Whatever is to be said in any summary of
the Orphic doctrines must start from Lobeck's great section on the subject
in his Aglaophamus
(233-1104). Like the Phanes of the Orphic
legend, he must be absorbed by any one who coming after him essays, however
feebly and imperfectly, to play the part of the ordering Zeus.
In early times, the difference between prophet or poet and priest hardly
existed, so that it is not surprising that the Thracian Orpheus, who is
so well known as a poet, should appear also as a priest. An important
passage of Aristophanes (Aristoph. Frogs
) says that what Orpheus gave the Greeks towards
civilisation was τελεταὶ φόνων τ᾽
But far more in later times came to be attributed
to him; viz. the invention of writing, music, medical art, oracles,
heroic versification, and other things (Lobeck, 233-243). But it was
chiefly as the founder of a mystic brotherhood that he was known. The
first mention of him is in lbycus, 530 B.C. (Bergk, iii. p. 241); but
already to Pindar (Pind. P. 177
) he was of
older date than Homer, and from the position assigned to him in the
passage of Aristophanes cited above the comic poet would seem to have
held the same opinion; indeed this belief was so strong that Herodotus
) felt called upon to express his
entire dissent from it. We have shown in ELEUSINIA
that, during the seventh and sixth
centuries B.C., there was a great influx into
Greece of Thracian and Oriental worships (cf. Lobeck, 304 f.),
consisting of purificatory and mystic rites--which were all quite
foreign to the ordinary Hellenic ideas. For example, the ancient
Scholiasts (see Schol. Venet. on II. xi
680) did not fail
to notice that there was no trace of purification for murder in Homer.
The earliest instance of such is in the Aethiopis
of Arctinus, wherein Ulysses purifies Achilles for
the murder of Thersites (cf. Grote, 1.25). Now it was round the name of
Orpheus that these Thracian and Oriental ideas clustered; he was held to
be the founder of the sect, and as time [p. 2.298]
on and as it grew in importance, he came to be considered the actual
author of the various works written by the members of the sect,--in
fact, “eine litterarische Collectivperson,” as Preller puts
it; and so Aristotle (Cic. N.
D. 1.3. 8
, 107) and a grammarian Dionysius (Suid. s.
) could boldly declare that
Orpheus never existed at all; and again others could say that there were
two, three, or even six Orpheuses (Lobeck, 351-357). But the sect
continued to exist, and did not fail to make its mark in classical Greek
times; it continued during the Alexandrine era on into Roman times,
gradually gathering round it all sorts of accretions, superstitions
without number, and every kind of nonsense in its speculations, which
was, however, allegorised away into metaphysical conceptions, till in
the third and fourth centuries A.D. it was the Orphic theology and the
Orphic life that made the last intellectual struggle against the
victorious doctrines of Christianity. It was a recognised theory that
all the philosophers had derived their systems from the Orphic school,
and even at the Renaissance there were the most extravagant views held
of this fount of original wisdom (Lobeck, 407-410). Let us see then,
firstly, what the Orphics practised.
2. The Orphic Life.
That this was the regular expression is plain from Plato
6.782 D). It enjoined abstinence from certain
foods,--meat, fish, beans (ἶσον τοι κυαμους τε
φαγεῖν κεφαλάς τε τοκήων,
as the precept ran)--possibly
on account of beans being used at funerals, and on the same ground the
votaries appear to have abstained from eggs (Lobeck, 254, 477); they
used to wear white garments (Eur. Frag.
--“luculenta vitae Orphicae
descriptio,” ib. 622), but were not allowed to use linen clothes
either during religious worship nor as a winding sheet for the
corpse--all this on account of certain religious reasons set forth in
the Orphic books (cf. Hdt. 2.81
). No bloody
sacrifices were allowed (Plat. l.c.;
Conviv. Sept. Sap.
159, 20), for transmigration of
souls was a cardinal feature of their doctrine. They believed in the
original sin of man, sprung as he was from the ashes of the Titans, and
that the human soul passed from one body to another--that is, from one
charnel-house to another (σῶμα,
)--till the ingrained taint was washed out and the
purified soul was translated to the stars. We can hardly help feeling a
connexion between this doctrine and the Buddhist passage from Sansara to
Nirvana. Besides, there was specially the taint of guilt in certain
families (cf. Plat. Phaedr.
244 E); purifications were
absolutely necessary for such (D. L. 8.33
and purifications according to Orphic rites of course alone availed.
Here came the scandal in the eyes of the ordinary Greeks, especially as
a certain class of religious beggars, called Orpheotelestae or
Metragyrtae or some such title bespeaking their foreign ritual, went
about with an ass carrying their sacred utensils (ὄνος ἄγων μυστήρια,
Aristoph. Frogs 159
), with great
strings of books (βίβλων ὁρμαθόν
promising expiations from crimes both for those alive and for the dead
by “certain sacrifices and pleasurable amusements,” and
otherwise trading on the superstitious feelings of the community (Plat.
