Orpheus

Orpehus was a legendary musician, poet and prophet.

Parents: Oeagrus or Apollo and Calliope
Consort: Eurydice
Siblings: The Graces and Linus
Children: Musaeus

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Roman mosaic of Orpheus charming the animals. Palermo Archaeological Museum.

Orpheus was said to have the ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music and poetry. His father was Oeagrus, a Thracian king, or, according to another version of the story, the god Apollo, and the Muse Calliope.

The Argonauts

Orpheus took part in this adventure and used his skills to aid his companions. Chiron told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens, the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ships into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was louder and more beautiful, drowning out the Sirens‘ bewitching songs. Thus allowing the Argonauts to pass unscathed.

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Orpheus drownign out the Sirens.

Orpheus and Eurydice

The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice. While walking among the tall grass of a field at her wedding to Orpheus, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus, who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the Underworld. His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

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Orpheus and Eurydice by Edward Poynter, 1862.