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  • 88 Republic 608d2-6. Οὐκ ᾔσθησαι, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὅτι ἀθάνατος ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ οὐδέποτε ἀπόλλυται ; Καὶ ὃς (...)
  • 89 Empedokles proclaims himself to be one of the special ones (fr. 112 = Diogenes Laertius 8.62) (...)

42.The idea that the soul survives death is not an unfamiliar idea to the interlocutors in Plato’s dialogues, and the mythic tradition provided a wealth of images and ideas that Plato could refashion for his own purposes, using the familiarity of the myths to increase both the authoritative power and the expressive capacity of his reworkings. The idea, however, that the soul is somehow immortal, imperishable like the gods, is an extra-ordinary and unfamiliar idea. Towards the end of the Republic, Socrates asks his interlocutor, “‘Have you not realized that our soul is immortal and never perishes ?’ And he looked at me in amazement and said : ‘By Zeus, I have not. Can you really say that ?’”88 The arguments in the Phaedo are designed to convince some of Socrates’ closest and most philosophical interlocutors of this strange proposition and to explore its consequences. Here Plato draws on less familiar sources, the speculations of Pythagoras and Empedokles and the poems attributed to Orpheus, to build up his images of the soul and its nature, but still he plays with them, transposing them for his own purposes.89

  • 90 Phaedo 77d7-e1. δεδιέναι τὸ τῶν παίδων, μὴ ὡς ἀληθῶς ὁ ἄνεμος αὐτὴν ἐκβαίνουσαν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος διαφ (...)

43.The image of the soul imprisoned in the body for punishment becomes instead the image of the soul protected from the turmoil of the material world within the covering of the body like an oyster in its shell or the soul nobly serving its tour of duty in the garrison outpost of the mortal world, like a philosopher in the Republic who has returned to the cave. The body may be like a woven garment the soul puts on – once or many different times, but, as Socrates chides Simmias and Cebes in the Phaedo, the soul itself cannot be so easily worn out, nor will it scatter when blown on the winds : “You seem afraid, like children, that as the soul goes out from the body, the wind may literally blow it apart and disperse it.”90 Plato takes the idea, found by Aristotle in Orphic poems, of the soul blowing on the wind, and transforms it, creating a rational system by which the soul moves from incarnation to incarnation according to its ethical behavior and its ability to make philosophic choices rather than the random motions of the wind. Above all, Plato uses the traditional association of this soul with the unseen realm of Hades to assimilate it with the objects of knowledge that are seen not by the eye of the body but only by the mental perceptions of the soul.

  • 91 Olympiodorus, in Plat. Phaed. 7.10.10.

44.Not all of the images and ideas that Plato transposes in his dialogues come from sources labeled, for one reason or another, as Orphic ; many indeed derive from the common mythological tradition of the lively afterlife that mirrors life, a tradition that served as a counterpoint to the epic vision of Homer where poetic glory provides the only meaningful form of life after death. So artfully does Plato weave together his ideas and so scanty is the evidence for visions of the afterlife before Plato that scholars have had difficulty determining the sources of his ideas. The problem is compounded by the tendency in the NeoPlatonists to link to the Orphica any Platonic idea that they wanted to ground in the authority of the most ancient tradition. So too, Plato’s own success works against the recognition of his own innovations, since post-Platonic Orphicists made sure to incorporate the influential ideas of Plato into the Orphic poems which they forged, creating a vicious circle and further reinforcing the claims of NeoPlatonists such as Olympiodorus that “Plato borrows everywhere from Orpheus.”91



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1 Parker 1995, p. 500. Not only does such a claim ignore the mass of Orphic material on other subjects (which indeed Parker mentions elsewhere in his discussion), but it suggests that the Homeric nekyia had no effect on the behavior of its audiences. Any traditional tale, particularly so influential a myth as the Odyssey nekyia, provides for its audience a model of the world and for behavior within it. See Edmonds 2004, pp. 4-13.

2 See especially Edmonds 2008a, 2008b, and 2013 (from which some of the foregoing is drawn).

3 “El creyente órfico busca la salvación individual, dentro de un marco de referencia en que son puntos centrales : el dualismo alma-cuerpo, la existencia de un pecado antecedente, y el ciclo de trasmigraciones, hasta que el alma consigue unirse con la divinidad.” Bernabé 1998a, p. 172 ; cp. Bernabé 1997, p. 39 ; Bernabé 2002b, pp. 208-9 ; Bernabé 2011, pp. 11-14, 254-256. In his important edition of the fragments (Bernabé 2004 Poetae Epici Graecae II.2 : 224), he claims, “Orphici agebant vitam religiosam, quem initiati in ritu privato adipiscebantur ; habebant libros tradentes et servantes doctrinam Orpheo adscriptos ; credebant animam immortalem esse, sed culpam vetustam quae hereditas a Titanibus devenit, sibi expiandam esse ritus certos celebrando, praecepta instituta quaedam observando ; credebant quoque animas suas in nova corpora transituras esse antequam corpore liberatae aeternam vitam beatam ad inferos consequi possent.” Guthrie 1952, p. 73, puts the same ideas in less guarded terms : “The Orphic doctrines included a belief in original sin, based on a legend about the origin of mankind, in the emphatic separation of soul from body, and in a life hereafter.”

4 “It was the Orphic Mysteries,” proclaims Smyth, “that gave birth to the most profound ideas of Greek religion - the divine origin of the soul, its eternal nature, and personal immortality.” Smyth 1912, p. 274. Cp., Moore 1912, pp. 113-114, “Whatever extravagances Orphism fell to, it must be kept in mind that it had introduced into the European world certain doctrines pregnant with spiritual fruit. … It remained for Plato to bring the Orphic seed to fruit by giving an intellectual basis to the doctrine of the divine nature of the soul, which he thus raised out of the plane of mere emotional belief.” Dieterich’s influential Nekyia seeks to trace the Christian imagery of Hell back to Orphic sources, while Macchioro’s Orpheus to Paul derives the theology of St. Paul from Orphic beliefs. Dieterich 1893 ; Macchioro 1930.

5 Rohde 1925, p. 9, complains, “To speak of an ‘immortal life’ of these souls, as scholars both ancient and modern have done, is incorrect They can hardly be said to live even, any more than the image does that is reflected in the mirror ; and that they prolong to eternity their shadowy image-existence - where in Homer do we ever find this said ?”

6 For Rohde, drawing upon the ideas of his friend Nietzsche, Dionysiac ecstasy provided the worshipper with a mystic identification with the deity, a feeling of immortal life, but it was only the rationalizing (Apolline) ideas of the Orphics that shaped this primitive feeling into a real doctrine.“Reflexion upon the nature of the world and of God, the changing and deceptive flow of appearance with the indestructible One Reality behind it ; the conception of a divinity that is One, a single light that, divided into a thousand rays and reflected from everything that is, achieves its unity again in the soul of man : such thoughts as these, allied to the dim half-conscious impulse of an enthusiastic dance-worship, might allow the pure waters of the stream of mysticism to run clear at last, freed from the turbid and unsatisfying enthusiasm of popular religious practices.” (Rohde 1925, p. 266)

7 Cp. Lucas 1946, p. 67. “The modern reader, baffled and dismayed by the apparent crudity of much of conventional Greek religion, is inclined to look everywhere for signs of Orphism, because it gives more of what he has come to expect from religion, and he is loath to believe that the Greeks did not demand it too.”

