Apologetic Function of Allegoresis in the Derveni Papyrus

Mikołaj Domaradzki

The present paper argues that the purpose of allegoresis put forward in the Derveni papyrus is primarily apologetic, for its author seeks to reconcile the Orphic view of the world with that of the Anaxagorean school. Being a pious Orphic himself, the Derveni author regards, nevertheless, the authority of Orpheus as seriously challenged by the Presocratic physicists. Accordingly, he aims to show that the ostensibly naïve and/or blasphemous ideas that can be found in Orpheus’ poem (e.g. castration, cannibalism, incest) are in fact complex allegories of profound scientifi c truths. Th us, when translating the Orphic theogony into the language of Anaxagorean cosmology, the Derveni author suggests a sort of aggiornamento, as he endeavors to bring Orpheus’ poem up to date by demonstrating that it anticipates the major concepts of Anaxagorean physics.


Keywords: the Derveni papyrus · allegoresis · apology · Orpheus · Anaxagoras · Diogenes

Mikołaj Domaradzki – Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. Author of the book: On Subjectivity of Truth in Søren Kierkegaard’s view (2006) and numerous articles in Polish and English. Translator of Kierkegaard’s works. His interests include ancient philosophy, linguistics/philosophy of language and the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.   »  

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