2.364 B). Paradise was open to the true votary
if he performed the true ceremonial, and a precious paradise it
sometimes was--perpetual drunkenness (ib. 363 C; Plat. Comp.
Cimon. et Lucull.
1; Lobeck, 807). But there was no lack of
votaries amongo the superstitious: the δεισιδαίμων
of Theophrastus (xvi.) goes with wife and
child once a month to an Orpheotelestes. The Phrygian worship of
Sabazius, too, was full of purifications and superstitious magic; it was
celebrated with great wildness both of grief and horror, and thus,
highly ecstatic in its nature, was much affected by women and the lower
orders (Aristoph. Lys. 388
which points it is very similar to Orphic rites (Lobeck, 695).
Priestesses appear to have played an important part (cf. Menand.
530, 21, Kock); they were called περιμακτρίαι
(Schol. Aristoph. Wasps 289
). A priestess called Ninus was put to
death for magic (Schol. on Dem. Fals. Leg.
Aeschines's mother, Glaucothea, officiated at most vulgar Sabazian
ceremonies, according to Demosthenes (de Coron.
Lobeck, 646 if., 652 if.). Then, too, there were the Corybantes, who
were supposed to cause madness (Eur. Hipp.
), which was cured by exorcisings and purifications according
to the rites of these divinities (Schol. on Aristoph. Wasps 119
), rites which
consisted of elaborate ceremonies, with ecstatic dances and clashing of
cymbals round the patient, who sat enthroned (θρόνωσις, θρονισμός
) in the midst of those officiating
277 E; Legg.
Lobeck, 116, 640 ff.). The anxious ceremonial of the genuine Orphics,
their abstinences and fastings, their scrupulousness about clothes and
so forth, made them appear all of a piece with these pettifogging
impostors, and so utterly contemptible in the eyes of the strong-minded
Athenian man of the world (cf. the speech of Theseus in Eur. Hipp. 952
). This genuine Orphic life,
however, which was practised by an ascetic religious brotherhood, must
not be charged with all the excesses of the impostors who traded on its
name, nor with the calumnies which the ordinary pleasure-loving Greek
was only too ready to fling against it. It does not appear to have made
any mark that we can appreciate till the Pythagorean brotherhood broke
up in Italy. This was an ascetic religious society, very similar in some
points to the Orphics; and accordingly the scattered Pythagoreans joined
naturally to the Orphics, and introduced into their doctrines the more
highlydeveloped speculative principles which their master had taught
them: and we take it that it was this influx of Pythagorean members that
gave the most important impetus to the development of Orphic doctrine
and increased prominence to the Orphic life. To the Orphic speculations
we now turn.
3. The Orphic Authors generally.
Before the Pythagorean league was broken up, during that period at Athens
after the murder of Cylon when the Athenian people were a prey to
religious terrors and recourse had to be taken to various foreign
methods of purification, it was only natural that the Orphic religion
should appear. Onomacritus, who lived at the court of Pisistratus, was a
(arranger and editor) of the
Oracles of Musaeus (Hdt. 7.6
). He performed
the same office for the works attributed to Orpheus (Tatian, [p. 2.299]adv. Graecos,
41.275, p. 885
Migne; Clem. Alex. Strom.
1.332, Pott), but at the same
time he forged several works and attributed them to the names of Orpheus
and Musaeus, which must have been venerable at the time (Herod. l.c.;
Plut. Pyth. Resp.
25; Paus. 1.22
Suidas, s. v. Ὀρφεύς
). So Aristotle
always speaks of τὰ καλούμενα Ὀρφέως ἔπη,
τὰ Ὀρφικὰ καλούμενα ἔπη,
and such like (Lobeck,
339). A celebrated passage in Pausanias (8.37
) shows that we are to
attribute to Onomacritus the introduction of the Zagreus legend (see
below, § 6). Pherecydes of Athens (Suid. s. v.) is also
credited with the same functions as Onomacritus. Then, after the
Pythagorean influence became predominant, we have writings from men
called Cercops, Brontinus, Zopyrus, Persinus, from a woman Arignote, and
many other Pythagoreans. The Orphic poems gained considerable popularity
and were recited by the rhapsodists at the public games (Plat. Ion,
536 B), but it was specially by the
priestly family of the Lycomidae that the Orphic ritual
was used (Paus. 9.27
); they introduced Orphic speculations and
rites into the Eleusinian worship [ELEUSINIA
]. The Peripatetic Eudemus did good
service in collecting and editing an Orphic theogony, and we hear of one
Epigenes occupying himself with the grammar and criticism of the Orphic
poems (Lobeck, 340). For the long succession of writers who busied
themselves with Orphic treatises, it will be sufficient to refer to
Lobeck, 341-347, and to point out the goodly collection of them there
was in Neo-Platonic times. Then we find Charax, Syrianus, and Hierocles
occupied chiefly in harmonising Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato, and one
Asclepiades actually writing a Harmony of All the Theologies (τῶν θεολογιῶν ἁπασῶν τὴν συμφωνίαν
