The Orphic Hymns

December 8, 2020
The Orphic Hymns

At the very beginnings of the Archaic Age, the great singerOrpheus taught a new religion that centered around the immortalityof the human soul and its journey after death on its way to findinga permanent home. He felt that achieving purity by avoiding meatand refraining from committing harm further promoted the pursuit ofa peaceful life. Elements of the worship of Dionysus, such asshape-shifting and ritualistic ecstasy, were fused with Orphicbeliefs to produce a powerful and illuminating new religion thatfound expression in the mystery cults. Practitioners of this newreligion composed a great body of poetry, much of which istranslated in The Orphic Hymns.The hymns presented in this book were anonymously composedsomewhere in Asia Minor, most likely in the middle of the thirdcentury AD. At this turbulent time, the Hellenic past was fightingfor its survival, while the new Christian faith was spreadingeverywhere. The Orphic Hymns thus reflect a piousspirituality in the form of traditional literary conventions. Thehymns themselves are devoted to specific divinities as well as tocosmic elements. Prefaced with offerings, strings of epithetsinvoke the various attributes of the divinity and prayers ask forpeace and health to the initiate.Coauthors Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow haveproduced an accurate and elegant translation accompanied by richcommentary.