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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”)

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ancient sources references to 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 orpheus1
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
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 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
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 pyxisC5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

apollo
Apollo
  • son of Zeus and Leto
  •  God of music
  •  maybe father of Orpheus
  • leader of the Muses

A kylix depicting the godApollo 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
Orpheus’ Lyre

Read here what happens to Orpheus Lyre after his death: Hyginus Astronomica 2.7

slide9

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 as greater still.

Fresco of a bard with a lyre from Pylos. 13th cent. B.C.

slide10

Orpheus Singing and Playing his Lyre for Thracians

Red-figure.

5th cent. B.C.

Altes Museum Berlin

slide11

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 lyre1
Orpheus’ Lyre

Question: How do ancient myths and art emphasize the importance of Orpheus’ lyre?

orpheus and the power of song
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, and the stones that followed him.”

Orpheus surrounded by animals. Ancient Roman floor mosaic, from Palermo, now in the. Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo

slide14

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
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
  • Orpheus and the Sirens (Apollodorus. Argonautica) 4

Roman mosaic: Odysseus and the Sirens (Bardo National Museum)

slide16

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
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?

  • wildly, cast a spell
orpheus and eurydice
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
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 eurydice1
Orpheus and Eurydice

Now for some artistic versions of the story:

slide21

Louis Ducis (1775-1847). Orphée Et Euridice. Oil on canvas 1825. 46.7 x 38.8 cm. (18.39" x 15.28"). Private collection

hermes psychopompos takes eurydice away
Hermes Psychopompos Takes Eurydice Away

Relief Sculpture, c. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. (From L to R: Hermes, Eurydice, Orpheus)

slide25

H. W. Bissen, 1798-1868: Orpheus pleading with Pluto and Proserpina to restore Eurydice to him.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

slide28

Orpheus and Eurydice. Painting from 1806 by C. G. Kratzenstein-Stub, 1793-1860. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

orpheus and eurydice in art
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
Interpretation

Question: What does the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice suggest about ancient Greek attitudes towards love, death and song?

slide31

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 (Carly Simon)

Orpheus, it could have beenyou could have held me againYou said your songs had all goneAnd that the road back up was too longBut it was there for usIt was there for usI loved you all alongOrpheusThe part of me that diedWas ready to be rebornAnd you called of the houndsOf hell with your songsOrpheus, OrpheusI loved you all along, OrpheusOrpheus, It could have beenYou could have held me againBut you couldn’t waitSomewhere along the roadyou lost your faithOut of despair and believingI was goneYou gave up on my loveyou gave up on usBut it was there for us,It was there for usI loved you all alongOrpheus

Simon, Carly. “Orpheus.” Perf. Carly Simon. On “Hello Big Man” album. Warner Bros., 1983.

Available on the “Clouds in My Coffee 1965-1995” album. Artista, 1995. #8221879828.

Listen to it here:

https://open.spotify.com/track/469USuQkMDkOCq3blRpCP2

question
Question

Why has the Orpheus myth been so popular in modern media like opera, film and song?

the death of orpheus
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
slide35

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

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)

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.

reasons for orpheus s death vary in the sources
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)
slide38

Gregorio Lazzarini (1655–1730)

Orpheus and the Bacchantes

circa 1710

oil on canvas

Ca' Rezzonico

orpheus head
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 MoreauThracian Woman Carrying Orpheus’ Head

1864

watercolor on paper

Private Collection

orphism
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

orphism1
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.
orphism2
Orphism

Question: What aspects of the myth of Orpheus would have encouraged Orphic beliefs?

orpheus and christ
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 christ1
Orpheus and Christ

Read this link: http://www.religionfacts.com/jesus/image_gallery/4C_christ_as_orpheus.htm.

Now answer this question:

Why did early Christians associate Orpheus with Christ?

questions on orpheus
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?