Sect. III.

But it is now time to speak of the following Hymns, of which, as we have before observed, Onomacritus is the reputed author. And first, with regard to the dialect of these Hymns, Gesner well observes it ought to be no objection to their antiquity. For though, according to1) Iamblichus, the Thracian Orpheus, who is more ancient than those noble poets Homer and Hesiod, used the Doric dialect; yet the Athenian Onomacritus, who, agreeable to the general opinion of antiquity, is the author of all the works now extant, ascribed to Orpheus2), might {85} either, preserving the sentences and a great part of the words, only change the dialect, and teach the ancient Orpheus to speak Homerically, or as I may say Solonically: or might arbitrarily add or take away what he thought proper, which Herodotus relates was his practice, with respect to the oracles. Gesner adds, that it does not appear probable to him that Onomacritus would dare to invent all he writ, since Orpheus must necessarily, at that time, have been in great repute, and a variety of his verses in circulation: and he concludes with observing that the objection {86} of the Doric dialect ought to be of no more weight against the antiquity of the present works, than the Pelasgic letters, which Orpheus used according to Diodorus Siculus.

The hymns of Orpheus are not only mentioned by Plato in his Eighth Book of Laws, but also by Pausanias3), whose words are translated as follows by the author of the Letters on Mythology4). “The Thracian Orpheus (says Pausanias) was represented on mount Helicon, with ΤΕΛΕΤΗ (initiation or religion) by his side, and the wild beasts of the woods, some in marble, some in bronze, standing round him. His hymns are known by those who have studied the poets to be both short and few in number. The Lycomedes, an Athenian {87} family dedicated to sacred music, have them all by heart, and sing them at their solemn mysteries. They are but of the second class for elegance., being far excelled by Homer's in that respect. But our religion has adopted the hymns of Orpheus, and has not done the same honour to the hymns of Homer.” To the testimony of Pausanias may be added that of Suidas, who, among the writings of the Libethrian Orpheus mentions τελεται, or initiations, which he says are by some ascribed to Onomacritus5). And Scaliger well observes, in his notes co these hymns, that they ought rather to be called initiations, because they contain only invocations of the Gods, {88} such as the initiated in mysteries are accustomed to use; but they do not celebrate the nativities, actions, &c. of the divinities, as it is usual in hymns. It is on this account we have entitled them mystical initiations, which is doubtless their proper appellations. The author too of the Allegories in the Theogony of Hesiod6), relating the powers of the planets on things inferior, expressly mentions these hymns, or rather initiations, and many of the compound epithets with which they abound7). From all which it is evident that the following Hymns were written by the Athenian Onomacritus, and are the same with those so much celebrated by antiquity. Indeed it is not probable they Should be the invention of any writer more {89} modern than the above period, as it must have been so easy to detect the forgery, from the original initiations which were even extant at the time in which Suidas lived.

In the former part of this Dissertation, we asserted that we should derive all our information concerning the Orphic theology, from the writings of the Platonists; not indeed without reason. For this sublime theology descended from Orpheus to Pythagoras, and from Pythagoras to Plato; as the following testimonies evince. “Timæus (says Proclus)8) being a Pythagorean, follows the Pythagoric principles, and these are the Orphic traditions; for what Orpheus delivered mystically in secret discourses, these Pythagoras learned {90} when he was initiated by Aglaophemus in the Orphic mysteries.” Syrianus too makes the Orphic and Pythagoric principles to be one and the same; and, according to Suidas, the same Syrianus composed a book, entitled the Harmony of Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato9). And again Proclus10): it is Pythagorical to follow the Orphic genealogies; for from the Orphic tradition downward by Pythagoras, the science concerning the Gods was derived to the Greeks.“ And elsewhere11), “All the theology of the Greeks is the progeny of the sacred initiations (μυσαγωγιαι) of Orpheus. For Pythagoras first learned the orgies of the Gods from Aglaophemus; but Plato was the second who received a {91} perfect science of these, both from the Pythagoric, and Orphic writings.” Now in consequence of these testimonies, our hymns ought to agree with the doctrine of Pythagoras; especially since Onomacritus, their Author, was of that school. And that .they do so, the following discovery abundantly evinces.

