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Littera Antiqua 7 (2013)

ALBERTO BERNAB
(Universidad Complutense)
*

THE COMMENTARY OF THE DERVENI PAPYRUS:
THE LAST OF PRESOCRATIC COSMOGONIES


INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
1. Purpose
The Derveni commentator tries to explain the myth narrated in the poem of
Orpheus as a cosmogonic process where the echoes of presocratic philosophers such as
Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia and the Atomists resound. In this paper
my aim is to reconstruct his proposal, discuss its relations with other presocratic
cosmogonies and point out that, behind a certain naivety and crude reasoning, there is a
systematic cosmogony and a valuable intellectual effort.
1
The poem and the commentary
have very different tones and belong to different periods, but they cannot be understood
separately.

2. Assumptions of the commentator
2.1. The commentator considers that Orpheus text is like a riddle
(col. 7.5), and that the mythical presentation is a deliberate attempt to hide a
philosophical message that can be recovered by methods such as etymology and
synonymy.
2.2. The commentator wants to make what I will call theogonic episodes (the
different episodes of the mythical history that are narrated or referred to in the poem)
coincide with phases of physical cosmogony, which I will call the cosmogonic phases.

*
The Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation has given financial support for the research of this
paper (FFI2010-17047).
1
About Derveni cosmogony cf. Betegh (2004: 224-77), Kouremenos Parssoglou Tsantsanoglou (2006,
from now on quoted KPT), and particularly McKirahan (2012). He has revised a former version of this paper
and has made excellent suggestions and corrections. Also Valeria Piano and Marco Antonio Santamara
read the former version and made valuable observations. I thank them very much. I follow the text edited
by Bernab (2004a) for the reconstructed Orpheus fragments (from now on quoted OF followed by
fragment number) and Bernab (2007b) for the papyrus text, and normally the translations by KPT. I write
in italics the fragments of the poem quoted in the papyrus.




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He thinks that with this analysis he will unravel the cosmogony that has been
allegorically presented by Orpheus. On the other hand, for him Ouranos, Kronos and
Zeus
2
are not different gods, but manifestations of , a Mind that intelligently
configures things-that-are. Each gods realm is a phase of involvement in the
cosmogony.
2.3. is identified with and both can be designated in the last cosmogonic
phase with the symbolic name of Zeus (col. 17).
3
The Mind-air exercises a function of
coordination and direction of the matter in the current world order
4
(usually referred to
as , col. 8.12).
5
The birth of a god and the advice of one deity to another are
interpreted by the commentator as metaphors of how the - modifies himself or
increases his own wisdom.
2.4. Following the common view of post-Parmenidean cosmologies, the
commentator asserts that there is no generation of things,
6
because matter is
ungenerated and incorruptible, divided in small particles;
7
he calls them (), the
things-that-are (col. 16.7 etc.).
8
Through the action of the , these particles can be
combined to create other realities that the commentator calls , the things-
that-are-now (col. 16.2 etc.), which, in as much as they are composite, are subject to
disintegration and aggregation.
9
Hence, there is an ontology in two levels: permanent
entities and transient entities.
10

2.5. Nevertheless, he does not specify the repertoire of ; in other words, he

2
The role of Nyx is difficult to define, but I postulate that the Night is not characterized by any activity,
instead its effects are produced by the absence of light and heat; cf. 8.2.
3
The idea that Zeus is intelligent air seems to originate from the words of the poem itself, since in a
slightly later version (Arist. Mu. 401a 25 = OF 31) we read the verse ,
. It was reconstructed in the poem by Merkelbach (1967: 24), following the parallel of the fragment
quoted by Aristote. Also the commentaries seem to indicate that the expression was already present in the
Derveni theogony. Cf. n. 94. Air is perhaps identified with Zeus in Democr. B 30 D.-K. and Diogenes of
Apollonia attributes this identification to Homer (A 8 D.-K.), cf. Kouremenos in KPT 219.
4
Zeus is not so much a material element, ... as the physical function that the element in question is going
to develop Piano (2010: 29), following a suggestion by Di Donato.
5
It seems that Orpheus uses in a double sense, both hierarchical and temporal, cf. Bernab (2007a:
103-4).
6
Col. 16.1-8, cf. Betegh (2004: 225-7), Kouremenos in KPT 29.
7
Col. 21.2 .
8
From now on, I will write , regardless of the actual spelling in the text. On the commentators
terminology cf. McKirahan (2012: 81-3).
9
The author is not always consistent because sometimes he uses to refer to the things-that-are-
now, constituted by what were before, f. i., in col. 13.10-11 he uses with , being evident
that he refers to transient entities, not to the permanent ones.
10
Betegh (2004: 227), Kouremenos in KPT 29, McKirahan (2012: 82-3).




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does not specify the type of material that elementary particles are made of.
11
The author
must have thought about particles of different materials, but in the part of the papyrus
that has survived he does not specify how many nor which.
2.6. The actions by which can configure and by which these
latter ones can be disarranged or transformed are designated by our commentator using
terms that are well known to presocratic philosophers.
12
He uses /- to
give a name/to be named (col. 18.3, 17.1), to explain that certain entities are not born,
but have always existed, while those who do not know think that they are only born
when they are given a name.
2.7. The commentator specifies that the particles or the things-that-are can cause
or suffer different actions through the agency of , or the other ; some refer
to local movement,
13
others allude to its heat or cold;
14
the combined action of heat and
separation produces specific effects: when the heat is low and are kept
separately, their movement is called to float in air (col. 17.9). However,
when the heat is high and they suffer an abrupt movement, the result is called
to strike (col. 15.1, in middle voice in col. 14.4). When there is a controlled heat, the
particles can be combined. On the contrary, the separation or the distinction of these
particles can be defined in several ways.
15
Finally, some verbs express the position of
some in relation to others.
16


3. Narrative and Chronological order
The poem does not follow the chronological order of the myth, instead it starts in
medias res and rapidly moves on to describe the preceding events to finish with the
subsequent phases of Zeus rule. The commentator follows the narrative order of the

11
In his commentary only a few materials are mentioned: fire (col. 9.5-6), air (col. 19.1-2), cf. McKirahan
(2012: 96), and earth, that is one of the things-that-are-now (col. 18.1), but is not mentioned as an original
element in any of the parts of the text that have survived. The commentator warns about the existence of
particles that are hottest and brightest ({} [ ] [] col. 14.1), but hotness
and brightness are not supportive of each other, as it can be seen in col 25.1-3.
12
F. i. come into being (col. 13.11), bring into existence (col. 25.10), and
bring to an end (col. 19.7).
13
to be put in motion (col. 21.2), to leap (col.21.3), to keep quiet (col. 13.12).
14
to heat (col. 10.12), to make cool (col. 10.12).
15
Separation: f. i. to dissolve (col. 10.12), or distinction: f. i. to delimit (col. 14.12), or
to separate (col. 15.2).
16
F. i. to encompass (col. 13.14), to penetrate (col. 11.3) or to surpass (col.
24.5).




