Orphic Hymn to Phanes

As my first solo attempt at translating Ancient Greek raw, the below represents about twelve hours of work.  I’ve included notes on some of the less clear choices I made in the translation, as well as some of the interesting subtext.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any modern or reliable translations to compare mine to—the Thomas Taylor translation, while pretty, is to poetic too aid me.

Πρωτογόνου, θυμίαμα σμύρναν
Πρωτόγονον καλέω διφυῆ, μέγαν, αἰθερόπλαγκτον,
ᾠογενῆ, χρυσέῃσιν ἀγαλλόμενον πτερύγεσσιν,
ταυρωπόν, γένεσιν μακάρων θνητῶν τ’ ἀνθρώπων,
σπέρμα πολύμνηστον, πολυόργιον, Ἠρικεπαῖον,
ἄρρητον, κρύφιον ῥοιζήτορα, παμφαὲς ἔρνος,
ὄσσων ὃς σκοτόεσσαν ἀπημαύρωσας ὁμίχλην
πάντῃ δινηθεὶς πτερύγων ῥιπαῖς κατὰ κόσμον
λαμπρὸν ἄγων φάος ἁγνόν, ἀφ’ οὗ σε Φάνητα κικλήσκω
ἠδὲ Πρίηπον ἄνακτα καὶ Ἀνταύγην ἑλίκωπον.
ἀλλά, μάκαρ, πολύμητι, πολύσπορε, βαῖνε γεγηθὼς
ἐς τελετὴν ἁγνήν πολυποίκιλον ὀργιοφάνταις.


For Protogonos, incense of myrrh

I call (by name) Protogonos of double-nature, great one, heaven-wandering,

egg-born, exalting in golden wings,

bull-faced, origin of the blessed and mortal among humans,

much-remembering seed, much-celebrated, Erikepaios,

unspoken, hidden heart-beat(1), radiant young seed,

he who brought down darkness(2) from his eyes lifted dark(3) fog

everywhere, spun round flying, flapping down (from) the cosmos

bearing radiant holy light, from desire I call thee, Phanes

and lord Priapos and quick-glancing(4) Antauge.

Another, blessed, of much wisdom(5), with many seeds(6), rejoicing you come

into the holy rite of initiation and manifold orgies(7).

1 ῥοιζήτορα (“rhoidzetora”) –accusative noun, appearing to come from the root words ῥοιζ- (“rhoidz-“ : buzzing, grinding, rushing sound, roar or whistle) and  ἠτορ- (“etor-” : heart or lung).

2 σκοτόεσσαν (“skotoessan”) – participle aorist feminine singular present accusative, appearing to come from σκοτός (“skotos” : darkness) and ἵζω (“hidzo” : bring down).  Interestingly, although the masculine pronoun ὃς (“hos”) is used directly in front of this participle, it is feminine—perhaps this is part of the double nature of Phanes?

3 ἀπημαύπωρσας (“apemauporasas”) –from  ἀπαμαυρόω (“apamauroo” : bring down darkness), for which I was only able to find one source which I cannot re-find due to its obscurity.  Hopefully preserving this note here will save someone else a bit of trouble in the future.

5 ἐλίκωπον (“elikopon”) – noun? adj? masculine accusative singular OR neuter singular nominative or accusative, from ἐλίκωψ? (“elikops” : quick-glancing, rolling eyes).

6 μετις (“metis”) is wisdom, craft, and skill simultaneously.  I considered rendering it as “crafty” but thought that to blithe.

7 πολὺσπορε (“poluspore”) –masculine accusative singular, from πολυ (“poly” : many/much) and σπορ (“spor”) which I guessed to mean seed.

8 ὀργιοφανταις (“orgiophantais)–feminine dative plural, appears to be a compound of ὄργιον (“orgion” : religious festival) and φαντασιά (“phantasia” : spectacle) or φάσισ (“phasis”: invocation).



Filed under art, scholarship

2 responses to “Orphic Hymn to Phanes

  1. Pingback: Urban Dionysia | Journey Through The Obsidian Dream

  2. Pingback: Orphic Hymns: Taylor vs. Athanassakis | Journey Through The Obsidian Dream

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