though this was mere child's play compared with later Byzantine efforts
(Lobeck, 346). But we must come to the actual writings attributed to
4. The Orphic Literature specially.
Preller (in Pauly, 4.999) divides the Orphic literature into (1)
Theological, (2) Liturgical, (3) Theurgical--an excellent division,
which introduces order into the chaos of the catalogues given by Clement
1.397) and Suidas (s. v. Ὀρφεύς
). This classification we shall
follow, giving up any pretence, except in a very few cases, of
attempting to discover who were the actual authors of the separate
(see § 5). (2) Κρατῆρες
(there were two works, a
greater Crater and a less)--a title taken from the two mixings in
Plato wherein the Deity constructed the universal soul and the
individual souls, according to Lobeck, p. 736, though his reasons
are not very plain. The fragments of the work only speak of the
Unity of the Gods (ib. 731, 735). (3) Φυσικά,
attributed to both Brontinus and
Onomacritus, treats of how the individual soul is breathed into or
inhaled by the body, after having been carried thereto by the winds
(cf. τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκ τοῦ ὅλου εἰσιέναι
ἀναπνεόντων, φερομένην ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνέμων,
Aristot. de An. 1.5
). The guardians of the winds,
or the winds themselves, are called Tritopatores, whatever be the
true interpretation of that word, perhaps that they are our
ancestors (τρίτοι πάτερες,
general sense of “ancestors” ): for further, see
Lobeck, 753-773, especially 763. Here, too, may have come in the
wide-spread theory of the transmigration of souls, of the circle of
births which it should be our aim to get free from: κύκλου τ᾽ αὖ λῆξαι καὶ ἀναπνεῦσαι
(ib. 800). (4) Ἱεροὶ
--besides the Theogony, which is often so styled
(ib. 508), there were certain treatises under this name on the
mystic import of numbers in Pythagorean style. Pythagoras wrote
in prose on this
subject, but he acknowledges his obligations to Orpheus (ib. 717,
725, 726). (5) Τριαγμὸς
mentioned here, a work on the number Three, in prose, and therefore
not written by an Orphic, but by Ion the tragedian, or perhaps
Epigenes (ib. 388). (6) Κατάβασις εἰς
--concerning the descent of Orpheus to Hades
to recover Eurydice, ascribed to Prodicus. It seems to be older than
179 D; Eur. Med.
. The detailed description of Hades attributed to
Orpheus doubtless came in here (Diod.
; Lobeck, 811, 812). (7) Διαθῆκαι
(cf. Justin, Cohort.
the testament of Orpheus to Musaeus. It is a sort of palinode in
that he reduces the 360 gods he had formerly allowed back to
god (Lobeck, 364). See an
extensive fragment on this subject in Hermann's Orphica,
p. 447, and much the same poem, only
lengthened, on p.450 if. It was written by Alexandrine Jews, as the
plain allusions to Abraham and Moses show. On the monotheism of the
mysteries, see, besides Lobeck, 460-5, some remarks in MYSTERIA
appears to have had reference
to the formation of the human frame, which is compared to the
weaving of a net (Aristot. de Generat. Anim.
734 a. 20, Lobeck, 381). (9) Κτίσις
: geographical. (10) Πέπλος,
attributed to Zopyrus or Brontinus (Suid.
s. v. Ὀρφεύς
), seems to have been
a treatise on cosmogony, πέπλος
being the heavens (cf. Psalm 104.2, “who stretchest out the
heavens like a curtain;” also Pherecydes, Ζᾶς ποιέει φᾶρος μέγα τε καὶ καλὸν καὶ ἐν
αὐτῷ ποικίλλει γᾶν τε καὶ Ὤγηνον καὶ Ὠγήνου
). (11) περὶ
also attributed to Hermes Trismegistus; but as a
portion of a verse is preserved, it is best to give it to an Orphic
source, as Hermes wrote in prose. (12) Ἀργοναυτικὰ
(still extant) was written in late
Christian times, and. was an effort to dress up Greek mythology on
Orphic principles. (13) Τελεταί,
composed by Onomacritus (Suidas, s. v. Ὀρφεύς
). Of its contents we know nothing for
certain. Schuster (De veteris Orphicae Theogoniae indole
p. 54) thinks that it was probably in
this work that Onomacritus published the Zagreus legend.
to the gods (cf. Paus. 9.27
They were φυσικοὶ ὕμνοι, τίς ἡ τοῦ
Ἀπόλλωνος φύσις, τίς ἡ τοῦ Διὸς
as Menander, de Encom.
2.30, says; and he justly considers them liable to parody (cf.