8 Thus, for example, despite her caveats, Johnston’s recent survey of Greek beliefs of death and afterlife takes the lifeless afterlife in Homer as primary in both time and importance. “In earliest times, the Greeks apparently believed that everyone got the same deal after death… The souls existed in a state that was not unpleasant but not particularly enjoyable.” (Johnston 2004, p. 486.)

9 Cp. Albinus 2000, p. 16. “The Archaic attitude towards death was confined to remembrance and adoration of the dead through hero-cult and epic song. Under the sway of Homeric discourse, the fate of mortals was regarded, with only a few exceptions, as a departure for the House of Hades, inhabited by the ghost-like images of former lives. However, a specific interest in the hereafter, representing a continuation of individual existence in its own right, developed from the Archaic to Classical times, much under the influence of Orphic discourse, and accompanied by extensive changes in social life.” Likewise, Bernabé 2011, p. 157. Sourvinou-Inwood 1995 links the shift in attitudes to death and afterlife to the rise of the city-state and sees the role of Orphic sectaries merely as developing the most extreme form of the ideas.

10 pace Rohde 1925, p. 26. “If the Homeric creed had not been so constructed in essentials that it corresponded to the beliefs of the time, or, at least, could be made to correspond, then it is impossible to account (even allowing for the poetic tradition of a school) for the uniformity that marks the work of the many poets that had a hand in the composition of the two poems. In this narrow sense it can be truly said that Homer’s poems represent the popular belief of the time.” Sourvinou-Inwood 1995 has a far more nuanced model, but she still assumes that the Homeric poems represent the earliest stage of a development of ideas.

11 The shade of Patroklos refers to the other ghosts as ψυχαὶ εἴδωλα καμόντων - souls, phantoms of the worn out (Iliad 23.72), and Achilles encapsulates this view after his dream vision of Patroklos (Iliad 23.103-4) : “Ah me ! So even in the house of Hades there is something, a soul and a phantom, but the wits are not there at all.” ὢ πόποι ἦ ῥά τίς ἐστι καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο δόμοισι ψυχὴ καὶ εἴδωλον, ἀτὰρ φρένες οὐκ ἔνι πάμπαν. Whatever it is (τις) that survives lacks φρένες, the force of mind or emotion that is an essential element of the living individual. Achilles’ lament at the condition of the soul of the deceased comes after he has attempted to embrace the shade of his dearly departed companion, and the same pathetic scene produces the same idea when Odysseus tries to embrace the shade of his mother in the underworld. She tells him that she is not a trick or false image, but this is the appointed way with mortals when one dies. For the sinews no longer hold the flesh and the bones together, but the strong might of blazing fire destroys these, as soon as the life leaves the white bones, and the spirit, like a dream, flits away, and hovers to and fro.” Odyssey 11.218-222. ἀλλ’ αὕτη δίκη ἐστὶ βροτῶν, ὅτε τίς κε θάνῃσιν. | οὐ γὰρ ἔτι σάρκας τε καὶ ὀστέα ἶνες ἔχουσιν, | ἀλλὰ τὰ μέν τε πυρὸς κρατερὸν μένος αἰθομένοιο | δαμνᾷ, ἐπεί κε πρῶτα λίπῃ λεύκ’ ὀστέα θυμός, | ψυχὴ δ’ ἠΰτ’ ὄνειρος ἀποπταμένη πεπότηται. Rohde and others have taken this statement to imply that it is the process of cremation that removes the φρένες and θύμος from the soul that goes to Hades, but see below. (For differing approaches to the components of the Homeric self, see for example Claus 1981 or Clarke 1999, p. 42-47. ) This idea is reinforced in the Odyssey when Circe describes Tiresias as the only shade in the underworld who has retained his mind (νόον) ; all the rest are mere gibbering ghosts. τοῦ τε φρένες ἔμπεδοί εἰσι· τῷ καὶ τεθνηῶτι νόον πόρε Περσεφόνεια, οἴῳ πεπνῦσθαι, τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀίσσουσιν. (Odyssey 10. 493-5)

12 Homer Iliad 12.322-8. ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε| αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ᾽ ἀθανάτω τε| ἔσσεσθ᾽, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην| οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·| νῦν δ᾽ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο| μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ᾽ ὑπαλύξαι,| ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν. O my friend, if only we two having escaped from this war here might forever continue to be unaging and immortal, neither would I myself fight in the forefront nor would I urge you into the battle where men win glory. But now, since ten thousand dooms of death hang over us, which it is not possible for any mortal to elude, let us then go forth, so that either we seize glory from someone or someone from us.

13 Thus, even Achilles, who chose to die young and glorious would rather be alive again, although he does not repudiate his earlier choice and is delighted to hear that his son, Neoptolemos, is also securing himself immortality through his glorious deeds.

14 “The vividness of the Homeric image of the senseless ghosts is so strong and striking in its starkness that it has coloured modern scholars’ visions of this Hades ; without doubt it is partly responsible for the monolithic interpretations put on it.” (Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, p. 84, n. 210)

15 Homer Odyssey 11.541-546 ; Homer Iliad 24.591-595. Patroklos is now safely cremated and celebrated in funeral games and thus fully integrated into Hades ; if the “rule” of the standard version is that the deceased loses all consciousness once cremated, Patroklos should have no way of knowing what Achilles has done nor any emotions to feel if he did learn. Rohde championed the view, based on Odyssey 11.221-2, that cremation is the point at which the soul loses the φρένες and θύμος, and that a shift from cremation to inhumation in the post-Homeric period brought new ideas of the survival of consciousness for the soul (or brought them back from previous periods of inhumation. Sourvinou-Inwood, however, relying on more recent archaeology that tracks the variation between practices at different times and in different regions, points out : “The choice between cremation and inhumation can be shown to be a matter of fashion, with no significance.” (Sourvinou-Inwood, 1981, p. 33 ; cp. Snodgrass, pp. 143-7)

16 Homer Odyssey 11. 29-33. I swore many times to the strengthless heads of the dead that, when I returned to Ithaka, I would slaughter in my halls a barren cow, whichever one was the best, and heap up the pyre with treasures, and to Teiresias alone, apart from the rest, I would dedicate an all-black ram, the one which stood out from all in our flocks. πολλὰ δὲ γουνούμην νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα, | ἐλθὼν εἰς Ἰθάκην στεῖραν βοῦν, ἥ τις ἀρίστη, | ῥέξειν ἐν μεγάροισι πυρήν τ’ ἐμπλησέμεν ἐσθλῶν, | Τειρεσίῃ δ’ ἀπάνευθεν ὄϊν ἱερευσέμεν οἴῳ | παμμέλαν’, ὃς μήλοισι μεταπρέπει ἡμετέροισι. Cp. Odyssey 10.521-6.

