Season: 5, Episodes: 1, Faction: DHARMA Initiative
A Swan workman worked at the Orchid station construction site with Tony.
5×14 – The Variable
He told Daniel Faraday that he needed to wear a hard hat in the underground complex of the Orchid station. (“The Variable”)
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Key Episode(s) to Decoding the Character
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music. As an archetype of the inspired singer, Orpheus is one of the most significant figures in the reception of classical mythology in Western culture, portrayed or alluded to in countless forms of art and popular culture including poetry, opera, and painting.
To the Greeks, Orpheus was a founder and prophet of the so-called “Orphic” mysteries. He was credited with the composition of the Orphic Hymns, a collection of which survives. Shrines containing purported relics of Orpheus were regarded as oracles. Ancient Greek sources note Orpheus’s Thracian origins.
The earliest literary reference to Orpheus is a two-word fragment of the sixth-century BC lyric poet Ibycus: onomaklyton Orphēn (“Orpheus famous of name”). He is not mentioned in Homer or Hesiod. Most ancient sources accept his historical existence; Aristotle is an exception.
Pindar calls Orpheus “the father of songs” and identifies him as a son of the Thracian king Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope: but as Karl Kerenyi observes, “in the popular mind he was more closely linked to the community of his disciples and adherents than with any particular race or family”.
Greeks of the Classical age venerated Orpheus as the greatest of all poets and musicians: it was said that while Hermes had invented the lyre, Orpheus perfected it. Poets such as Simonides of Ceos said that Orpheus’ music and singing could charm the birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and divert the course of rivers. He was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the Underworld and return; his music and song even had power over Hades.
Some sources credit Orpheus with further gifts to mankind: medicine, which is more usually under the aegis of Asclepius; writing, which is usually credited to Cadmus and agriculture, where Orpheus assumes the Eleusinian role of Triptolemus, giver of Demeter’s knowledge to mankind. Orpheus was an augur and seer; practiced magical arts, especially astrology, founded cults to Apollo and Dionysus and prescribed the mystery rites preserved in Orphic texts. In addition, Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes place Orpheus as the harpist and companion of Jason and the Argonauts. Orpheus had a brother named Linus who went to Thebes and became a Theban.
According to Apollodorus and a fragment of Pindar, Orpheus’s father was Oeagrus, a Thracian king; or, according to another version of the story, the god Apollo. His mother was the muse Calliope; or, a daughter of Pierus, son of Makednos. His birthplace and place of residence was in Pimpleia, Olympus. In Argonautica the location of Oeagrus and Calliope’s wedding is close to Pimpleia, near Olympus. While living with his mother and her eight beautiful sisters in Parnassus, he met Apollo, who was courting the laughing muse Thalia. Apollo became fond of Orpheus and gave him a little golden lyre and taught him to play it. Orpheus’s mother taught him to make verses for singing. Strabo mentions that he lived in Pimpleia. He is also said to have studied in Egypt.
Orpheus is said to have established the worship of Hecate in Aegina. In Laconia Orpheus is said to have brought the worship of Demeter Chthonia and that of the Kores Sōteiras savior maid. Also in Taygetus a wooden image of Orpheus was said to have been kept by Pelasgians in the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Demeter.
Traveling as an Argonaut
The Argonautica is a Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC. Orpheus took part in this adventure and used his skills to aid his companions. Chiron told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens—the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey. The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ships into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was louder and more beautiful, drowning out the Sirens’ bewitching songs.
Death of Eurydice
The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice (also known as Agriope). While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and she suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.
The story in this form belongs to the time of Virgil, who first introduces the name of Aristaeus (by the time of Virgil’s Georgics, the myth has Aristaeus chasing Eurydice when she was bitten by a serpent) and the tragic outcome. Other ancient writers, however, speak of Orpheus’s visit to the underworld in a more negative light; according to Phaedrus in Plato’s Symposium, the infernal gods only “presented an apparition” of Eurydice to him. Ovid says that Eurydice’s death was not caused by fleeing from Aristaeus but by dancing with naiads on her wedding day. In fact, Plato’s representation of Orpheus is that of a coward, as instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved, he instead mocked the gods by trying to go to Hades and get her back alive. Since his love was not “true”—he did not want to die for love—he was actually punished by the gods, first by giving him only the apparition of his former wife in the underworld, and then by being killed by women.
The story of Eurydice may actually be a late addition to the Orpheus myths. In particular, the name Eurudike (“she whose justice extends widely”) recalls cult-titles attached to Persephone. The myth may have been derived from another Orpheus legend in which he travels to Tartarus and charms the goddess Hecate.
Mythological Family Members & Associated Deities
The Argonauts were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis (modern day west of Georgia) in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. “Argonauts”, therefore, literally means “Argo sailors”. They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of the area.
After the death of King Cretheus, the Aeolian Pelias usurped the Iolcan throne from his half-brother Aeson and became king of Iolcus in Thessaly (near the modern city of Volos). Because of this unlawful act, an oracle warned him that a descendant of Aeolus would seek revenge. Pelias put to death every prominent descendant of Aeolus he could, but spared Aeson because of the pleas of their mother Tyro. Instead, Pelias kept Aeson prisoner and forced him to renounce his inheritance. Aeson married Alcimede, who bore him a son named Diomedes. Pelias intended to kill the baby at once, but Alcimede summoned her kinswomen to weep over him as if he were stillborn. She faked a burial and smuggled the baby to Mount Pelion. He was raised by the centaur Chiron, who changed the boy’s name to Jason.
When Jason was 20 years old, an oracle ordered him to dress as a Magnesian and head to the Iolcan court. While traveling Jason lost his sandal crossing the muddy Anavros river while helping an old woman (Hera in disguise) ford. The goddess was angry with King Pelias for killing his stepmother Sidero after she had sought refuge in Hera’s temple.
Another oracle warned Pelias to be on his guard against a man with one shoe. Pelias was presiding over a sacrifice to Poseidon with several neighboring kings in attendance. Among the crowd stood a tall youth in leopard skin with only one sandal. Pelias recognized that Jason was his cousin. He could not kill him because prominent kings of the Aeolian family were present. Instead, he asked Jason: “What would you do if an oracle announced that one of your fellow-citizens were destined to kill you?”. Jason replied that he would send him to go and fetch the Golden Fleece, not knowing that Hera had put those words in his mouth.
Jason learned later that Pelias was being haunted by the ghost of Phrixus. Phrixus had fled from Orchomenus riding on a divine ram to avoid being sacrificed and took refuge in Colchis where he was later denied proper burial. According to an oracle, Iolcus would never prosper unless his ghost was taken back in a ship, together with the golden ram’s fleece. This fleece now hung from a tree in the grove of the Colchian Ares, guarded night and day by a dragon that never slept. Pelias swore before Zeus that he would give up the throne at Jason’s return while expecting that Jason’s attempt to steal the Golden Fleece would be a fatal enterprise. However, Hera acted in Jason’s favour during the perilous journey.
Jason was accompanied by some of the principal heroes of ancient Greece. The number of Argonauts varies, but usually totals between 40 and 55; traditional versions of the story place their number at 50. The group of heroes included the Boreads (sons of Boreas, the North Wind) who could fly, Heracles, Philoctetes, Peleus, Telamon, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, Atalanta, and Euphemus.
Some have hypothesized that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes; they would place a lamb’s fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap gold dust being washed down from upstream. This practice is still in use, particularly in the Svaneti region of Georgia. See Golden Fleece for other, more speculative interpretations.