Photius, in his Bibliotheca, has preserved to us part of a valuable work, written by Nicomachus the Pythagorean, entitled Theological Arithmetic; in which he ascribes particular epithets, and the names of various divinities to numbers, as far as to ten. There is likewise a curious work of the same title, by an anonymous writer, which is extant only in manuscript. From these two, and from occasional passages respecting numbers according to Pythagoras, found in the Platonic writers, Meursius {92} has composed a book, which he calls Denarius Pythagoricus; and which is an invaluable treatise to such as are studious of the ancient philosophy. On perusing this learned book, it seemed to me necessary, that as the divinities, ascribed to each number, had a particular relation to one another, they should also have a mutual agreement in the following hymns. And on the comparison I found the most perfect similitude: a few instances of which I shall select, leaving a more accurate investigation of this matter to the learned and philosophical reader.

In the first place then, among the various names ascribed to the monad or unity, are those of the following Gods; viz. the Sun, Jupiter, Love, Proteus, Vesta. Now in the hymn to the Sun we find the epithet ὰθάνατε Ζεύ, O immortal {93} Jove. In that to Love πυρίδρομος, or wandering fire, which is likewise found in the hymn, to the Sun. In the hymn to Love, that deity is celebrated as having the keys of all things12); viz. of æther, heaven, the deep, the earth, &c. And Proteus is invoked as possessing the keys of the deep13). Again, Vesta, in the Orphic hymns, is the same with the mother of the Gods; and the mother of the Gods is celebrated as “always governing rivers and every sea14); which perfectly agrees with the appellations given both to Love and Proteus. Again, among the various epithets ascribed to the duad, or number two, are, Phanes, Nature, Justice, Rhea, {94} Diana, Cupid, Venus, Fate, Death, &c. Now Phanes, in the Orphic hymns, is the same with Protogonus; and Nature is called πρωτογενία, or first-born, and δίκη, or Justice, as also πεπρωμενή, or Fate. Likewise Rhea is denominated ϑύγατερ πολυμορφυ Πωτογονοίο, or daughter, of much formed Protogonus; and in the same hymn the reader will find other epithets, which agree with the appellation given to Nature. Again, both Nature and Diana are called ὠκυλοχεία, or swiftly bringing forth; and Love as well as Nature is called or two-fold. In like manner Rhea and Venus agree, for he says of Venus πάντα γὰρ ἐκ σιθεν ἐσὶν, for all things are from thee; and of Rhea, Μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων, or mother of Gods and mortal men. After which he expressly says that earth and heaven, the sea and the air, proceed from her {95} divinity. Besides this, he celebrates Venus as governing the three Fates; ϗαμπ ηρατέεισ τρισσῶν μοιρῶν. And lastly he says of Love, after representing that Deity as invested with the keys of all things thou alone rulest the governments of all these15); which he likewise affirms of Death in the same words. And thus much for the duad. The triad, or number three, they denominated Juno, Latona, Thetis, Hecate or Diana, Pluto, Tritogenia or Minerva, &c. Now Latona and Thetis, are each of them called in these initiations, κυανόπεπλσ or dark-veiled; and Minerva and the Moon, who is the same with Diana, θῆλωσ ϗαμπ ἂρσην, female and male. The tetrad {96} or number four, they denominated Hercules, Vulcan, Mercury, Bacchus two-mothered, Bassarius, key-keeper of nature, Masculine, Feminine, the World, (which in these initiations is the same with Pan) Harmony, justice. Now Onomacritus calls Hercules and Vulcan, Καρτεροχειρ, or strong-handed; and he celebrates Hercules and Mercury as “having an almighty heart.” ϖατκρατες ἦτορ ἔχῶν. And so of the rest. The pentad or number of five they called Nature, Pallas, Immortal, Providence, Nemesis, Venus, Justice, &c. Now Nature is called in these hymns, or rather initiations πολυμήχανε μῆτερ, or much-mechanic Mother, and παντοτεχνεσ or universal Artist; and Minerva is denominated μητερ τεχνῶν, or Mother of Arts. Likewise Nature is expressly called ἀθανάτη τε ϖρόνιοια or Immortal, and Providence. The hexad or number six, they denominated, Venus, {97} Health, the World Ἐκατηϐελέτις darting, (because compounded of the triad, which is called Hecate), Persæa, triform, Amphitrite, &c. Now Venus, as we have already observed in the names of the duad, is said to be the source of all things and Health is expressly called μῆτερ ἀπαντων, or Mother of all things. Again the heptad, or number seven they called Fortune, Minerva, Mars., &c. And Fortune, in these initiations, is the same with Diana or the Moon, who is called male and female as well as Minerva; and Minerva and Mars are each of them denominated ὀπλιχαρές or armipotent, and Minerva πολεμοκλόνε, or full of warlike tumult. The ogdoad, or number eight, they called Rhea, Love, Neptune, Law. And the Mother of the Gods, who is the same with Rhea, is represented as we have observed on the monad, as governing rivers and every {98} sea; and Love is said to have the keys of all things; of heaven, the deep, &c. The ennead, or number nine, they denominate Ocean, Prometheus, Vulcan, Pœan (i. e. Apollo or the Sun), Juno, Proserpine, &c. Now Saturn (who is called in these initiations Prometheus) and Ocean, are each of them celebrated as the source of Gods and men: and Vulcan is expressly called ἤλιοσ or the Sun. And lastly they denominated the decad, Heaven, the Sun, Unwearied, Fate, Phanes, Necessity, &c. Hence Heaven is called in these initiations φύλαξ πάντων, or Guardian of all things; and the Sun ϖισοφύλαξ, or faithful Guardian; and ἀκάμα or Unwearied, is an appellation of the Sun, in the hymn to that Deity. The reader too will find many epithets in the hymn to Protogonus or Phanes, corresponding with those of the Sun. And thus much for the agreement of these hymns, {99} with the Pythagoric names of numbers. The limits of the present work will not permit me to be more explicit on this particular; but he who wishes to understand the meaning of many of the preceding appellations, may consult the valuable book of Meursius, already cited, where he will meet with abundant matter for deep speculation. But before I conclude this Dissertation, I must beg leave to acquaint the reader with another discovery which I have made respecting these hymns, equally curious with the former.