17 As Claus 1981 notes of Iliad 23.103-4, “What is impressive about these lines is not that they explain the particular nature of the shade but that they show a need to explain and define.” (p. 98)

18 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, p. 79, referring to Odyssey 11, Odyssey 10.493-5, Iliad 23.103-7. “But if, as I suggest, the filters of both poet and audience were shaped by a belief in a Hades which (whether or not it was explicitly hierarchically articulated) involved inhabitants with faculties, values, and behaviour-patterns at least minimally comparable to those they had in life, Achilles’ superior status in Hades would have appeared ‘only common sense’, and so accepted unexamined.” (p. 80)

19 Homer Odyssey 11.568-575. As Sourvinou-Inwood notes, “Outside this context he [Homer] does not stick to the constraints of the belief in witless shades ; for to him (and to his audience), by whom the belief in the lively shades was taken for granted, the articulation of behaviour or belief involving the shades as lively did not register as other than ‘natural’.” Vase paintings depict the dead engaged in a variety of pleasant pursuits - games like pessoi or dice - and Pindar fr. 130 has the dead engaging in horsemanship, gymnastics, and lyre-playing as well. Cp. Garland 1985, pp. 68-72.

20 Much ingenuity has been needlessly exercised in the attempt to explain away the punishments of Tantalos, Tityos, and Sisyphos in the Homeric nekyia so that their suffering does not contradict the mindlessness of the dead, but those three simply represent notable figures who are suffering in the afterlife, just as Odysseus also meets other notables with different fates. There is no reason to imagine they didn’t really die or that they are “cosmic” sinners (as Sourvinou-Inwood 1986 suggests) or otherwise representative of special kinds of crimes. The Erinyes appear in oaths (Iliad 3.276-80 ; 19.259-60) as figures who punish beneath the earth those who have transgressed oaths, but the Homeric poems do not elaborate, as other sources do, on the range of crimes and punishments, as well as punishers.

21 Plato Republic 330d-331a. The 5th century BCE painting of Odysseus in the underworld by Polygnotus, which Pausanias saw at Delphi, provides a wider selection of punishers and punished. In addition to the ones mentioned in the Odyssey, Polygnotus depicts a man who maltreated his father being abused in turn by the father, while someone who committed sacrilege is left to the attentions of a pharmakeutria. (10.27-31) Further torments are provided by a horrible monster named Eurynomos - a demon unknown, Pausanias notes, to the nekyiai of the Odyssey, the Minyas, and the Nostoi. A Demosthenic speech attests to other such paintings depicting the afterlife torments of the impious. [Dem.] 25.53. The speaker condemns his opponent : “But he is implacable, unsettled, unsociable ; he has no kindness, no friendliness, none of the feelings which an ordinary person knows ; all those things with which the painters depict the impious in Hades - Curses, Blasphemy, Envy, Faction, Strife, with those will he be surrounded. This man, then, who is not likely to propitiate the gods in Hades, but to be cast among the impious because of the depravity of his life … will you not punish him ?” ἀλλ᾽ ἄσπειστος, ἀνίδρυτος, ἄμεικτος, οὐ χάριν, οὐ φιλίαν, οὐκ ἄλλ᾽ οὐδὲν ὧν ἄνθρωπος μέτριος γιγνώσκων : μεθ᾽ ὧν δ᾽ οἱ ζωγράφοι τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς ἐν Ἅιδου γράφουσιν, μετὰ τούτων, μετ᾽ ἀρᾶς καὶ βλασφημίας καὶ φθόνου καὶ στάσεως καὶ νείκους, περιέρχεται εἶθ᾽ ὃν οὐδὲ τῶν ἐν Ἅιδου θεῶν εἰκός ἐστιν τυχεῖν ἵλεων, ἀλλ᾽ εἰς τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς ὠσθῆναι διὰ τὴν πονηρίαν τοῦ βίου… οὐ τιμωρήσεσθε ;

22 Plato, Republic 330d-331a. Kephalos is a good representative of the common tendency not to believe that any such justice or retribution will concern one personally until faced with the imminent prospect. Cp. Plato Gorgias 523a and 527a. The Derveni author too rebukes those who refuse to believe in the terrors of Hades. Ἅιδου δεινὰ τί ἀπιστοῦσι ; (col. V.6 = OF 473)

23 Of course, most people tend to assume that nothing they have done is really all that bad. As Garland notes, “There is little evidence for the claim that the majority of Greeks spent their declining years consumed with guilty foreboding at the prospect of making a reckoning in the hereafter. Fear, combined with a healthy fatalism, seems to be the worst that the average Greek moribund had to cope with.” (Garland 1985, p. 17)

24 Hypereides 6.43. But if in Hades there is still some consciousness and care from some divinity, as we believe, then it is likely that those who defended the honors of the gods, when they were being destroyed, would meet with the greatest solicitude from the divinity. εἰ δ᾽ ἔστιν αἴσθησις ἐν Ἅιδου καὶ ἐπιμέλεια παρὰ τοῦ δαιμονίου, ὥσπερ ὑπολαμβάνομεν, εἰκὸς τοὺς ταῖς τιμαῖς τῶν θεῶν καταλυομέναις βοηθήσαντας πλείστης κηδεμονίας ὑπὸ τοῦ δαιμονίου τυγχάνειν ...

25 Plato Laws 959b4. It is well said that the bodies of the dead are just images of those who have died, but that of each of us which is truly real, the soul which we say is immortal, departs to the presence of other gods, there (just as our ancestral tradition says) to render its account. For the good this is a thing to inspire courage, but for the evil great dread. καὶ τελευτησάντων λέγεσθαι καλῶς εἴδωλα εἶναι τὰ τῶν νεκρῶν σώματα, τὸν δὲ ὄντα ἡμῶν ἕκαστον ὄντως, ἀθάνατον εἶναι ψυχὴν ἐπονομαζόμενον, παρὰ θεοὺς ἄλλους ἀπιέναι δώσοντα λόγον, καθάπερ ὁ νόμος ὁ πάτριος λέγει—τῷ μὲν γὰρ ἀγαθῷ θαρραλέον, τῷ δὲ κακῷ μάλα φοβερόν. Pl. Seventh Letter 335a3-5. But truly it is necessary always to believe the ancient and holy accounts which reveal to us that the soul is immortal and that it has judges and pays the greatest penalties, whenever someone is released from his body. Πείθεσθαι δὲ ὄντως ἀεὶ χρὴ τοῖς παλαιοῖς τε καὶ ἱεροῖς λόγοις, οἳ δὴ μηνύουσιν ἡμῖν ἀθάνατον ψυχὴν εἶναι δικαστάς τε ἴσχειν καὶ τίνειν τὰς μεγίστας τιμωρίας, ὅταν τις ἀπαλλαχθῇ τοῦ σώματος· Pace Bernabé, not all references to ancient tradition in Plato (and elsewhere) refer to Orphic sources. At times, such references refer, not to esoteric formulations from extraordinary sources, but on the contrary to the best known and most widely accepted traditions.

26 Pindar, Olympian II.56-67. But if one has it and knows what is to come, that the helpless souls of those who have died here immediately receive recompense. And all the wicked deeds in realm of Zeus here someone beneath the earth judges, passing his sentence with hateful compulsion. But having the sun always in equal nights and equal days, the good receive a life most free of toil, not disturbing with the strength of their arms the earth, nor the water of the sea, for the sake of a paltry sustenance. But in the presence of those gods they honored, those who rejoiced in faithful oaths dwell forever without tears, while the others suffer toil that is unbearable to look at. εἰ δέ νιν ἔχων τις οἶδεν τὸ μέλλον, | ὅτι θανόντων μὲν ἐνθάδ’ αὐτίκ’ ἀπάλαμνοι φρένες | ποινὰς ἔτεισαν—τὰ δ’ ἐν τᾷδε Διὸς ἀρχᾷ | ἀλιτρὰ κατὰ γᾶς δικάζει τις ἐχθρᾷ | λόγον φράσαις ἀνάγκᾳ· | ἴσαις δὲ νύκτεσσιν αἰεί, | ἴσαις δ’ ἁμέραις ἅλιον ἔχοντες, ἀπονέστερον | ἐσλοὶ δέκονται βίοτον, οὐ χθόνα ταράσσοντες ἐν χερὸς ἀκμᾷ οὐδὲ πόντιον ὕδωρ | κεινὰν παρὰ δίαιταν, ἀλλὰ παρὰ μὲν τιμίοις | θεῶν οἵτινες ἔχαιρον εὐορκίαις ἄδακρυν νέμονται | αἰῶνα, τοὶ δ’ ἀπροσόρατον ὀκχέοντι πόνον.

