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  • Katy Romanou,
  • Thomas J. Mathiesen,
  • Alexander Lingas,
  • Nikos Maliaras,
  • Achilleus Chaldaiakis,
  • John Plemmenos,
  • Pyrros Bamichas,
  • Kostas Kardamis,
  • Sofia Kontossi,
  • Myrto Economides,
  • Dafni Tragaki,
  • Ioannis Tsagkarakis,
  • Kostas Chardas,
  • Manolis Seiragakis,
  • Sotirios Chianis
  •  and Rudolph M. Brandl

I. Introduction (the Greeks).

  • Katy Romanou

Greeks have a history of over three millennia, during which they inhabited large and varied areas mainly in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The greatest expansion of ancient Greek civilization was achieved with Alexander the Great’s conquests and the establishment of states by his successors during the Hellenistic period. Greek language and civilization, globalized at that crucial moment of change for world history, were vehicles of the new religion that would expand to western Europe. In that same period, and in the Greek language, sciences were perfected in the new centres, such as Alexandria; mechanics, acoustics, and philology contributed to the invention and improvement of musical instruments, the scientific justification of Greek musical concepts, and the preservation in critical editions of the corpus of ancient Greek literature in all fields.

In 200–146 bce the Romans completed the conquest of Greek centres, and in 30 bce, with the conquest of Alexandria, the Roman Empire dominated all the Hellenistic states. In 330 ce, Constantine I moved the capital of the empire to New Rome, or Constantinople, the city he built on the site of ancient Byzantium, and was converted to Christianity (which became the official religion in 380). The official language of the Eastern Roman Empire was Latin, and after the 6th century, Greek. The education was Greek: libraries were filled with Greek manuscripts, the museums with Greek art treasures, and the language of the people was Greek.

Up to about the 9th century, Constantinople was radiating culture westwards. Carolingian theocracy borrowed much from the East, and its effects are mainly observed in architecture, the arts, and music. Latin music theory manuals of the 9th and the 10th century (Aurelian’s Musica Disciplina, Hucbald’s De harmonica institutione; Musica and Scholica Enchiriadis), use a terminology for the elements of music theory, introduced from the East. That terminology and the corresponding concepts were preserved in the Church music of the Eastern empire during its acme and decadence. The final shrinkage of the Eastern Empire was accelerated after the battle of Manzikert in 1071 that opened the way for the advancement of the Turks in Asia Minor. Since then, the Orthodox Greeks, under frequent and variable occupations and displacements, have been scattered into numerous, unstable, and divergent communities. In 1204 the Crusaders, dependent of the naval force of the Venetians, were led by them to the capture of Constantinople and many other Greek areas, including Crete, Cyprus, the Ionian Islands, and districts of the Greek mainland and Peloponnese. In 1261 the emperor returned to Constantinople from Nicaea (where the seat of the empire was temporarily moved, and where a project of copying and editing ancient Greek manuscripts was initiated). But the empire was already lost. The victorious advance of the Ottomans culminated in 1453 with the Fall of Constantinople, and in 1669 with the capture of Crete, the last Greek territory under Western conquerors to fall to the Ottomans. Only the Ionian Islands remained under the Venetians until a new world order brought to the Eastern Mediterranean the next wave of dominators: the French, the British, and the Russians.

Realizing that the end was approaching, the Great Church organized the preservation of church music by disseminating it to the Greek areas that were under Christian dominators. In the 15th century chanters were sent to Cyprus, Crete, and the western Peloponnese, and their teaching brought a renaissance of byzantine music in those areas. The last great byzantine chant composer, Manuel Doukas Chrysaphes, who had tight connection with the two last emperors, Ioannes Palaiologos and Constantinos Palaiologos, is one of the musicians who left Constantinople and contributed to the preservation of church music in the Peloponnese and Crete.

