The Orpheus Myth Essay

2174 words - 9 pages

Scholars know Greek mythology as a collection of tales regarding gods and heroes alike, detailing specifically the interactions between human beings and gods and the interactions of the gods themselves. Supernatural phenomena at the hands of the gods became the human explanation for natural events, such as lightning, the changing of seasons, etc. While some critics and literary historians view the role of human beings in Greek mythology as that of simply pawns in the gods’ design, there are others still that argue on the side of humanity’s importance in the myths, giving them more dignity and their roles more purpose. Humans often were used as a control or contrast for the power and might of the gods. Those familiar with the myth of Orpheus, for example, may question whether he was simply a foil, simply a tool used by the gods, constructed simply to show the power of the gods and death, the foolishness of man, or if his paradigm was meant to glorify his kind.
In order to come to a conclusion regarding this question, examination into Orpheus’ life, story, and role must be made. The tale of Orpheus has been retold throughout history, and the critical views and opinions of generations since have changed with the centuries a propos his presence as a figure in Greek mythology. Intellectuals name Orpheus as the son of the Muse Calliope, the patron of epic poetry and fluency (Lindemans 1997). His paternity oft disputed, usually his father is described as either Apollo, god of music and light (Leadbetter 1997), or Oeagrus, a king of Thrace (James 1997). Like some other humans in Greek mythology, Orpheus gods invested with supernatural powers. Lauded as the greatest musician in ancient Greece, Orpheus is said to have charmed the rocks and trees into movement with only the use of his beautiful lyre (sometimes described as a lute), which was given to him by Apollo himself (Radice 1973). Performer of many awesome feats, Orpheus sailed with Jason and Theseus aboard the celebrated Argonaut, and when the fated ship sailed past the island of the Sirens, it was Orpheus and his song that kept them safe from harm (James 1997). Upon returning from this journey, Orpheus married a beautiful young woman called Eurydice. The two were so in love that they spent every available hour with one another. One version of their tragic tale states that the couple was frolicking with one another in a meadow when Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous serpent. When she subsequently died, Orpheus became so bereaved and absolutely lost with grief that he filled the air with dirges.
The despondent man trekked down to the underworld and beseeched Hades and Persephone to allow him to take Eurydice back to the surface with him so that they could have a second chance to be with one another and live a long, happy life. Orpheus played a song for the royalty of the underworld and, though many had come for deceased spouses before and failed, the two were so moved by his song that they allowed...

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