Lobeck, 390, 745 f.), and they were parodied by the New Comedy. In
one of them the Sun is said to be father of everything (Macr. 1.23
). They were composed by one man, in late Christian times,
who had some knowledge of the old poets and of mystic theology. The
Neo-Platonists do not use them, though they might have, to support
allegorising. These hymns are first mentioned in the 12th cent A.D.
The [p. 2.300]
elaborate proof of these conclusions
by Lobeck is one of the finest arguments in the
(389-410). (2) Θρονισμοὶ μητρῷοι καὶ βακχικά
hymns sung at the θρόνωσις
votaries in the worship of Cybele and Bacchus: similar to those used
in the worship of the Corybantes, § 2. (3) Ὅρκοι.
A few lines of this poem
referring to the Mosaic cosmogony are found in Justin, but they are
also attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (Lobeck, 737, 738). (4)
thanksgivings for safety, attributed to authors called Timocles or
Perginus (ib. 383). (5) Ὀνομαστικά,
lists of names of the gods, sometimes with
interpretation, possibly like the lists in the Κρατήρ
(ib. 731), or the various names of one and
the same god, as in Ov. Met. 4.11
forms of service
for the dedication of temples (ib. 375). (7) Θυηπολικόν.
This was perhaps one of the kind of
books the Orphic impostors used to carry about ( § 2).
(1) Ἔργα καὶ ἡμέραι.
really separate works at first. That called ἔργα
is also called περὶ
and Lobeck (414-5) quotes some verses from
it. This poem has been supposed by Tyrwhitt to have been the same as
the περὶ καταρχῶν
of Maximus, the
preceptor of Julian, but the fact is Maximus plagiarised from it
(ib. 418-424). To it was added an astrological poem called Δωδεκαετηρίδες.
is also called ἐφημερίδες,
a kind of superstitious
astrological diary (cf. Juv. 6.569
Plin. Nat. 29.9
), treating of
what days were lucky and what unlucky, concerning which Lobeck
collects a vast mass of learning (428-434), and also of the days on
which it was considered that the gods were born.
(2) περὶ φυτῶν, βοτανῶν,
--concerning the healing properties of certain
plants, animals and drugs, which degenerated into absurd magic. We
also hear of books written by Orpheus called περὶ ἐπῳδικῶν και μαγικῶν,
like--Orpheus the poet and minstrel, who stayed rivers by his song,
and with his lute made trees and the mountain tops that freeze bow
themselves when he did sing, being transformed into Orpheus the
magician (ib. 751-2).
on the magical
properties of stones. This poem is still extant (Hermann's Orphica,
pp. 359-442). It was not known to
Proculus. Suidas (s. v. Ὀρφεύς
says that a poem on this subject, called Ὀγδοηκοντάλιθος,
was composed by Onomacritus, and
included in his Τελεταί,
is probable enough, as the virtue of rings is a very old
superstition (cf. the story of Gyges in Plato; yet see Lobeck, 377).
concerning the dress and
especially the girdles of the initiates and of the statues. Purple
bands round the waist were essential in the Cabirian worship [CABIRIA]. Some verses are quoted in Macr. 1.18
, describing the dress as having sun and stars represented
on it, very much like the dress we should associate with a magician.
Also some verses in Eusebius and Nicephorus (Lobeck, 728 ff.),
concerning the special symbols or insignia to be put on statues; e.
g. lizards round the statue of Hecate, just as the bow was the
symbol of Apollo, and the winged sandals of Hermes. Such a statue
was said to be συμβολικῶς
For superstition in this direction, see
treated, as their names indicate, of various
kinds of divination (ib. 410).
5. The Orphic Theogony.
The multifarious theogonies which existed among the Greeks are very
confusing, and their history has yet to be written, especially in the
light of an extensive knowledge of Oriental literature. The
philosophical value of these theogonies is that they, at any rate, asked
the question of cosmogony. The not very definite evidences of an actual
work, called Θεογονία,
Orpheus, is given by Lobeck (367, 368). Under what are called the Orphic
Theogonies, we have four, which must be mentioned separately.
(1) That systematised under the name of Eudemus, the pupil of Aristotle.
It began with Night (ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Νυκτὸς
ἐποιήσατο τὴν ἀρχήν,
says Damascius, ap. Lobeck,
488). Further than this we cannot go with certainty. We can neither with
Zeller (Die Philosophie der Griechen,
1.99, Eng. trans.)
infer from Plato (Tim.
40 D) that, according to Eudemus,
“beside Night are placed Earth and Sky, both of which
apparently proceeded from Night, as with Hesiod the Earth came forth
from Chaos; Night being here substituted for Chaos. The children of
Uranus and Gaea are Oceanus and Tethys” --this would be to
beg the question that Plato used the Eudemian theogony. Nor suppose with
Schuster (op. cit.
p. 16 ff.
