A large number of writings in the tone of the Orphic religion were ascribed to Orpheus.
It does not appear, however, that a regularly organized or numerous Orphic sect ever existed, nor that Orphism ever became popular; it was too abstract, too full of symbolism.
In the Orphic mysteries " the soul was regarded as a part of the divine, a particula aurae divinae, for which the body in its limited and perishable condition was no fit organ, but a grave or prison(ro a4 pa).
The rules of the Orphic life prescribed abstinence from beans, flesh, certain kinds of fish, &c., the wearing of a special kind of clothes, and numerous other practices and abstinences.
Some of the so-called " Orphic tablets," metrical inscriptions engraved on small plates of gold, chiefly dating from the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., have been discovered in tombs in southern Italy, Crete and Rome.
These poems were recited at rhapsodic contests together with those of Homer and Hesiod, and Orphic hymns were used in the Eleusinian mysteries.'
The bestknown name in connexion with them is that of Onomacritus, who, in the time of the Peisistratidae, made a collection (including forgeries of his own) of Orphic songs and legends.
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.
It also included a collection of Orphic hymns, liturgic songs, practical treatises, and poems on various subjects.
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.
The Orphic poems also played an important part in the controversies between Christian and pagan writers in the 3rd and 4th centuries after Christ; pagan writers quoted them to show the real meaning of the multitude of gods, while Christians retorted by reference to the obscene and disgraceful fictions by which the former degraded their gods.
Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (2nd ed., 1908, with a critical appendix by Gilbert Murray on the Orphic tablets); E.
There is an edition of the Orphic Fragments and of the poems by E.
All we can reasonably believe is that he gave encouragement to poetry as he had done to architecture and the drama; Onomacritus, the chief of the Orphic succession, and collector of the oracles of Musaeus, was a member of his household.
He belonged to the circle of Peisistratus at Athens, and was the founder of an Orphic community.
Thus the Orphic hymns are careful to specify, in connexion with the several deities celebrated, a great variety of substances appropriate to the service of each; in the case of many of these the selection seems to have been determined not at all by their fragrance but by some occult considerations which it is now difficult to divine.
From his power of assuming whatever shape he pleased Proteus came to be regarded, especially by the Orphic mystics, as a symbol of the original matter from which the world was created.
" Orphic Cosmogony."
The books of Plato, along with certain divine oracles, the Orphic poems, and much more which they assigned to a remote antiquity,.
In this system we distinguish not only the asceticism of Pythagoras and the later mysticism of Plato, but also the influence of the Orphic mysteries.
While, on one hand, he combines much that had been suggested by Parmenides, Pythagoras and the Ionic schools, he has germs of truth that Plato and Aristotle afterwards developed; he is at once a firm believer in Orphic mysteries, and a scientific thinker, precursor of the physical scientists.
This Orphic fast from meat was only broken by an annual sacramental banquet, originally, perhaps, of human, but later of raw bovine flesh.
The Pythagoreans and Orphic mystae so abstained all their life long, and Porphyry eloquently insists on such a discipline for all who "are not content merely to talk about Reason, but are really intent on casting aside the body and living through Reason with Truth.
In the Orphic cosmogony the origin of all goes back to Chronos, the personification of time, who produces Aether and Chaos.
This phase of his character was developed by the Orphic poets, he having here the name of Zagreus (" torn in pieces "), and being no longer the Theban god, but a son of Zeus and Persephone.
Later Orphic hymns, however, and Herodas iv.
The idea of re-birth was in the air; it was the very keynote of all the solemn initiations and mysteries - Mythraic, Orphic, Eleusinian - through which repentant pagans secured pardon and eternal bliss.