Orphic Argonautics

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The Orphic Argonautica ( Greek  Ὀρφέως Ἀργωναυτικά ) are an epic poem by an unknown author in 1376 hexameters , which has been handed down under the name of the mythical poet Orpheus . It is believed to date from the 5th century AD.


The work tells the saga of the Argonauts from the point of view of Orpheus , also according to tradition, a participant in the Argo expedition , who appears here primarily as a seer and guide on a vast odyssey that traverses the edge of the known world. Since the events of the legend presumed to be known are told from Orpheus' point of view, his role is more strongly emphasized compared to other adaptations of the material. The work mainly focuses on those events in which he was actively involved, as well as on the journey home. Other parts of the story, such as the stay of the Argonauts on Lemnos , but also essential parts of the saga such as Medea's burgeoning love for Jason or Jason’s field work with the fire-snorting bulls, are only touched on briefly.

The work begins after an introduction, which contains an invocation of Apollo , an address to Orpheus' disciple Musaios and a brief overview of the Orphic theogony , with Jason persuading Orpheus to take part in the Argonaut procession. The following is a list of the other participants, which largely corresponds to the list of participants in the Argonautica of Apollonios of Rhodes , an older epic implementation of the Argonauts saga. After that, Jason is officially designated as leader and the participants are sworn into the company. The journey follows. A stay with the centaur Cheiron , where Orpheus recites a version of the Orphic theogony in a musical competition with the host , is described in detail . Of the other experiences on the journey to Colchis , only the death of Kyzikos and the subsequent atonement of the Argonauts are described in more detail. Having finally reached Colchis on the Black Sea coast , the conquest of the Golden Fleece and, above all, the entry into the palace of Aietes, which is guarded by Hekate - Artemis , becomes a path of initiation accompanied by numerous ritual acts. The return home is described in detail: The path seems confusing, as the Argonauts, starting from the Phasis River, which is actually relatively close to Colchis, the destination of the expedition, reach the Oceanos in the northeast via Maiotis ( Sea of ​​Azov ) and Tanaïs ( Don ) , where you will encounter various mythical peoples: the Hyperboreans , the long-lived Makrobioi , the Cimmerians and the righteous inhabitants of Hermioneia . Then the journey over the Atlantic , the island of Ierne , the island of Demeter off the Breton coast , the island of Kirke and through the columns of Heracles finally leads to the destination.



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Individual evidence

  1. Verses 419-431