Orpheus was a musician, poet and prophet in Greek mythology. His parents were the king of Thrace Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope. As he grew older, it became apparent that Orpheus was extremely gifted musically. He could play any instrument perfectly and his singing voice was so beautiful that it could charm animals, trees and even rocks.
When he was grown, Orpheus journeyed to Olympus to meet Apollo, god of music. Apollo was so impressed with Orpheus that he gave him the lyre and taught him how to play. With his new instrument in hand, Orpheus returned to Thrace where he quickly became famous for his music. Everyone who heard him play or sing fell instantly in love with him, including Eurydice.

Orpheus and Euridice

Orpheus and Eurydice got married and were living a happy life until something tragic happened. Eurydice was having a stroll, when a satyr tried to rape her. She tried to avoid him, but she fell into a nest of vipers and she was fatally bitten. Orpheus found his wife's body and due to his grief, started singing the most mournful songs. The nymphs and the gods started weeping upon hearing Orpheus' songs, and advised him to go to the Underworld and bring his wife back.

Orpheus at the Underworld

Orpheus indeed followed their advice and met with the god of the Underworld Hades and his wife Persephone. He pleaded to let him take his wife back, and after singing to them, their hearts were softened so much that they agreed. However, they told him not to look back until they had reached the surface. They started walking towards the surface; when Orpheus reached the opening of the cave with his wife following, he looked back, anxious to see if Eurydice was behind him. As she had not yet reached the opening though, she disappeared back into the Underworld forever.

The Lyre of Orpheus

Orpheus was said to have invented the lyre, which was a stringed instrument that was played with a plectrum. The myth goes that Hermes, the messenger god, found a tortoise shell while he was out wandering and decided to make it into a musical instrument. He gave it to Apollo, who then taught Orpheus how to play it. Orpheus quickly became renowned for his musical abilities, and he used his lyre to charm animals and rocks alike.

Orpheus and the Argonauts

Another famous story about Orpheus is his involvement with the Argonauts. The Argonauts were a band of heroes who sailed on a ship called the Argo in order to retrieve the Golden Fleece. On their journey, they encountered many challenges, including having to pass through the Symplegades—a pair of rocks that would crash together whenever anything tried to sail between them. According to legend, Orpheus played his lyre so beautifully that the rocks stopped crashing together long enough for the Argonauts to sail through safely.

Orpheus' Death

Orpheus, during the end of his life, worshipped no gods except the sun, whom he called Apollo. One day, he went to pay tribute to the sun near the oracle of Dionysus. However, he was caught by the Maenads and killed for being an infidel to the god Dionysus. Although Orpheus died a tragic death, his legacy as a musician and poet has lived on through the ages.

See Also: Orpheus and Eurydice, Calliope, Apollo, Argonauts, Siren, Eurydice, Hades, Persephone, Dionysus

Orpheus Q&A

Who was Orpheus?

Orpheus was a musician, poet and prophet in Greek mythology. His parents were the king of Thrace Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope.

Who was the consort of Orpheus?

Orpheus' consort was Eurydice.