) that the system of Eudemus which posits one
first principle (cf. Aristot. Met. 12.6
, οἱ θεολόγοι οἱ
δ̓κ νυκτὸς γεννῶντες
) is identical with that referred to
by Lydus (de Mens.
2.7) which posits three
--viz. Night, Earth, Sky; however great may
be the resemblance (cf. Lobeck, 494). This is well shown by Otto Kern,
De Orphei Epimenidis, Pherecydis theogoniis quaestiones
(2) That given by Apollonius Rhodius (Argon.
1.494 ff.), where Orpheus is introduced as singing how Earth, Sky, and
Sea were all commingled together in the beginning, but afterwards
separated “by reason of destructive Strife” (νείκεος ἐξ ὀλοοῖο
); how sun, moon, and
stars got their fixed courses in heaven; how mountains arose and
sounding rivers with their nymphs, and how all creeping things were
produced. And in those primeval days did Ophion and Eurynome rule in
heaven, till they were cast into the ocean by Kronos and Rhea, who ruled
for a time over the happy gods the Titans (μακάρεσσι θεοῖς Τιτῆσιν
), while Zeus was still a
child and did not wield the thunderbolt. The first part of this
cosmogony is unquestionably derived from Empedocles: the Sphairos being
divided by Neikos is a cardinal point of his doctrine. But to whom the
story about the rule of Ophion and Eurynome is due is not yet decided.
Preller (Ausgewählte Aufsätze,
Köhler, p. 358) says Pherecydes, but this is most probably not
the case: see Kern (op. cit.
pp. 57-61, and
chap. 3 on Pherecydes). Preller (l.c.
) quotes a
number of passages where allusion is made to this dynasty (Lycophr.
1192, and Tzetzes ad
Schol. on Aristoph. Cl.
, on Aesch. Prom. Vinct.
99 ff.). In Claud. Rapt.
3.348, Ophion is a giant.
(3) ἡ κατὰ τὸν Ἱερώνυμον φερομένη καὶ
Ἑλλανικον, εἴπερ μὴ καὶ ὁ αὐτός ἐστιν
ap. [p. 2.301]
Lobeck, 484). Zeller (op. cit.
p. 103) shows that this Hieronymus was probably the
Egyptian who was author of a Phoenician Antiquities (ἀρχαιολογία φοινικική
), and mentioned by
Josephus (J. AJ 1.3
), not the Peripatetic
philosopher; and this is rendered almost certain from the fact that in
much (e. g. the notion of water and primitive slime at the beginning)
this theogony agrees with the Phoenician cosmogonies (Schuster, op. cit.
90-98). He it was who probably
attributed to Hellanicus a work of his own called Αἰγυπτιακά
14)--for there were many books on foreign nations which were falsely
ascribed to Hellanicus--and both in the Αἰγυπτιακὰ
and in the Phoenician Antiquities he may
have expressed the same view of the Orphic theogony. This view posits
water and primitive slime, from which came Earth by solidification. From
these two, Earth and Water, comes a dragon with the heads of a bull and
a lion, and between the two the visage of a god, and he had upon his
shoulders wings, and his name was Never-Aging Time (Χρόνος ἀγήραος
), and the same was
Heracles. And with him did consort Necessity, and she was none other
than the incorporeal Adrastea, who is spread abroad throughout all space
and reacheth to the ends of the world, and she is both male and female.
Then did Time generate a gigantic egg, and filled by the might of its
generator it burst in twain, and its top was Heaven and its bottom Earth
(Lobeck, 487). Again, there is mention of another god, though it is not
plain whether he belongs to this theogony or not (ib. 486), and he was
incorporeal, yet he had golden wings on his shoulders, and to his flanks
were united heads of bulls, and on his head was a mighty dragon, like
unto the manifold forms of beasts, and his name was Protogonos or Zeus
or Pan, for he arranged the whole world. Not very different to this is--
(4) The theogony called that of the Rhapsodists,
the one ordinarily in vogue, and which was regarded by both Christians
and Neo-Platonists as the genuine Orphic theogony. This is important
when we remember that they considered Orpheus as the real author of all
the Greek mythologies and disregarded Hesiod (Lobeck, 466). Orpheus was
supposed to have learned it from the Sun. According to it, Chronus is
the first of all, and he produces Aether and Chaos, by the agency of
which two he produces further a silver egg, from which bursts a god
called Phanes or Metis or Ericapaeus, also called Protogonos and the
cosmogonic Eros. This god contains the germs of everything, so is male
and female, has the heads of numerous animals, and so forth. The upper
part of the egg becomes Heaven and the lower Earth. Phanes then proceeds
to create the Sun of the natural world, and afterwards the Moon with its
mountains and cities and palaces (Lobeck, 499). From himself Phanes
produces Night, and afterwards a horrid monster called Echidna: from
Night Phanes begets Uranus and Gaea. Then follow the generations of
these two, pretty much the same as in Hesiod,--the Parcae, Centimani,
Cyclopes, Titans, till Cronus dethrones Uranus and later Zeus dethrones
Cronus. Then it is that Zeus devours Phanes, and so becomes the sum of
all things, but only that he may once more reproduce them in accordance
with the dictates of Justice (Δίκη
Then follow accounts of a few of the other gods--Apollo, Athena,
Aphrodite, and others, though often with considerable blending of the
gods together,--e. g. Demeter and Rhea; Persephone, Artemis, and Hecate.
