Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus in the underworld.

Great singer Orpheus, son of the river god Eagra and the muses Kalliopa, lived in distant Thrace. Orpheus' wife was a beautiful nymph Eurydice. The singer Orpheus loved her dearly. But Orpheus did not enjoy a happy life with his wife for long. One day, shortly after the wedding, the beautiful Eurydice was gathering spring flowers in a green valley with her young frisky nymph friends. Eurydice did not notice the snake in the thick grass and stepped on it. A snake stung Orpheus' young wife in the leg. Eurydice screamed loudly and fell into the arms of her friends who ran up. Eurydice turned pale, her eyes closed. The snake's venom stopped her life. Eurydice's friends were horrified and their mournful crying spread far. Orpheus heard him. He hurries to the valley and there sees the cold corpse of his dearly beloved wife. Orpheus became desperate. He could not come to terms with this loss. For a long time he mourned his Eurydice, and all nature wept, hearing his sad singing.

Finally, Orpheus decided to descend into the gloomy realm of the souls of the dead to beg the lord Hades and his wife Persephone to return his wife to him. Through a gloomy cave Tenara Orpheus descended to the banks of the sacred river Styx.

Orpheus sings to the Thracians, accompanying himself on the kithara
Orpheus sings to the Thracians, accompanying himself on the kithara.
(Drawing on a vase.)

Orpheus stands on the shore of the Styx. How can he cross to the other side, to where the gloomy kingdom of the lord of Hades is located? The shadows of the dead crowd around Orpheus. Their moans are barely audible, like the rustle of falling leaves in the forest in late autumn. Now I heard the splash of oars in the distance. This is the approaching boat of the carrier of the souls of the dead, Charon. Charon moored to the shore. Orpheus asks to transport him along with the souls to the other shore, but the harsh Charon refused him. No matter how Orpheus pleads with him, he hears only Charon's answer - "no!"

Then Orpheus struck the strings of his golden kithara, and the sounds of its strings spread like a wide wave along the shore of the gloomy Styx. Orpheus Charon was charmed by his music; he listens to Orpheus playing, leaning on his oar. Orpheus entered the paddy to the sound of music, Charon pushed her away from the shore with an oar, and the boat sailed through the gloomy waters of the Styx. Charon transported Orpheus. He got out of the boat and, playing on the golden kithara, walked through the gloomy realm of the souls of the dead to the throne of the god Hades, surrounded by souls who flocked to the sounds of his kithara.

Orpheus approached the throne of Hades while playing the cithara and bowed down before him. He struck the strings of the kithara harder and began to sing; he sang about his love for Eurydice and how happy his life was with her in the bright, clear days of spring. But the days of happiness quickly passed. Eurydice died. Orpheus sang about his grief, about the torments of broken love, about his longing for the dead. The whole kingdom of Hades listened to the singing of Orpheus, everyone was fascinated by his song. The god Hades listened to Orpheus with his head bowed on his chest. Persephone leaned her head against her husband's shoulder and listened to the song; tears of sadness trembled on her eyelashes. Enchanted by the sounds of the song, Tantalus forgot his hunger and thirst. Sisyphus stopped his hard, fruitless work. I sat down on the rock that I was rolling up the mountain and thought deeply, deeply. Enchanted by the singing, they stood The Danaids, they forgot about their bottomless vessel. The formidable three-faced goddess herself Hecate covered her face with her hands so that tears could not be seen in her eyes. Tears glistened in the eyes of those who knew no pity Erinius, even Orpheus touched them with his song. But now the strings of the golden kithara sound quieter and quieter, the song of Orpheus, and she froze, like a barely audible sigh of sadness.

Deep silence reigned all around. The god Hades broke this silence and asked Orpheus why he had come to his kingdom, what he wanted to ask him for. Hades swore by the inviolable oath of the gods - the waters of the Styx River, that he would fulfill the request of the wonderful singer. This is how Orpheus answered Hades:

- Oh, mighty Lord Hades, you accept all of us mortals into your kingdom when the days of our lives end. I did not come here to look at the horrors that fill your kingdom, not to take away, like Hercules, the guardian of your kingdom - the three-headed Kerber. I came here to beg you to let my Eurydice go back to earth. Bring her back to life; you see how I suffer for her! Think, Vladyka, if your wife Persephone were taken away from you, after all, you would suffer too. You're not bringing Eurydice back forever. She will return again to your kingdom. Our Lord Hades' life is short. Oh, let Eurydice experience the joys of life, because she descended into your kingdom so young!

The god Hades pondered and finally answered Orpheus:

- Good, Orpheus! I'll give you Eurydice back. Lead her back to life, to the light of the sun. But you have to fulfill one condition: you will go forward following the god Hermes, he will lead you, and Eurydice will follow you. But during the journey through the underworld, you should not look back. Remember! If you look back, Eurydice will immediately leave you and return to my kingdom forever.

Orpheus agreed to everything. He is in a hurry to go back soon. Brought quick as thought, Hermes the shadow of Eurydice. Orpheus looks at her with delight. Orpheus wants to embrace the shadow of Eurydice, but the god Hermes stopped him, saying:

Hermes, Eurydice and Orpheus
Hermes, Eurydice and Orpheus (from left to right).
(Bas-relief of the 5th century BC)

- Orpheus, because you embrace only a shadow. Let's go quickly; our path is difficult.

Hit the road. Hermes is in front, followed by Orpheus, and behind him the shadow of Eurydice. They quickly passed the kingdom of Hades. Charon ferried them across the Styx in his boat. Here is the path that leads to the surface of the earth. The path is difficult. The path rises steeply, and it is all cluttered with stones. It's deep twilight all around. The figure of Hermes walking in front of them looms slightly in them. But now, far ahead, a light began to dawn. This is the way out. So it seemed to get brighter all around. If Orpheus had turned around, he would have seen Eurydice. Is she following him? Was she left in the complete darkness of the realm of the souls of the dead? Maybe she has fallen behind, because the path is so difficult! Eurydice has fallen behind and will be doomed to wander forever in the dark. Orpheus slows down, listens. I can't hear anything. How can the steps of a disembodied shadow be heard? Orpheus' anxiety for Eurydice is getting stronger and stronger. More and more often he stops. It's getting brighter all around. Now Orpheus would have clearly seen the shadow of his wife. Finally, forgetting everything, he stopped and turned around. Almost next to him he saw the shadow of Eurydice. Orpheus stretched out his hands to her, but further, further the shadow - and was drowned in darkness. Orpheus stood as if petrified, overcome with despair. He had to survive the second death of Eurydice, and the culprit of this second death was himself.

Orpheus stood for a long time. It seemed that life had left him; it seemed that it was a marble statue standing there. Finally, Orpheus stirred, took a step, another and went back to the shores of the gloomy Styx. He decided to return to the throne of Hades again, to beg him again to return Eurydice. But old Charon did not take him across the Styx in his frail boat, Orpheus prayed to him in vain - the implacable Charon's pleas did not touch the singer, the sad Orpheus sat on the shore of the Styx for seven days and nights, shedding tears of sorrow, forgetting about food, about everything, lamenting the gods of the gloomy realm of the souls of the dead. It was only on the eighth day that he decided to leave the shores of the Styx and return to Thrace.