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Thread: Ancient Astronomy: The Orphic Hymns

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    Tired Ancient Astronomy: The Orphic Hymns

    The Orphic Hymns are a set of pre-classical poetic compositions, attributed to the culture hero Orpheus, himself the subject of a renowned myth.The Hymns serve to exemplify many of the characteristic trends of Graeco-Roman religion.

    They are in fact theurgical formulae composed for use in highly esoteric Mystery ceremonies, within which the deity's names, mythic associations, and attributes are invoked that the deity may appear and bless the rite being performed, conferring both spiritual and worldly benefits upon the devotee.

    There are over eighty hymns included in the collection, and all of the prime Greek divinities are featured, plus many lesser ones as well.

    The Orphic Hymns, though addressed to a great and diverse polytheist pantheon, seem to reflect this awareness in their vision of Deity - each hymn seems designed call forth a different aspect of the one universal spiritual energy, and the deities appear less as a disparate group of conflicting and oft-egoistic personalities and more as mystic forces united harmoniously in sanctifying and aiding the individual on her/his path toward knowledge of the great ineffable Divine.

    A. “The Orphic Hymns give us information on the Astronomical knowledge of the Greeks during but also and before the 2nd Millennium B.C.

    Because, from the line ΜΙΞΑΣ ΧΕΙΜΩΝΟΣ ΘΕΡΕΟΣ Τ' ΑΜΦΟΤΕΡΟΙΣΙΝ (34,21), it results that the hymns have been formulated when the seasons winter and summer had an equal duration, that is, round 1366 B.C. On the other hand, it is proved, that line ΤΑΥΡΟΦΟΝΩΝ ΖΕΥΞΑΣΑ ΤΑΧΥΔΡΟΜΟΝ ΑΡΜΑ ΛΕΟΝΤΩΝ (27, 3) and line Η ΛΙΣ ΤΑΥΡΟΦΟΝΟΣ ΙΕΡΟΤΡΟΧΟΝ ΑΡΜΑ ΤΙΤΑΙΝΕΙ (14,2) refer to the spring equinox and to the summer solstice, when these were taking place (respectively) in the Taurus and the Leon, up to 1841 B.C.

    As during the years 1841-1366 B.C.
    1) the seasons summer and winter were practically equal, not differing more than 13 hours and
    2) the point y passed through regions without brilliant stars, so that practically it entered in Aries in 1382 B.C. when it reached the hour circle of δ Ari (Mag. 4,5). It is concluded, that the Orphic Hymns have been formulated between 1841 and 1382 B.C. and most probably in the years round the middle of the period, that is, the 17th century B.C. when first y had not yer reached the weak stars of the Aries and second the seasons winter and summer differed just more than 6 hours.

    B. The Greeks in the Orphic times had conceived the heliocentric idea, and it was from them that it was later borrowed by Pythagoreans and Aristarchus. Indeed, they were aware of the sphericity and the rotation of the earth, because, it is proved, that the term “πόλος” which one meets in the lines:

    ΠΑΝΤΑ ΠΟΛΟΝ ΑΡΜΟΖΕΙΣ (34, 16-17) and ΠΑΝΤΑ ΠΟΛΟΝ ΚΙΡΝΑΣ (34, 19).

    means the globe, of which they also determined the zones: torrid (“ΕΜΠΥΡΟΝ”), temperate (“ΜΕΣΗΓΥΣ”) and frigid (“ΨΥΧΡΑΣ”). This is derived from the extract:


    which extract is saved by Proclos (Είς Τίμαιον 38,7).

    The sentence ΜΕΣΟΣ ΑΞΩΝ ΗΕΛΙΟΥ ΤΡΕΠΕΤΑΙ ΠΟΤΙΝΕΥΟΜΕΝΟΣ denotes the change of altitude of the sun, during its culmination above the various places, with φ. On the other hand, the lines




    denote that the earth is the center of the celestial sphere, the axis of which is identified with the axis of the world and is terminated in the well known (“ΠΑΣΙΓΝΩΣΤΟΝ”) (northern) pole of the sky, and that the sky rotates round this axis.