But the chief story in this part of the theogony is that of Zagreus,
which we reserve for the next section.
It would be trifling to inquire whence came the very obvious idea of the
world-egg, whether it was derived from the Semites, whether it was an
old Aryan idea or was arrived at independently by the Greeks (Lobeck,
476). As to the derivation of the name Ericapaeus, quot etymologici tot sententiae.
Delitzsch says it is a
Semitic name, Arik Anpen
(HEBREW>), “long-visaged,” the first
of the ten Sephiroth; so too Schelling, that he is Erek
(hr), “long-suffering.” Zoega, from
Egyptian roots eri
and that it means “the multiplier;” for
Malela interprets him as ζωοδότηρ.
Göttliug thinks of ἔαρ
the breath of vernal winds;
Visconti, of ἐρι
the fierce devourer (though it is
he who is devoured); while Kern (p. 22) with great complacency assures
us that he was so called because he was devoured in the morning, just as
Eos is called ἠριγένεια,
is early born. Here again, though for other reasons, we think quaerere ludicrum esse.
Phanes appears to have
been interpreted by the Platonists as the Sun of the intelligible world,
creator of the Sun of the natural world, and so the name of Dionysus is
given to both (Lobeck, 499). We pass on to Night, who is the Orphic
Night, a venerable goddess, the nurse of Cronus, a prophetess, the
avenger of the crimes committed by Cronus, the guide of Zeus in the
ordering of the world, she who prompts him to devour Phanes,
&c.--quite different from the mere personification of the time
of darkness in Hesiod. This is well developed by Kern, pp. 17-19, as
also his proof (29-31), quite certain, that Echidna was not, as Lobeck
supposed (493), another name of the Orphic Night, who was not a
monstrous divinity at all, and had no likeness to a serpent. The
swallowing of Phanes is the great feature of the Orphic theogony: it
leads to the numerous pantheistic hymns in the Orphic collection (cf.
Lobeck, 519 ff.).
The lateness of the theogony “according to Hieronymus” is
proved by Zeller (op. cit.
p. 101) with cogent
arguments. It must be later than the syncretism of the Stoics. The
symbolism so highly developed, the abstract ideas (Time, Necessity), the
distinction of corporeal and incorporeal, the spreading of Adrastea
through the world, like that of the Platonic world-soul, the pantheistic
conception of Zeus--all point to a late origin: and Kern urges that it
is much later than the theogony of the Rhapsodists and was borrowed from
them. The latter is comparatively plain and simple, the former a medley
of philosophical and theological ideas, collected from all sides and run
pell-mell together. Why has Chronus-Heracles his multiform
attributes?--he does but produce an egg (27): if Earth is solidified
from mud, why is the egg introduced at all (28), and why is a regress
made from Earth to Chaos (32)? and why is Adrastea, who does nothing,
given as a consort to Chronus? [p. 2.302]
legend, Kern says (28), is obviously the more ancient. But we cannot
follow Lobeck (611) and Kern (35 ff.) in supposing that the theogony of
the Rhapsodists was known to Plato, and is to be referred to the age of
Onomacritus. Zeller's arguments (op. cit.
105-108) to prove that this theogony is later than the syncretists
appear to us to have great weight. He urges against Lobeck: (a
) That the first definite evidence of this
theogony appears in the Pseudo-Aristotelian treatise De Mundo,
100.7; Plato, Legg.
proves nothing [see MYSTERIA
) Plato in
178 B does not mention Eros-Phanes of Orpheus
as proof of the antiquity of Eros. (c
Aristotelian evidence, Met.
14.4 (Οἱ δὲ ποιηταὶ οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ταύτῃ ὁμοίως ᾗ βασιλεύειν
καὶ ἄρχειν φασὶν οὐ τοὺς πρώτους οἷον νύκτα καὶ οὐρανὸν
ἢ χάος ἢ ὠκεανὸν ἀλλὰ τὸν Δία
), only points to
Eudemus's theogony. (d
) Apollonius would have
hardly made Orpheus sing what was quite different to the ordinary
received theogony. (e
) The peculiar
Pantheism points to a late origin: that Zeus is the ultimate origin and
support of all things is quite different from supposing him the complex
of all things. (f
) The story of Phanes is an
attempt to reconcile the idea of Zeus as the complex of all things with
the mythological idea that he is the founder of the last generation of
) The Hesiodic myth of Zeus swallowing
Metis is used in such a way that Metis is combined with the
Helios-Dionysus of the earlier Orphic theology, with the creative Eros
of the Cosmogonies, and with Oriental divinities into the form of
Phanes. This could only have happened in the age of the syncretists. It
may be perhaps a mere imitation of the theory that the Deity from time
to time took all things back into himself, and again put them forth.