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poem and does not present said phases as a story of successive events, instead he refers
to the same cosmogonic phase in a discontinuous fashion in different parts of the
papyrus. But in the same way that we can reconstruct the mythical events in a
chronological order, we can recover the cosmogonic phases in a chronological order.
The facts are not presented by the commentator in order, but they are not confused at
all. Therefore it must be a fundamental principle in any reconstruction of the cosmogony
not to arbitrarily mix the elements of each theogonic episode nor the elements of each
cosmogonic phase (which are correlative) with other episodes or phases.
In the following paragraphs I will try to recover as much as possible the
chronological order of the events in the theogonic poem and, consequently, the order
of the cosmogonic phases traced by the commentator. I will also present in parallel each
of the events to see 1) what each of the theogonic episodes could have meant from the
perspective of an archaic poet such as the author of these verses,
17
2) the interpretation
that the commentator makes of each of them.
18
Each of the paragraphs of the following
section will have two titles: the relevant theogonic episode and, in parenthesis, the
cosmogonic phase that the commentator links to each episode.

THEOGONIC EPISODES AND COSMOGONIC PHASES
4. Nyx, the first deity (indistinct darkness, as original state)
4.1. We suppose (especially taking into account Aristotles testimony, which seems
to refer to this theogony or a similar one),
19
that Nyx was the first being. She is probably
eternal, since the text does not show that she is the daughter of any other god or that
she emerged from another being.
A verse of the poem,
Ouranos, son of Euphrone, who was the first to become king,
20

indicates that, in fact, Ouranos is the son of Nyx and given that he was the first king, Nyx
did not reign.
21


17
For the sake of convenience, I will call him Orpheus, as the commentator does.
18
Indeed, section 2) will be given more prominence. I will mention only the main features of section 1) and
will refer to my previous work on this topic for details: cf. Bernab (2002) and (2007a).
19
Arist. Metaph. 1091b 4 ,
, ... the old poets agree with this inasmuch as they say that not those
who are first in time, e.g. Night ... reign and rule, but Zeus.
20
Col. 14.6, OF 8.3 , .
21
Cf. n. 19 Euphronides means Euphrones (i.e. Nights) son. About Nyx in Orphic cosmogonies cf.




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4.2. We do not have references from the commentator about the state of matter in
the pre-cosmogonic state, insofar as the cosmogony or the creation of order is always
done following an original state that, for example, neither triggers an interest in Hesiod.
I propose that for the commentator the darkness of Nyx was probably associated with a
state of confusion in which no individual things were distinct. He suggests that the reign
of Nyx was a cold and passive darkness in which the particles of matter existed already,
given that he asserts on several occasions that things-that-are have always existed.
If neither light nor heat existed (or, better, were separate), it is possible that the
commentator imagined a collection of still particles, invisible to a hypothetical
observer
22
and linked together by the cold that surrounds them.
23

5. Birth and reign of Ouranos; birth of aither (the )
5.1. Acording the Orphic theogony Ouranos was the son of Nyx and was the very
first to reign.
24

The mention of Ge in col. 14.3 as mother of Kronos and the testimony of later
cosmogonies
25
reinforces the idea that she was also born from Nyx to be Ouranos couple,
although in the poem the author could have taken this fact for granted. There is no
mention of a personified Day, and it is very likely that Ouranos was conceived as a god of
light.
During the reign of Ouranos it seems that he created aither through his
ejaculation;
26
according to the comment it seems to be bright and hot.
5.2. The commentator tries to prove that gods were not born; instead Mind has
always existed: he interprets everything related to what the poet calls birth as the
predominance of a quality of . For this reason he is not interested in the birth of

Tortorelli Ghidini (1985) and (1991), Bernab (1998a), and Piano (2010).
22
A figure that I take from McKirahan (2012: 91).
23
I think this would be the situation of the primeval universe, a situation that for Betegh (2004: 227-30) and
Kouremenos in KPT 178, 209-10 is the stage of fires dominance and for McKirahan (2012: 108)

is the rule of
Ouranos. However, I think that in the first case, as well as in the second, there is an alteration of a prior
state of things. It can be understood that for the commentator Nyx was more a cosmological entity than a
cosmogonic force like -

will be, cf. Piano (2010: 34).
24
Col. 14.6 (OF 10) , . In col. 16.3 (OF 12.1) the mention of
of the first-born king has to refer to Ouranos, who is the first king and now we know
that he was also the first to be born.
25
OF 20-1 (Eudemian), 149 (Rhapsodies). The commentator also mentions Ge in col. 22.7-12.
26
Col. 13.4 (OF 8)

that he had firstly ejaculated aither. The subject of was
probably Ouranos. Burkert (2003: 100ff.), (2004: 93) points out an Egyptian parallel of this episode; Nuns
cosmogony, according to which the primeval water generates an island where the primordial god Atum
settles. Atum masturbates, ejaculates and gives birth to Shu, the bright air, and his twin sister Tefnut.




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Ouranos (and even less of Ge). A (reconstructed) etymology of his name allows him to
characterize his function in physical terms:
For when, [Mind,] as dete[rmining] the nature of all the things-that-are who were [not yet
being struck, received the designation Ourano]s (i. e. determining Mind).
27

The reference to a determination suggests that the commentator understood the
previous situation as a sort of confusion without internal limits. He does not explain this
determination but we can imagine it following the logic of his reasoning. Ouranos, the
, must have been conceived as active, warm and bright, meaning that his
first action would have been to give visibility with light and to split the existing particles
with heat, in what was before a dark and magmatic mass where nothing could be seen. It
probably also carried air, an element that the commentator always associates with .
It is interesting to point out that the air that causes distinction and differentiation in the
One is a feature of a Pythagorean cosmogony.
28
However, it must be assumed that this
first differentiation of the particles caused by does not cause a significant
movement capable to produce complex entities and it is probable that the state
corresponds to the one defined as they were floating as former things-that-are.
29

Regarding the ejaculation of aither, the event is explained in physical terms by the
commentator as springing out the brightest and hottest, having been separated from
itself.
30
The subject of the sentence has to be Ouranos. Given that in col. 25.1ff. the text
indicates that something (most likely the sun) is composed of an accumulation of the
hottest and brightest particles different from the moon, whose configuration is made
of bright but cold particles, and the stars, which are the result of particles that do not
accumulate I think the brightest and hottest particles mentioned here in col. 14 have to
do with the particles that when agglomerated create the sun and when scattered create
the stars.
31


27
Col. 14.11-3 ] [] [ ] [ ] [] [
] [].
28
Arist. Ph. 213b 22 (58 b 30 D.-K.), cf. Bernab - Mendoza (2013).
29
Col. 17.10 . In middle voice means float, to be suspended in the air (cf.
DGE s.v.); this shows that a separation has happened. It is possible that the commentator sees an
etymological relation between and , cf. Jourdan (2003: 17 n. 4), Betegh (2004: 269),
Kouremenos in KPT 219.
30
Col. 14.1-2 ] {} [ ] [] .
31
Kouremenos in KPT 180 thinks that [ ] [] referred to (), but the
neuter indicates that we must read instead of . Kouremenos reconstruction of the
primordial mixture is interesting, but poorly based. The use of an accusative in the commentary and in
the verse seem to imply that in both cases the term is used as a transitive.




