Death of Orpheus  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Orpheus, La morte d'Orfeo

According to a Late Antique summary of Aeschylus's lost play Bassarids, Orpheus at the end of his life disdained the worship of all gods save the sun, whom he called Apollo. One early morning he went to the oracle of Dionysus at Mount Pangaion to salute his god at dawn, but was ripped to pieces by Thracian Maenads for not honoring his previous patron (Dionysus) and buried in Pieria. Here his death is analogous with the death of Pentheus. Pausanias writes that Orpheus was buried in Dion and that he met his death there. He writes that the river Helicon sank underground when the women that killed Orpheus tried to wash off their blood-stained hands in its waters.

Ovid also recounts that the Ciconian women, Dionysus' followers, spurned by Orpheus, who had forsworn the love of women after the death of Eurydice and had taken only youths as his lovers, first threw sticks and stones at him as he played, but his music was so beautiful even the rocks and branches refused to hit him. Enraged, the women tore him to pieces during the frenzy of their Bacchic orgies. Medieval folkore put additional spin on the story: in Albrecht Dürer's drawing (Death of Orpheus (Dürer)[1]) the ribbon high in the tree is lettered Orfeus der erst puseran ("Orpheus, the first sodomite") an interpretation of the passage in Ovid where Orpheus is said to have been "the first of the Thracian people to transfer his love to young boys."

His head and lyre, still singing mournful songs, floated down the swift Hebrus to the Mediterranean shore. There, the winds and waves carried them on to the Lesbos shore, where the inhabitants buried his head and a shrine was built in his honour near Antissa; there his oracle prophesied, until it was silenced by Apollo. The lyre was carried to heaven by the Muses, and was placed among the stars. The Muses also gathered up the fragments of his body and buried them at Leibethra below Mount Olympus, where the nightingales sang over his grave. After the river Sys flooded Leibethra, the Macedonians took his bones to Dion. His soul returned to the underworld, where he was re-united at last with his beloved Eurydice. Another legend places his tomb at Dion, near Pydna in Macedon. In another version of the myth Orpheus travels to Aornum in Thesprotia, Epirus to an old oracle for the dead. In the end Orpheus commits suicide from his grief unable to find Eurydice. Another account relates that he was struck with lightning by Zeus for having revealed the mysteries of the gods to men.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Death of Orpheus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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