Orpheus (page 723, with lost art)

Chapter 18: Other Myths

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Euripides, Alkestis 357-62

If I had the voice and music of Orpheus so that I could charm Demeter’s daughter or her husband with song and fetch you from Hades, [360] I would have gone down to the Underworld, and neither Pluto’s hound nor Charon the ferryman of souls standing at the oar would have kept me from bringing you back to the light alive.  Greek Text

Polygnotos’ Nekuia painting at Knidian Lesche, Delphi (known through Pausanias’ description and modern reconstructions)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.30.6

Turning our gaze again to the lower part of the picture we see, next after Patroclus, Orpheus sitting on what seems to be a sort of hill; he grasps with his left hand a harp, and with his right he touches a willow. It is the branches that he touches, and he is leaning against the tree. The grove seems to be that of Persephone, where grow, as Homer thought, black poplars and willows. The appearance of Orpheus is Greek, and neither his garb nor his head-gear is Thracian (Greek Text).

Detail with Orpheus, from C. Robert’s reconstruction of Polygnotos’ Nekuia, J.G. Frazer, Pausanias’s Description of Greece, vol. V, Commentary (2nd ed. 1913), pl. opposite p. 372.

Plato, Symposion 179b-d

Furthermore, only such as are in love will consent to die for others; not merely men will do it, but women too. Sufficient witness is borne to this statement before the people of Greece by Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, who alone was willing to die for her husband, though he had both father and mother. So high did her love exalt her over them in kindness, that they were proved alien to their son and but nominal relations; and when she achieved this deed, it was judged so noble by gods as well as men that, although among all the many doers of noble deeds they are few and soon counted to whom the gods have granted the privilege of having their souls sent up again from Hades, hers they thus restored in admiration of her act. and mother. So high did her love exalt her over them in kindness, that they were proved alien to their son and but nominal relations; and when she achieved this deed, it was judged so noble by gods as well as men that, although among all the many doers of noble deeds they are few and soon counted to whom the gods have granted the privilege of having their souls sent up again from Hades, hers they thus restored in admiration of her act.  Greek Text

Moschos, Lament for Bion 3.123-24

Greek Text

♠ Hermesianax of Kolophon fr 7 Pow – Fragments of Euphorion and other Hellenistic poets cited according to J. U. Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina. Oxford 1925.

Konon 26F1.45 – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 207-8, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Diodoros Siculus, The Library of History 4.25.4

He also took part in the expedition of the Argonauts, and because of the love he held for his wife he dared the amazing deed of descending into Hades, where he entranced Persephonê by his melodious song and persuaded her to assist him in his desires and to allow him to bring up his dead wife from Hades, in this exploit resembling Dionysus; for the myths relate that Dionysus brought up his mother Semelê from Hades, and that, sharing with her his own immortality, he changed her name to Thyonê.  Greek Text

Culex of the Appendix Vergiliana 268-95

Latin Text

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Artistic sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown Univ., and Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, May 2019.

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, February 2022

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