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6. Kronos, the second divine generation (the and the birth of the sun)
6.1. In the poem Kronos must be the son of Ouranos and Ge;
32
just as in Hesiods
Theogony, Kronos castrates Ouranos.
33

However, in Hesiod the phallus falls into the sea and Aphrodite is born from it,
something that clearly does not happen in our poem since Aphrodite (col. 21) is probably
born from one of Zeus ejaculations
34
. The poet probably considers that the phallus would
stay in the air, close to the Earth, which would explain its identification with the sun. It is
generally thought that this identification is made by the commentator, but Maria
Scermino
35
argues that the identification was already in the poem.
6.2. The state of Kronos reign, according to the commentator, is suggested for the
first time as the state prior to the changes produced by Zeus:
So, knowing that fire, when mixed with the other things, agitates the things-that-are and
prevents them from coming together because of the heat.
36

Ouranos emasculation is translated by the commentator into scientific terms:
Mind in this phase provokes a great accumulation of heat, a great concentration of fire
particles (which the poet symbolizes as Ouranos phallus) that split from the sky and
became closer to Earth. He uses etymology to explain as . The
extreme heat produced by these particles (i.e., the sun) violently affects the particles of
matter ( ) which were still, but now collide without being able to configure
things.
37
Where there was stillness before, now there is excessive movement; a pendular
action that also prevents the configuration of a cosmos.
38


32
Col. 15.6 (OF 8.4): , , Following him in turn was Kronos, and then,
Zeus the contriver. The sentence so he says that this Kronos was born from Helios to Ge in col. 14.2-3, is
easy to explain if the commentator believes that the sun (Helios) is the phallus of Ouranos, cf. Bernab
(2002: 110), (2007c: 18).
33
This action seems to be alluded only by the poet with the euphemism did something big
(col. 14.5 = OF 10) and explained with for the latter was deprived of the kingship (col. 14.8-9:
[] ). The verb

in col. 14.13 [] [
] indicates that these words were in the poem, cf. OF 10 in Bernab (2007b: Addenda et
corrigenda, 444).
34
Cf. 13.1.
35
Scermino (2011).
36
Col. 9.5-7: [] []
. About , cf. Leucipp. A 1 D.-K., Democr. B 164 D.-K. and
Kouremenos in KPT 178-179.
37
The assertion that Kronos provokes the collision of particles through the sun is very important, since it
implies that the commentator interpretates that the heating was not provoked by Kronos per se, but by his
use of the suns heat. It is also clear that for him the sun existed during Kronos reign, before Zeus actions.
Cf. Ferrari (2013: 63).
38
During this period there is a counterweight to Kronos use of the sun: Nyx, but it is better to deal with




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7. Zeus dethrones Kronos ( controls the sun)
7.1. Perhaps the poem alluded to the birth of Zeus. What is clear is that it refers to
Kronos defeat by Zeus and how he took over Kronos sovereignty at the same time. This
theogonic episode is the beginning of the action of the poem:
Zeus then, when from his father the prophesied rule
and power in his hands had taken, and the glorious daimon.
39

In these verses, the poet describes in medias res the moment in which Zeus takes
power into his hands.
40
His problem now is not to be dethroned. This will make him visit
Nyx.
7.2. The commentator wants to clarify some extremes. He insists that Zeus is not
born. He is intelligent air that has always existed (col. 17). The stage in which Mind
creates collisions is followed by the stage in which the Mind (named now Zeus) controls
the excess of fire.
The commentator explains how Zeus is the first or his power is exercised (
) from col. 8.3 onwards: first, he points out with reason that is in
anastrophe, Zeus gains the strength from his father, he does not take a power contrary
to the gods (col. 8.9-10). Afterward he rejects the sense that the verse seems to have: that
Zeus received from his own father strength and divinity (col. 9.2-4). The reason for this
mistake is that people do not understand that Orpheus is speaking allegorically (col. 8.13-
14) and means he made the power belong to the most powerful, just as a son (is) of the
father (col. 9.1-2). There is neither a son nor a father, nor does one take over the reign of
the other. What we have is a concealed cosmogonic tale. After lines 9.5-7, where he
mentions the phase of Kronos,
41
he continues.
42

He (Zeus) removes it (fire) to such a distance as to rend it unable, once removed, to prev[ent
the] things-that-are from condensing. For whatever is ignited is sub[dued, and having been
sub]dued it is mixed with the others.
The basis of the explanations expressed in the text is the following:

this issue below ( 8).
39
Col. 8.4-5 (OF 5) [] / ] {}[][ ][]
[] .
40
I understand that ] ... [] is an hendiadys, the power of the glorious daimon (i.e.
Kronos), cf. Bernab (2002: 102), (2007a: 104). West (1983: 84ff., 114) and Rusten (1984) and (1985) consider
that the glorious daimon is Phanes Firstborn (Protogonos), a character of Rhapsodies. Cf. 10.
41
[] etc., cf. 6.2 and n. 36.
42
Col. 9.7-10 [ ] [ ] . []
[. ]<> [].




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a) The existence of both fire and other elements.
b) He calls mixing () any kind of combination of one element with
others.
According to the commentator, the relation between the things that belong to the
current order is something more than simply mixture. The reason why they are able to
mix together is that the things-that-are are dominated ([) by Zeus-.
c) The metaphor: take into his hands expresses Zeus control Zeus meaning the
intelligent air over fires predominance during the period of Kronos reign.
43

Nevertheless the most interesting feature is that - acts according to
rational principles
44
and has a purpose,
45
that is, the commentator proposes a teleological
interpretation of its actions (cf. 10.2).
8. Consultation of Nyx (protective action of night)
8.1. Zeus visits Nyx to ask her how can he preserve his kingdom.
46
We can partially
reconstruct some verses:
[the cave in which] Nyx who prophesies everything, immortal nurse [of the gods was seated],
prophesy... from the innermost shrine
[she] prophesied
all that it was right for him (i.e., Zeus) [to accomplish.]
So that he might h[old sway] over the noble seat of snow-clad Olympus.
47

We can assume that, after handing down the power to Ouranos, she retired to an
that, if it is similar to later cosmogonies,
48
is a sort of cave. This suggests that her
dwelling is subterranean, and perhaps it means a particular relation of Nyx with Earth.
49

8.2. With a long digression on synonymy (col. 10.1-8) the commentator tries to
prove that the epithet who prophesied everything means [

43
I do not share Kouremenos view (KPT 31): Dervenis author understands Zeus taking the power from his
father as allegory of the transition from the fire era to the Mind era. It seems clear that Ouranos (
) and Kronos ( ) were also Mind () for him.
44
Cf. 9.5-7: [] .
45
Col. 9.8 [ ] .
46
In the poem, the Night is the progeny of the lineage. Other interesting details can be found in Piano 2010,
24. Nights prophecy occurs after Zeus rise to power according to the order of citation of the passages in
the poem. There are no convincing reasons to think that the commentator altered the original order.
47
Col. 10.9, 10.11, 11.1, 11.10 and 12.2 (OF 6.2-3): [] [] /...
... [] / [ ] [ ],/ [ ]
. About the qualifying adjectives associated with Nyx cf. Bernab (2007a: 105-6).
48
OF 163, 208.
49
On similarities between Night and Hesiodic Gaia, cf. Piano (2010: 40ff.).