But Greeks under the Venetians moved westwards too at the imminence of the Turks. Those who could afford it went to western Europe. Venice was a first choice, as Greeks enjoyed in that city privileges not granted to other minorities. Towards the end of the 16th century, when Venice rose to a centre of Western music, the Greek population of the city amounted to about 15,000. The Cretan composer Francesco Londariti, a cantore in San Marco’s cappella musicale, and the Cypriot Hieronymos Tragōdistēs, a student of Gioseffo Zarlino, are so far the better-known Greek musicians in Venice. Many Cretan musicians went to the Ionian Islands. Music culture there has been strongly influenced by the vicinity to Italy; harmony is considered an incontestable element of music, and part-singing is widely improvised in oral tradition. The Cretans transmitted in those islands Orthodox church music as it had developed during its recent renaissance in Crete, which for that reason was called ’Cretan music’. The imprint left on the style of church music, during all these interactions, is an open question today.

From about 1600, large numbers of Greek merchants emerged, travelling mainly in eastern Europe: Sofia, Belgrade, Sibiu, Braşov, Iaşi, Budapest, and Vienna. Generally speaking, Greeks in Europe were well assimilated in Western culture.

An unknown, though significant, number of Greeks – the most poor and uneducated – remained in Asia Minor, either converting to Islam or keeping their Christian faith. The latter regarded the Great Church as their leading power, and thus, the authority of the Great Church existed to areas where the empire had vanished. Indeed, since the late 13th century, the Patriarchate had a wider territory under its authority than the emperors. The privileges attributed to the Greek Church by the Ottomans (in exchange for undertaking the taxation of the Greeks) contributed to its moral and cultural decadence, because many Greeks became priests or monks simply in order to take advantage of those privileges.

The situation begun to change in the 18th century when the ideas of Western Enlightenment reached the East. The Greek diaspora in the West, and Western philhellenes, contributed substantially to the dissemination to the Ottoman Greeks of secularism and the conscience of nationalism, tied to the awareness of ancient Greek heredity. The outcome of these developments was the Greek Revolution in 1821.

The Greek nation-state, approved by Western ‘protectors’ (France, Great Britain, and Russia) in 1830, consisted of less than half the territory of the country in the early 21st century. During nearly the entire 19th century there were fewer Greeks in Greece, and they had lower standards of living and education than the Greeks of the diaspora, whose contribution to the progress and modernization of the state was paramount. Towards the end of the 19th century, Greek citizens of Asia Minor were added to the Westernized Greeks of the diaspora as cities such as Constantinople and Smyrna had developed into cosmopolitan multinational communities.

The adjustment of the Great Church to the new situation was difficult and slow. The role it had played during the Turkocracy for the preservation of the Greek language and the conscience of ethnic identity among the less privileged Ottoman Greeks had strengthened its ties with the people.

An outcome is the fact that Turkocracy has been regarded as the authentic and genuine bearer of tradition, which is understood as inherited directly from Byzantium. Still today the idea that Greeks that were under Western conquerors have been influenced by ‘foreign’ cultures, while Ottoman Greeks have preserved an authentic Greek culture, is indiscriminatingly maintained by many. Music culture of the Greeks has been most heavily influenced by this ideology. Because of the belated secularization of the autochthonous Greek society (and the attachment of the majority of the people to the church), Western music in Greece during much of the 20th century was regarded by many as the music of an elite.

As names lead easily to misinterpretations, here is a short review of names given to Greeks and their territories: The name ‘Greek’ comes from the ancient Greek Graekos (Γραικός), which is older than the name Hellēn (Ἓλλην) that finally prevailed in ancient Greece. Graecus was brought into use by the Romans when the name Hellēn was connected with the persecutions of the Christians under the emperor Julian the Apostate (361–3). The inhabitants of the ‘Roman Empire’ or the ‘Eastern Roman Empire’ were called by Western Europeans ‘Romans’, ‘Greeks’, and ‘Christian Greeks’. The Ottomans and the Turks called them Rums. ‘Byzantium’ was brought into use with its present meaning by Westerners in the 16th century, and was broadly disseminated concurrently with the dissemination of nationalism and secularization in eastern Europe. Greeks have referred to themselves as Graikoi, Rhōmioi, and Hellēnes, which has prevailed today.

