Eurydice

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Charles-François Lebœuf, Dying Eurydice (1822), marble

In Greek mythology, Eurydice or Eurydike (/jʊəˈrɪdɪs/; Greek: Εὐρυδίκη, 'wide justice') was the wife of Orpheus, who tried to bring her back from the dead with his enchanting music.

Orpheus and Eurydice[edit]

Eurydice was the wife of musician Orpheus, who loved her dearly; on their wedding day, he played joyful songs as his bride danced through the meadow. One day, Aristaeus saw and pursued Eurydice, who stepped on a viper, was bitten, and died instantly. Distraught, Orpheus played and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and deities wept and told him to travel to the Underworld to retrieve her, which he gladly did. After his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, his singing so sweet that even the Erinyes wept, he was allowed to take her back to the world of the living. In another version, Orpheus played his lyre to put Cerberus, the guardian of Hades, to sleep, after which Eurydice was allowed to return with Orpheus to the world of the living. Either way, the condition was attached that he must walk in front of her and not look back until both had reached the upper world. Soon he began to doubt that she was there, suspecting that Hades had deceived him. Just as he reached the portals of Hades and daylight, he turned around to gaze on her face, and because Eurydice had not yet crossed the threshold, she vanished back into the Underworld. When Orpheus later was killed by the Maenads at the orders of Dionysus, his soul ended up in the Underworld where he was reunited with Eurydice.

The story in this form belongs to the time of Virgil, who first introduces the name of Aristaeus and the tragic outcome.[1] Other ancient sources however, speak of Orpheus' visit to the underworld in a more negative light; according to Phaedrus in Plato's Symposium,[2] the infernal deities only "presented an apparition" of Eurydice to him. Ovid says that Eurydice's death was not caused by fleeing from Aristaeus, but by dancing with naiads on her wedding day. In fact, Plato's representation of Orpheus is that of a coward; instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved, he mocked the deities by trying to go to Hades to get her back alive. Since his love was not "true"—meaning he was not willing to die for it—he was punished by the deities, first by giving him only the apparition of his former wife in the underworld and then by being killed by women.[2]

The story of Eurydice may be a late addition to the Orpheus myths. In particular, the name Eurudike ('she whose justice extends widely') recalls cult-titles attached to Persephone. The myth may have been derived from another Orpheus legend in which he travels to Tartarus and charms the goddess Hecate.[3][clarification needed]

The story of Eurydice has a number of strong universal cultural parallels, from the Japanese myth of Izanagi and Izanami, the Mayan myth of Itzamna and Ixchel, the Indian myth of Savitri and Satyavan, to the Akkadian/Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld.[citation needed] The biblical story of Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back at the town she was fleeing, is "often compared to the story of Orpheus and his wife Eurydike."[4]

In art and pop culture[edit]

Statue of Eurydice at Schönbrunn Palace; note the snake biting her foot

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been depicted in a number of works by artists, including Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin, and Corot.[5] More recently, the story has been by Bracha Ettinger, whose series, Eurydice, was exhibited in the Pompidou Centre (Face à l'Histoire, 1996); the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (Kabinet, 1997); and The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerpen (Gorge(l), 2007). The story has inspired ample writings in the fields of ethics, aesthetics, art, and feminist theory.

Film and literature[edit]

Operas and stage productions[edit]

The myth has been retold in operas by Jacopo Peri, Monteverdi, Gluck, Yevstigney Fomin, Harrison Birtwistle, and Matthew Aucoin.

Music[edit]

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice features prominently in the 1967 album Reflections by Manos Hadjidakis, as well as on the track "Talk" from Hozier's 2019 album Wasteland, Baby!.

Science and geography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lee, M. Owen. 1996. Virgil as Orpheus: A Study of the Georgics. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 9.
  2. ^ a b Symposium 179d-e.
  3. ^ Graves, Robert. 1955. "Orpheus." Ch. 28 in The Greek Myths 1. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 115.
  4. ^ Clark, Matthew. 2012. "The Judgment of Paris." Pp. 97–111 in Exploring Greek Myths. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing. p. 106.
  5. ^ Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille. 1861. "Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld" (painting). MFAH, Houston.
  6. ^ Rosand, Ellen. "Opera: III. Early opera, 1600–90." Grove Music Online, edited by L. Macy.
  7. ^ Whenham, John. 1986. Claudio Monteverdi, Orfeo. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28477-5. p. xi.
  8. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (February 3, 2020). "Review: Eurydice, a New Opera, Looks Back All Too Tamely". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  9. ^ Clayson, Alan (1997). Death Discs: An Account of Fatality in the Popular Song (2nd ed.). Sanctuary. p. 200. ISBN 1860741959. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  10. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Eurydice", p. 86).

Sources[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hirsh, Jennie, and Isabelle D. Wallace, eds. 2011. Contemporary Art and Classical Myth. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6974-6.
  • Masing-Delic, Irene. 2011. "Replication or Recreation? The Eurydice Motif in Nabokov's Russian Oeuvre." Russian Literature 70(3):391–414.

External links[edit]

Media related to Eurydice at Wikimedia Commons