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Pythagoreans Orphism and Greek Religion1
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For Proclus just as for his teacher Syrianus Plato expresses the very same teaching in. his dialogues The Muse Calliope Orpheus Aglaophamus Pythagoras the Pythagorean. Timaeus and Plato are links in the unbroken chain of transmission of divine wisdom. that constitutes the backbone of the Greek philosophical tradition and is at the same. time the foundation of the right religious attitude towards the gods. Proclus reproduces here almost verbatim a text that Iamblichus quotes from a. work called Sacred Discourse Hieros Logos in which Pythagoras its purported. author gives a first person account of the story Iamb VP 146 7 The quotation serves. Iamblichus to demonstrate that the core of Pythagorean theology which takes numbers. to be the divine first principles as well as the exemplary piety of Pythagoras and his. followers manifested in their religious taboos and precepts issue from Orpheus. teaching If someone then wishes to learn from whence these men received such a. degree of piety it must be said that a clear model for Pythagorean theology according to. number is laid down in the writings of Orpheus Iamb VP 145 tr Dillon and. Hershbell slightly modified, Much closer to the time of Pythagoras the authors of the classical age show no. knowledge of his initiation into the Orphic mysteries by Aglaophamus the story is. never attested before Iamblichus text 2 and are often far more sceptical about Orpheus. whom they tend to treat as a mythical character just as we do Nonetheless already the. earliest stratum of evidence about Pythagoras and his immediate followers assumes a. tight connection with Orphism with regard both to cult and to poems of theological and. 2 Cf Brisson 2002 Brisson thinks that Iamblichus himself might have invented the. story about Aglaophamus 2002 421, eschatological content Herodotus composing his Histories about sixty years after. Pythagoras death claimed in a much discussed passage that the so called Orphics. and the Pythagoreans shared with the Egyptians a particular ritual prohibition which is. otherwise alien to Greek tradition and which proscribes burying the dead in wool. Because of a discrepancy between two alternative versions of the transmitted text it is. unclear whether Herodotus speaks about Orphics and Pythagoreans and if so whether. or not he means to equate the two groups or alternatively about Orphic and Bacchic. rituals which he identifies as in reality being Egyptian and Pythagorean 3 On either. construal Herodotus asserts a non accidental connection between Orphic and. Pythagorean funerary ritual in all probability based on some shared and non standard. eschatological beliefs which as Herodotus adds were explained in sacred discourses. hieroi logoi, Other fifth and fourth century BC writers being doubtful about the historicity of. Orpheus maintained that Pythagoras and his acolytes far from drawing their wisdom. from Orphic writings as the Neoplatonists would later claim actually authored those. writings Ion of Chios says in the Triagmoi that he Pythagoras composed some. poems and attributed them to Orpheus D L 8 8 Ion of Chios 36B2 DK cf Clement. Strom 1 21 131 St hlin Epigenes an author plausibly dated to the early fourth century. wrote a treatise with the title On Works Attributed to Orpheus According to the. 3 Hdt 2 81 The latter version vindicated somewhat tentatively by Burkert 1972a. 127 128 is favored by most current interpreters For a detailed and to my mind still. rather persuasive defense of the former version see Linforth 1941 38 50 and now. Zhmud 2012a 224, information transmitted by Clement Epigenes discussed the authorship of four poems. the Descent to Hades the Sacred Discourse the Robe and the Physica and ascribed. each of them to authors whom he took to be Pythagoreans the first two to Cercops the. latter two to Bro n tinus 4 The same tradition is recorded also by Cicero Aristotle. informs us that the poet Orpheus never existed and the Pythagoreans maintain that the. Orphic poem now current was the work of a certain Cercops Cicero ND 1 107. Aristotle fr 7 tr Walsh It is tempting to read Herodotus remark in the same manner. He knew about sacred discourses that were attributed to Orpheus and that provided. the justification for the burial taboos but Herodotus claims these texts to be of. Pythagorean origin 5, The affinity between Orphism and Pythagoreanism was thus perceived very early.
