The Orphic Hymns and the Astronomical Knowledge of Prehistoric Hellenes


A. "The Orphic Hymns give us information on the Astronomical knowledge of the Greeks during but also and before the 2nd Millennium B.C."
Because, from the line

it results that the hymns have been formulated when the seasons winter and summer had an equal duration, that is, round 1366 B.C.
On the other hand, it is proved, that line

and line

refer to the spring equinox and to the summer solstice, when these were taking place (respectively) in the Taurus and the Leon, up to 1841 B.C.
As during the years 1841-1366 B.C.
It is concluded, that the Orphic Hymns have been formulated between 1841 and 1382 B.C. and most probably in the years round the middle of the period, that is, the l7th century B.C., when first g had not yet reached the weak stars of the Aries and second the seasons winter and summer differed just more than 6 hours.
(The numbers within brackets denote, the first one the hymn and the second, the relative line.)
B. The Greeks in the Orphic times had conceived the heliocentric idea, and it was from them that it was later borrowed by Pythagoreans and Aristarchus.Indeed, they were aware of the sphericity and the rotation of the earth, because, it is proved, that the term “polos” which one meets in the lines:

means the globe, of which they also determined the zones: torrid (“empyros”), temperate (“mesegeis”) and frigid (“psychras”). This is derived from the extract:

which extract is saved by Proclos (Timaeus 38,7).
The sentence

denotes the change of altitude of the sun, during its culmination above the various places, with ö(ef)
On the other hand, the lines

denote that the earth is the center of the celestial sphere, the axis of which is identified with the axis of the world and is terminated in the well known (“pasignostos”) (northern) pole of the sky, and that the sky rotates round this axis.
Furthermore, the fact that the Orphics were teaching the equal time duration of the rotation of the earth and the celestial sphere is mentioned explicitly in the extract “diathekai”,(testament) of Aristobulus, saved by Eusebius (Evangelika, § 13,12) where Orpheus says to Musaeus:

The literal version of this extract is: “because he knew the course of the stars and the movement of the (celestial) sphere round the earth, as this (the earth), which is round, rotates in equal time round its own axis”. These refer to the first part of the heliocentric idea, that is to the sphericity and the rotation of the earth. On the other hand, from the line

and the line (26,3) which is mentioned above, it is derived that the chariot of the four seasons of the year, which the sun draws is yoked by the earth. This idea is repeated also in the hymn of Rea-Earth, (13,2) where it is said: “for your sake” (because of you) Leon. (summer solstice), which killed Taurus (equinox), drives and advances the chariot (of the year’), which is drawn by the (four) sacred wheels (of the seasons). It is therefore understood that because of the movement of the earth round the sun the four seasons occur. These, combined with the line of the hymn of the sun

where “kosmos”is called the earth and “dromos” the ecliptic explicitly denote that the Orphics accepted the sun as the center of attraction which round the earth moves on the ecliptic.
Therefore, the Orphics taught to the initiated also the second part of heliocentricity, the motion of the world-earth round the sun and the expression “heliocentric system of the world”is of Orphic origin. They attributed the motion of the world round the sun to its attraction, which Newton formulated 3000 years-later.
C. Finally it is proved that:
The Orphics knew the global shape of the sky as well as the two first laws of the apparent motion of the celestial sphere.
They distinguished the stars into “pyroentas”, that is fiery and into the seven planets, which they called after their today’s names, which, consequently, are of Orphic origin. They introduced the zodiac. The names of the constellations and especially those of the zodiac are Orphic (as it seems from the compared texts).
They determined the ecliptic, and the term “dromos” which Archimedes uses in “Psammites” (4,5) for the ecliptic is of Orphic origin.
They developed Astrology, and Angaeus (“Argonautica” 210) was áç Astrologer - Astronomer.
They determined the duration of each season.
They knew that the diffused light, as well as that of dawn, and of twilight were due to solar light and the presence of the atmosphere.
They introduced the idea of the ether, as filling the space beyond the atmosphere.
They accepted the presence of mountains on the Moon.
They were using á lunar calendar of twelve conjunctive months of the same duration of time) every one of which was considered between two full moons.
They accepted that all phenomena were governed by the universal law, which regulates all of the sky and earth and secures the stability of the existence of the earth.
From the “Lithica” (170-182) it is derived that they also knew about lenses. From what is mentioned above it results that C.S. CHASSAPIS (Greek Astronomer)
(Summary of the main remarks on the Orphic Texts from the book "Orphica" by I.D.Passas)

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Research by Roula Papageorgiou-Haska ( V.Haskas HTML Author. Last modified on 06/05/96.