Orpheus, in Greek mythology, poet and musician, the son of the muse Calliope (see Muses) and Apollo, god of music, or Oeagrus, king of
. He was given the lyre by Apollo and became such an excellent musician that he had no rival among mortals. When Orpheus played and sang, he moved everything animate and inanimate. His music enchanted the trees and rocks and tamed wild beasts, and even the rivers turned in their course to follow him. Thrace
Orpheus is best known for his ill-fated marriage to the lovely nymph Eurydice. Soon after the wedding the bride was stung by a viper and died. Overwhelmed with grief, Orpheus determined to go to the underworld and try to bring her back, something no mortal had ever done. Hades, the ruler of the underworld, was so moved by his playing that he gave Eurydice back to Orpheus on the one condition that he not look back until they reached the upperworld. Orpheus could not control his eagerness, however, and as he gained the light of day he looked back a moment too soon, and Eurydice vanished. In his despair, Orpheus forsook human company and wandered in the wilds, playing for the rocks and trees and rivers. Finally a fierce band of Thracian women, who were followers of the god Dionysus, came upon the gentle musician and killed him. When they threw his severed head in the river Hebrus, it continued to call for Eurydice, and was finally carried to the
, where the Muses buried it. After Orpheus's death his lyre became the constellation Lyra. shore of Lesbos
in Greek mythology, a beautiful nymph, and wife of Orpheus, the master musician. Shortly after their marriage Eurydice was bitten in the foot by a snake and died. Grief-stricken, Orpheus descended into the underworld to seek his wife. Accompanying his song with the strains of his lyre, he begged Hades, god of the dead, to relinquish Eurydice. His music so touched Hades that Orpheus was permitted to take his wife back with him on the condition that he would not turn around to look at her until they had reached the upper air. They had almost completed their ascent when Orpheus, overwhelmed by love and anxiety, looked back to see if Eurydice was following him. The promise broken, Eurydice vanished forever to the regions of the dead.
Pluto (mythology), in Roman mythology, god of the dead, the husband of Proserpine. The Latin counterpart of the Greek god Hades, Pluto assisted his two brothers, Jupiter and Neptune, in overthrowing their father, Saturn. In dividing the world among them, Jupiter chose the earth and the heavens as his realm,
Neptune became the ruler of the sea, and Pluto received as his kingdom the lower world, in which he ruled over the shades of the dead. He was originally considered a fierce and unyielding god, deaf to prayers and unappeased by sacrifices. In later cults and popular belief the milder and more beneficent aspects of the god were stressed. Believed to be the bestower of the blessings hidden in the earth, such as mineral wealth and crops, Pluto was also known as Dis or Orcus, the giver of wealth.
in Greek mythology, a three-headed, dragon-tailed dog that guarded the entrance to the lower world, or Hades. The monster permitted all spirits to enter Hades, but would allow none to leave. Only a few heroes ever escaped Cerberus's guard; the great musician Orpheus charmed it with his lyre, and the Greek hero Hercules captured it bare-handed and brought it for a short time from the underworld to the regions above. In Roman mythology both the beautiful maiden Psyche and the Trojan prince Aeneas were able to pacify Cerberus with a honey cake and thus continue their journey through the underworld. Cerberus is sometimes pictured with a mane of snakes and 50 heads.
in Greek mythology, a handsome youth, the son of the river god Cephissus. Because of his great beauty many women fell in love with Narcissus, but he repulsed their advances. Among the lovelorn maidens was the nymph Echo, who had incurred the displeasure of Hera and had been condemned by the goddess never to speak again except to repeat what was said to her. Echo was therefore unable to tell Narcissus of her love, but one day, as Narcissus was walking in the woods, he became separated from his companions. When he shouted, “Is anyone here?” Echo joyfully answered, “Here, here.” Unable to see her hidden among the trees, Narcissus cried “Come!” Back came the answer, “Come, come,” as Echo stepped forth from the woods with outstretched arms. Narcissus cruelly refused to accept Echo's love; she was so humiliated that she hid in a cave and wasted away until nothing was left of her but her voice. To punish Narcissus, the avenging goddess Nemesis made Narcissus fall hopelessly in love with his own beautiful face as he saw it reflected in a pool. As he gazed in fascination, unable to remove himself from his image, he gradually pined away. At the place where his body had lain grew a beautiful flower, honoring the name and memory of Narcissus.
Thespis (flourished mid-6th century bc), Greek poet, who, according to tradition, is the founder of drama. Born in
Attica, he wrote plays and won a prize for a tragedy about 534 bc. He is believed to have been the first playwright to introduce an actor, independent of the chorus, who delivered monologues and also engaged in dialogues with the leader of the chorus. The birth of drama is generally dated from this innovation. Thespis is also said to have introduced the use of pigments and masks to disguise the performers. The word thespian, meaning “actor,” is derived from his name.
Gabriel, angel of high eminence in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tradition. He is one of the four most often noted archangels (see
Archangel) in Judaism and Christianity, the others being Michael, Raphael, and Uriel. Gabriel is the heavenly messenger who appears in order to reveal God's will. In the Old Testament, Gabriel interprets the prophet's vision of the ram and the he-goat (see Daniel -26) and explains the prediction of the 70 weeks of years (or 490 years) for the duration of the exile from (see Daniel -27). In the New Testament, he announces to Zacharias the birth of Zacharias's son (see Luke -20), who is destined to become known as John the Baptist, and to Mary that she is to be the mother of Jesus Christ (see Luke -31). Among Muslims, Gabriel is believed to be the spirit who revealed the sacred writings to the Prophet Muhammad. Jerusalem
Gabriel is the prince of fire and the spirit who presides over thunder and the ripening of fruits. He is an accomplished linguist, having taught Joseph the 70 languages spoken at
. In art he is generally represented carrying either a lily, Mary's flower, at the annunciation, or the trumpet he will blow to announce the second coming. Babel
The actual river, the modern name of which is the Mavronéri, is in northeastern
. It plunges over a 183-m (600-ft) cliff, then flows through a wild gorge. The ancient Greeks believed that its waters were poisonous, and the river was associated with the underworld from the time of Homer. Arcadia, Greece
according to the Old Testament (notably Genesis 18, 19), two ancient cities near the
Dead Sea. The Bible almost invariably speaks of them together. With Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar, they formed the five “cities of the plain,” all but the last-named of which are said to have been destroyed by a rain of brimstone, perhaps accompanied by an earthquake, because of the wickedness of their inhabitants. Some evidence indicates that they did exist, were destroyed, and that their sites now lie under the Dead Sea. The biblical story of the destruction of the cities is considered by many critics similar to tales found among the Arabs (and other ancient peoples) regarding the sudden disappearance of places; indeed, Lot, who in the biblical story survives the destruction, figures prominently in the Qur'an (Koran). Those who deny the literal accuracy of the narrative contend that the desolate character of the land around the Dead Sea, which is fatal to plant and animal life, would naturally suggest the thought of some catastrophe. Jesus Christ said that on the day of judgment God would be more severe with cities rejecting the gospel than he had been with and Sodom (see Matthew , -24). Gomorrah