Orphic poetry

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Orphic poetry is the name given to the writings of the ancient Orphics in verse. The poems were attributed to the mythical singer Orpheus by the Orphics who wrote them . The conviction that the fictional author Orpheus actually wrote the poems was widespread in antiquity outside of Orphic circles and was still represented in the Renaissance . Orphic poetry consists mainly of mythical descriptions of the origins of the world ( cosmogony ) and hymns . The meter is always the hexameter .


The Orphic seals are largely lost. One part is complete, another only partially preserved; of some poems only the titles have survived. The Suda , a Byzantine encyclopedia, names more than 20 titles. This list probably comes from a lost treatise on the Orphic poetry that the grammarian Epigenes wrote in the epoch of Hellenism .

A collection of 87 Orphic hymns , the length of which varies between six and thirty verses, is completely preserved . The fictional author Orpheus glorifies the deities worshiped by the Orphics. The hymns were probably created in the 2nd century for a cult community in Asia Minor .

Only fragmentary or known from summaries of contents are:

  • the old Orphic “ Theogony ”, a poem about the origin of the cosmos, the gods and humans, which was written as early as the 4th century BC. Was known.
  • The "holy speeches ( hieroí lógoi ) in 24 rhapsodies", which also depict the mythical prehistory of the cosmos. The 176 fragments that have survived come from a version dating from the 2nd century BC. BC and the 2nd century AD.
  • the " Orphic Argonautica ", a late antique version of the Argonaut legend in 1376 hexameters. As a participant in the Argonaut procession, the fictional author Orpheus reports on its course.

Lost are among other things the "oracles" ( chrēsmoí ), the "consecrations" ( teletaí ), the "mixing jugs" ( kratḗres ), the "coat" ( péplos ), the "net" ( díktyon ), the "physics" ( physiká , about cosmology ) and the "astronomy" ( astrologiká ).


  • Alberto Bernabé (Ed.): Poetae epici Graeci. Testimonia et fragmenta . Part 2: Orphicorum et Orphicis similium testimonia et fragmenta . 3 volumes, Saur, Munich 2004–2007 (authoritative critical edition)
  • Marie-Christine Fayant (Ed.): Hymnes orphiques. Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2014, ISBN 978-2-251-00593-5 (critical edition with French translation)
  • Carl R. Holladay (Ed.): Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors . Volume 4: Orphica . Scholars Press, Atlanta (Georgia) 1996, ISBN 0-7885-0143-7 (critical edition with English translation and commentary)
  • Joseph Otto Plassmann : Orpheus. Ancient Greek mysteries . 2nd edition, Diederichs, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-424-00740-4 (translation of Orphic hymns)
  • Francis Vian (Ed.): Les Argonautiques orphiques . Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-251-00389-4 (critical edition with French translation)


Web links


  1. ^ Jean Rudhardt : Opera inedita offers a thorough investigation . Essai sur la religion grecque & Recherches sur les Hymnes orphiques , Liège 2008, pp. 165–325 and Anne-France Morand: Études sur les Hymnes orphiques , Leiden 2001.