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Ancient Greek Music by Prof. Stefan Hagel

Ancient Greek Music by Prof. Stefan Hagel

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Ancient Greek Music: A New Technical History

This 2009 book endeavours to pinpoint the relations between musical, and especially instrumental, practice and the evolving conceptions of pitch systems. It traces the development of ancient melodic notation from reconstructed origins, through various adaptations necessitated by changing musical styles and newly invented instruments, to its final canonical form. It thus em

This 2009 book endeavours to pinpoint the relations between musical, and especially instrumental, practice and the evolving conceptions of pitch systems. It traces the development of ancient melodic notation from reconstructed origins, through various adaptations necessitated by changing musical styles and newly invented instruments, to its final canonical form. It thus emerges how closely ancient harmonic theory depended on the culturally dominant instruments, the lyre and the aulos. These threads are followed down to late antiquity, when details recorded by Ptolemy permit an exceptionally clear view. Dr Hagel discusses the textual and pictorial evidence, introducing mathematical approaches wherever feasible, but also contributes to the interpretation of instruments in the archaeological record and occasionally is able to outline the general features of instruments not directly attested. The book will be indispensable to all those interested in Greek music, technology and performance culture and the general history of musicology.

Five Ways To Listen To The Music Of The Ancient World Today

We are often immersed in what the ancient world looked like when we visit a museum or an archaeological site. However, the vibrant soundscapes heard at festivals, funerals, courtly feasts, theatrical performances, gladiatorial shows or just while shopping in the ancient world are important to reconstructing the past. A number of ancient historians are hard at work to bring the music of antiquity back to life for the enjoyment of the modern world. Here are just a few samples to listen to.

Mosaic found in a Byzantine villa in Maryamin, Syria of female musicians (4th-6th c. CE).

Public Domain via Wikimedia

Ancient Greek Music: Historian of ancient music Armand D'Angour recently posted the first choral performance with an aulos (a Greek wind instrument akin to a flute) of scores originally written by two ancient authors. The first is a Delphic Paean by the ancient musician Athenaeus (127 BCE) and the second is composed by the playwright Euripides for the chorus in his tragedy Orestes (408 BCE). Each shows the import of music in rituals of Greek worship and within the context of theatrical performance:

You can listen to musician and historian Stefan Hagel try and play a reconstruction of an aulos from the Louvre below and read about how he reconstructed the instrument--called a tibia in Latin--here.

Ancient Roman Military Music: Songs were often written for religious festivals or drama in antiquity, but they were also an integral part of the ancient military's ability to move in formation. Musicians had an important job within the Roman army. The military writer Vegetius tells us they played a number of horns: the tuba, a bucina and a large wrap-around horn called the cornu. There were also flautists that played tibiae. Together with the military standards, there was a system of sound and standards that signaled to soldiers how to move, when and how fast.

Although very little of these instruments survive today (usually just the mouthpieces), an example of a cornu and portions of various tibiae do survive from Pompeii. This archaeological evidence, along with ancient literature and the artistic rendering of musicians from mosaics, epitaphs and monuments like Trajan's column, have helped musicians to reconstruct what these instruments looked like---even if the music itself can be a bit speculative. Music was also a part of gladiatorial fights, where pseudo-military encoutners could be viewed by the masses for entertainment. The cornu was an important part of signaling gladiatorial matches and organizing fight dockets through sound:

Ancient Chinese Court Music: The Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) of ancient China created a luscious musical atmosphere complete with stunning court dancers and choreography accompanied by flutes, drums, the qin (a Chinese zither) and many other instruments. That is why this period is often referred to as the Golden Age of Chinese music. The performance of yayue (banquet music and dances) was a particularly integral part of feasting ceremonies at court that emphasized the power of the emperor and reached all the way back to the Zhou dynasty. Since the 1990s in particular, a number of Chinese reconstructions of the music and dance from the Tang dynasty have gone online:

Ancient Mesopotamian Songs: Music played an important part in ancient Mesopotamian society. A few years back, composer Stef Conner teamed up with renowned lyre player Andy Lowings in order to reconstruct Babylonian music from cuneiform tablets. What resulted was an album called The Flood. As with a lot of reconstructions of ancient music, the intonations and musical scores are highly educated guesses, but Connor was influenced in part by emerita Assyriologist Anne Draffkorn Kilmer. After many painstaking years of study, Prof. Kilmer recreated a Hurrian hymn to Nikkal from a clay tablet found at Ugarit dating to around 1400 BCE. The hymn has been dubbed the "oldest song in the world." You can listen to it here:

These are just a few reconstructions of ancient music to enjoy once you get sick of the Christmas tunes running on loop at your local mall. The incredible amount of research and work that has gone into these performances is notable even if each piece is rather short. It is this important reconstructive work that allows us--along with the recreation of the smells of the ancient world--to begin to conjure the ephemeral multi-sensory landscapes of antiquity that cannot really be preserved in dirt.