27 Aeschylus Eumenides 273-274. Great Hades is the auditor for mortals there under the ground. μέγας γὰρ Ἅιδης ἐστὶν εὔθυνος βροτῶν ἔνερθε χθονός. Cp. Suppliants 230-231. As the story goes, another Zeus among the dead devises their final punishment. κἀκεῖ δικάζει τἀμπλακήμαθ’, ὡς λόγος, Ζεὺς ἄλλος ἐν καμοῦσιν ὑστάτας δίκας.

28 Aiakos is a more difficult question ; see Dover 1993, pp. 54-55, and my discussion in Edmonds 2004, pp. 148-9. For Plato’s manipulations of the myths, see also Edmonds 2004, pp. 159-220. Socrates includes Triptolemus among the judges at Apology 41a, which may suggest that the idea was connected, for the Athenians, with the Eleusinian Mysteries. cp. Graf 1974, pp. 121-126.

29 I discuss this in greater detail in my article, “Whipscars on the naked soul” (Edmonds 2012), from which this section is adapted.

30 Cp., Plato Republic 614cd ; 615ab ; and 619bd. Montiglio 2011, pp. 48-52 analyzes Plato’s treatment of Odysseus in this myth, concluding that, “As the exact opposite of the tyrant, the new Odysseus can only be a philosopher.”

31 Plato, Republic 600b.

32 While Tartarus seems to become the standard name for the underworld place of punishment, in Homer and Hesiod, it is just a place of confinement for gods who defy Zeus, including the Titans from whom Zeus wrested control of the cosmos. Iliad, VIII.10-16, XIV.274-9, VIII.478-91, V.898. cp. Hesiod, Theog. 713-45, Homeric Hymn to Apollo 335-6. The only reference before the Gorgias to a mortal being punished in Tartarus is a papyrus fragment from the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (fr. 30 MW) that refers to Salmoneus being punished in Tartarus.

33 Homer refers rather to the Elysian Field as the destination where Menelaus will receive his reward, but this particular destination does not appear again in the texts until the self-consciously Homerizing Apollonius Rhodius.

34 The gold tablets (A2 and A3) from Thurii refer to the seats of the blessed (ἕδρας εὐαγέων), whereas the longer B tablets mention a split in the road between the first spring and the second. See Edmonds 2004, pp. 29-110 for further analysis.

35 Plato Phaedo 80d. Ἡ δὲ ψυχὴ ἄρα, τὸ ἀιδές, τὸ εἰς τοιοῦτον τόπον ἕτερον οἰχόμενον γενναῖον καὶ καθαρὸν καὶ ἀιδῆ, εἰς Ἅιδου ὡς ἀληθῶς, παρὰ τὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ φρόνιμον θεόν, οἷ, ἂν θεὸς θέλῃ, αὐτίκα καὶ τῇ ἐμῇ ψυχῇ ἰτέον, αὕτη δὲ δὴ ἡμῖν ἡ τοιαύτη καὶ οὕτω πεφυκυῖα ἀπαλλαττομένη τοῦ σώματος εὐθὺς διαπεφύσηται καὶ ἀπόλωλεν, ὥς φασιν οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι ; But the soul, the invisible, which going off into another such noble and pure and invisible place, to the realm of Hades in truth, to the good and wise god, to which place, if the god be willing, my soul also shortly must go,—is this soul, being such a thing and having grown by nature thus, when it departs from the body, is it immediately scattered and destroyed as most men say ? cp. Plato Cratylus 404a. And the name ‘Hades’, Hermogenes, is not in the least derived from the invisible, but rather by far from the knowing of all beautiful things, and from this he was called ‘Hades’ by the lawgiver. Καὶ τό γε ὄνομα ὁ “Ἅιδης,” ὦ Ἑρμόγενες, πολλοῦ δεῖ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀιδοῦς ἐπωνομάσθαι, ἀλλὰ πολὺ μᾶλλον ἀπὸ τοῦ πάντα τὰ καλὰ εἰδέναι, ἀπὸ τούτου ὑπὸ τοῦ νομοθέτου “Ἅιδης” ἐκλήθη.

36 Phaedo 78b4-84b8.

37 Phaedo 109b-111b.

38 Phaedo 65e-66a. Ἆρ’ οὖν ἐκεῖνος ἂν τοῦτο ποιήσειεν καθαρώτατα ὅστις ὅτι μάλιστα αὐτῇ τῇ διανοίᾳ ἴοι ἐφ’ ἕκαστον, μήτε τιν’ ὄψιν παρατιθέμενος ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι μήτε [τινὰ] ἄλλην αἴσθησιν ἐφέλκων μηδεμίαν μετὰ τοῦ λογισμοῦ, ἀλλ’ αὐτῇ καθ’ αὑτὴν εἰλικρινεῖ τῇ διανοίᾳ χρώμενος αὐτὸ καθ’ αὑτὸ εἰλικρινὲς ἕκαστον ἐπιχειροῖ θηρεύειν τῶν ὄντων.

39 Those who have purified themselves even further may go beyond embodiment in the aetherial world to a disembodied existence amongst the ultimate realities (Phaedo 114c), but such a possibility is not really elaborated in the Phaedo (but cp. Symposium 211e-212a and Phaedrus 248, where such contact with true reality can only be transitory for mortals).

40 Phaedo 112ad ; cp. 90c5.

41 Gorgias 493a1-b3. For I once heard some one of the wise say that we are now dead, and the body is our tomb, and that of the soul in which there are desires is liable to be over-persuaded and to sway up and down, and so some clever man among the myth-makers, perhaps a Sicilian or Italian, playing on the words, named this part, on account of its being impressionable and persuadable, a jar, and the mindless he named the uninitiate : in these mindless ones that part of the soul where the desires are, the unrestrained and not water-tight part, he likened to a leaky jar, because it is so insatiate. ἤδη γάρ του ἔγωγε καὶ ἤκουσα τῶν σοφῶν ὡς νῦν ἡμεῖς τέθναμεν καὶ τὸ μὲν σῶμά ἐστιν ἡμῖν σῆμα, τῆς δὲ ψυχῆς τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ ἐπιθυμίαι εἰσὶ τυγχάνει ὂν οἷον ἀναπείθεσθαι καὶ μεταπίπτειν ἄνω κάτω, καὶ τοῦτο ἄρα τις μυθολογῶν κομψὸς ἀνήρ, ἴσως Σικελός τις ἢ Ἰταλικός, παράγων τῷ ὀνόματι διὰ τὸ πιθανόν τε καὶ πειστικὸν ὠνόμασε πίθον, τοὺς δὲ ἀνοήτους ἀμυήτους, τῶν δ’ ἀνοήτων τοῦτο τῆς ψυχῆς οὗ αἱ ἐπιθυμίαι εἰσί, τὸ ἀκόλαστον αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐ στεγανόν, ὡς τετρημένος εἴη πίθος, διὰ τὴν ἀπληστίαν ἀπεικάσας.

