Thursday, February 2, 2012

Orpheus and Eurydice

Story Origin:

Orpheus with Argonauts told by Apollonius of Rhodes. Rest is by Virgil and Ovid according to Mythology by Edith Hamilton. Parts of it will be told from Robert Graves' The Greek Myths Vol. I myth 28 entitled "Orpheus".

Story Summary:

Orpheus is the well-known musician of the wold; such are his voice and playing that thousands and millions are charmed. He himself is the son of the Muse known as Calliope (the muse of epic poetry), and the King of Thrace called Oeagrus.

Before becoming married, he supposedly was with Jason and Argonauts and helped them bypass the Sirens as well as encouraging them. None know how he met up with Eurydice and how he wooed her into becoming his. All that is known is that shortly after the marriage, Eurydice walked through a meadow, stepped on a serpent and has died. ( In Vol. I of Greek Myths, it is speculated that Aristaeus tried to rape her and that is why she ran away.)

Orpheus, devastated by this outcome, made a choice to travel to the Underworld in the hopes of rescuing his beloved Eurydice. Somehow he traveled to the Underworld and begged the King and Queen of the dead, Pluto and Persephone to give him back Eurydice, for they only have just started their lives together. He played many songs that caused brief moments of relief to the punished, and he was granted his desire on only one condition; that while he and Eurydice were still in the cave, that he dared not look book.

They walked back to the outside, Orpheus playing music to guide his beloved back to the surface. Shafts of sunlight pierce the craggy walls. Soon they are outside and just as Eurydice is about to walk out, he makes a fatal mistake of looking back and of his beloved fading away. Before she does, she tells him farewell.

With his life after Eurydice, the accounts differ: In Mythology it is written that Orpheus becomes a loner and wanders around, playing music everywhere, that eventually Manaeds come upon him and rend him limb from limb. His singing  head ended up in Lesbos. The Muses collected his limbs and buried them in sanctuary in the island which causes nightingales sing sweetly than before.

Graves's The Greek Myths Vol I slightly differs: It is believed that Orpheus became a priest of Apollo and didn't pay proper attention to Dionysus. In anger, Dionysus sent Manaeds after him who first killed their husbands and then killed Orpheus, throwing his head into the river where it sailed to Lesbos, singing endlessly. The Muses collected his limbs and buried him at the foot of Mount Olympus. As for the head, after it was attacked by Lemnian serpent (Apollo turned it to a stone.) it was laid to rest in cave at Antissa. The head then began to prophecy, but Apollo put a stop to it. The Lyre that Orpheus played ended up as a constellation in heaven.


This is another one of my favorite myths that I enjoyed reading. Although its a sad story, but sometimes it shows that its fate that things may not work out. Although many think of him badly, I have to admire that he braved the underworld to try to rescue his beloved and begin a life with her. (If I remember right, the Greek philosophers detested him.)

Romeo and Juliet qualities:

Perhaps like Romeo and Juliet, the two didn't fully have a good beginning at their lives; Eurydice was struck down and there's idea that if Orpheus was patient enough, he could have Eurydice back in his arms and beginning a new start. In Romeo and Juliet, if only Romeo could have waited a little longer then the two would enjoy their lives together.


1 comment:

  1. Edith Hamilton does a wonderful job of retelling the ancient myths of greek and roman mythology. I call it 'diet' because the book gives a run down of the important aspects and characters in a relatively short book. The book is an excellent, and should be the only, introduction to mythology for the average Joe.


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