Orpheus et Eurydice

Orpheus, the bard of Apollo, was able to tame the spirits of wild beasts and to move large stones with his songs. As an Argonaut on the quest for the Golden Fleece, he was a hero who bore no arms. His weapon was the lyre and the sound of his voice. He was even able to overcome the Sirens’ song with his music.

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The omens for his wedding day, however, proved unlucky– for his bride, Eurydice, was bitten by a serpent and died. Descending to the Underworld in order to retrieve his wife, Orpheus begs Pluto and Proserpina for her return. He reminds Pluto that he too had been conquered by Love.

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Orpheus Taming Wild Animals, mosaic, 194 AD

27. Ducis, Louis - Orpheus And Eurydice

Orpheus and Eurydice, Louis Ducis

Translate the Latin story based on Ovid’s tale:

Multae fabulae narrantur de Orpheō, quī a Musīs doctus erat cithara ludere. In picturā in tricliniō Corneliī sitā Orpheus ad infernos descendit. Cur? Descendit quod uxor eius Eurydicē morte abrepta iam sub terra ā Plutone tenebatur. Dolore oppressus Orpheus constituit Plutonī appropinquare et uxorem ab eō petere.

cithara -ae (f): lyre

cithara ludere: to play (on) the lyre

dolor, doloris (m): grief

abripio, abripere, abripui, abreptus: to snatch away

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Ianua regnī Plutonis ā Cerbero, cane ferocī, quī tria habebat capita, custodiebatur. Orpheus, quod semper esuriebat Cerberus frustra cibī ad eum coniecit et, dum cibus arripitur a Cerberō, in regnum intravit. Per umbras ībat Orpheus; uxorem diu et diligenter quaerebat. Umbras et Plutonem cantibus et citharā oblectavit et fascinavit. Tandem Pluto dolore eius commotus, “Licet tibi” inquit, “uxorem tuam reducere, sed hac condiciōne: Eurydicē exibit ad lucem tē sequens; tu vetaris eam respicere. Si tu respicies, ea retrahētur neque umquam iterum ad vivos remittētur.”

ferox, ferocis: fierce

cantus, cantus (m): song

oblecto, -are, -avi, -atus: to delight

fascino, -are, -avi, -atus: to bewitch, charm

condicio, condicionis (f): condition, stipulation

respico, respicere, respexi, respectus: to look back at

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Orpheus, Athanasius Kircher, 1601-1680

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Orpheus, Latin Manuscript

Mox Eurydicē ex umbrīs ducēbatur. Tum Orpheum sequens ad lucem lentē ascendebat. Orpheus, quamquam uxorem vidēre valdē desiderabat, ascendebat neque respexit. Iam ad lucem paene adveniebant cum Orpheus amore oppressus est. Respexit. Eurydice revocata ad Plutonem retracta est neque ad lucem umquam reddita est.

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Orpheus and Eurydice, Michel-Martin Drölling, painting,1851

Disheartened and depressed by this double loss of Eurydice, Orpheus shuns the company of women. The Maenads, the maddened women who worship Bacchus, are angered at being so scorned. They attack Orpheus and their clamor and ululations tear him apart, limb from limb. Orpheus descends again to the Underworld, this time as a shade, where he is finally reunited with Eurydice.

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Orpheus and the Maenads,  Early English Manuscript

Credit: Latin story from Ecce Romani Unit 2

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