42 Irwin translates πιθανόν as ‘persuadable’ and πειστικὸν as ‘impressionable’, but, as Dodds points out, both adjectives should have an active sense. If both are derived from πειθω, the meaning would be some sense of ‘persuasive’. A similar phrase occurs just above, attributed to some ‘wise man’, τῆς δὲ ψυχῆς τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ ἐπιθυμίαι εἰσὶ τυγχάνει ὂν οἷον ἀναπείθεσθαι καὶ μεταπίπτειν ἄνω κάτω. ‘That of our soul with appetites is liable to be persuaded and to sway up and down’. ἀναπείθεσθαι, however, is unequivocally passive in sense. Blank points out that the confusion between the active and passive senses, persuadable and persuasive, reflects the confusion of Callicles about the role of the orator, whether he is the persuader of the masses or is constantly persuaded by the masses to different things. (Blank 1991, pp. 26-27.) One might speculate whether the words in question also carried the sense of πείσεσθαι derived from πάσχω, to suffer, playing on the pun between πίθος, πεῖθω, and πάθος. If the words carried the resonance of suffering, as well as persuadable and persuasive, the connection between Callicles’ confusion and the fate he will suffer, both in life and in the myth, would be neatly drawn. But perhaps this word play would be too much, even for a κομψὸς ἀνήρ.

43 Gorgias 493a6-b3. παράγων τῷ ὀνόματι διὰ τὸ πιθανόν τε καὶ πειστικὸν ὠνόμασε πίθον, τοὺς δὲ ἀνοήτους ἀμυήτους, τῶν δ’ ἀνοήτων τοῦτο τῆς ψυχῆς οὗ αἱ ἐπιθυμίαι εἰσί, τὸ ἀκόλαστον αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐ στεγανόν, ὡς τετρημένος εἴη πίθος, διὰ τὴν ἀπληστίαν ἀπεικάσας.

44 Socrates opens his attack on both the personal and political position of Callicles with his observation that Callicles is in love with two beloveds, Demos, son of Pyrilampes and the Athenian demos. (481c ff.) The choice of the homoerotic metaphor allows Socrates to point out the confusion of the active and passive, ruler and ruled in Callicles’ ideal. Although the adult male erastes like Callicles is the active pursuer, and the younger eromenos or paidika like Demos is the more passive, pursued person in the ideology of this kind of Athenian aristocratic homoerotic relationship, the beloved was also able to exercise a fair amount of control over the lover, who would go to great lengths to win his beloved’s favor. Socrates notes that however absurd the things their beloveds say may be, both he and Callicles are helpless to contradict them (481d-482b). Although they are, in theory, the active partners in the relationships, guiding the youths into manhood, they are both, in fact, helplessly subject to their beloveds, the ruled instead of the rulers. The familiar paradox of the homoerotic romance allows Plato to bring out the ambiguity of Callicles’ relation to the masses he desires to dominate.

45 Gorgias 492e10-11. τίς δ’ οἶδεν, εἰ τὸ ζῆν μέν ἐστι κατθανεῖν, τὸ κατθανεῖν δὲ ζῆν; cp. Euripides’ Phrixus fr. 833. The tag is attributed either to the Phrixus or the Polyidos. Sextus Empiricus attributes the same idea to Heraclitus (Pyrrh. Hyp. 3.230, cp. Heraclitus fr. 62, 88). cp. Dodds’ treatment of the passage in the Gorgias, ad loc. Aristophanes repeatedly uses the line to great effect in the Frogs (1082, 1477), finally turning it against Euripides when Dionysos abandons him in the underworld and brings up Aeschylus instead.

46 Plato Cratylus 400bc = OF430i. Πολλαχῇ μοι δοκεῖ τοῦτό γε· ἂν μὲν καὶ σμικρόν τις παρακλίνῃ, καὶ πάνυ. καὶ γὰρ σῆμά τινές φασιν αὐτὸ εἶναι τῆς ψυχῆς, ὡς τεθαμμένης ἐν τῷ νῦν παρόντι· καὶ διότι αὖ τούτῳ σημαίνει ἃ ἂν σημαίνῃ ἡ ψυχή, καὶ ταύτῃ “σῆμα” ὀρθῶς καλεῖσθαι. δοκοῦσι μέντοι μοι μάλιστα θέσθαι οἱ ἀμφὶ Ὀρφέα τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα, ὡς δίκην διδούσης τῆς ψυχῆς ὧν δὴ ἕνεκα δίδωσιν, τοῦτον δὲ περίβολον ἔχειν, ἵνα σῴζηται, δεσμωτηρίου εἰκόνα· εἶναι οὖν τῆς ψυχῆς τοῦτο, ὥσπερ αὐτὸ ὀνομάζεται, ἕως ἂν ἐκτείσῃ τὰ ὀφειλόμενα, [τὸ] “σῶμα,” καὶ οὐδὲν δεῖν παράγειν οὐδ’ ἓν γράμμα.

47 Bernabé 1995 provides an excellent analysis of the debates, with important attention to the role of Platonic transposition. See also Bernabé 2011, pp. 115-144.

48 Linforth 1941, p. 148 ; cp. Bernabé 1995, pp. 217-8.

49 e.g., σῶμα δέ οἱ περιφεγγές, ἀπείριτον, ἀστυφέλικτον (OF 243.22 = Proclus in Tim. 29a I.324.14).

50 I develop the exegetical context of the Derveni author and its importance further in Edmonds 2013, pp. 124-135.

51 Cp. Heraclitus fr. 62 DK. ἀθάνατοι θνητοί, θνητοὶ ἀθάνατοι, ζῶντες τὸν ἐκείνων θάνατον, τὸν δὲ ἐκείνων βίον τεθνεῶτες. Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one living the others’ death and dying the others’ life.

52 Clement of Alexandria Stromata 3.17.1 = Philolaus fr. 14 = OF 430iii. μαρτυρέονται δὲ καὶ οἱ παλαιοὶ θεολόγοι τε καὶ μάντιες, ὡς διά τινας τιμωρίας ἁ ψυχὰ τῷ σώματι συνέζευκται καὶ καθάπερ ἐν σήματι τούτῳ τέθαπται. Various doubts have been expressed about whether Philolaus or the Pythagoreans in general believed this idea, but Clement’s quotation does not reveal whether Philolaus accepted this idea himself.

53 Athenaeus 4.157c = OF 430vi. The fragment of Anaximander, despite Nietzsche (Werke X, 22 Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen), probably refers not the creation of the material cosmos by an injustice for which it must atone by destruction (in analogy to a certain understanding of the soul in the Orphica, but rather to the interplay of opposing elements. See Kahn 1985, pp. 193-6.