A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music

Drawing on the latest research on the topic, A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music provides a detailed overview of the most important issues raised by the study of ancient Greek and Roman music. An international panel of contributors, including leading experts as well as emerging voices in the field, examine the ancient 'Art of the Muses' from a wide range of methodological, theoretical, and practical perspectives.

Written in an engaging and accessible style, this book explores the pervasive presence of the performing arts in ancient Greek and Roman culture—ranging from musical mythology to music theory and education, as well as archaeology and the practicalities of performances in private and public contexts. But this Companion also explores the broader roles played by music in the Graeco-Roman world, examining philosophical, psychological, medical and political uses of music in antiquity, and aspects of its cultural heritage in Mediaeval and Modern times.

This book debunks common myths about Greek and Roman music, casting light on yet unanswered questions thanks to newly discovered evidence. Each chapter includes a discussion of the tools or methodologies that are most appropriate to address different topics, as well as detailed case studies illustrating their effectiveness. This book

  • Offers new research insights that will contribute to the future developments of the field, outlining new interdisciplinary approaches to investigate the importance of performing arts in the ancient world and its reception in modern culture
  • Traces the history and development of ancient Greek and Roman music, including their Near Eastern roots, following a thematic approach
  • Showcases contributions from a wide range of disciplines and international scholarly traditions
  • Examines the political, social and cultural implications of music in antiquity, including ethnicity, regional identity, gender and ideology
  • Presents original diagrams and transcriptions of ancient scales, rhythms, and extant scores that facilitate access to these vital aspects of ancient music for scholars as well as practicing musicians

Written for a broad range of readers including classicists, musicologists, art historians, and philosophers, A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music provides a rich, informative and thought-provoking picture of ancient music in Classical Antiquity and beyond.

Author Bios

TOSCA A.C. LYNCH has been Junior Research Fellow in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford (2016–19). She is Visiting Professor in Greek Literature, Metre and Music at the Department of Cultures and Civilisations, University of Verona, and Research Associate at the Classics Faculty, University of Oxford.

ELEONORA ROCCONI is Associate Professor of Greek Language and Literature, Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage, University of Pavia (Cremona), and editor-in-chief of the journal Greek and Roman Musical Studies.

John C. Franklin

I teach Greek and Latin language and literature, especially epic, lyric, and comedy, with occasional escapades into the Ancient Near East and music archaeology.

Much of my research has dealt with early Greek cultural history at the Near Eastern interface(s), focusing especially on the interaction of poetic/musical traditions, always in hopes of elucidating broader issues. My undergraduate background, in music composition and electronic music (B.M. New England Conservatory, 1988), remains an influence: the history of ancient music technology, both physical and conceptual, is crucial to my research.

In my doctoral thesis (Terpander: The Invention of Music in the Orientalizing Period, University College London, 2002) I argued that vestiges of the Mesopotamian tonal system can be detected in the earliest layers of Greek musical evidence. Most of my publications have resulted from trying to elucidate the historical and cultural circumstances behind this connection. Eventually I will bring it all together in a book called The Middle Muse: Mesopotamian Echoes in Early Greek Music, now five years overdue for a contract with OUP. Why? The last four years have been consumed by another book that grew out of the first, provisionally called Kinyras: The Divine Lyre. Here I hope to harmonize the Greco-Roman material for Kinyras, the mythical priest-king of pre-Greek Cyprus, with Near Eastern evidence for the divinization of temple lyres, like the Divine Kinnaru who was worshipped at Ugarit.

I have also "recomposed" music in ancient Greek style for two plays, the Libation Bearers of Aeschylus (1999, London Festival of Greek Drama) and Aristophanes' Clouds (2000, Edinburgh Fringe). Musical selections from these are included on my CD, The Cyrposyrian Girl: Hits of the Ancient Hellenes, along with other "impressions" of ancient music. I have also developed a Virtual Lyre for the Reaktor platform, which lets me incorporate microtonal tunings into various studio projects.

I am married to Glynnes Fawkes, an archaeological artist and illustrator. We have two children, Thomas and Helen. They all keep me going somehow.


"Diatonic Music in Greece: A Reassessment of its Antiquity," Mnemosyne 56.1 (2002), 669-702.