    Furthermore, the fact that the Orphics were teaching the equal time duration on of the rotation of the earth and the celestial sphere, is mentioned explicity in the extract “ΔΙΑΘΗΚΑΙ” (testament) of Aristobulus, saved by Eusebius (“ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΚΑ 13,12) where Orpheus says to Musaeus: ΙΔΟΙΣ ΓΑΡ ΕΗΝ ΑΣΤΡΟΙΟ ΠΟΡΕΙΗΣ, ΚΑΙ ΣΦΑΙΡΗΣ ΚΙΝΗΜ' ΑΜΦΙ ΧΘΟΝΑ ΠΕΡΙΤΕΛΛΕΙ ΚΥΚΛΟΤΕΡΗΣ, ΕΝ ΙΣΩ ΤΕ ΚΑΤΑ ΣΦΕΤΕΡΟΝ ΚΝΩΔΑΚΑ.

    The literal version of this extract is: ”because he knew the course of the stars and the movement of the (celestial) sphere round the earth, as this (the earth), which is round, rotates in equal time round its own axis”. These refer to the first part of the heliocentric idea, that is to the sphericity and the rotation of the earth.

    On the other hand, from the line ΜΑΣΤΙΓΙ ΛΙΓΥΡΗ ΤΕΤΡΑΟΡΟΝ ΑΡΜΑ ΔΙΩΚΩΝ (8,19) and the line (26,3) which is mentioned above, it is derived that the chariot of the four seasons of the year, which the sun draws is yoked by the earth.

    This idea is repeated also in the hymn of Rea-Earth, (13,2) where it is said: "for your sake" (because of you) Leon. (summer solstice), which killed Taurus (equinox), drives and advances the chariot (of the year), which is drawn by the (four) sacred wheels (of the seasons). It is therefore understood that because of the movement of the earth round the sun the four seasons occur. These, combined with the line of the hymn of the sun


    where “ΚΟΣΜΟΣ” is called the earth and “ΔΡΟΜΟΣ” the ecliptic explicitly denote that the Orphics accepted the sun as the center of attraction which round the earth moves on the ecliptic. Therefore, the Orphics taught to the initiated also the second part of heliocentricity , the motion of the world-earth round the sun and the expression ”heliocentric system of the world” is of Orphic origin. They attributed the motion of the world round the sun to its attraction, which Newton formulated 3000 years. later.

    C. Finally it is proved that:

    The Orphics knew the global shape of the sky as well as the two first laws of the apparent motion of the celestial sphere.

    They distinguished the stars into “ΠΥΡΟΕΝΤΑΣ”, that is fiery and into the seven planets, which they called after their today’s names, which, consequently are of Orphic origin. They introduced the zodiac.

    The names of the constellations and especially those of the zodiac are Orphic (as it seems from the compared texts.

    They determined the ecliptic, and the term “ΔΡΟΜΟΣ” which Archimedes uses in “ΨΑΜΜΙΤΗΣ” (4,5) for the ecliptic is of Orphic origin. They developed Astrology, and Angaeus (“ΑΡΓΟΝΑΥΤΙΚΑ” 210) was an Astrologer – Astronomer.

    They determined the duration of each season.

    They knew that the diffused light, as well as that of dawn, and of twilight were due to solar light and the presence of the atmosphere.

    They introduced the idea of the ether, as filling the space beyond the atmosphere.

    They accepted the presence of mountains on the Moon.

    They were using a Lunar calendar of twelve conjunctive months, (of the same duration of time) every one of which was considered between two full moons.

    They accepted that all phenomena were governed by the universal law, which regulates all of the sky and earth and secures the stability of the existence of the earth.

    From the “ΛΙΘΙΚΑ” (170-182) it is derived that they also knew about lenses.

    From what is mentioned above it results that

    a) the existing views in the history of Astronomy, concerning the so called priority of the Assyro-Babylonians against the Greeks, for many of the above exposed notions, must be revised, and

    b) the views of Prehistory, according to which the Ancient Greeks and the Aegeans were not Greek tribes, must be revised. Because the dating of the Orphic Hymns through astronomical methods proves that these, regardless of the time of their gathering and registration, during the 6th century B.C., were formulated much earlier and were communicated from generation to generation on by the initiated of Orphism.

    Markwell that Herman Diels in “Fragmenta der Vorsokratiker” refers - chapter “Orpheus” Page 3, that the ancient Greeks were writing their opinions and their observation on very thin boards.

    These hymns were the genuine product of the Greeks who lived in the country in the depths of the 2nd Millennium B.C. They cultivated the observation of the sky, and layed the foundations of the basic theoretical astronomical truths, the very ancient epoch.

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    Zaza Alevism is a survival of Orphism in Asia Minor.

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