54 Iamblichus Protrepticus 43.21-44.9 = Aristotle fr. 60 Rose = OF 430v. Who indeed looking at these things could think himself happy and blessed, since we are set up straightaway by nature, just as they recount in the rites, all of us, as if for punishment ? For this idea the ancients spoke divinely the saying that the soul pays a penalty and that we are living for the correction of some great wrongdoings. For the conjunction of the soul to the body is very much like to the following sort of thing : just as they say that those in Tyrrhenia often torture their captives, binding corpses right up against the living, face to face, fastening each limb against each limb, so too the soul seems to be stretched out through and attached onto the sensitive members of the body. τίς ἂν οὖν εἰς ταῦτα βλέπων οἴοιτο εὐδαίμων εἶναι καὶ μακάριος, οἳ πρῶτον εὐθὺς φύσει συνέσταμεν, καθάπερ φασὶν οἱ τὰς τελετὰς λέγοντες, ὥσπερ ἂν ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ πάντες ; τοῦτο γὰρ θείως οἱ ἀρχαιότεροι λέγουσι τὸ φάναι διδόναι τὴν ψυχὴν τιμωρίαν καὶ ζῆν ἡμᾶς ἐπὶ κολάσει μεγάλων τινῶν ἁμαρτημάτων. πάνυ γὰρ ἡ σύζευξις τοιούτῳ τινὶ ἔοικε πρὸς τὸ σῶμα τῆς ψυχῆς. ὥσπερ γὰρ τοὺς ἐν τῇ Τυρρηνίᾳ φασὶ βασανίζειν πολλάκις τοὺς ἁλισκομένους προσδεσμεύοντας κατ’ ἀντικρὺ τοῖς ζῶσι νεκροὺς ἀντιπροσώπους ἕκαστον πρὸς ἕκαστον μέρος προσαρμόττοντας, οὕτως ἔοικεν ἡ ψυχὴ διατετάσθαι καὶ προσκεκολλῆσθαι πᾶσι τοῖς αἰσθητικοῖς τοῦ σώματος μέλεσιν. Hutchinson and Johnson 2005 convincingly argue that this section of Iamblichus’ Protrepticus comes directly from Aristotle’s own lost Protrepticus. The argument is supported by Augustine’s use of the same image, which he derives from a Ciceronian quotation of Aristotle (Augustine contra Iul. Pelag. 4(15) 78 = OF 430iv).

55 Like Philolaus, Aristotle attributes the idea that the soul is in the body for punishment (ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ) to extraordinary sources, both the teletai and the divinely inspired ancients, but it is not clear whether the gruesome image of pirate torture actually stems from his sources or is his own rhetorical flourish. Since the ramifications of such an anti-somatic view are hardly in keeping with Aristotle’s ideas for living a good life elsewhere in his works, it is tempting to suspect that it is a rhetorical flourish, a vivid image that is merely intended to stick in the memory - which it certainly did, turning up in Augustine even though both Aristotle’s work and the work of Cicero who quoted it have been lost.

56 The indefinite nature of such references suggests that no single original sin is imagined for which all need to pay the penalty. Rather, it reflects the assumption that, somewhere in everyone’s ancestry, there must have been something done that would anger the gods - human, and divine, nature is like that. Pace Bernabé 2011, p. 154, who argues that these philosophical sources make the definite Orphic idea of Titanic sin indefinite by deliberate transposition.

57 Plato Phaedo 62b = OF 429i. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἐν ἀπορρήτοις λεγόμενος περὶ αὐτῶν λόγος, ὡς ἔν τινι φρουρᾷ ἐσμεν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ οὐ δεῖ δὴ ἑαυτὸν ἐκ ταύτης λύειν οὐδ’ ἀποδιδράσκειν, μέγας τέ τίς μοι φαίνεται καὶ οὐ ῥᾴδιος διιδεῖν· Scholiast ad loc. (10 Green) = OF 429ii.

58 Cp. Bernabé 2004, p. 357 ; Edmonds 2004, pp. 176-178. Cicero glosses it as praesidium et statio (de senectute 73).

59 Damascius preserves a list of the different interpretations. Ὅτι τούτοις χρώμενοι τοῖς κανόσι ῥᾳδίως διελέγξομεν, ὡς οὔτε τἀγαθόν ἐστιν ἡ φρουρά, ὥς τινες, οὔτε ἡ ἡδονή, ὡς Νουμήνιος, οὔτε ὁ δημιουργός, ὡς Πατέριος, ἀλλ’, ὡς Ξενοκράτης, Τιτανική ἐστιν καὶ εἰς Διόνυσον ἀποκορυφοῦται. “Using these principles, we shall easily prove that ‘the custody’ is not the Good, as some say, nor pleasure, as Noumenios would have it, nor the Demiurge, as Paterios says, but rather, as Xenokrates has it, that it is Titanic and culminates in Dionysos.” Xenokrates fr. 20 = Damascius In Phaed. I. 2 = OF ?)

60 In the Platonic Axiochus, by contrast, the image of the φρουρά is used, not as an argument against suicide, but rather as a consolation for an old man fearing death - unlike Socrates in the Phaedo, who was an old man so unafraid of death that he needed to explain to his friends why suicide was not a good shortcut. “For each of us is a soul, an immortal being shut up in a mortal fortress (ἐν θνητῷ φρουρίῳ) ; and Nature has put this hut together for evil … the aching soul yearns for the heavenly and kindred ether, and even thirsts for it, striving upwards for the feasting and dancing there.” ἡμεῖς μὲν γάρ ἐσμεν ψυχή, ζῷον ἀθάνατον ἐν θνητῷ καθειργμένον φρουρίῳ· τὸ δὲ σκῆνος τουτὶ πρὸς κακοῦ περιήρμοσεν ἡ φύσις… ἡ ψυχὴ συναλγοῦσα τὸν οὐράνιον ποθεῖ καὶ σύμφυλον αἰθέρα, καὶ διψᾷ, τῆς ἐκεῖσε διαίτης καὶ χορείας ὀριγνωμένη. [Plato] Axiochus 365e-366a.

61 Cp. the image of trimming one’s hair in mourning for abandoning the argument in Phaedo, as well as Socrates’ refusal to leave Athens.

62 Burkert 1972, p. 126, n. 33. While φρουρά may not come from dactylic hexameter, Plato may have borrowed the word from Aristophanes. In the Clouds, Strepsiades complains that, while sitting around trying to think deep, philosophical thoughts, he has not only lost material things (money and shoes), but he has also become pale and lacking his vital force (ψυχή). He compares his situation to a frontier guardsman reduced to singing guardpost songs (φρουρᾶς ᾁδων) as he wastes away at his lonely post Ar. Nub., 718-721. ὅτε μου φροῦδα τὰ χρήματα, φρούδη χροιά, φρούδη ψυχή, φρούδη δ᾽ ἐμβάς· καὶ πρὸς τούτοις ἔτι τοῖσι κακοῖς φρουρᾶς ᾁδων ὀλίγου φροῦδος γεγένημαι. That he uses the word φρουρά is no doubt a word play on φροῦδα, lost, but Plato may well have had this passage in mind when choosing the word for the Phaedo.

63 Phaedrus 250c. Bernabé 1995, pp. 233-4, notes similar word play with σῶμα and σῆμα (in the form of ἀσήμαντοι) in the passage.