"Harmony in Greek and Indo-Iranian Cosmology", The Journal of Indo-European Studies 30.1/2 (2002), 1-25.

"The Language of Musical Technique in Greek Epic Diction", Gaia. Revue interdisciplinaire sur la Grèce archaïque 7 (2003), 295-307.

""Once More the Poet': Keats, Severn and the Grecian Lyre", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 48 (2003), 227-240.Republished in The Keats-Shelley Review 18 (2004).

"Structural Sympathies in Ancient Greek and South Slavic Heroic Singing", in Hickmann, E./Eichmann, R. (eds.), Musikarchäologische Quellengruppen: Bodenurkunden, mündliche Überlieferung, Aufzeichnung. Studien zur Musikarchäologie 4 (Rahden, 2004).

"Hearing Greek Microtones", in Hagel, S./Harrauer, Ch. (eds.), Ancient Greek Music in Performance. Wiener Studien Beiheft 29 (Vienna, 2005),9-50 (with CD selections).

"Lyre Gods of the Bronze Age Musical Koine", The Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 6.2 (2006), 39-70.

"'A Feast of Music': The Greco-Lydian Musical Movement on the Assyrian Periphery", in Collins, B. J./Bachvarova, M./ Rutherford, I. (eds.), Anatolian Interfaces: Hittites, Greeks and Their Neighbors. (Oxford, Oxbow, 2007), 193-203.

"The Global Economy of Music in the Ancient Near East", in Westenholz, J. G. (ed.), Sounds of Ancient Music (Jerusalem, Keter Press, 2007), 27-37.

"'Song-Benders of Circular Choruses': Dithyramb and the 'Demise of Music'", in Wilson, P./ Kowalzig, B. (eds.), Dithyramb in Context (Oxford, OUP, 2013), 213-36.

"Greek Epic and Kypriaka: Why 'Cyprus Matters"" in Y. Maurey/E. Seroussi/J. Goodnick Westenholz, Yuval. Studies of the Jewish Music Research Centre. Vol. 8: Sounds from the Past: Music in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean Worlds (Jerusalem, 2014), 213-47

"Sweet Psalmist of Israel: The Kinnor and Royal Ideology in the United Monarchy", in W. Heimpel (ed.), Strings and threads: a celebration of the work of Anne Draffkorn Kilmer (Winona Lake, Ind., 2011), 99-114

"Remembering Music in Early Greece", in S. Mirelman (ed.), The Historiography of Music in Global Perspective (Piscataway, NJ, Gorgias Press), 9-50.

"Kinyras and the Musical Stratigraphy of Early Cyprus", for proceedings of Musical Traditions in the Middle East: Reminiscences of a Distant Past, (12/09), University of Leiden (12/2009).

"The Lesbian Singers: Towards a Reconstruction of Hellanicus' Karnelian Victors", in D. Castaldo/A. Manieri (eds), Poesia, musica e agoni nella Grecia antica (2012), 720-64.

"Ethnicity and Musical Identity in the Lyric Landscape of Early Cyprus", Greek and Roman Musical Studies 2 (2014), 146-76

"Divinized Instruments and Divine Communication in Mesopotamia", in Jiménez Pasalodos, R. (ed.), Music & Ritual: Bridging Material & Living Cultures (Berlin, 2014), 43-61.

Awards and Recognition

2015: Visiting Professor, Università degli Studi di Perugia

2012: CAORC-CAARI Research Fellowship, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute

2012: Annual Professor, Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.

2005-2006: Fellow, Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C.

2002-2003: Multi-Country Fellow, Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

2002-2003: Broneer Fellow, American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

2000-2002: Rome Prize Fellow, American Academy in Rome.

1999: Frankfort Fellow, The Warburg Institute, London.

Associations and Affiliations

Classical Association of New England

Vermont Classical Languages Association

American Philological Association

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Early Greek literature and cultural history, Near Eastern interface, music archeology


Kitara je imala duboku zvučnu kutiju, napravljenu od drveta i sastavljenu od dve rezonantne ploče, koje su mogle biti ili ravne ili blago zakrivljene, a koje su povezivala rebra ili strane jednake širine. Na vrhu, žice su bile omotane oko prečke, tzv. "jarma" (ζυγόν, zugon), ili su bile vezane za prstenove nanizane preko prečke, ili su pak bile omotane oko klinova. Drugi kraj svake od žica prelazio je preko jednog ravnog mostića i zatim bio privezan za žičnjak, ili su pak most i žičnjak bili spojeni. Na većini grčkih vaznih slika predstavljene su kitare sa sedam žica, koje i grčki pisci najčešće spominju, no kod njih ima i navoda o tome da bi ponekad neki naročito vešt kitartist zasvirao i na kitari s više od standardnih sedam žica.

