The Writing of Orpheus
Greek Myth in Cultural Context
Son of a mortal king and an immortal Muse, Orpheus possessed a gift for music unmatched among humans; with his lyre he could turn the course of rivers, drown the fatal song of the Sirens, and charm the denizens of the underworld. The allure of his music speaks through the myths and stories of the Greeks and Romans, who tell of his mysterious compositions, with lyrics that only the initiated could understand after undergoing secret rites. Where readers of subsequent centuries have been content to understand these mysteries as the stuff of obfuscation or mere folderol, Marcel Detienne finds in the writing of Orpheus a key to the thinking of the ancient Greeks.
A profound understanding of ancient Greek myth in its cultural contexts allows Detienne to recover a cultural system from fragments and ephemera—to reproduce, with sensitivity to variation and nuance, the full richness of the mythological repertoire flowing from the writing of Orpheus. His investigation moves from the Orphic writings to broader mysteries: how Greek gods became myths, how myths informed later religious thinking, and how myths have come into play in polemics between competing religions. An eloquent answer to some of the most vexing questions about the myth of Orpheus and its far-reaching ramifications through time and culture, Detienne's work ultimately offers a major rethinking of Greek mythology.
About the Authors
Marcel Detienne is the Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of L'Invention de la mythologie, Dionysos a ciel ouvert, Les Jardins d'Adonis, and many other books and articles, and editor of Transcrire les mythologies.
Dazzling display of erudition and sometimes brilliant insights... Advanced students of mythology will find illumination in these pages.
Anyone with an interest in either the theory of myth interpretation or any of the particular mythic complexes Detienne engages will find this a fascinating and provocative book.
What makes this book vitally important is Marcel Detienne's deep understanding of ancient Greek myth in its cultural context. Everything he writes here has been carefully thought through on many scholarly levels: I read here the best kind of work in philology, history, anthropology, and philosophy. On the surface, Detienne makes it all look so easy, but it is the hardest kind of research effort that has produced this brilliant collection of investigations.
Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / Ancient & Classical
Other Titles in Classical history / classical civilisation