Partheneia [partheneusis, parthenia]
- Thomas J. Mathiesen
Dancing chorus of maidens. The maiden chorus is attested from the earliest days of ancient Greek musical culture. Reference is made to a dancing chorus of maidens and young men in the Iliad (xviii.590–606), and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (156–64) refers to a chorus of maidens at Delos, who skilfully sang hymns to Apollo, Leto and Artemis. Scenes of dancing women appear on numerous vases, sometimes playing the crotala and dancing alone, at other times holding hands and dancing as a chorus. Pseudo-Plutarch (On Music, 1136f) referred specifically to partheneia composed by Alcman, Pindar , Simonides and Bacchylides . An extended excerpt from such a composition by Alcman is preserved in PLouvre E3320 (1st century ce), running to more than 100 lines, organized in general in 14-line strophes. The text is rather fragmented until line 35, after which it is fairly well preserved until line 101. Although the text tends towards a style more intimate and personal than that of the other musical types, it does contain a few specific references to its musical nature. The chorus consisted of ten maidens led by an ‘illustrious chorus-leader’ (...