Preller (in Pauly, 4.999) sees evidences of Egyptising Gnosticism in it.
Even though some of these arguments may be overthrown--as, for example,
) on linguistic grounds by Kern (p. 56);
and though such lines as the well-known ones of Aeschylus (or
Euphorion), Ζεύς ἐστιν αἰθήρ, Ζεὺς δὲ γῆ,
Ζεῦς δ᾽οὐρανός, Ζεύς τοι τὰ πάντα χὤτι τῶνδ᾽
have as pantheistic an air about them as one
could desire-still the bulk of the arguments are untouched; and though
it is true that the passages of Plato wherein this theogony is supposed
to be alluded to (Crat.
40 D; Legg.
248 C; Phil.
242 D) are too vague to guarantee anything more
than the barest probability, yet the absence of all allusion to Chronus,
and to such striking features as the World Egg (though this may be
alluded to by Aristoph. Birds 695
ff.) and to Phanes, makes us pause before we can feel quite certain that
Plato was acquainted with this elaborate story.
6. The Zagreus-legend
The Zagreus legend is the most important feature of the later part of the
Orphic theogony (Lobeck, 547-593). Zeus violates Proserpina (his own
daughter by Deo or Demeter) under the form of a serpent. She bears
Zagreus, “the great hunter,” a mighty god with a bull's
head, destined to become the king of Heaven, whom even as a child Zeus
seated on his throne and entrusted with his thunderbolts. He appointed
Apollo and the Curetes to guard the child. But Hera in jealousy urged
the Titans against the god; who, after beguiling him with a mirror and
other toys, slew him, though he resisted violently, cut him in pieces,
boiled him, and finally ate him. His heart alone they left intact; it
was taken up and preserved by Pallas. Hecate brings news of the murder
to Zeus, who strikes down the Titans with his thunderbolt, and gives the
heart to Apollo to bury at Delphi (cf. Aesch.
). It was buried under the tripod (or, according to
other accounts, under the omphalos), and from it rose again Dionysus in
all his glory. There were probably mystic rites to Semele and Dionysus
at Delphi (Lobeck, 619-20), but they are not recorded in any Orphic
book. Other accounts tell that Zeus swallowed the heart dissolved in a
drink, or gave the drink to Semele, who thereby conceiving bore the
Theban Dionysus. From the blood of the Titans who ate Zagreus sprang
men, who are as such mainly foes to the gods, but have also something
Dionysiac and god-like in their nature, even as had the Titans (Dio
Chrys. 30.550 R.). For further, see Lobeck, 567-8, though he thinks
(580) that this may have been merely a poetical representation of an
assumed relationship between men and gods.
This legend, certainly known to Callimachus (Etym. M. s.
), is attributed by
) to Onomacritus. Nor is there any reason to question this
statement. Well acquainted as he was with the Pythagorean philosophy, it
was Onomacritus who did much to give expression and a kind of rational
order to the wild and coarse fancies and practices which had been
invading Greece for the previous century. For it is plain that this
legend of the passion (παθήματα
) of the
god came from the East. There is a certain similarity between it and
that of Soma in the Rig Veda (Maury, Religions de la
3.325), that of Osiris in Egypt,
of Atys in Phrygia, and of Adonis or Thammuz in Phoenicia. Now by the
time of the syncretists, from about the 3rd century B.C., all these Eastern religions had got blended together in
the Greek mind. Clement (ap. Lobeck, 588) says that these Orphic rites
of Zagreus came from Phrygia, and Lobeck seems to agree (cf. 655,
“Itaque omnia eodem nos deducunt vestigia sacra Orphica a
Phrygiis nihil diversa fuisse” ). Diodorus says expressly
(5.75) that the Cretans were the first who gave Dionysus as son to
Proserpina, though indeed Cretan and Phrygian forms of worship were so
confused in his mind that he actually says (4.4) the Cretan Dionysus was
called Sabazius (Maury, op. cit.
confirmatory evidence of its Cretan origin can be seen by the Chorus in
of Euripides (cf. § 2). Lobeck (624)
is perhaps too cautious in thinking that this is no evidence: a poet
would naturally choose the chief votaries of a divinity as the
characters into whose mouth to put an account of that divinity's ritual.
