Orpheus’ Myth in Vico
Vico chose the myth of Orpheus and Amphion as the model of civilization builders. The two ancient heroes were founders of governments, because in Vico’s works the first founders of civilizations were heroes and poets. On this basis, the first form of a juridical system was a poetical one, and also the Law of the Twelve Tables was a “serious poem”. An analysis of Orpheus’ myth and its function in the development of Vico’s thought (from the juridical works of 1720–21) could improve our knowledge of the historiographical principles at the basis of his masterpiece, the New Science of 1744.
The myth of Orpheus and Amphion appears for the first time in Vico’s works in the sixth Inaugural Dissertation, which he presented on October 17th, 1704 during the Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year, as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Naples. The figure of Orpheus also returns in paragraphs 123 and 124 of De universi iuris uno principio et fine uno (The one principle and the one end of universal right), the first treatise of the so-called Universal Right, the huge juridical work composed by Vico between 1720 and 1722. In the same work, Orpheus and Amphion appear again together in chapter nine of De constantia philologiae (On the consistency of philology), which is the second part of the De constantia iurisprudentis (On the consistency of jurisprudence), the second and last treatise of Universal Right. Herein, the author tries to establish a common...
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