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[.
50
It looks as if in the process of demythologization he makes Zeus increase
his own Nous by learning from Nyx that he has to control the excessive heat of the sun.
The commentator adds that in a (insufficient) way, Nyx was already acting in Chronos
reign as a counterweight for the suns divisive actions.
And [by calling her] nurse he (i.e. Orpheus) is saying in an enigmatic way that those things
which the su[n thaws by heating], night con[geals] by ma[king cold] ... those things which the sun
hea[ted].
51

The commentators interpretations of the poems text are:
a) He identifies Nyx as the origin of cold, opposed to the sun, the origin of heat.
b) He reinterprets , an agent noun of , in the sense of thicken,
congeal that appears in passages such as Od. 9.246.
52

c) He links heating / cooling [] with undoing ]
/compacting (freezing) [.
53

d) He alters the value of ; in the poem it is a substantive innermost shrine
from an adjective with a passive meaning (place) unpenetrated/ impenetrable, and the
preposition shows the place from where Nyx makes her predictions. On the other
hand, the commentator takes it differently:
He [says] that she prophesied from the [innermost shrin]e meaning to say that the depth of
night is unpenetrating for it does not penetrate as the ligth does, but daylight occupies it as it
remains in the same place.
54

It is clear that he interprets as an adjective with an active meaning that
does not penetrate (instead of the passive sense present in the verse). This
interpretation is based on the observation that the darkness does not have an active
capacity like light.
55
Instead, it remains passive and motionless []
while the light is active and it moves, which allows it to prevail ( []) over
darkness.
Hence, the sun exists before Zeus can control it.
56
In my view, Orpheus considered

50
The characteristic commentators saying is ] . Regarding the educational value that the
commentator attributes to Nights prediction, cf. Piano (2010: 11).
51
Col. 10.11-13 [ ] [] [] [ ] ,
[] [ ] [.
52
Cf. Kouremenos in KPT 186, and the statements by Piano (2010: 31-3).
53
Cf. Democr. B 297 .
54
Col. 11.1-4 [] [] , []
[] , [] [].
55
Recall that is a verb of motion.
56
Cf. n. 45. Contra Betegh (2004: 230-235), who says that Zeus created the sun.




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that the sun was the phallus of Heaven that, after its castration, had remained between
the sky and the earth. However, the commentator believes that it was the physical result
of a great concentration of fire particles used by to overheat and, because
of that, to agitate the things that are.
57
In the myth, Zeus does not create the sun, but
instead he swallows it. The commentator thinks that - only controls the great
concentration of fire particles by changing its place and size.
Somehow in this phase, before Zeus takes control of it, the sun moves in a way that
when it is close to the material particles that constitute the earth it lights them up, heats
them and makes them collide. Nevertheless, its path moves alternately away and the
night is not penetrated by the light; darkness and cold return, and the particles become
compact once again. Naturally, this alternative of phases of freezing and violent clash of
particles cannot produce a cosmos.
e) He gives to the meaning protect.
58
It looks like the commentator is
suggesting to interpret ... ... [] as [Nyx] protects from that which does
not penetrate. The night, that is dark and cold, when it is not penetrated by the sun,
protects the integrity of things, although they are dissolved by the sun with its
penetrating light and heat.
59

We also know through the commentary on the last verse of the fragment (OF 6.5)
that the commentator tries to demythologize the tale once more, because he seems to
reject the simple meaning of Olympus to discuss (col. 12.3-10) what looks like an
interpretation that we later find in Aristarchus:
60
he declares that Olympus does not
mean heaven, but time.
61
The commentators effort to include time in the cosmogony
seems to indicate that, differently from later Orphic theogonies, Time did not appear as a
separate entity in the poem and instead just as in Hesiods Theogony time starts when

57
Cf. col. 14.3-4 (sc. ) .
58
Col. 11.5-9 []. , [ ] ,
. [, ] . And prophesying and
availing mean the same. One has to consider what availing and prophesying are applied to: Believing
that such and such a god prophesies (i.e. avails), they go to inquire what they should do. In this phrase
prophesy can be replaced by protect because the person who seeks an oracle wants to know what he has
to do.
59
This situation cannot be, as Kouremenos suggests in KPT 185, the result of Zeus reign ( 10); it is clear
that it is a previous phase of the poem, as well as of the cosmogony.
60
Cf. Sch. Il. 1.402 (Ariston.) (I 115 Erbse), An. Par. in Cod. Par. Lat. 7530; cf. also Isid. Etym. 1.20; Funghi (1983:
17), Colabella (1993: 73-5), Casadess (2001), Schironi (2001).
61
Cf. Brisson (1997), Betegh (2004, 249-52), better in Piano (2013).




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the first variation of the state of things begins.
62

It is also possible that since the commentator believes that Olympus is time, the
interpretation of the verse [ ] , has to do
with how Zeus thinks about how to control time
63
which could mean that the
commentator includes the organization of the periods of time like day, month or year in
Zeus order.
64

9. Kronos advice (how to keep the cosmos stable)
9.1. Zeus also consults his father, but the predictions of Kronos are unknown to us,
since the citation that we have of this episode only mentions that Zeus heard the
prophecies from his father.
65

9.2. The commentary points out that Zeus does not obey (one of the meanings of
), nor did he receive orders from Nyx; he seems to imply that - does not
need advice or that he has learned by himself from the previous cosmic situation that he
has to change his strategy.
10. Zeus swallows Ouranos phallus (- controls the sun located in the middle)
10.1. After receiving advice from Kronos and Nyx, Zeus takes action
He gulped down the phallus (of Ouranos), who was first to ejaculate the aither.
66

The interpretation of the verse has been very controversial, but I will not dwell on
it since I have discussed it elsewhere.
67
I think that is, as the commentator
understands, Ouranos phallus, not reverend Phanes.
68
After citing the verse and before

62
Afterwards he discusses the meaning of , but the text is heavily damaged.
63
To him the existence of another divinity is impossible, and least of all that said divinity would teach
something to Zeus, cf. 9.2.
64
Kouremenos in KPT 189 is right stating that: in its equation with Olympus time has nothing to do with
the figure of unaging Time. Cf. Brisson (1997), contra Tortorelli-Ghidini (1991). Piano (2013) presents very
convincing arguments against this identification and suggests a more plausible alternative that can be
synthesized in two aspects: a) the commentator identifies Zeus dominion over Olympus with his ability to
regulate time, and b) time is an image of sovereignty. Zeus is not limited by space and time, which defines
him as an absolute alterity of the structured cosmos.
65
Col. 13.1 (OF 7): [] []. The issue is dealt with in the
Rhapsodies (OF 239), but the testimonies are indirect and the content of Kronos predictions are not clear
either.
66
Col. 13.4 (OF 8): , .
67
Bernab (2002), (2007a), (2007c).
68
Ouranos phallus (substantive) Burkert (1987: 22), (1998: 389 n. 14), (1999: 81-2), (2003: 98-101), Kirk-
Raven-Schofield (
2
1983: 32), Graf (1985: 588), Bernab (1989), (2002), (2007a), (2007c), Janko (2002), Betegh
(2004: 111-24). Adjective, referred to Phanes: West (1983: 84-90), Rusten (1984), Parker (1995), Kouremenos
in KPT 26f.; Santamara (2012). Cf. variants of this view in Edwards (1991), Brisson (2003) followed by
Jourdan (2003: 59-64) , Scermino (2011), and the criticisms in Bernab (2007c).




