37 Facts About Orpheus


Orpheus was a renowned poet and, according to the legend, travelled with Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece, and even descended into the underworld of Hades, to recover his lost wife Eurydice.


Orpheus was credited with the composition of the Orphic Hymns and the Orphic Argonautica.


Shrines containing purported relics of Orpheus were regarded as oracles.


Orpheus was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the Underworld and return; his music and song had power even over Hades.


Orpheus was an augur and seer; he practiced magical arts and astrology, founded cults to Apollo and Dionysus and prescribed the mystery rites preserved in Orphic texts.


Orpheus had a brother named Linus, who went to Thebes and became a Theban.


Orpheus is claimed by Aristophanes and Horace to have taught cannibals to subsist on fruit, and to have made lions and tigers obedient to him.


Horace believed that Orpheus had only introduced order and civilization to savages.


The third Orpheus was of Odrysius, a city of Thrace, near the river Hebrus; but Dionysius in Suidas denies his existence.


The fourth Orpheus was of Crotonia; flourished in the time of Pisistratus, about the fiftieth Olympiad, and is, I have no doubt, the same with Onomacritus, who changed the dialect of these hymns.


Orpheus wrote Decennalia, and in the opinion of Gyraldlus the Argonautics, which are now extant under the name of Orpheus, with other writings called Orphical, but which according to Cicero some ascribe to Cecrops the Pythagorean.


Some ancient Greek authors, such as Strabo and Plutarch, write of Orpheus as having a Thracian origin.


Orpheus's links to Thrace seem to have been sporadic and not "ethnic": he was only "Thracian" when there was a need for him to be and when that part of his portrayal allowed a poet to express a meaning important for themselves and for their audiences.


Euripides in the Hippolytus makes Theseus speak of the "turgid outpourings of many treatises", which have led his son to follow Orpheus and adopt the Bacchic religion.


Aristotle did not believe that the poems were by Orpheus; he speaks of the "so-called Orphic epic", and Philoponus commenting on this expression, says that in the De Philosophia Aristotle directly stated his opinion that the poems were not by Orpheus.


Nothing is known of any ancient Orphic writings except a reference in the Alcestis of Euripides to certain Thracian tablets which "the voice of Orpheus had inscribed" with pharmaceutical lore.


Aelian gave the chief reason against believing in them: at the time when Orpheus is said to have lived, the Thracians knew nothing about writing.


The original Hymns were thought to have been composed by Orpheus, and written down, with emendations, by Musaeus.


Orpheus's mother was the muse Calliope, her sister Polymnia, a daughter of Pierus, son of Makednos or lastly of Menippe, daughter of Thamyris.


Orpheus is said to have established the worship of Hecate in Aegina.


Also in Taygetos a wooden image of Orpheus was said to have been kept by Pelasgians in the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Demeter.


Orpheus took part in this adventure and used his skills to aid his companions.


When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was louder and more beautiful, drowning out the Sirens' bewitching songs.


The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice.


Orpheus's body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept.


Orpheus's music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world.


Orpheus set off with Eurydice following; however, as soon as he had reached the upper world, he immediately turned to look at her, forgetting in his eagerness that both of them needed to be in the upper world for the condition to be met.


Plato's representation of Orpheus is that of a coward, as instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved, he instead mocked the gods by trying to go to Hades to bring her back alive.


However, the developed form of the Orpheus myth was entwined with the Orphic mystery cults and, later in Rome, with the development of Mithraism and the cult of Sol Invictus.


Pausanias writes that Orpheus was buried in Dion and that he met his death there.


Orpheus writes that the river Helicon sank underground when the women that killed Orpheus tried to wash off their blood-stained hands in its waters.


Orpheus's lyre was carried to heaven by the Muses, and was placed among the stars.


Orpheus's soul returned to the underworld, to the fields of the Blessed, where he was reunited at last with his beloved Eurydice.


The Orpheus motif has permeated Western culture and has been used as a theme in all art forms.


Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus are based on the Orpheus myth.


Gaiman's Orpheus is the son of Oneiros and the muse Calliope.


Vinicius de Moraes's play Orfeu da Conceicao, later adapted by Marcel Camus in the 1959 film Black Orpheus, tells the story in the modern context of a favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval.