Date of Completion
Classics & Archaeology (CLAR)
Dr. Matthew Dillon
In Greek myth, Orpheus is a musician with incredible talent, his music so beautiful that it charmed the beasts and guardians of the Underworld, and eventually Persephone and Hades themselves, into allowing his dead wife Eurydice to returning to the living realm. When he defied their singular rule of not turning to look back at her and she was then banished to the Underworld forever, Orpheus returned to the mortal realm, began to worship Helios instead of Dionysus, and was promptly killed by Thracian women sent by Dionysus. Alternatively, it has been told that Orpheus, wrought with heartbreak, could not make himself love another woman and instead turned to the love of men, which angered the Thracian women so much that they killed him. At any rate, an overwhelming majority of literary retellings and visual representations of the myth place Orpheus at the center of the story: the viewer or reader follows him as he experiences loss, travels into the Underworld, retrieves his bride, loses her once more, lives on in misery, and is eventually killed by women within his own community. This is undoubtedly reflective of the patriarchal society in which the myth was born. This paper looks to explore visual representations of the women with whom Orpheus interacts, particularly Eurydice and the Thracian women who kill him, by studying 5th century BCE Athenian decorated vases. A wide discrepancy exists between the interests of the Athenian consumers of the myth, who were interested in the Thracian women’s murder of Orpheus, and the Roman consumers of the myth, who focused more on the romantic connection between Orpheus and Eurydice.
Burton, Samantha, "Orpheus and Women on 5th Century BCE Vases" (2019). Honors Thesis. 187.