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.
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.
Orpheus Taming Wild Animals, mosaic, 194 AD
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
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
Orpheus, Athanasius Kircher, 1601-1680
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.
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.
Orpheus and the Maenads, Early English Manuscript
Credit: Latin story from Ecce Romani Unit 2