Ficinus, on Plato's Theology16), has the following remarkable passage, translated, most likely from some manuscript work of Proclus, as I conjecture from its conclusion; for, unfortunately, he does not acquaint us with the author. “Those {100} who profess, says he, the Orphic theology, consider a two-fold power in souls and in the celestial orbs: the one consisting in knowledge, the other in vivifying and governing the orb with which that power is connected. Thus in the orb of the earth, they call the nostic power Pluto, the other Proserpine17). In water, the former power Ocean, and the latter Thetis. In air, that thundering Jove, and this Juno. In fire, that Phanes, and this Aurora. In the soul of the lunar sphere, they call the nostic power Licnitan Bacchus, the other Thalia. In the sphere of Mercury, that Bacchus Silenus, this Euterpe. In the orb of Venus, that Lysius Bacchus, this {101} Erato. In the sphere of the sun, that Trietericus Bacchus, this Melpomene. In the orb of Mars, that Bassareus Bacchus, this Clio. In the sphere of Jove, that Sebazius, this Terpsichore. In the orb of Saturn, that Amphietus, this Polymnia. In the eighth sphere, that Pericionius, this Urania. But in the soul of the world, the nostic power, Bacchus Eribromus, but the animating power Calliope. From all which the Orphic theologers infer, that the particular epithets of Bacchus are compared with those of the Muses on this account, that we may understand the powers of the Muses, as intoxicated with the nectar of divine knowledge; and may consider the nine Muses, and nine Bacchuses, as revolving round one Apollo, that is about the splendor of one invisible Sun.” The greater part of this fine passage is {102} preserved by Gyraldus, in his Syntagma de Musis, and by Natales Comes, in his Mythology, but without mentioning the original author. Now if the Hymn to the Earth, is compared with the Hymns to Pluto and Proserpine; the one to Ocean, with that to Thetis; and so of the other elements agreeable to the preceding account, we shall discover a wonderful similitude. And with respect to the celestial spheres, Silenus Bacchus, who, according to the preceding account, should agree with Mercury, is called in these initiations τροφὴ, or Nourishment, and Mercury, τροφιυχε, or Nourisher. Venus, who should agree with Lysius Bacchus, is called κρυφία or Occult, and ἐρατοπλόκαμος, or lovely haired, and σεμνὴ Βάκχοιο παρεδρε, or venerable attendant of Bacchus; and Lysius is denominated κρυψίγονος, or an occult offspring {103} and καλλιέθειρα, or fair-haired. In like manner Trietericus Bacchus is called ϖαιάν κρυσετχησ or Apollo pouring golden light, which evidently agrees with the sun. Again, Bassarius Bacchus is celebrated as rejoicing in swords and blood, οσ ξιφεσιν χαιρεισ, ἠδ᾽ αἴμασι, κ. λ., which plainly corresponds with Mars, as the hymn to that Deity evinces in a particular manner. Sebazius and Jupiter evidently agree, for Sebazius is expressly called ὐισ Κρονυ, son of Saturn. And Amphietus is celebrated as moving in concert with the circling hours, Ἐυάζων κινῶν τε χορῦσ ἐνὶ κυκλάσιν ὥραις which corresponds with Saturn, who is called in these Hymns, or the Sun18). And lastly, Dionysius who is {104} called in these Initiations Eribromus, is denominated δικέρωτα or two-horned, which is also an epithet of Pan, or the soul of the world. And thus much for the doctrine of these Hymns, so far as is requisite to an introductory Dissertation. What farther light we have been able to. throw on these mysterious remains of antiquity, will appear in our following Notes. If the valuable Commentary of Proclus on the Cratylus of Plato was once published, I am persuaded we should find them full of the most recondite antiquity19): but as {105} this is not to be expected in the present age, the lovers of ancient wisdom, will I doubt not, gratefully accept the preceding and subsequent elucidations. For on a subject so full of obscurity as the present, a glimmering light is as conspicuous, and as agreeable to the eye of the mind, as a small spark in profound darkness is to the corporeal sight.


