Orpheus redivivus

The Myth of Orpheus in Latin Literature from Antiquity to the Renaissance

On-line Course in Latin, 10th March – 28th April, 2023. 

It was the extraordinary quality of Orpheus’ lyre accompanied song that caused nature to bend and facilitate his descent to the underworld to bring back his wife Eurydice to dwell among the living. After losing her a second and final time, he decided to forswear all women and, according to at least one version of the myth, pursue boys instead. In the end, he met his tragic fate at the hands and mouths of Maenads. All of these episodes touch upon themes that intersect with the great works of European literature. It is this complex web of stories to which Vergil and Ovid turn respectively in the Georgics and Metamorphoses, and these in turn provide us with a remarkable syncretic reconstruction of this myth which has occupied a continual place in the imaginations of authors and artists from antiquity to the present day.

Our journey through various iterations of the Fabula Orphei et Eurydices produced over the course of nearly a millennium and a half offers a rich array of material. On the one hand, there are the moralized interpretations of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages which recast him in a Christian light. On the other hand, there is the fervor of interest in the story during Fourteenth and Fifteenth century Florence in the work of Giovanni Boccaccio, Coluccio Salutati, and Marsilio Ficino who laid the foundation for the masterpieces that would follow whether in the form of Angelo Poliziano’s Orfeo to that of Alessandro Striggio which was set to music by composer Claudio Monteverdi.

The course will take place in seminar format via zoom (meeting) every Friday from 17:00 to 19:00 CET.

Each lesson will be conducted entirely in Latin.

Each session will be recorded and made available up through the end of the course.



Last day to Register: 9th March 2023



    Program schedule

    When Topic
    I. Friday, 10th March, h. 17:00-18:00 CET Greetings and an Introduction to the Course
    II. Friday, 10th March, h. 18:00-19:00 CET Distribution and orientation of course materials, optional introduction of course participants (in Latin or other languages)
    III. Friday, 17th March, h. 17:00-18:00 CET “Immemor heu! Victusque animi respexit”: The gaze of Orpheus in Vergil
    IV. Friday, 17th March, h. 18:00-19:00 CET “Non huc, ut opaca viderem Tartara, descendi”: The descent of Orpheus to the Underworld in Ovid
    V. Friday, 24th March, h. 17:00-18:00 CET “supremumque ‘vale’…dixit”: The Farewell of Eurydice
    VI. Friday 24th March, h. 18:00-19:00 CEST “Bacchei ululatus”: Orpheus and the Maenads
    VII. Friday 31st March, h. 17:00-18:00 CEST
    “Saxa movere sono testudinis”: The Song of Orpheus and his Descent into Hades in Latin poetry of Imperial Rome
    VIII. Friday  31st March, h. 18:00-19:00 CEST
    The “Fabula Orphei et Eurydices” in Prose of Imperial Rome and Late Antiquity
    IX. Friday 7th April, h. 17:00-18:00 CET The Orpheus of Boethius and Medieval Commentators
    X. Friday 7th April, h. 18:00-19:00 CET “Orpheus triumphans” (Part I)
    XI.Friday 14th April, h. 17:00-18:00 CET “Orpheus triumphans” (Part II)
    XII. Friday 14th April, h. 18:00-19:00 CET Commentaries on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the reception of Classical Mythology in the Middle Ages
    XIII. Friday 21st April, h. 17:00-18:00 CEST The Orpheus of Giovanni Boccaccio and Giovanni del Virgilio
    XIV. Friday 21st April, h. 18:00-19:00 CEST The Epicurean Orpheus of Coluccio Salutati
    XV. Friday 28th April, h. 17:00-18:00 CEST Reincarnations of Orpheus in Fifteenth Century Florence
    XVI. Friday 28th April, h. 18:00-19:00 CEST Final Discussion, Summary, and Farewell


    Pluto and Persephone






    Orpheus and the Maenads



    Lorenzo de’ Medici



    Angelo Poliziano





    Giuseppe Marcellino


    Intended course audience

    Teachers, students and scholars of the ancient world.


    Online, using Zoom as a platform




    Intermediate or advanced

    Professional development credit

    At the end of the course, a certificate of participation will be issued on request.

    Registration fee

    160 €

    Course registration and Availability to Recorded Sessions

    Upon successfully registering for the course, you will be entered on the list of course participants and you will be emailed the sign in information needed to join the session meetings. At the end of each session, a recording will be made available for the entirety of the course.