Now the Cretan religion was mainly Phoenician (Movers, Die
1.27-32), and it is from them that we may
principally derive the story of Zagreus. For further evidence on this
point, see Fr. Lenormant in the Gazette
for 1879, pp. 22, 23, 34. But the rites
of Zagreus became blended with ecstatic rites of Dionysus, introduced
from Thrace, where the worship of Dionysus was indigenous (Hdt. 5.7
Grote, 1.23 ff.), and from whence the Dionysic worship originally came
into Greece. [p. 2.303]
In this legend Zeus and Zagreus are considered as Chthonian gods, Zagreus
being sometimes said to be the son of Hades, sometimes Hades himself
(Lobeck, 621). Cicero says he was son of Jupiter and the Moon
3.23, 58): cf. Diodorus (3.73
), who says Zeus and Io were his parents.
Lenormant (op. cit.
p. 19), after Maury (p.
323), sees in him a personification of the vital force in nature. Hence
his title πρωτόγονος
in the Orphic Hymn
(30.2), his many names, and many forms (xlvi. xlvii.), and that he
unites the attributes of the Hellenic Zeus and the Thracian Sabazius.
But we must recollect that he is always called Dionysus, never Sabazius,
in Orphic works (Lobeck, 621). As to the date of the introduction of the
Zagreus legend into Greek ritual, Lenormant (op.
23) places it at the time when Clisthenes substituted the
recitations of the passion of Dionysus for that of Adrastus, himself an
heroic personage, representing a divine Adrastus, who virtually is
identified with Adonis (cf. Apoll. 3.6, 1; Hyg.
; and Maury, 3.327, cf. p. 197). When the Orphic
doctrines insinuated themselves into the Eleusinian mysteries, Zagreus
came to be identified with Iacchus [ELEUSINIA
]. A cardinal feature of this Zagreus
worship was the ὠμοφαγίαι
139), which point distinctly to savage rites,
and do not harmonise at all with the purer and higher Orphic life which
abstained from all live creatures, though Euripides (l.c.
) and Plutarch (Symp.
8.8) and Porphyrius
2.28, γευσάμενοι μόνον
πρὸς ἀληθείαν ἄθικτοι τῶν λοιπῶν ἔζων
) seem to
think they do (Lobeck, 623). That the sacrifices were originally human
(cf. Porphyr. Abst.
2.55), and that the remembrance
thereof was not entirely extinct in 480 B.C.,
is proved by Themistocles's sacrifice of three Persian prisoners to
Dionysus Omestes (Plut. Them. 13
later they were replaced by the lower animals. Thus Dionysus was called
ed. Nauck, Schol. ad
Aristoph. Frogs 357
were also celebrated
at Chios, Lesbos, Tenedos, and, as originally, at Crete. (Porphyr. l.c.;
Clem. Alexandr. Protr.
2.36, Pott.; Ael. VH 3.42
12.34; Firmic. Matern. p. 9.) The rite was supposed
to be a representation of Zagreus himself, torn in pieces by the Titans
(cf. Schol. on Clem. Alex. iv. p. 119, ed. Klotz, ὠμὰ γὰρ εἴσθιον κρέα οἱ μυουμένοι Διονύσῳ, δεῖγμα
τοῦτο τελούμενοι τοῦ σπαραγμοῦ ὃν ὑπέστη Διόνυσος ὑπὸ
--the last words showing a strange
confusion of Zagreus and Orpheus. A vase from Vulci gives scenes from
: and these as well as
many other vase-pictures bearing on the Zagreus legend are described by
Lenormant (op. cit.
2.672 D) thinks that perhaps the whole story may
have arisen from the natural inclination of the undeveloped mind to
excited dancing, wild shouting, and generally mad behaviour, and as a
subject for such indulgences feigned the passion of the god. This is a
very prosaic theory, but we think as near the truth as the
unsatisfactory allegorising and symbolising which the later Greek
authors applied to the whole story; some (rationalists) supposing that
it represented the cultivation of the vine, its pruning, and the
pressing of the grapes; others (metaphysicians) seeing therein the
necessary discerption of the divine element when it enters into matter
(τὴν θείαν δύναμιν μερίζεσθαι εἰς τὴν
); while again the more religious section, such as
Plutarch, saw in it a symbol and a testimony of the rebirth of the soul
(μῦθος εἰς τὴν παλιγγενεσίαν
cf. Lobeck, 710-714.
Besides Lobeck, the following are a few of the works on the Orphic
doctrines:--Zoega, Ueber den urqnfänglichen Gott der
in his Abhandlungen,
211-265; K. O.
Müller, Prolegomena zu einen wissenschaftlichen
pp. 369-379; Preller in Pauly, s. v. Orpheus;
2.370--377; Gerhard, Ueber
Orpheus und die Orphiker;
Maury, Les Religions de la
3.300-337; Zeller, Die
Philosophie der Griechen,
1.83-108, Eng. trans.; P. R.
Schuster, De veteris Orphicae Theogoniae indole atque
Otto Kern, De Orphei Epimenidis Pherecydis
theogoniis quaestiones criticae,
1-61; Fr. Lenormant, in the