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De Vita Pythag. c. 34. p. 169. Kuft.
Philoponus observes, in his Commentary on Aristotle's books of the Soul, that Aristotle calls the Orphic verses reputed, because they appear not to have been written by Orpheus himself, as Aristotle affirms in his book concerning philosophy. For the Dogmata contained in them were indeed his,, but Onomacritus is reported to have put them into verse.
In Boeoticis p. 770
Page 167.
It is remarkable that Sextus Empiricus more than once mentions Onomacritus in the Orphics. Οιομάκρίλσ ἒν τοῖσ Ορφικοῖσ.
Page 267.
Vide Fabric. Bib. p. 124.
In Timæum p. 291.
Συμφωνία Ορφέωσ, Πυθαγορυ, καὶ πλατονοσ.
In Tim. p. 289.
In Theol. Plat. p 13.
πάντων κληΐδα ἒχοντας, Αιθέρσ, ερανισ, κ.λ.
πόντυ κληΐδασ ἒχοντα.
Σοὶ ποτκμοὶ κροσοται ἀεὶ κ πᾶσα ϑάλασσα.
In the hymn to Love Μῦνσ γὰρ τύτων πάνων οἲηκα κρατύνεις. And in that to Death οἴ πάντων ϑητῶν οἴηκα κρατύνωεις.
Lib. iv. p, 128.
The reader may observe that this two-fold power is divided into male and female; the reason of which distribution we have already assigned from Proclus.
I have omitted a comparison between the eighth sphere and Pericionius from necessity, because there is no hymn among the following to that orb. And I have not contrasted Licnitan Bacchus with the lunar Sphere, because the resemblance is not apparent; though doubtless there is a concealed similitude.
This is evident from the following epistle of Lucas Holstenius to P. Lambecius, preserved by Fabricius in that excellent work, his Bibliotheca Græca, tom, i. p. 117 . Habeo et Orphei exemplar non contemnendum, ex quo Argonautica plurimis locis emendavi. Auctor ille huc usque a Criticorum et Correctorum vulgo derelictus tuam exposcere videtur operam. Hymni autem reconditæ antiquitatis plenissimi justum commentarium me entur, quem vel unius, Procli scripta ἀνέκδοτα tibi instruent, ut ex notis meis as Sallustium Philosophum prospicies: ne quid de cæteris, quos apud me habeo, Platonicis nunc dicam, in quibus τῆσ μυθικης ϑεολογίας thesaurus latet.