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commenting on it, the author has a particular interest in pointing out that the poet is
expressing a hidden meaning. Such an indication at this precise moment would only be
pertinent if in this verse there were references that would not be readily acceptable
prima facie. This would be the case if the text referred to the ingestion of a phallus and
the ejaculation of aither.
69
I think that in the preceding verse we would find a reference
to Ouranos in genitive case, which would be the antecedent of the masculine relative.
70

The commentator quotes other verses of the poem (in a very deteriorated passage
of the papyrus) that most likely followed immediately upon the verse where the
swallowing of the phallus is mentioned:
and he acquired the ingenuity and royal honor of the gods
... [when Zeus swallowed] all the strengths [of Ouranos].
71

The poet insists in these verses that Zeus acquires two abilities from his
predecessor Ouranos: , practical intelligence,
72
and the regal dignity of the blessed
ones. The next verse is not complete, but it seems to mention that Zeus incorporates in
him all the strengths of Ouranos when he swallows his phallus.
73

10.2. After the digression about the necessity to interpret the poem adequately, in
his desire to avoid the most crude details, the commentator explains the presence of the
phallus-sun in it as a metaphor of generation:
Seeing that people consider all birth to depend on the ge[nita]ls and that without the
genitals there can be [no bi]rth, he used this (word) and likened the genital organ to the sun. For
without the sun it is not pos[sible] for the things-that-are to be[come such and after becom]ing
things-that-are... to come to re[st
74
... because of] the sun everything in the sam[e manner] ... nor to

69
It has to be mentioned that there is a Hurrian precedent of this theme: just like Kumarbi, who becomes
pregnant when he emasculates Anu, the god of Heaven, in the Orphic theogony, Zeus swallows the phallus-
sun that remained in the aither and he also becomes pregnant with all the gods. Cf. Bernab (1987: 139ff.),
Garca Trabazo (2002: 155ff.), and Bernab (2004b), with bibliography about comparisons between both
textes. Burkert (1999: 81ff.), (2004: 91) adds a passage by D. L. 1.5
, ... ,
, <>
,
, considering that Diogenes refers to this tradition.
70
Alternatively we can accept Ferraris (2013: 61) proposal: to read instead of , with correptio epica and
ellipsis of the demonstrative pronoun (cf. Hom. Od. 21.155-6, Hes. Th. 973-4).
71
Col. 15.14-5 (OF 11): [ ] ( ... ] West : [ ] Janko :
[ ] Burkert) []/ [ ] [ (Janko).
72
I do not consider as a theonym but as a substantive, cf. Betegh (2004: 113f., 162f.), Sider (2011: 33),
and OF 11. Cf. also the epithet (OF 10.3) and the verb (OF 16.1-2 and 18.2) that define Zeus
activity.
73
Janko (2002: ad loc. in the critical apparatus).
74
I do not agree with Kouremenos exegetic effort in KPT 196 in which he strives to demonstrate that
does not refer here to . Of the original things-that-are it could not be said that they




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things-that-are... to encompass.
75

The sun, according to the commentator, has a powerful capacity to generate; kept
in the right place it can stabilize the union of particles that form things, in other words,
the beings of the ordered world.
The commentator explains the process:
76

in order to prevent the sun] from striking them (sc. things-that-are) against one another and
cause the things-that-are [once] separated, stand apart from each other. For when the sun is
separated and confined in the middle, it (sc. Mind) holds fast, having fixed them, both those above
the sun and those below.
We dont know how Zeus separates the fire to place it in the middle. We have to
assume that, since he is intelligent, he encompasses it (cf. without context in
col. 13.14) and once it is encompassed by that mass of air that controls the fire he
probably compacts it and places it at the right distance from things (col. 15). This way he
prevents the excessive activity of the sun (by proximity or because it is not controlled by
the air, or by both) from continuing to cause the particles to collide in to their hectic
movement without being able to form . However, placed in the center,
where it is isolated yet at a convenient distance and is controlled by the intelligent air, it
is source of life and in this way the things-that-are now can appear.
In the middle can be understood in a number of different ways,
77
but it is clear
that it does not mean in the center, since the commentator assumes that the sun
moves.
78
I think that he is referring to the central area, between heaven and earth, in a
similar way to the path of the sun that Phathon was unable to follow; he ascended too
high and burnt part of heaven or he descended too low and burnt part of the earth.
An interesting complement to this scene is given later on by the commentator
when he talks about the moon and the stars.
79

If the god did not wish the things-that-are-now to exist, he would not have made the sun. But

become. Hence, the idea is that the beings configured from elemental particles can survive in the present
situation.
75
Col. 13.7-14: [] [] [ ] ,
[ ], [] [ ] []
[ ] [, ] [ ] [ ... ] [] [ ... ]
[] .[ ... ] [.
76
Col. 15.1-5: <> [ ]. [] [] ,
. [] ,
.
77
Cf. the discussion by Betegh (2004: 235-43), McKirahan (2012: 89-91), and Ferrari (2013).
78
Cf. Kouremenos in KPT 206.
79
Cf. 16.2.




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he made it of such a form and size as is related at the beginning of this account.
80

This passage seems to indicate that Zeus controlled not only the suns distance but
also its size, something that seems to recall a passage from Heraclitus about the Erinyes
and the size of the sun discussed in col. 4.
On the other hand he seems to be interested in saying that the things-that-are-now
are not created, but as reconfigurations of things that were before:
He means something like from that time is the beginning, from which the magistracy
reigns. It has (already) been related that Mind, striking the things-that-are against one other and
setting them apart toward the present transformative stage, did not [create] different things from
different things but different things from the same things.
As for the phrase and then Zeus the contriver, that he is not different one but the same is
clear. And this indicates it.
81

Zeus does not create, he organizes: he establishes the control of Mind over the
world (and it is called ), and he dominates and arranges (col. 19.1ff.). Things that
previously floated (most likely in the reign of Ouranos) are now configured
(col. 17.8) and remain within the air (col. 17.10-1). The earth is also in the air (col. 18.2).
Those who do not know understand this situation of the dominance of intelligent air as
the birth of Zeus (col. 17). The poets and the commentators vision coincide, both
attribute to Zeus the quality of and use for his creation the verb ,
implying a determined intellectual plan we can consider teleological (cf. 8.2).
11. Zeus pregnant (- encompasses all reality)
11.1. Once he has swallowed Ouranos phallus, Zeus absorbs his generating capacity
and introduces it in his womb to become pregnant with all the gods and goddesses that
Ouranos had generated:
of the phallus of the first-born king; t him were joined all
the immortal
blessed gods and goddesses,
as well as rivers, delightful springs and all else
that had then been born; and he himself became the sole one.
82