Na kitari se sviralo pomoću tvrdog plektruma, tj. trzalice, kako se danas taj predmet najčešće zove. Trzalica se nalazila u desnoj ruci, lakat je bio ispružen, dlan savijen prema unutra, dok su žice s nepotrebnim tonovima bile utišane ispruženim prstima leve ruke.

Kitara se pre svega svirala kao muzička pratnja uz ples i recitale epske poezije i rapsode, uz ode i lirske pesme. [2] Takođe se svirala u svečanim prilikama, na gozbama, igrama i nadmetanjima. Kitara je bila instrument za profesionalce, a i smatralo se da sviranje na njoj zahteva veliku veštinu.

Grčka pesnikinja Sapfo bila je blisko povezana s muzikom, posebno sa žičanim instrumentima kao što su kitara i barbiton. Pripadala je visokim društvenim slojevima i pisala pesme pune snažne osećajnosti. Prema jednoj legendi, popela se uz strmi obronak Parnasa, gde su je dočekale Muze. Šetajući se kroz jedan šumarak, u kome je rastao lovor, naišla je na Apolonovu spilju. Okupala se u vodi obližnjeg Kastalijinog izvora, uzela Apolonov plektrum i zatim zasvirala na kitari. Nimfe su plesale dok je Sapfo svirala najlepšu muziku. [3]

Building a Lyre and Playing Sappho

My name is Mary McLoughlin, and I am the creator of the Playing Sappho project (and of many lyres). Playing Sappho is both the name of my project, and my website where I have a blog and YouTube page dedicated to helping people re-create the music of Sappho, through How-To guides on building lyres, and signing in Ancient Greek, as well as some overall background for Sappho and her context.

I designed this project in fulfillment of my Senior Independent Study at the College of Wooster. I deeply love Sappho’s work, but I did not feel like I could add anything significant to the current scholarly debate surrounding her. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to design a project of public history and accessibility. One of the problems with classics, and the study of Sappho, is that it happens almost exclusively at a level of academic discourse (which is what makes websites like Sententiae Antiquae so cool!).

I wanted to make Sappho’s music more accessible, in its entirety. Which meant also helping people build lyres on the cheap, and figuring out how to sing in ancient Greek. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do this work, and post-graduation intend to keep the project going (and building better lyres). It’s important to understand my re-creation of Sappho’s performance is far from ‘accurate’. Today, not much is known about what her performance would have looked like (though I do agree with scholarship suggesting it was public and choral).

I do the best I can, but I am just one person, now in quarantine, as we all are. When I sing in ancient Greek I am trying to make it sound good to a modern ear, Sappho probably would have thought it sounded ridiculous. This project is a love letter to Sappho, and in a lot of ways I feel as though I’m a little kid putting on a grown woman’s appearance and mimicking her work. I am ‘playing’ at Sappho. I believe the beauty of her work is enough and I hope to share it with others and encourage them to re-create it themselves.

All that being said, I made my fair share of mistakes. I had a ton of issues making different lyres. Bending wood/ other materials was a consistent problem for me in lyre building, as was my final design shape (my final lyre looks more like a lyra than a barbitos). I had issues sourcing materials, and had to compromise on my final lyre by using a turtle shell, rather than a tortoise shell. This lead to its own issues and challenges. I am by no means a skilled craftsman, and my inexperience lead to a lot of mistakes. I am very lucky I still have all my fingers after building several prototypes and my final lyre. I’m also not a great videographer, which is clear from my many videos of my project and process.

My biggest issue in this whole project is that I would often not refer back to my source material as often as I should have – which resulted in my final lyre being the wrong shape, and essentially looking like a different type of instrument (a good way to conceptualize this is that it’s as if I was trying to build a bass guitar, and I have an instrument that sounds like a bass guitar, but looks more like a really big guitar, rather than a bass one). I made the errors of someone unfamiliar with this sort of research and execution, which I am. Though I am fortune in that I did succeed, I have a final lyre which looks cool, and a functional website to showcase my platform.

I also want to make it clear that whatever success I did have is due to the tremendously skilled people that helped me throughout this entire process. I was really lucky to have amazing people help me (Such as Stefan Hagel, Michael Girbal, the creators of Lyreavlos, Sententiae Antiquae, my advisors, my parents, different technology experts and the wood shop technician at my college, to say nothing of all my friends and family who encouraged me). Overall, I was challenged by my absolute lack of knowledge and experience but I never let that hold me back. That doesn’t mean that I was successful or courageous, I just had a good idea which I felt could back up my lack of know-how. How well I executed that is up to debate, but I’m proud of the work I did. I truly hope other people can enjoy it.

