Orpheus

, the most celebrated of all the Greeks in the fabulous ages, was distinguished as a teacher of religion and philosophy, and his name became as illustrious among the Greeks, as that of Zoroaster among the Persians, of Buddas among the Indians, or of Thoth, or Hermes, among the Egyptians. But it has happened to Orpheus, as to many other wise men of antiquity, that spurious writings have been ascribed to him, and modern tenets have been obtruded upon the world under the sanction of his name. It has even been questioned, whether Orpheus ever existed. Cicero asserts, on the authority of Aristotle, that there was no such person as the poet Orpheus. But no passage of tjiis kind is at present to be found in the works of Aristotle; and the opinion is contradicted by the general testimony of the ancients, who relate, that Orpheus was a native of N. of Macedonia to the Danube, and W. of the Euxine (Black Sea); appears never to have been consolidated into one kingdom, but was inhabited by…">Thrace, who flourished before the Trojan war, and passed the greater part of his life in S. Europe occupying the southern portion of a peninsula which projects into the Mediterranean between the peninsula of Italy and the mainland of Turkey…">Greece.

Diodorus Siculus relates, that, “having been instructed | in the religious tenets and ceremonies of his own country $ he travelled into W. shore of the Red Sea, has a northern coast-line on the Mediterranean, and stretches S. as far as Wady…">Egypt, where he acquired a knowledge of the mysteries of religion, and became an eminent master of philosophy, poetry, and music.” Thus qualified, he came among the Greeks, who were at that time a rude and unenlightened people, and by the united powers of poetry, religion, and philosophy, civilized their manners, while wonders have been ascribed by the poets to the power of his music.

Orpheus is said to have improved the lyre, by increasing the number of its strings from four to seven. To him also is ascribed the invention of hexameter verse. He, doubtless, excelled in poetry of various kinds, but it is justly questioned whether he committed any of his verses to writing. He possessed great skill in the art of medicine. Perhaps this circumstance may serve to explain the fable of his recalling his wife Eurydice from hell. The particulars of his death are variously related by different writers; but it is generally agreed, that he died by violent means. After his death, he was ranked among the divinities. 1

1

Brucker.—See an elaborate article by Dr. Buraey in Rees’s Cyclopedia.

The whole of the tracts ascribed to Orpheus have been collected and published by Hermann.