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Last Update: 28 Mar 2021


Orpheus, the Father of the Songs

Orpheus was an enchanting singer and poet of Ancient Greece

Family of Orpheus

Orpheus was born in a cave in Thrace, a region of Northern Greece. His parents were Oiagros, king of Thrace, and most likely the Muse Calliope. His brother was Linus, the music teacher of the strong hero Heracles.

Orpheus, the Father of Songs

'Orfeo', painting by Cesare Gennari
Orpheus became famous in Ancient Greece through his poetry and music. According to the ancient poet Pindar, Orpheus was the "Father of Songs."

Orpheus' teacher was Apollo, the god of music, who made him sing so enchantingly on his lyre that he could move rocks and trees. Some say Orpheus invented the guitar and also the mysteries of Dionysus.

In addition, Orpheus became famous because he participated as one of the Argonauts in the search for the Golden Fleece.

Orpheus and Eurydice

'Orpheus and Eurydice' by Frederic Leighton (1864)
When his wife Eurydice died of a snakebite, Orpheus descended to the underworld to persuade Hades, the king of the underworld, to send her back to earth. Hades gave his word to do so, on one condition: Orpheus was not to look back on the way up until he arrived.

But Orpheus disobeyed, and when he turned around, he caught a glimpse of his beautiful wife to see if she was indeed following him.

The Death of Orpheus

'The head of Orpheus by Gustave Moreau
Three years after losing his wife Eurydice, Orpheus was killed by the Maenads, the Nymphs of Dionysus, angered that Orpheus ignored their love. First they tried pelted him with sticks and stones, but his music was so beautiful that even the stones and branches refused to hit him. Enraged, the Maenads tore him to pieces in their fury.
Orpheus was buried in the region of Pieria in Macedonia, Northern Greece.

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