Ancient Greek History

What to Know About Ancient Greek Music

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Music is one of those universal concepts that spans across all cultures. There’s also evidence of music being present in the oldest of societies, and the Ancient Greeks were no exception. In our modern lives, music is all around us and has many purposes. We listen to it for enjoyment and entertainment. We dance to it, play it for fun and relaxation, and the musicians use music as a means for self expression. For the Ancient Greeks, music had the same purpose. Just as music is important to us today, the same is true of Ancient Greece. Here’s more information:

Music in Greek Mythology

One of the biggest pieces of evidence that we have when it comes to assessing the importance of music in the Ancient Greek culture is to take a look at Greek mythology. One of the basic beliefs present in Greek mythology is that creativity was caused from divine inspiration. This concept is evidenced in the role of the nine muses.

In fact, the English word for music derives from the word, “muse”. Euterpe was the muse of music and Terpsichore was the muse of dance, which is related to music. Not only that, but poets often performed their works with an accompanying lyre, which is why Caliope, the muse of epic poetry, is often associated with that instrument. Polyhymnia, who is the muse of hymns, is also associated with music.

Music in Ancient Greek Society

For the Ancient Greeks, these deities were more than just stories – they represented a way of life and offers evidence of the importance of music in the society. The Ancient Greeks believed that in order to be civilized, they needed to be proficient in all forms of creativity. Music was one of these creative pursuits. In fact, if the Ancient Greeks weren’t directly creating or enjoying music, they were using it to form the backdrop of whatever they were doing. Singers, poets, dancers, and even theatrical performers relied on music to accompany their arts. Even historical acts were retold in musical form, mainly accompanied by the lyre. The Ancient Greeks also believed in a principal known as harmonia, which refers to the school of thought that says that everything in the universe was connected by the principals of music.

Instruments Used in Ancient Greece

So, what was the exact nature of the music that was performed in Ancient Greece? Everything originated with the instruments that were used. There were several different types of instruments such as stringed instruments, wind instruments, percussion instruments, and even the human voice. Here’s a list of instruments that were common in Ancient Greece:

  • Lyre – a string instrument where the strings are plucked.
  • Kithara – a string instruments where the strings are strummed.
  • Aulos – a wind instrument similar to our modern-day oboe.
  • Pan pipes – a wind instrument also referred to as a pan flute.
  • Hydraulis – a keyboard instrument that is similar to our modern-day pipe organ.
  • Salpinx– a brass instrument used in the military and during the Olympic games.
  • Tympanum – an instrument similar to the modern tambourine.
  • Crotala – a clapper that was similar to the castanet.
  • Koudounia – a type of bell that was made of copper.

As you can see, music was important to the people of Ancient Greece!


Wikipedia – Music of Ancient Greece

Wikipedia – Muse

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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