on There is however a fundamental difference Whereas for the Neoplatonists the. theology and piety taught and displayed by Orpheus and following him Pythagoras. were supremely reverent and at the center of the Greek religious tradition most authors. of the classical age consider them as fringe phenomena proclaiming outlandish myths. 4 Clement Strom 5 8 49 and 1 21 131 St hlin For this dating see Linforth 1941. 114 118 followed with some reservations by Gagn 2007 7 8 On this dating. Epigenes might be identical with the one mentioned by Plato Ap 33e Phd 59b and. Xenophon Mem 3 12 as an associate of Socrates For a later Hellenistic date see. Zhmud 2012a 117 See also West 1983 9, 5 The text allows two readings Herodotus might mean that the hieroi logoi are Egyptian. so Burkert 1972a 219 with n 10 or that they are Orphic Pythagorean so Graf and. Johnston 2007 142 and 175 I am inclined to the latter view. and prescribing puzzling taboos and alien rituals 6 While withholding value judgments. modern historians of religion would agree rather with the second view Traditional. forms of religious practice and belief that permeate the life of every Greek from birth to. death from dawn to evening during festivals and on regular days are firmly rooted in. the local traditions of the polis As we shall shortly see neither the phenomena related. to Orphism nor the beliefs and cultic precepts attributable to Pythagoras and his. followers were integrated in these local ancestral traditions What remains debated is. how far membership in a Pythagorean hetairia or active participation in Orphic cult. activities would actually oppose actors to their respective local traditions and exclude. them from institutionalized forms of worship in the polis religion Central to this. problem is of course the question of vegetarianism to which we shall return soon. Modern assessments of the extent nature and direction of the connection. between Orphism and Pythagoreanism remain widely divergent Some find the. association so close that following a practice current in the earlier part of the last. century they use the coinage Orphico Pythagorean to describe various cultic practices. and eschatological ideas Others emphasize the fundamental differences between. Orphism and Pythagoreanism Zhmud 2012a 228 or argue that they were originally. two largely independent and parallel phenomena that got confused on account of some. perceived similarities Kahn 2001 21 As to the question of historical priority some. think that even if not quite in the way described by Iamblichus and Proclus Orphic. writings could indeed serve as a major source of inspiration for Pythagorean philosophy. and ritual precepts cf e g Riedweg 2005 74 76 Guthrie 1993 219 221 Others. 6 Cf Edmonds 2008, suggest that Pythagoreanism came first so that Orphism was the product of. Pythagorean influence on Bacchic mysteries Bremmer 2002 15 and that early Orphic. poems were primarily or even exclusively composed by Pythagoreans West 1983. 7 20 Kahn 2001 20 Scholars are not less divided on the question whether the. doctrine of metempsychosis often assumed to be among the most important points of. contact originated with Orphism or was rather introduced into Greece by Pythagoras. There is nothing surprising in this bewildering discord of voices about the nature. of the relationship in view of the lack of consensus about the natures of the two terms of. the relationship It seems easy to agree with Guthrie Clearly the best hope of. discovering something about the relationship between Orphics and Pythagoreans lies in. an examination of the two system themselves Guthrie 1993 217 But this is exactly. where problems erupt indeed it is highly doubtful whether one can justifiably speak. about systems to describe either Orphism or Pythagoreanism. To be sure the scholarly landscape has significantly changed since Guthrie first. wrote these words in the thirties On the side of Pythagoreanism Walter Burkert s. epoch making Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism Burkert 1962a Burkert. 