80
Col. 25.9-12: , .
[] .
81
Col. 15.7-12 <> [] , . , [ ]
[ ] [] [
.
[] [ .
82
Col. 16.3-6 (OF 12) (ante , < > Sider : <. .> Brisson)




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After getting pregnant, Zeus gives birth to all the gods again. This theogonic
episode appears for the first time in relation to the verse in the beginning of the poem
that mentions the program of poem:
who were born from Zeus, the king [of great strength].
83

In what has survived of the poem there is no mention of how the world was created
the first time by Ouranos, perhaps because the poet did not want to deal with this issue
and wanted to focus on the second generation. The fact that Zeus becomes the
origin from where the rest of the beings will be born, makes him the ultimate king of the
gods:
And now he is king of all and will be afterwards.
84

The poet insists that he will continue being the ultimate king of gods in the
future. The situation of divine power has been stabilized. The wars over the control of
Olympus are over and a definitive order has been reached. Thanks to his , Zeus
exercises his supremacy over the whole universe forever (afterwards).
11.2. The commentator understands that the return to this state of gestation of
things that had already happened is an allegorical way to explain that matter is
unbegotten and everlasting:
[That] he called the sun a [genital org]an has been made clear. And in support of the fact
that the things-that-are-now come from existent ones,
85
he says. ...
In these verses he indicates that the things-that-are always existed and that the things-that-
are-now come to be from existing ones.
86

The commentator interprets that Zeus exists alone in this phase (col. 16.6, OF
12.4),
87
and the fact that he becomes king of everything forever (col. 16.14, OF 13) in
terms that seem to echo Anaxagoras work, where Mind has a somehow superior status
to the rest of matter.
88


, / /
, / . It should be pointed out that the swallowing of
the phallus does not correspond to the creation of the sun, like Kouremenos suggests in KPT 197, but
rather to -s control over it.
83
Col. 8.2 (OF 4): ] []

(Sider 2011, 11): [] ZPE) .
84
Col. 16.14 (OF 13): ] [ ]. About the commentators
interpretation cf. 17.
85
About , cf. Philol. B 6 D.-K. and Kouremenos in KPT 215.
86
Col. 16.1-2: [] [] , [].
, and 7-8: [] , [] ,
[].
87
Cf. Parm. 28 8.4 D.-K.
88
Anaxag. B 12 D.-K. The identification of and indicates that is material.




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By saying this he makes it clear that Mind, being alone, is [always] worth everything, [as if]
the rest were nothing. For it is not possible for the things-that-are-[now] to exist because of them
without Mind. [Also in] the verse after this [the said that Mind i]s worth everything:
[And now he i]s king of all [and will be after]wards.
[It is clear that] Mind and [king of all are the sa]me thing.
89

12. Zeus hymn, first and last (the eternity of -)
12.1. At this point the theogony includes a brief hymn to Zeus:
Zeus [was] first, [Zeus of the bright lightning bolt] is last.
Zeus is the he[ad, Zeus is the mid]dle, from Zeus are all things fash[ioned.]
[Zeus is the breath of all; of all is Zeus] the fate
Zeus is king, Zeus of the the bright lightning bolt is the ruler of all.
90

I am not going to exert myself too much in commenting the hymn, since I have
made an in-depth analysis elsewhere.
91
Suffice it to say that Zeus is the last because he
was born at the end of the Nyx Ouranos Kronos Zeus succession, but he is also the
first because when he swallows Ouranos phallus and becomes pregnant, he becomes the
mother of all the gods. He then becomes the first of the second genealogy in the second
theogony. On the other hand, he is head and center due to his central role in the
configuration of the universe. The organization of the world is his work, as if he were a
divine artist who would harmoniously configured matter ([] [). The idea
that Zeus is the breath of everything, as if he were a sort of air that gives life to
everything, reminds us immediately of Anaximenes and even more of Diogenes of
Apollonia,
92
who postulates a divine air that invigorates everything and gives life to the
universe. The identification with Moira, the personification of destiny, makes sense if
Zeus once he acquired the wisdom of Nyx, who knows every oracle knows everything

89
Col. 16.9-15: [] [] [] , []
[ ] [ ] [] . [ ] [
] [ ]
[ ] [ ].
[ ] [ ] .
90
OF14 (reconstructed from cols. 17.5-6 y 12, 18.1 y 12-3 y 19.10: [, ]
[] / [, ], [] []/[ ,
] (reconstructed from OF 31, cf. n. 7) / , . Cf.
also OF 243.
91
Cf. Bernab (2009).
92
Cf. Anaximen. B 2 D.-K. ,
, Diog. Apoll. fr. 9 Laks (B 5 D.-K.)
,

.




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that is going to happen and if his rational organization of the universe allows him to
control the organization of time.
93
The identification of Zeus with the intelligent air was
probably already in the poem, and he commentator interprets it as , following the
work of Anaxagoras
94
.
12.2. The commentator does not accept that Zeus the intelligent air was born, so
his interpretation is focused on denying this extreme:
It existed before it was named; then it was named. For air both existed before the things-
that-are-now were set together and will always exist. For it did not come to be but existed. ... but
after it has been named Zeus it was thought that it was born, as if it did not exist before.
95


In this passage he interprets head as origin of configuration.
96

In this setting we find a very innovative aspect: the conception of Moira as divine
thought and organization of the destiny of things, defined as the thought of god
eternally and ubiquitously,
97
that makes us think of future Stoic developments of the
subject. The commentator insists that it always existed, before Zeus was named (col. 18),
and adds:
They are saying that the thought of Zeus ratified in what way what exists and what comes to
be and what will come to be must come to be and be and cease.
98

He explains the idea that Zeus is origin and center because all the things are named
after the thing that dominates.
99
Since air dominates in the world, it is said that Zeus is
everything (col. 19.1-2) and sovereign of everything (col. 19.11-5).

93
Calame (1997: 74), Betegh (2004: 202-4), Piano (2013).
94
Cf. n. 3. Nevertheless Sider (2011) reads in OF 18 [ instead of [ , followed by Santamara
(forthcoming). If this proposal is accepted, was in the poem and it would not be an interpretation of
the commentator.
95
Col. 17-1-6: [] [ ] [] `[]
, ...
, .
96
Col. 17.14: [ ] [. About his explanation of last, cf. 17.2.
97
Col. 18.9-10: [] . Casadess forthcoming points out that
commentator also suggests an etymology of Zeus name (in accus. ) related with , cf. col. 17. 9-11
[] [] , and it is made clear that the things-that-are became such
because of it, and perhaps in col. 19.14-5 [ ] [ ] [ ]
and he says that it is ruler of all, because all things start (or: are ruled) through ... A similar etymology can
be found in Pl. Cra. 396ab (sc. /) ,
and it seems to be suggested also in Hes. Op. 2-3 , ... /
. Cf. Bernab (1992: 33-4), Casadess (2000).
98
Col. 19.5-8: ,
[] .
99
He uses very similar terms to those that Simplicius. in Ph. 155.25 Diels (probably following Theophrastus)
uses to interpret the thought of Anaxagoras (A 41 D.-K.) ,
.