64 Timaeus 73b, 74a. οἱ γὰρ τοῦ βίου δεσμοί, τῆς ψυχῆς τῷ σώματι συνδουμένης, ἐν τούτῳ διαδούμενοι κατερρίζουν τὸ θνητὸν γένος· … καὶ τὸ πᾶν δὴ σπέρμα διασῴζων οὕτως λιθοειδεῖ περιβόλῳ συνέφραξεν. Ferwerda 1985, p. 275, compares this account to the etymology from σῴζω in the Cratylus, “At the end of our passage Plato has Socrates say that he likes the Orphic interpretation of σῶμα even better than the Pythagorean one, because not even a letter need to be changed. He is, methinks, also happy with it because it harmonizes perfectly with his own view which, later on, he propounded in his Timaeus.” I would suggest rather that Plato modifies the Orphic interpretation to suit his own ideas.

65 Timaeus 81d.

66 Aristotle de gen. anim. 734a16 = OF 404. How, then, does it make the other parts ? For either all the parts, such as the heart, lung, liver, eye, and each of the others, come into being all together or they come into being in succession, as in the so-called verses of Orpheus, for there he says that an animal comes into being in the same way as the weaving of a net. That it is not all at once is apparent even by perception, for some of the parts are clearly visible as already existing while others are not yet. Τὰ οὖν ἄλλα πῶς ; ἢ γάρ τοι ἅμα πάντα γίγνεται τὰ μόρια οἷον καρδία πνεύμων ἧπαρ ὀφθαλμὸς καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἕκαστον, ἢ ἐφεξῆς ὥσπερ ἐν τοῖς καλουμένοις Ὀρφέως ἔπεσιν· ἐκεῖ γὰρ ὁμοίως φησὶ γίγνεσθαι τὸ ζῷον τῇ τοῦ δικτύου πλοκῇ. ὅτι μὲν οὖν οὐχ ἅμα καὶ τῇ αἰσθήσει ἐστὶ φανερόν· τὰ μὲν γὰρ φαίνεται ἐνόντα ἤδη τῶν μορίων τὰ δ’ οὔ.

67 Suda s.v. Ὀρφεύς (Adler III 564.27) = OF 403. Cp. Suda s.v. ἵππος Νισαῖος = OF 405, where Orpheus is said to have mentioned the Nisaian horses in his Δίκτυον ; the Suda entry derives from Pausanias Atticus, Ἀττικῶν ὀνομάτων συναγωγή s.v. ι 8.

68 West 1983, p. 10. He compares the idea to Philolaus’ number cosmogony in which the world is built up element by element like the loops in a net. Lobeck 1829, pp. 380-1, sarcastically dismisses Eschenbach’s suggestion that it refers to a cosmogonic interpretation of Hephaistos’ capture of Ares and Aphrodite, like that found in Proclus in Remp. 143.

69 In Phaedo 87, Cebes suggests that the body may be like a cloak for a soul that uses up many such garments before perishing itself, but this argument is directed at the claim that, because the soul outlasts the body, it must be imperishable. Plato characteristically picks up and transforms this traditional image for his own purposes in the dialogue.

70 Porphyry de antro nymph. 14 = OF 286i. Orpheus’ poem describing the weaving of Kore, which is more likely to be the Πέπλος (cp. Lobeck 1829, p. 381), mentioned in the same Suda testimony as the Net, or perhaps another poem regarding the abduction of Kore. Bernabé suggests that the Pythagorean Πέπλος was later incorporated into the Rhapsodies, so he puts this passage of Porphyry among the Rhapsodic fragments. I would suggest that Porphyry’s allegorical understanding of the weaving of Kore as signifying the oversight of Persephone over the process of genesis may result from the exegesis of a scene of Kore’s weaving before her rape by Zeus in terms of an earlier (or later) Peplos poem that discussed the formation of material bodies (and perhaps the cosmos itself) in terms of the weaving of a garment, perhaps something like Pherecydes’ image fr. 2, of the robe that Zas gives to Chthonie as a wedding gift that makes her the physical manifestation of Earth. Cp. West 1983 p. 97.

71 While Casadio 1991 is quite right to note that often one lifetime seemed insufficient for theodicy, such concerns did not always entail the idea of reincarnation. Dio’s pessimist rules out reincarnation by allowing for the possibility that a man may beget a son to take over his spot in the gods’ prison camp and receive his share of the gods’ torments. Dio 30.17. By so many tortures and of such a kind, then, do men remain surrounded in this outpost and dungeon, each for his appointed time ; and most do not get out until they produce another person from their own selves and leave him as heir to the punishment in place of themselves, some leaving only one and others even more. τοιαῖσδε μὲν δὴ καὶ τοσαῖσδε βασάνοις ξυνεχομένους τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐν τῇδε τῇ φρουρᾷ καὶ τῷδε τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ μένειν τὸν τεταγμένον ἕκαστον χρόνον, καὶ μὴ πρὶν ἀπιέναι τοὺς πολλοὺς πρὶν ἂν ἐξ αὑτοῦ ποιησάμενος ἄλλον ἀνθ’ ἑαυτοῦ καταλίπῃ διάδοχον τῆς κολάσεως, οἱ μὲν ἕνα, οἱ δὲ καὶ πλείους.

72 I use the Latinate word ‘reincarnation’, rather than ‘metempsychosis’, because of the objections of certain ancient Platonists such as Proclus, who argued that metempsychosis should imply a body having a series of souls, rather than a soul having a series of bodies, the term for which would be metensomatosis (cp. Procl. In R. 2.322.28). While Pythagoras is usually credited with the origination of the idea of reincarnation, some sources make Pherecydes the one who gave Pythagoras the idea.

73 Often the notion is attributed to a foreign source. Herodotus claims that the idea of reincarnation is Egyptian, but, since the Egyptians did not, in fact, have any such notion for the fate of the deceased, Herodotus is presumably attributing Egyptian origin to something he knows from a Greek source. (Hdt. 2.123.1 = OF423.) Since he elsewhere (2.81) claims that practices thought to be Orphic and Bacchic are really Egyptian and Pythagorean, it seems plausible that he associates the idea of reincarnation with certain Orphica with which he was familiar. Diogenes Laertius, in his excursus on the sources of philosophy among the barbarians, says that Theopompus attributes the idea to the Persian magoi, another type of alien wisdom (Diogenes Laertius 1.1.9 = OF427ii).

74 Plato Phaedo 70c = OF428i. Cp. Olympiodorus in Plat. Phaed. 10.6 = OF428ii and Damascius in Plat. Phaed. 1.203 = OF428iii. The fragment of Diogenes of Oenoanda (fr. 40 Smith = OF 427i) is too heavily restored to help identify the source of the idea as Orphic, rather than Pythagorean, and even the nature of the idea at issue in the fragment depends heavily upon the speculations of the editors.

75 Plato Meno 81 = OF424, quoting Pindar fr. 133 = OF 443.

76 Cp. Obeyesekere 2002 on ethicization of the afterlife as a process of rationalizing and universalizing.

77 Cp. Plut. fr. 200.48-59 and de Sera Num. 565de for Plutarchan adaptations of these Platonic ideas.

78 Empedokles fr. 117 = Hippolytus Ref. Omn. Haer. = Diogenes Laertius 8.77. For in the past I have already been a boy and a girl, a shrub and a bird and the fish that leaps from the sea as it travels. ἤδη γάρ ποτ’ ἐγὼ γενόμην κοῦρός τε κόρη τε θάμνος τ’ οἰωνός τε καὶ ἔξαλος ἔλλοπος ἰχθύς. Empedokles’ vegetable incarnations do not seem to have created the same problem for eating vegetable food, which should caution us against taking this fragment too literally and out of the context of Empedokles’ ideas about the elements reforming into different types of matter. Proclus of course does take it literally and worries about the issue (in Remp. II.333).