1972a put the study of early Pythagoreanism on a new footing By accentuating its. religious aspects and formulating strong reservations about its scientific side Burkert s. study inevitably brought Pythagoreanism closer to Orphism At the same time a series. of fascinating archaeological discoveries has made Orphism considerably more. tangible A collection of tiny inscribed bone plates found in Olbia and dated to the fifth. century BC strongly suggests that at least there and then Orphic communities. existed 7 The enigmatic inscriptions of the bone plates indicate a connection between. Dionysus Orphic cult and an interest in the afterlife The mention of bacchoi on the. gold tablets found in Hipponion and the reference to Dionysus Bacchius releasing the. souls of the initiates on the gold tablets found in Pelinna testify further to the Dionysiac. nature of at least some aspects of Orphism The same finds invalidate the attempts of. Zuntz to distance the gold tablets from Orphism and to ascribe them to. Pythagoreanism 8 Finally the Derveni papyrus the remains of which were found among. the ashes of a funerary pyre close to Thessaloniki and the text of which was probably. written around the time of Plato presents incontrovertible evidence that Orphic poems. of theogonic nature were in circulation by the fifth century at the latest 9 Most scholars. would agree that the combined weight of this body of newly found evidence makes the. hypercritical position of Wilamowitz and Linforth according to which Orphism as a. religious phenomenon is a figment of ideologically motivated modern scholarship. hardly tenable, Burkert already taking into account most of the new evidence and armed with his. formidable knowledge of Pythagoreanism summed up a brief but nuanced analysis of. 7 Cf Rusjaeva 1978 West 1982 Zhmud 1992b, 8 Zuntz 1971 For recent editions and discussions of the gold tablets see Graf and. Johnston 2007 Bernab and Jim nez San Crist bal 2008 Edmonds 2011 For a. fascinating account of the history of the scholarship on the gold tablets and Orphism. see Graf in Graf and Johnston 2007 Ch 2 For a recent and to my mind somewhat. desperate attempt to question that all the gold tablets can be characterized as Orphic. see Edmonds 2011,9 Kouremenos et al 2006 Betegh 2004.
the relationship with a memorable image Bacchic Orphic and Pythagorean are circles. each of which has its own center and while these circles have areas that coincide each. preserves its own special sphere Burkert 1985 300 This remains the most promising. general characterization it nonetheless requires due caution and possibly some. refinements Above all it is not obvious what could count as the respective centers of. Pythagoreanism and Orphism or indeed if they had such identifiable nubs at all. Moreover we should not I would insist take Burkert s circles as referring to systems of. beliefs and practices connected to them with internal consistency and fixed borders. Rather I would suggest there was a group of phenomena that can be by some broad. characterization ranged under the heading e g Orphism yet there is no guarantee. that these phenomena have anything clearly specifiable in common in terms of beliefs. and practices with all the other phenomena that can with equal right be described as. Orphic The gamut of new and old evidence presses for a non essentialist conception. of Orphism One common feature in Orphism seems to be an authority granted to. poems attributed to Orpheus and their use in rituals which were assumed to have an. effect on the fate of the soul but even this might be too strict because for instance. Orpheus is not mentioned on the gold tablets and we cannot be sure whether and if so. how they were supposed to be connected to Orphic poems On the other hand one. shared feature among Pythagoreans seems to be the observance of a set of religiously. motivated precepts sealed by the authority of Pythagoras but even this might be too. strict because we don t have sufficient evidence to show that all Pythagoreans adhered. to these laws of conduct and there is reason to think that different Pythagoreans. attributed different precepts to the founder If so some elements of the batch of Orphic. phenomena can justifiably be linked more or less closely with some phenomena no. less multifarious that we range under the heading Pythagoreanism. In the rest of this chapter I shall substantiate these claims by presenting a number. of examples and concentrating on individual actors phenomena and specific texts First. I shall focus on those features that are most commonly considered as the principal areas. of overlap between Orphism and Pythagoreanism The outcome in some respects will. be on the minimalist side In the second part of the paper I shall however suggest a few. possible general and specific points of contact that have received relatively little or no. 7 2 Vegetarianism and Metempsychosis in Pythagoreanism and Orphism. fascinating account of the history of the scholarship on the gold tablets and Orphism see Graf in Graf and Johnston 2007 Ch 2 For a recent and to my mind somewhat desperate attempt to question that all the gold tablets can be characterized as Orphic see Edmonds 2011 9 Kouremenos et al 2006 Betegh 2004

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