Ancient Greek Music by Prof. Stefan Hagel - History

Originally a punisher of those who challenged the gods, the Greek goddess Nemesis was fused by the Romans with the requital-god Phthonos and the goddess Invidia to become the central figure of a Roman cult which worshiped her as an almighty fate and justice deity who ensured that people got what they deserved- good and bad. This cult, which reached its zenith under Hadrian, finds expression in the following hymn written by Mesomedes, one of Hadrian's court poets. Period-authentic instrumentation courtesy of Atrium Musicae de Madrid (one of the first and oldest paleomusicology groups).

Nemesis, winged tilter of scales and lives,
Justice-spawned Goddess with steel-blue eyes!
You bridle vain men who roil in vain
Against Your adamantine rein.
Great hater of hubris and megalomania,
Obliterator of black resentment,
By Your trackless, churning, wracking wheel
Man's glinting fortunes turn on earth.
You come in oblivion's cloak to bend
The grandeur-deluded rebel neck,
With forearm measuring out lifetimes,
With brow frowning into the heart of man
And the yoke raised sovereign in Your hand.
Hail in the highest, O justice-queen

Nemesis, winged tilter of scales and lives,
Immortal Judge! I sing Your song,
Almighty Triumph on proud-spread wings,
Lieutenant of fairness, Requiter of wrongs.
Despise the lordly with all Your art
And lay them low in the Netherdark.

Ύμνος εις Νέμεσιν
Μεσομήδης ὁ Κρής

Νέμεσι πτερόεσσα βίου ῥοπά,
κυανῶπι θεά, θύγατερ Δίκας,
ἃ κοῦφα φρυάγματα θνατῶν,
ἐπέχεις ἀδάμαντι χαλινῷ,
ἔχθουσα δ’ ὕβριν ὀλοὰν βροτῶν,
μέλανα φθόνον ἐκτὸς ἐλαύνεις.
ὑπὸ σὸν τροχὸν ἄστατον ἀστιβῆ
χαροπὰ μερόπων στρέφεται τύχα,
λήθουσα δὲ πὰρ πόδα βαίνεις,
γαυρούμενον αὐχένα κλίνεις.
ὑπὸ πῆχυν ἀεὶ βίοτον μετρεῖς,
νεύεις δ’ ὑπὸ κόλπον ὀφρῦν ἀεὶ
ζυγὸν μετὰ χεῖρα κρατοῦσα.
ἵλαθι μάκαιρα δικασπόλε

Νέμεσι πτερόεσσα βίου ῥοπά.
Νέμεσιν θεὸν ᾄδομεν ἄφθιτον,
Νίκην τανυσίπτερον ὀμβρίμαν
νημερτέα καὶ πάρεδρον Δίκας,
ἃ τὰν μεγαλανορίαν βροτῶν
νεμεσῶσα φέρεις κατὰ Ταρτάρου.

Moisa Summer School in Ancient Greek Music - EN

The first edition of the ‘Moisa Summer School in Ancient Greek Music’ aims at bringing together for five days many of the most renowned specialists in the field of ancient Greek music and provide scientifically excellent introductions to the numerous disciplines involved in these studies – by nature interdisciplinary, given the complex character of the Greek concept of μουσική.
The Summer School aims at providing students with a detailed and comprehensive overview of the most important scientific issues involved in the study of ancient Greek music, both in terms of musical theory and of instrumental performance. The students will be introduced to the key theoretical concepts necessary for these studies and to the bibliographic resources they may use in order to continue their studies autonomously.
The School is designed primarily for university students, both undergraduate and graduate, and for scholars interested in the study of ancient Greek music. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the subjects, the School may also be of interest to Secondary School teachers wishing to enhance their backgrounds or acquire continuing education training.
The lessons will be in Italian and English. Each session will be devoted to a specific question or sub-discipline and will comprise a lecture followed by extended time for questions from the students and additional observations/integrations to the lectures offered by the other teachers.

The event “The Celtic Karnyx of Sanzeno. Experimental archaeology project” will be held in the underground archaeological exhibition area Sas, on 26 June, in the afternoon.
The event will be coordinated by Mr. Paolo Bellintani and Mrs. Rosa Roncador, of the Office in charge of the archaeological heritage of the Autonomous Province of Trento.

Watch the video: Ancient Greek Scales Piano Solo (August 2022).