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The Orphic Hymns Paperback – 29 May 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (29 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421408821
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421408828
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Apostolos N. Athanassakis is the Argyropoulos Chair in Hellenic Studies and a professor emeritus of classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the translator of several books, including Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Shield and The Homeric Hymns, both published by Johns Hopkins. Benjamin M. Wolkow is a lecturer in the Classics Department of the University of Georgia.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book, and the fluidity of the new translations. However, I'm glad my introduction to these hymns was from the old edition, as I personally also like the somewhat archaic ring of the language there.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Overlooked collection of religious invocations. 2 April 2003
By Julian Rose - Published on
Format: Paperback
A copy of the Athanassakis translation of the Orphic Hymns happened fortuitiously to fall into my possession, and I have found it invaluable for both research and personal spiritual use. There are few translations available and of those that exist the Athanassakis translation is far superior; the Thomas Taylor translation, for instance, uses the Latin names of the Greek deities and insists upon forcing each hymn into rhyming verse. Other translations available are wildly inaccurate. The Athanassakis translation suffers from no such defects, and the hymns retain an evocative air of the arcane without sounding antiquated.
As for the Hymns themselves, they serve to exemplify many of the characteristic trends of late Graeco-Roman paganism. 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 and certain exotic deities as well (such as the obscure Phrygian Goddess Mise). The overwhelming trend in late antique religious thought, pagan and Christian alike, was toward a sense of divine unity, and 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.
I highly recommend this book for serious pagans and students of Graeco-Roman religion.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
One of the only games in town 25 Jun. 2014
By Patrick - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to read these hymns in translation, there are very few possible sources. I was excited to see a popular version of this book. I was less excited to find out it is only the English translation, without the Greek, which is present in the scholarly version. I was downright disappointed to discover that errors in translation present in the scholarly version survive in this popular addition. For example, in the very first hymn, the phrase "King Zeus" is translated as "kind Zeus." This is a not insignificant typographical error. Even more significant, an entire line about Semele is missing in translation, but present in the Greek. These are errors in the just very first hymn; I haven't finished comparing the text to the Greek for the rest of the book yet. There are also some choices in translation about which I disagree. But I wouldn't take a star off for those; reasonable people can disagree about the interpretation of the language as complex as Greek.

Overall, if you want to read these hymns in English you have this book or Taylor. Even with the errors, I regard this as a better translation than Taylor's.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Orphic hymns - connected to India’s Rig Veda? 1 Jan. 2014
By Sanjay C. Patel - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very accurate and authentic translation into English of some ancient Greek Orphic hymns. There are about 36 in this collection.

Some sources such as Plato mention “hymns of Orpheus” but we cannot be sure that these are the same hymns. Some scholars place the current 36 hymns at around second to fourth century.

Supporting this is the fact that there is nothing remotely Christian about the hymns even though they are highly syncretic and include beliefs from all the surrounding faiths. The hymns are highly pagan. They reference divinities hardly known to Greece in the West. Many of these divinities or Asiatic Gods are from the East – Asia minor, Turkey.

A maximum number of hymns are dedicated to Dionysos – seven. Zeus follows with three. Dionysos was Orphism’s supreme God. In fact, Dionysos was the most popular God of the Hellenistic era. And Orphism appears to have spread almost everywhere.

It is not known whether Orpheus – the originator of Orphism – was historical or mystical. According to tradition he was not from Greece but Thrace. He was a renowned bard from a period possibly earlier than Homer and Hesiod. He played a stringed instrument called a lyre. His music was so mesmerizing that even inanimate objects swayed by its sound.

It is apparent that Orphic mythology was a kind of syncretism and extension of the major mythologies of Homer and Hesiod.

There is also apparently a great influence of Stoicism on Orphic beliefs. This is displayed in hymns dedicated to Ether, the Stars, Physis and others. These are all personifications of natural elements like the Rig Veda. Orphism also held on to Hesiod’s Sky, Kronos, and Zeus.

Indeed, this is the main reason why I have studied these hymns. It has been acknowledged ever since Max Müller that there is an equivalence between Dyaus in the Rig Veda of India and Zeus of Greece. Zeus is 800 BC, whilst Dyaus is between 1000-1900 BC.

This is one of the great and astonishing connections of ancient history that the West rarely wants to talk about. In the media, in the news, and in blockbuster movies Zeus is mentioned countless times. But rarely is it mentioned that "Great" Zeus is nothing but the ancient Rig Vedic God Dyaus, who is still in some ways revered in India.

Western parochialism and religious bigotry is suffocating the truth: in ancient times East and West had very similar and overlapping beliefs. Even the names of their gods were equivalent.

Indeed, the cosmogony of Orphism overlaps with the cosmogony of Vedanta and the Puranas which in turn overlap with the cosmogony of the Torah. In fact, there are 43 extraordinary parallels between the cosmic beliefs of ancient yogis in India and those of ancient Israelites. These go beyond chance.

Full disclosure: I’m a peer-reviewed researcher on connections between ancient yoga and the Bible, as well as between yoga and modern science. ~ Sanjay C Patel,
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Best Translation By Far 24 July 2013
By Lyssa - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This translation of the Orphic Hymns is the best I've found by far. With small improvements over Athanassakis' 1977 translation, the 2013 edition far outstrips the traditionally used Thomas Taylor text. Where Taylor is determined to force the original Greek into rhyming verse and changes the names of the deities to their Roman equivalents, Athanassakis is true to the original Greek and the intention of the writing. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Any studies of the Orphic Hymns should come from his text.
Looked for this for years... 30 Sept. 2013
By Hector M. Lugo - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Finally, this is available. I own his Homeric Hymns translations, and they are wonderful, and now I have these on my kindle... Love these hymns, and his use of English is superb as, unlike older translations, the translation is not so flowery that it detracts from the actual hymns themselves...
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