79 Aristotle de anima 407b20 ; Xenophanes fr.7 = Diogenes Laertius 8.36.

80 Aristotle de anima 410b27 = OF 421i. Neither Aristotle nor his commentators explicitly refer this process of incarnation to a theory of reincarnations. Iamblichus de anima ap. Stob. Flor. 1.49.32 = I, 366.7 Wachsmuth = I.8 Dillon = OF 421vi. Gaisford emended the MSS reading of φυσικοῖς to match Aristotle’s Ὀρφικοῖς, but Iamblichus provides more information than is contained in Aristotle’s passage, and Gagné 2007 suggests that Iamblichus may have known the Orphic text as the Physika. This title, as Gagné points out, is likely a later name for a poem that was perceived to set out ideas relating to the composition of the physical cosmos, but he suggests that we can identify a particular work, extant in the fourth century, to which Aristotle is alluding. Gagné speculates that this Orphic text may have portrayed the Tritopatores, the personifications of the ancestral spirits who watch over the health and fertility of the family or community, as winds that bring the souls into bodies.

81 ψυχὴ δ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἀπ’ αἰθέρος ἐρρίζωται … ἀέρα δ’ ἕλκοντες ψυχὴν θείαν δρεπόμεσθα. Vettius Valens 9.1.42-44 = OF 422 + 436. The notion of drawing in a divine soul by breathing is reminiscent of imagery from the Chaldaean Oracles (and also the Mithras Liturgy ; cp. Edmonds 2000) Valens, however, does not link the idea with reincarnation, but rather uses Orpheus’ authority to bolster his claims about the immortality and divine nature of the soul. ψυχὴ δ’ ἀθάνατος καὶ ἀγήρως ἐκ Διός ἐστιν. … ψυχὴ δ’ ἀθάνατος πάντων, τὰ δὲ σώματα θνητά. Vettius Valens ix.1.44-45 = OF 426, 425. It is a pity, but characteristic of the harm done by previous scholarship, that Komorowska 2004, p. 324, concludes that Valens could have had no real knowledge of the Orphica but must have found the text from some other source, simply because these lines quoted from Orpheus fail to match the supposed doctrines of “the necessity to recover the Dionysiac element” and other corollaries of the Zagreus myth (see Edmonds 1999, 2008b, and 2013).

82 Proclus (in Remp. II.339.20-26 = OF 339) quotes a later Orphic poem that has made the systematic distinction between the souls of humans and animals, moralizing human reincarnations but leaving animal ones random. “When the souls of beasts or winged birds flit forth, and the sacred life leaves them, for them there is no one to lead the soul to the house of Hades, but rather it flutters vainly about itself until, mingled with the breath of the wind, another body snatches it in. But when a human being leaves the light of the sun, Kyllenian Hermes leads the immortal souls to the enormous depths of the earth.” αἱ μὲν δὴ θηρῶν τε καὶ οἰωνῶν πτεροέντων| ψυχαὶ ὅτ’ ἀίξωσι, λίπῃ δέ μιν ἱερὸς αἰών,| τῶν οὔ τις ψυχὴν παράγει δόμον εἰς Ἀίδαο,| ἀλλ’ αὐτοῦ πεπότηται ἐτώσιον, εἰς ὅ κεν αὐτὴν| ἄλλο ἀφαρπάζῃ μίγδην ἀνέμοιο πνοῇσιν·| ὁππότε δ’ ἄνθρωπος προλίπῃ φάος ἠελίοιο,| ψυχὰς ἀθανάτας κατάγει Κυλλήνιος Ἑρμῆς| γαίης ἐς κευθμῶνα πελώριον·

83 See my treatment of the Phaedo myth in Edmonds 2004, ch. 4. The myths in the Phaedrus and Republic have even more elaborate systems of reincarnation, but Plato does not try to maintain a consistent system between the dialogues. Indeed, it is debatable whether the myth in the Gorgias even involves a process of reincarnation, since the focus is entirely upon judgement and recompense.

84 Phaedo 81b5-82b9.

85 Republic 620ac.

86 Phaedrus 249bc. ἔνθα καὶ εἰς θηρίου βίον ἀνθρωπίνη ψυχὴ ἀφικνεῖται, καὶ ἐκ θηρίου ὅς ποτε ἄνθρωπος ἦν πάλιν εἰς ἄνθρωπον. οὐ γὰρ ἥ γε μήποτε ἰδοῦσα τὴν ἀλήθειαν εἰς τόδε ἥξει τὸ σχῆμα. δεῖ γὰρ ἄνθρωπον συνιέναι κατ’ εἶδος λεγόμενον, ἐκ πολλῶν ἰὸν αἰσθήσεων εἰς ἓν λογισμῷ συναιρούμενον· τοῦτο δ’ ἐστὶν ἀνάμνησις ἐκείνων ἅ ποτ’ εἶδεν ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ συμπορευθεῖσα θεῷ καὶ ὑπεριδοῦσα ἃ νῦν εἶναί φαμεν, καὶ ἀνακύψασα εἰς τὸ ὂν ὄντως.

87 Phaedo 81e-82a. Τὸ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα διισχυρίσασθαι οὕτως ἔχειν ὡς ἐγὼ διελήλυθα, οὐ πρέπει νοῦν ἔχοντι ἀνδρί· ὅτι μέντοι ἢ ταῦτ’ ἐστὶν ἢ τοιαῦτ’ ἄττα περὶ τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν καὶ τὰς οἰκήσεις, ἐπείπερ ἀθάνατόν γε ἡ ψυχὴ φαίνεται οὖσα, τοῦτο καὶ πρέπειν μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ἄξιον κινδυνεῦσαι οἰομένῳ οὕτως ἔχειν—καλὸς γὰρ ὁ κίνδυνος.

88 Republic 608d2-6. Οὐκ ᾔσθησαι, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὅτι ἀθάνατος ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ οὐδέποτε ἀπόλλυται ; Καὶ ὃς ἐμβλέψας μοι καὶ θαυμάσας εἶπε· Μὰ Δί’, οὐκ ἔγωγε· σὺ δὲ τοῦτ’ ἔχεις λέγειν ;

89 Empedokles proclaims himself to be one of the special ones (fr. 112 = Diogenes Laertius 8.62) , while two of the 4th century gold tablets from Thurii announce that the deceased has become a god from a mortal (Α1 θεὸς δ’ ἔσηι ἀντὶ βροτοῖο ; Α4.θεὸς ἐγένου ἐξ ἀνθρώπου·), but this still remains an exceptional reward for an exceptional person.

90 Phaedo 77d7-e1. δεδιέναι τὸ τῶν παίδων, μὴ ὡς ἀληθῶς ὁ ἄνεμος αὐτὴν ἐκβαίνουσαν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος διαφυσᾷ καὶ διασκεδάννυσιν.

91 Olympiodorus, in Plat. Phaed. 7.10.10.

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Référence électronique

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, « A Lively Afterlife and Beyond : The Soul in Plato, Homer, and the Orphica  », Études platoniciennes [En ligne], 11 | 2014, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2015, consulté le 19 octobre 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesplatoniciennes.517


Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Paul Shorey Professor of Greek and Chair
Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies
Bryn Mawr College