Lincoln Blogs


Refutation of Orpheus and Eurydice
March 9, 2007, 3:46 pm
Filed under: School Papers

This is another myth I refuted for writing class.

There is an old myth of a brave husband and his wife, that has a good story line and is enjoyable to read. But it is only a myth, not to be taken as historical fact.

The myth is as follows: Orpheus, the poet of Rhodope, fell in love with the beautiful Eurydice and asked her to marry him. She agreed, and a splendid wedding was held. Hymen, the god of marriage, attended the feast, but did not bring his usual blessings. As a result, the new bride Eurydice was bitten on the ankle by a poisonous snake and died. Longing to see his wife again, Orpheus went to the Underworld to beg Pluto, god of the Underworld, and his wife, Persephone, to reverse Eurydice’s swift death. Pluto, Persephone, and all those in the Underworld were moved to tears after hearing how much Orpheus loved and missed his wife. Pluto agreed to reverse Eurydice’s death, but on one condition: Orpheus was not to look back at Eurydice until he had emerged from the Valley of Avernus. He excitedly agreed, and Eurydice was presented to him. Orpheus headed out on the journey, with Eurydice following closely. After a short time, Orpheus longed to look at his wife, and began to worry she was no longer behind him.. As he did, she dropped back, and Orpheus clutched for her, only to reach for the receding air. Eurydice said her final goodbye to Orpheus, and died a second time. Devastated, Orpheus spent the rest of his life alone and heartbroken.

This myth is false for a number of reasons. It is improbable, obscure, impossible, and illogical. I will show this in the following paragraphs.

The narrative, first, is improbable. There are no motives for any of the actions, except of course when Orpheus goes after his bride.Why didn’t Hymen bring his usual blessing to the wedding? Did he have something against Orpheus or Eurydice? Also, why wasn’t Orpheus allowed to look back at his wife until they were out of the Valley of Avernus? It is not likely that Hymen, a god, would just forget his blessing, or that Pluto would just make up a rule for no apparent reason, preventing Orpheus from looking at his wife. Unless the author just forgot to include these necessary details, these important missing parts of the story are improbable.

The story is also very obscure. There is no physical evidence of this actually happening, and no one claims to have witnessed it. The tale is not found in any historical documents, either.

Not only is the tale improbable and obscure, but it is impossible. It breaks the laws of nature that a person could die, be rescued from the afterlife by a mortal and then die again and return to the afterlife. You might respond to this point by bringing up the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected and also brought other people back to life. The apostle Paul also raised a man from the dead. The difference is, Jesus was God, and therefore had the power of God, and it wasn’t really Paul who raised that man from the dead, but God working through him. Orpheus just marched right into the underworld, got his wife, and then went back to earth.

Besides being improbable, obscure, and impossible, this myth is also illogical. It says that because Hymen didn’t bring his blessing, a snake bit Eurydice. That is clearly the logical fallacy of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”, which in Latin means “after this, therefore because of this.” Just because she was bit after Hymen failed to bless them, it doesn’t mean that she was bit necessarily because of it. That would be like saying, “He ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the other day, and broke his leg the next day. I’m never eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again.” It is obviously a fallacy.

In the paragraphs above, I have stated clearly why this narrative is a myth. I have shown how it is improbable, obscure, impossible, and illogical. Readers, after reviewing the evidence I have presented, I urge you to read and enjoy this story not as a historical account, but a myth.

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