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13. Zeus ejaculates Aphrodite and her retinue (Union of the material particles)
13.1. The poet considers that once Zeus is about to bring about the rebirth of all the
beings of the world it is necessary to create love first, which will enable them to copulate
and multiply. And so he creates Aphrodite and her retinue, Persuasion and Harmony,
through his ejaculation.
100

Zeus [generated] through ejaculation
Persuasion and Harmony and Ouranian Aphrodite.
Ouranian is a traditional epithet of the goddess, although it is not present in the
archaic epic,
101
and it could be explained because according to Hesiod
102
the goddess is
born from Ouranos phallus after it falls into the sea. It seems that Orpheus is now calling
Aphrodite Ouranian because Zeus had swallowed Ouranos phallus and obtained his
creative capacity.
13.2. The commentator devotes a large section (col. 20) to warn that the people
who attend mystery rituals (those celebrated by professionals that he considers
spurious) understand Orphic poems only in their literal sense. He, however, is capable of
explaining the true meaning of the message. The reason for this digression is probably
that he is about to begin a narrative section that, if taken literally, is not very decent,
since it describes obscene acts by Zeus, such as ejaculation or incest.
103

The author says (col. 21) that the word through ejaculation in the poem
alludes to the fact that the small particles found in - (Zeus) moved and jumped
(), when placed side by side until they reached similar particles.
104
This process
is symbolically named Aphrodite by the poet. According to the commentator, the
personifications of the poem only reflect the different ways in which the particles are
combined:
105

The commentator understands that those operations are specialized functions of

100
OF 15, from col. 21.1-8: [] / [] [ ] .
101
Cf. Pi. fr. 122.4 Maehl. (in 122.2 is also mentioned), Hdt. 1.105, Pl. Smp. 181c.
102
Hes. Th. 195.
103
Kouremenos in KPT 247 considers that Aphrodite, Peitho and Harmonia probably belonged to the
pantheon of the Protogonos-made cosmos, which Zeus swallowed, but it seems evident, according to
location of the passage in the commentary, that they belonged to Zeus re-creation of the world. On the
other hand, I believe that Protogonos was not mentioned in the poem, cf. 11.1.
104
Col. 21.4-5: .
105
a) mixing (, referring to which has clear sexual connotations col. 21.7-10); b) yielding one
to another (, because yielding and persuading are the same thing: col. 21.10-11: []
), and c) assembling together (, because it or the god attached closely many of the
things-that-are: col. 21.12: [ ] [). Cf. Kouremenos in KPT 247-8.




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- to produce specific effects, like uniting material particles and thus forming the
things-that-are-now. All these principles existed, but they were to be born, which is
interpreted as Orpheus way of saying that they took on certain forms when the deity
intended them to do so (col. 21.13-5). On the other hand, as McKirahan points out,
106
the
commentator seems to understand that similar particles must unite before they can
make compounds, meaning the things-that-are-now.
14. Creation of the goddesses (Many names for one single deity)
14.1. In col. 22 the commentator mentions different goddesses: Ge, the Mother,
Rhea and Hera. They are most likely mentioned by Orpheus in the passage of the poem
where Zeus regenerates the goddesses that were left inside of him when he swallowed
Ouranos phallus. He does not cite the verses of the theogonic poem, but he does mention
one from The Hymns (probably an old collection of hymns, certainly different from the
one that has been preserved to our days).
Demeter, Rhea, Ge, Meter, Hestia, Deio.
107

14.2. The line of the commentators argument in col. 22 is focused on proving that
it is the same divinity that receives different names depending on the mythical episodes
that refer to him or on the functions that he performs. He uses one of his favorite
expressions they are the same... they were the same thing.
The purpose is probably the same that led him to point out that Zeus was not born
and that Ouranos, Kronos and Zeus are manifestations of the same N: to deny the
believe in anthropomorphic deities that are subject to birth.
15. Zeus generates Oceanus and Achelous ( increases its strength)
15.1. In col. 23 the commentator cites verses from the poem where Zeus generates
Oceanus, the river that encompasses the earth, and Achelous, whose sinews are the
rivers that flow into it:
He conceived the great might of widely flowing Okeanos,
and within he placed the sinews of Acheloios with its silvern eddies,
from which is all the sea.
108

The most interesting feature of this passage is its use (here and in OF 18) of the verb

106
McKirahan (2012: 83).
107
Col. 22.12 (OF 398) [] < > .
108
OF 16 (reconstructed from cols. 12.7, 22.7, 23.1 and POxy. 221.9.1 = Sch. Il. 21.195, V 95 Erbse):
/ , / [.




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conceived.
109
Zeus is shown as a demiurge that configures the world with a pre-
conceived and intelligent design, as opposed to the previous situation which was
chaotic, immersed in violence and disorder.
110
Zeus creates Oceanus and the primordial
waters that support him, like the sinews of the body.
15.2. The commentator, focused on denying the birth of the deities, identifies
Oceanus with the air, thus identifying him with Zeus:
Therefore Zeus did not conceive another Zeus, instead he conceived a great force for
himself.
111

It looks as if he makes use of a common expression to have a great influence
( ), commonly applied to those who had great power.
112
He probably links
this with Zeus epithet of great strength.
113
And regarding the
birth of Achelous sinews, he explains that Orpheus uses that term to name the water;
114

it is not, according to them, a mythological character but a simple material component of
the world. Once again, it is noted that Nous can increase itself, according to the
commentator.
16. Zeus generates the moon and the stars (agglutination of the particles different from
the suns particles)
16.1. We know that in the poem Zeus generates the moon, probably as a guarantor
of time.
115

[the Moon] equal-membered from the center [in every direction],
shines on many mortals over the boundless earth.
116

It is disputed whether means round, as the commentator interprets it, or

109
Cf. a similar verb in Parm. B 13 D.-K. , cf. West (1983: 109),
Burkert (1998: 390 n. 18), see also Il. 2.38 , etc.
110
Scalera McClintock (1988: 143) defines it as nuova creazione maschile e intellettuale, and Tarn (1971:
407 n. 162) as a mental act of planning and contriving, and not real creationism, cf. Burkert (1968: 102 n.
16), (1969: 3 n. 7), (1997: 173), Schwabl (1978: 1330), Ricciardelli Apicella (1980: 125-6 and n. 82). We must
remember that Zeus is (OF 10.4) because with his swallowing he has also assumed not only the
powers of the gods, but their ingenuity (, OF 11.1) as well. There is a clear etymological relation
emphasized by the poet.
111
Col. 23.4-5: , .
112
Col. 23.9-10, Kouremenos en KPT 258 quotes passages like E. Hipp. 443 ... , Thgn.
639-640 ... / .
113
Col. 8.2 (OF 4), cf. 12.1.
114
Col. 23.12, cf. passages quoted in OF 154 and in Bernab (2007b: 250), on PDerv. 23.12.
115
Cf. 8.2.
116
Col. 24.2-3 (OF 17) ] [ (rest. West) / {} ,
cf. Betegh (2004: 244-9).




