BAR 35:02, Mar/Apr 2009
Orpheus—The Man with the Golden Harp
The story of Orpheus has resonated through the millennia and has been a popular subject of art, music and literature for more than 2,500 years. The Greek legend was flourishing by the mid-sixth century B.C., and variations of his story appear in the ancient writings of Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Apollodorus, Virgil and Ovid. According to one version of the myth, Orpheus was the son of the muse Calliope. Given a lyre (a form of ancient harp) by the god Apollo and instructed in its use by the Muses, he became so skilled at creating music with it that he was able to charm and placate elements of both the natural and supernatural world. Animals, trees, rocks and even some of the gods themselves were moved by the music from his golden harp, and ancient images of him often depict scenes in which Orpheus is surrounded by a variety of tranquil creatures, both real and mythical.