Elisabeth was found in 1876 a fine mosaic in black on a white ground representing Orpheus in the midst of the beasts (Notizie degli scavi, 1876,181; 1877 309).
ORPHEUS, in Greek legend, the chief representative of the art of song and playing on the lyre, and of great importance in the religious history of Greece.
In accordance with this, Orpheus may have been originally a god of darkness; or the liberator from the power of darkness by his gift of song; or he may have been so called because his rites were celebrated by night (cf.
It is possible, but very improbable, that Orpheus was an historical personage; even in ancient times his existence was denied.
According to the best-known tradition, Orpheus was the son of Oeagrus, king of Thrace, and the muse Calliope.
During his residence in Thrace he joined the expedition of the Argonauts, whose leader Jason had been informed by Chiron that only by the aid of Orpheus would they be able to pass by the Sirens unscathed.
Orpheus went down to the lower world and by his music softened the heart of Pluto and Persephone, who allowed Eurydice to return with him to earth.
After the death of Eurydice, Orpheus rejected the advances of the Thracian women, who, jealous of his faithfulness to the memory of his lost wife, tore him to pieces during the frenzy of the Bacchic orgies.
According to Gruppe, the legend of the death of Orpheus is a late imitation of the Adonis-Osiris myth.
Osiris, like Orpheus, is torn in pieces, and his head floats down every year from Egypt to Byblus; the body of Attis, the Phrygian counterpart of Adonis, like that of Orpheus, does not suffer decay.
Without going so far as to assert that Orpheus is a hypostasis of Dionysus, there is no doubt that a close connexion existed between them from very early times.
Orpheus, in the manner of his death, was considered to personate the god Dionysus, and was thus the representative of the god torn to pieces every year, a ceremony enacted by the Bacchae in the earliest times with a human victim, afterwards with a bull to represent the bull-formed god.
It is possible that the floating of the head of Orpheus to Lesbos has reference to the fact that the island was the first home of lyric poetry, and may be symbolical of the route taken by the Aeolian emigrants from Thessaly on their way to their new home in Asia Minor.
The name of Orpheus is equally important in the religious history of Greece.
In later times Orphic theology engaged the attention of Greek philosophersEudemus the Peripatetic, Chrysippus the Stoic, and Proclus the Neoplatonist, but it was an especially favourite study of the grammarians of Alexandria, where it became so intermixed with Egyptian elements that Orpheus came to be looked upon as the founder of mysticism.
The so-called Orphic Poems, still extant, are of much later date, probably belonging to the 4th century A.D.; they consist of: (I) an Argonautica, glorifying the deeds of Orpheus on the " Argo," (2) a didactic poem on the magic powers of stones, called Lithica, (3) eighty-seven hymns on various divinities and personified forces of nature.
Of more modern writings on Orpheus and Orphism the following may be consulted.
Maass, Orpheus (1895); S.
Gerhard, Ober Orpheus and die Orphiker (1861); A.
On the representations of Orpheus in heathen and Christian art (in which he is finally transformed into the Good Shepherd with his sheep), see A.
The story of Orpheus, as was to be expected of a legend told both by Ovid and Boetius, retained its popularity throughout the middle ages and was transformed into the likeness of a northern fairy tale.
A confused notice in Suidas mentions three persons of the name: the first, the inventor of the alphabet; the second, the son of Pandion, "according to some" the first prose writer, a little later than Orpheus, author of a history of the Foundation of Miletus and of Ionia generally, in four books; the third, the son of Archelaus, of later date, author of a history of Attica in fourteen books, and of some poems of an erotic character.
But when the legend became common property, other and better-known heroes were added to their number - Orpheus, Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux), Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of Boreas, Meleager, Theseus, Heracles.
Some (pseudo-Orpheus) supposed that the Argonauts had sailed up the river Tanais, passed into another river, and by it reached the North Sea, returning to the Mediterranean by the Pillars of Hercules.
In Greek, there are also extant the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius and the pseudo-Orpheus (4th century A.D.), and the account in Apollodorus (i.
For the most part I escaped wonderfully from these dangers, either by proceeding at once boldly and without deliberation to the goal, as is recommended to those who run the gauntlet, or by keeping my thoughts on high things, like Orpheus, who, "loudly singing the praises of the gods to his lyre, drowned the voices of the Sirens, and kept out of danger."
And, above all, there is this difference between resisting this and a purely brute or natural force, that I can resist this with some effect; but I cannot expect, like Orpheus, to change the nature of the rocks and trees and beasts.