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whether it refers to the equal horns of the new Moon.
117
According to the commentators
reference to the stars, it could be inferred that the poem also referred to their birth. The
logic of things makes us suppose that he would also create the sun as guarantor of the
passage of years, but this is only a plausible conjecture.
16.2. The commentator explains that the moon has a rounded form and is an
aggregation of particles.
[The particles out of which the sun is composed are the hottest] and the brightest, but those
out of which the moon (is composed) are the whitest of all, distributed according to the same
principle, but are not hot
118
.
The stars are small white particles that , a verb employed by the
commentator to define the situation of isolated particles that have a certain degree of
stillness and do not configure a big mass.
119
The stars cannot be seen by daylight because
the powerful light of the sun does not allow their tenuous light to be perceived.
120
Zeus
(intelligent air) keeps them separated to prevent a new agglutination like the one that
produced the sun.
121
It is not excluded that the commentator might think that the moon
reflects sunlight, and that would explain why its light is cold.
122

17. A cyclic proposal?
17.1. The poem does not hint at anything similar to a cycle, to start all over again.
In fact, the expression
[and now he i]s king of all [and will be after]wards
123

seems to indicate that Zeus order is established forever.
17.2. Nevertheless, the commentator makes a statement that can be understood as
a return to the starting point, where the particles are afloat again, as they were during
Ouranos reign:
He also said that it will be last, after it was named Zeus and this continues being its name
until the things-that-are-now were set together into the same state in which they were floating as
former things-that-are.
124


117
Betegh (2004, 247-8), cf. Kouremenos in KPT 262.
118
Col 25.1-3 [], [] / <>
, / . Cf. interesanting details in Kouremenos in KPT 260-6.
119
Col. 25.4, 7, cf. 17.9 ( 18.2).
120
Col. 15.4-6.
121
Col. 25.8-10.
122
Kouremenos in KPT 266-267.
123
Col. 16.14 (OF 13) ] [ ].
124
Col. 17.6-9: ,




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It seems prima facie that the commentator tries to make this cosmogony similar to a
cyclic cosmogony, in which the universe comes back to its original phase,
125
but
Gregory
126
has revised the passage and interpreted it in a different way, concluding that
it is better to regard this supposed regression as a conceptual impossibility, something
that will not happen in the future. So, according to him the col. 17.6-9 of the Derveni
papyrus affirms rather than denies the eternal nature of the cosmos. I consider that this
solution is more coherent taking into account the overall fidelity that the commentator
maintains to Orpheus poem. I have also found further evidence for this postulate in a
text from Alexander of Aphrodisias that includes Orpheus in the majority of the authors
who write about the gods that consider that the cosmos is generated, but everlasting.
127

18. Conclusions
The reconstruction is undoubtedly debatable, since I have had to make use of a
logic of the events that might not coincide with the commentators.
It seems that we can reconstruct a cosmogony in four phases:
1. Nyx. Pre-cosmogonic situation, dark amalgam of things-that-are where nothing
can be seen nor can be distinguished from the rest.
2. Ouranos. Increase of light and heat and contribution of the air by .
Things-that-are float with very tenuous movements, but they are already
distinguishable.
3. Kronos. Excessive increase of heat; concentration of fire. The uses
this concentration of the fire to make things-that-are violently collide (). Nyx
cools the things-that-are, but not because she possesses an active capacity, but rather
because her presence is manifested through the absence of light and heat.
4. Zeus, after learning from Nyx and applying his control massively, encompasses,
shrinks and withdraws the sun, allowing things-that-are to become the things-that-are-
now, meaning the existence of a new cosmogony. He applies different types of unions
between the elements (how to yield, combine or adjust).

, {}<> .
125
Betegh (2004: 259); according to Kouremenos in KPT 222 whether the Derveni author posits an ever
repeating cycle ... cannot be determined.
126
Gregory (forthcoming); I am very grateful to the author who kindly allowed me to read it before its
publication.
127
Alex. Aphr. ap. Phlp. Aet. 212.20 Rabe (OF 103 II) (sc. ...
)
.




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It is impossible to locate a Phanes kingdom in the commentators explanation,
which seems to confirm the prevailing idea in current research that Phanes was not
mentioned in the poem.
On the other hand, this cosmogony does not concur with any of the ones we know
from the presocratic world, although it shares many elements with them. The air causing
distinction in the One is a feature of the Pythagorean cosmogony,
128
but the
corresponding entity of the One in the commentators interpretation would be Nyx,
conceived as an aggregate of particles. His cosmogony shares with the Atomists the idea
that the constituent materials are particles, but it does not mention the vacuum nor
declare that the particles are of the same matter. Instead, he refers to air as separating
particles of different matters and introduces a factor of governing Mind that is missing
in Democritus and Leucippus. It shares with Diogenes of Apollonia the idea of intelligent
air, but he does not consider it the sole constituent of things. It shares with Anaxagoras
the idea of and the exceptional character of , but it does not give it a
different status from matter. It shares with Empedocles the conversion of multiplicity
into unity to later generate multiplicity, and what it seems to be a cyclical system, but
where Empedocles defends the double agent Love-Hate, the commentator of Derveni
postulates only one: - and the eternity of the actual world configuration.
Other considerations about this cosmogony, derived from what we have seen so
far, would be:
a) There is no apparent reason to affirm that this is a dualist system. There is no
mention of the type of matter that creates the things-that-are. There is fire and there is
air, but there is also earth (col. 18.2).
b) What appears to be clear is that there is a teleology. - foresees what will
happen and, particularly, it acts over the things-that-are with a purpose.
Finally, I think it is self-evident that, unlike the early studies of the commentary
which presented the author as a careless thinker who used badly digested philosophical
elements indiscriminately and accused him of using the text as a pretext, more recent
analyses are portraying him as in intellectual, with a coherent train of thought,
knowledgeable of philosophical trends, and show that he is trying to combine science
with religious beliefs. Using the methods that were in vogue during his time

128
Cf. Bernab Mendoza (2013).




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etymology, synonymy, allegory he tries to find a profound message in the lines of
Orpheus; a structured cosmogony that explains the world through the configuration
made by an intelligent air that organizes elements, which in a previous stage were built-
up chaotically, to place them in a precise arrangement where each element has a role to
ensure the survival of the world.

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Alberto Bernab Pajares filolog klasyczny, znawca orfizmu oraz archaicznej epiki
greckiej, krytyki tekstualnej i lingwistyki indoeuropejskiej. Dyrektor Katedry Filologii
Greckiej w Uniwersytecie Complutense w Madrycie. Autor edycji krytycznych m.in.
staroytnych greckich fragmentw epickich: Poetae epici Graeci, testimonia et fragmenta
Pars I, Leipzig, 1987; Orphei Hymnorum Concordantia, Hildesheim-Zrich-Nueva York, 1988;
Poetae epici Graeci, testimonia et fragmenta, pars I editio correctior, Stuttgart y Leipzig, 1996;
Poetae Epici Graeci Testimonia et fragmenta, Pars. II, Orphicorum et Orphicis similium testimonia
et fragmenta, Monachii et Lipsiae 2004.

Sowa kluczowe: Papirus z Derweni; kosmologia; presokratycy
Keywords: Papyrus of Derveni; cosmology; presocratics




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