Orphic life’s Testimonies – the translation of the Greek title – are going to be series of ancient Latin and Greek texts concerning the way of life of the early and later Orphic followers. I am offering a simplistic translation and / or a translation available to Perseus project if available and the original’s source text.

By going through the material – some times a straightforward statement – will prove that the Orphic tradition is not a tradition but, on the contrary, is a religion system by itself with differentiations from the “standard” Greek or Roman civil religion.

Plato, Laws 6.782c

τὸ δὲ μὴν θύειν ἀνθρώπους ἀλλήλους ἔτι καὶ νῦν παραμένον ὁρῶμεν πολλοῖς: καὶ τοὐναντίον ἀκούομεν ἐν ἄλλοις, ὅτε οὐδὲ βοὸς ἐτόλμων μὲν γεύεσθαι, θύματά τε οὐκ ἦν τοῖς θεοῖσι ζῷα, πέλανοι δὲ καὶ μέλιτι καρποὶ δεδευμένοι καὶ τοιαῦτα ἄλλα ἁγνὰ θύματα, σαρκῶν δ' ἀπείχοντο ὡς οὐχ ὅσιον ὂν ἐσθίειν οὐδὲ τοὺς τῶν θεῶν βωμοὺς αἵματι μιαίνειν, ἀλλὰ Ὀρφικοί τινες λεγόμενοι βίοι ἐγίγνοντο ἡμῶν τοῖς τότε, ἀψύχων μὲν ἐχόμενοι πάντων, ἐμψύχων δὲ τοὐναντίον πάντων ἀπεχόμενοι.

The custom of men sacrificing one another is, in fact, one that survives even now among many peoples; whereas amongst others we hear of how the opposite custom existed, when they were forbidden so much as to eat an ox, and their offerings to the gods consisted, not of animals, but of cakes of meal and grain steeped in honey, and other such bloodless sacrifices, and from flesh they abstained as though it were unholy to eat it or to stain with blood the altars of the gods; instead of that, those of us men who then existed lived what is called an “Orphic life,” keeping wholly to inanimate food and, contrariwise, abstaining wholly from things animate.


Euripides, Hippolytus 952

ἤδη νυν αὔχει καὶ δι' ἀψύχου βορᾶς / σίτοις καπήλευ' Ὀρφέα τ' ἄνακτ' ἔχων / βάκχευε πολλῶν γραμμάτων τιμῶν καπνούς

Continue then your confident boasting, take up a diet of greens and play the showman with your food, make Orpheus your lord and engage in mystic rites, holding the vaporings of many books in honor.

Note: At the time of Euripides the Orphic sect was slowly underlined throughout the Greek world as an ascetic religion with an austere vegetarian diet and a reputation for hypocrisy.

Diogenes Laertios 8.33

τὴν δ’ ἁγνείαν εἶναι διὰ καθαρμῶν καὶ λουτρῶν καὶ περριραντηρίων καὶ διὰ τοῦ αὐτὸν καθαρεύειν ἀπό τε κήδους καὶ λεχοῦς καὶ μιάσματος παντὸς καὶ ἀπέχεσθαι βρωτῶν θνησειδίων τε κρεῶν καὶ τριγλῶν καὶ μελανούρων καὶ ὠῶν καὶ τῶν ὠοτόκων ζῴων καὶ κυάμων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ὧν παρακελεύονται καὶ οἱ τὰς τελετὰς ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς ἐπιτελοῦντες.

The rituals of purification, bathing and sprinkles form the Orphic cleansing and by staying away from any funerary rituals, women who expecting child and from any kind of miasma; and to avoid to eat meat of dead animals, mullets, oblada melanura, eggs, oviparous animals, broad beans and everything else which is prohibited by those who perform rituals in the temples.