking him to which of them he would grant Adonis. Calliope,
the judge appointed by Jove, decided that each should posses him half
of the year. But Venus, angry because she had not been granted what
she thought was her right, stirred the women in Thrace by love, each to
seek Orpheus for herself, so that they tore him limb from limb.
(Apollodorus. Astronomica II.7)
• Some say that because Orpheus first favored love for youths, he
seemed to insult women, and for this reason they killed him.
(Apollodorus. Astronomica II.7)
• The Ciconian women, spurned by his devotion, tore the youth apart, in
their divine rites and midnight Bacchic revels, and scattered him over
the fields. (Vergil Georgics IV)
• See, how the frenzied Ciconian women, their breasts covered with
animal skins, spy Orpheus from a hilltop, as he matches songs to the
sounding strings. One of them, her hair scattered to the light breeze,
called: ‘Behold, behold, this is the one who scorns us!’ and hurled her
spear at the face of Apollo’s poet, as he was singing.(Ovid.
Metamorphoses 11)
Gregorio Lazzarini (1655–1730)
Orpheus and the Bacchantes
circa 1710
oil on canvas
Ca' Rezzonico
Orpheus’
Head
QUESTION;
What does Vergil say about Orpheus’
head after the singer is killed by
the Maenads? How does this
enhance Orpheus’ power as a
singer? How does it increase the
pathos of the story?

Gustave Moreau
Thracian Woman Carrying Orpheus’ Head
1864
watercolor on paper
Private Collection
Orphism
Orphism was a set of religious beliefs and
practices associated with Orpheus and very
popular in the ancient Greek world.

Read about Orphism here.

This belief system was founded founded upon


sacred writings about the origin of gods and
human beings. Look at some Orphic texts:
Orphic Hymns
Orphism
Some Orphic beliefs included:
• A belief that human souls are divine and immortal but
doomed to live (for a period) in a "grievous circle" of
successive bodily lives through metempsychosis or
the transmigration of souls.
• Practiced secret initiation rites as a way to a better
Afterlife.
• Prescribed an ascetic way of life (including
vegetarianism) which was guaranteed not only
eventual release from the "grievous circle" but also
communion with god(s).
• Warned of punishment after death for certain
transgressions committed during life.
Orphism
Question: What aspects of the myth of
Orpheus would have encouraged
Orphic beliefs?
Orpheus and Christ

This fresco of Christ as Orpheus is in the Catacombs of


Peter and Marcellus in Rome, and dates from the 4th
century.
Orpheus and Christ

Read this link:


http://www.religionfacts.com/jesus/image_gallery/4C_chri
st_as_orpheus.htm.

Now answer this question:


Why did early Christians associate Orpheus with
Christ?
Questions on Orpheus
Here is a list of all the questions asked in this Powerpoint.

• How do ancient myths and art emphasize the importance of Orpheus’ lyre?
• Summarize the ways that ancient myths and art about Orpheus illustrate the power and importance of song
and singers.
• How do the linguistic associations with Orpheus’ name relate to the myth of Orpheus?
• What reason does Vergil offer in the Georgics to explain why Orpheus looked back at Eurydice? How does
Eurydice respond to what Orpheus did?
• Describe the way Ovid in his Metamorphoses says each of the following respond to Orpheus’ song as in
the Underworld: the bloodless spirits, Tantalus, Ixion, Sisyphus, the vultures eating Tityus, the Danaids, and
Hades/Persephone. What do these responses suggest about Orpheus’ abilities as a singer?
• In his Metamorphoses Ovid describes the ways that Orpheus responded to the loss of Eurydice a second
time. Make a list of the things Orpheus did after this happened.
• Compare Vergil’s and Ovid’s stories of Orpheus and Eurydice. List three ways they are similar and three
ways they are different.
• What do artistic representations of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice add to your understanding of the
myth?
• What does the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice suggest about ancient Greek attitudes towards love, death
and song?
• Why has the Orpheus myth been so popular in modern media like opera, film and song?
• What does Vergil say about Orpheus’ head after the singer is killed by the Maenads? How does this
enhance Orpheus’ power as a singer? How does it increase the pathos of the story?
• What aspects of the myth of Orpheus would have encouraged Orphic beliefs?
• Why did early Christians associate Orpheus with Christ?