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Chapter Final

CLAS2000 Chapter Final: CLAS*2000 Text Notes

Classical Studies
Course Code
CLAS 2000
John Walsh

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CLAS*2000 - Classical Mythology
Chapter 16: Orpheus and Orphism: Mystery Religious in Roman Times
Orpheus and Eurydice
- Ovid tells the story of how Orpheus lost his new bride Eurydice
- Orpheus is the bard of the Thracian mountains from Thrace
- Orpheus descents to the underworld
- He approached Persephone and her lord who ruled the unlovely realm of the shad-
ows, and sang a song as he plucked his Lyre
- His wife stepped on a snake and bite her (venomous)
- Asked the god as a gift if her could return his wife to him
- If fate does not allow it, he wishes to stay in the underworld forever with her (take
joy in death of us both)
- The king of the underworld could not take his pleas so he called over Eurydice
and Orpheus took her
- One command: that he does not turn back his gaze until he had left the groves of
Avernus or the gift would be revoked
Orpheus Loses Eurydice again
- They were not far from the boarder of the world above
- Orpheus could not help but to look at her and with his gaze she slipped away
- Eurydice died for the second time
- Orpheus got depressed and wanted to cross over again but couldn’t
The Dismemberment of Orpheus
- Ciconian women, their frenzied breasts clad in animal skins saw Orpheus in the
- One threw a weapon at him (Apollo’s son), but it did not wound him
- All weapons were soften by his song and lyre
- They used flutes with their curved pipes, drums and the shrieks drowned the
sound of his Lyre so their weapons worked again
- They ripped him apart with tools that were left laying around
- He died and was reunited with Eurydice
- Orpheus is known as the archetype of the poet and musician and the great univer-
sal power of art
Life of Orpheus, Religion Poet and Musician
- He was considered the founder of religion, and a prophet
- His home was in Thrace, his mother was one of the muses said to be Calliope, his
father was either Oeagrus a Thracian river god, or the great god Apollo
- He wooed and won Eurydice a Dryad by the charm of his music
- When she dies he went to Hades to fetch her but failed
- Orpheus was one of the members of Jason’s Argonautic expedition
- He had a son or pupil names Musaeus who assumed many of the same character-
istics of Orpheus
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- Said he died by the thunderbolt of Zeus because he taught things unknown before
(did not accept what he was teaching)
- Said that the women of Thrace responsible for his death but the reasons vary
- Sometimes the women are followers of Dionysus and he wishes to convert the
people of Thrace to his religion
o Thought that Dionysus sent his maenads to tear apart Orpheus
Orphic Bible
- Dominant in the patheon of Orphism was Dionysus, very often under the name of
- Major stages in Orphic theogony:
- Chronus (time) was accompanied by Adrasteia (Necessity) and from Chronus
came Aether, chaos and Erebus
- In Aether (bright upper air) chronus fashioned an egg that split in two and from
this appeared the firstborn of all the gods Phanes (the creator of everything) has
many names also called Eros
o HE was a bisexual deity with gleaming golden wings and four eyes, and
could posses the appearance of many animals
- Phanes had a daughter Night who became his partner in creation and his successor
in power
- Night had a daughter Gaea (earth) and Uranus (heaven) and they produced the Ti-
- Cronus ruled Night and Zeus wrestled power from his father Cronus
- Zeus swallowed Phanes and with him all previous creations, Zeus now created ev-
erything anew with the help of night
- Zeus matted with Kore (Persephone) and Dionysus was born
- Dionysus birth: the infant god was dismembered and devoured by the titans who
were then struck down in punishment by the thunderbolt of Zeus
- From the ashes of the titans came mortals, thus humans are partly evil and mortal
but also partly pure and divine
- The heart of Dionysus was saved and born again (wasn’t it put in Zeus thigh?)
- There are parallels between characteristics of Orpheus and his religion and that of
a shaman and shamanism
- Mystery religions have been a persistent theme their spiritual essence has been as-
sociated with Eros, Rhea, Cybele and Attis, Aphrodite, Adonis, Dionysus, Deme-
ter and Orpheus
Mystery Religions in Roman Times
- Association with Christ and Dionysus
- Syncretism (growing together) harmonizing of cults and their myths in some sort
of unity
Other Mystery Religions
Cybele and Attis
- Taurobolium: Shedding the blood of the bull, initiation into a cult where someone
would stand in a pit under the bull and let the blood pour on them
- And then drinking milk after (reborn, drink of a new child)
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The Cabiri
- Cult associated with the Island of Samothrace and the city of Pergamum
- Refereed as great gods (theoi megaloi)
- Argonauts were said to be apart of it
The Persian Mithras
- From Persia came the mysteries of Mithras the god of light and truth and right-
eous champion of good against evil
- He was born from a rock and the slaying of a bull from whose blood sprang the
fertility of earth
- Tauroctony: like iconography, figures of killing a bull, ritual sacrifice
- Only men could be initiated
- Mithrasim was a major rival to Christianity
Dea Syria and other Syrian cults
- Worship of Atargatis known as Dea Syria the Syrian goddess
- Association with the Syrian Baal, the Greek Zeus, and the Roman Jupiter
The Egyptian Isis
- Goddess of fertility, bringing new life and hope
- She searched for her husband and brother Osiris (dismembered by the evil power
Seth) and for her child Horus (also know as Harpocrates)
- Her cult was associated with the god Serapis
- Appeal to men and women
1. Which god is consort of Dea Syria?
2. Which Aegean island was home to the cult of the Caliri?
3. A full account of the initiation into the rites of Isis is given in
Apuleius Metamorphoses
4. Which is not a typical feature of mystery cults?
Exclusion of women
5. Which sea god does Aristaeus consult to learn why his bees have died?
6. Like Hesiod, the Orphic tradition introduces early on the procreative power of
Eros also called by the
7. According to Orphic theogony the first principle was
8. Which divinity is not associates with the story of Orpheus?
9. Which of the following is said of Orpheus?
HE was torn apart by enraged maenads
10. Orpheus had his origins in
11. According to Vergil, Eurydice’s untimely death resulted from
A snakebite she suffered while attempting to flee the advances of Aristaeus
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