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Kassia [Cassia, Kasia, Eikasia, Ikasia, Kasianē, Kassianē, Kassiani]free

  • Diane Touliatos

(b 810 ce; d by 867). Byzantine-Greek composer and hymnographer. Born into a wealthy family associated with the imperial court in Constantinople, she received a sophisticated education, including the study of classical Greek literature (the influence of which may be seen in her liturgical and secular poetry, epigrams, and moral sayings), and was once considered as a possible bride for the Emperor Theophilus. She became the abbess of a monastery and during the reigns of Theophilus (829–42) and his son Michael (842–67) wrote a number of liturgical compositions to contemporary texts, some of which may be settings of her own poems.

More than 50 liturgical works have been attributed to Kassia (although the authenticity of 26 is now disputed), the majority of them stichēra. Her most famous composition in this genre is the hymn Augoustou monarchēsantos (‘Augustus was reigning’) for Hesperinos on Christmas Day; its melody was so well known in medieval Byzantium that it was mentioned in the chronicles. Words and music are closely interlinked in this hymn: the text compares and contrasts the reign of Augustus (27 bce–14 ce), the first Roman emperor, with the rule of Jesus Christ, and the comparison is underlined by the use of paired, rhyming couplets with corresponding paired lines of music, exemplifying the sequence form. Most of Kassia’s melodies are concise, syllabic settings that closely reflect the rhythms and structures of the text; musical motifs are often used to symbolize and mirror the words and there is a preference for the second and fourth modes. Kassia is the only hymnographer to have written a penitential hymn on Mary Magdalene, Kyrie hē en pollais.


Music editions
  • D. Touliatos, ed.: Kassia: Six Stichēra (Bryn Mawr, PA, 1996)
  • D. Touliatos: ‘Kassia (ca. 810–between 843 and 867)’, Women Composers: Music through the Ages, ed. M.F. Schleifer and S. Glickman (New York, 1996), vol.1, 1–24 [incl. catalogue, facs., transcrs.]
  • D. Touliatos, ed.: Kassia: Thirteen Compositions (Bryn Mawr, PA, 1999)
  • D. Touliatos, ed.: Kassia: Complete Compositions (Bryn Mawr, PA, in preparation)
  • K. Krumbacher: ‘Kassia’, Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-philologischen und der historischen Klasse der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1897), 305–70
  • H.J.W. Tillyard: ‘A Musical Study of the Hymns of Cassia’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, vol.20 (1911), 420–85
  • I. Rochow: Studien zu der Person, den Werken und dem Nachleben der Dichterin Kassia (Berlin, 1967)
  • J. Raasted: ‘Voice and Verse in a Troparion of Cassia’, Studies in Eastern Chant, vol.3, ed. M. Velimirović (London, 1973), 171–8
  • D. Touliatos-Banker: ‘Women Composers of Medieval Byzantine Chant’, College Music Symposium, vol.24/1 (1984), 62–80 [incl. catalogue and transcr. of Kassia’s works]
  • A. Tripolitis: Kassia: The Legend, the Woman and her Work (New York, 1992)
  • D. Touliatos: ‘The Traditional Role of Greek Women in Music from Antiquity to the End of the Byzantine Empire’, Rediscovering the Muses: Women’s Musical Traditions, ed. K. Marshall (Boston, 1993), 111–23, 250–53