Θρῇσσα, Thressa

River in Thrace.

Ioannes Tzetzes in his Chiliades (Tzetz. Chil. 13.14, p. 472 Kiessling) mentions a river Thressa (Θρῇσσα): “…The paper showed the drama by the means of its words describing grievous disasters and sorrows. But it really shows these by its very fate because it fell into the waters of the river Thressa and being soaked, the littlest fractions of it could be read …”

Τοῖς λόγοις μὲν τὸ τραγικὸν ὁ χάρτης ἐπεδείκνυ,

Ἀνιαρὰ καὶ συμφορὰς καὶ ϑλίψεις καταγγέλλων.

Πραγαματικῶς ἐδείκνυ δὲ ταῦτα καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἔργων,

Ὡς εἰς τὴν Θρῇσσαν ποταμὸν πεσὼν καὶ βεβρεγμένος,

Ὧν μόλις τι βραχύτατον ἀναγνωσϑῆναι τούτου.

Tzetzes introduces interesting details about that river in his subsequent story (Tzetz. 13.15, p. 487 Kiessling), associating it with the death of Orpheus. According to that narrative, Thressa is a river in the land of the Thracians, which has a female name – an exception from the general rule for rivers to be always in the masculine gender. He writes: “Indeed, I called it Thressa, and that is a barbaric river because it dismembered the paper and its content in the waters. Similarly the Thressans had previously dismembered Orpheus because he was teaching the rituals they considered savage, and threw his severed head into this very river together with his music, which attracted even beasts and stones, and the river drags into the black sea. The black sea was then called the Sea of Mitylene [on the Island of Lesbos]. The music, flowing along with Orpheus’ head and with its strings plucked by the piper winds, sang a weeping tune, moving one to mourn …”

Θρῇσσα Θρᾳκῶν τις ποταμὸς ἐν θηλυκῇ τῇ κλήσει.

Ὤντως δὲ Θρῇσσαν ἔλεξα καὶ βάρβαρον ἐκεῖνον,

Ὅτι χάρτην τοῖς ὕδασιν ἐσπάραξε καὶ λόγους,

Ὡς πρότερον ἐσπάραξαν αἱ Θρῇσσαι τὸν Ὀρφέα,

160 Τάς τελετάς διδάσκοντα ταῖς κατ᾽ αὐταῖς βαρβάροις,

Καὶ κεφαλὴν ἀπέῤῥιψαν εἰς ποταμὸν ἐκείνην

Καὶ μουσικὴν τὴν θέλγουσαν καὶ θῆρας καὶ τοὺς λίθους,

Ἃ κατασύρει ποταμὸς εἰς μέλανα τὸν πόντον,

Μέλας δὲ πόντος λέγεται πέλαγος Μιτυλήνης.

Ἡ μουσικὴ συμπλέουσα τῇ κεφαλῇ δ᾽ Ὀρφέως

Καὶ κινουμένη τὰς χορδὰς ὑπ᾽ αὐληταῖς ἀνέμοις,

Μέλος ὑπήχει γοερόν, κινοῦν εἰς ϑρηνῳδίας.

He mentions the name of the river once more, with a reference to the story narrated earlier. The form of the river’s name varies from Θρᾴσσα to Θρήσσα (Liddell, Scott 1940), but allows associations with the Naiad Thrassa (Detschew 19762: 210–211), Strymon’s daughter, on account of the connections with the rivers, with the waters and the invariable Thracian landscape that was identified with the tragic story about Orpheus. It may be assumed that this identification can be traced back to an older, but fragmented narrative about the death of Orpheus and the fate of his prophesising head, which reached Antoninus Liberalis and Ioannes Tzetzes in a strongly reduced form, probably from the time of Flavius Philostratus (Лозанова 2018: 135–146).


Vanya Lozanova



Detschew, D. 1976: Die thrakischen Sprachreste. Wien.

Liddell, H. G., Scott, R. 1940: A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford.

Tzetzes, Johannes. Historiarum variarum chiliades. Ed. Kiessling, J. G. Leipzig, 1826.

Лозанова, В. 2018: Флавий Филострат: за прорицалището на Орфей на Лесбос. – JUBILAEUS VII: Общество, царе, богове. Сборник в памет на проф. Маргарита Тачева. София, 135–146.