II. Ancient.

  • Thomas J. Mathiesen

1. Introduction.

The modern Western concept of ‘music’ differs from the ancient Greek concept of mousikē. For the Greeks, music was both an art and a subject of scientific and philosophical inquiry. It could provide relaxation and entertainment as well as playing a central role in civic and religious life. In the second book of his treatise On Music (Peri mousikēs), Aristides Quintilianus (fl late 3rd century to the 4th ce) remarks on the pervasiveness of music:

There is certainly no action among men that is carried out without music. Sacred hymns and offerings are adorned with music, specific feasts and the festal assemblies of cities exult in it, wars and marches are both aroused and composed through music. It makes sailing and rowing and the most difficult of the handicrafts not burdensome by providing an encouragement for the work.

Recognizing its broad role, he identified (i.5) theoretical and practical subclasses of mousikē, each consisting of various subjects and disciplines (for a diagram see Aristides quintilianus), ranging from the narrowly technical to the broadly philosophical.

Centuries earlier, such conceptual breadth had enabled Plato, in the Timaeus, to employ music as a cosmological paradigm, but he was also concerned in the Republic and the Laws with practical issues such as the influence of music on behaviour and the types of music that should be allowed in an enlightened civilization. Likewise, in the eighth book of the Politics, Aristotle elaborated on the educational function of music and pointed out its effect in the development of character. The pure phenomena of music attracted the interest of various early philosophical schools, especially the Pythagoreans and another group that came to be known as ‘Harmonicists’ (harmonikoi); within this scientific tradition Aristotle’s famous disciple Aristoxenus, in a treatise transmitted under the title Harmonic Elements (Harmonika stoicheia), developed a highly sophisticated system for analysing musical phenomena.

By the 2nd century bce the earlier practical, scientific, and philosophical traditions of music were beginning to fade. Even so, for the next several centuries, authors of late antiquity would continue to write treatments of the subject in Greek and Latin. Byzantine and Arabic scholars remained interested in ancient Greek music theory well into the second millennium of the present era, but in the West the music and its theory began to be forgotten after the time of Boethius and Cassiodorus, leaving only faint and imperfect echoes in later treatises.

When Renaissance humanists began to rediscover the cultural treasures of antiquity, they were intrigued by the legendary powers and quality of the music of ancient Greece but were frustrated by the difficulties in recapturing the music of an earlier time. The humanists were also hampered by the absence of notated pieces of music, by incomplete or imperfect manuscripts of texts they wished to read, and by a limited knowledge and understanding of other valuable pieces of evidence, iconographic and archaeological.

In the 17th and 18th centuries more of the theoretical and literary sources that speak of ancient Greek music began to circulate in published form. The most important of these publications was Marcus Meibom’s Antiquae musicae auctores septem (Amsterdam, 1652), an edition of seven Greek treatises with parallel translations in Latin, a book of some 800 pages. This edition complemented Athanasius Kircher’s famous Musurgia universalis (Rome, 1650), and both influenced John Wallis’s 1682 and 1699 editions of two treatises Meibom had not included in his collection: the Harmonics (Harmonika) of Ptolemy and Porphyry’s commentary on it. These substantial technical publications provided 18th-century scholars with a wealth of material that appealed to their antiquarian and historical interests, while also supplying evidence for arguments about the purpose and meaning of music. L.C. Mizler von Kolof and Johann Mattheson, for example, drew on ostensibly divergent trends in the Greek sources to bolster their own aesthetic differences, while historians such as F.W. Marpurg, G.B. Martini, and Sir John Hawkins tried to develop coherent historical surveys.

Greater control of the literary sources was accomplished during the 19th century, and the discovery of a fair amount of music notated on stone and papyrus and in manuscripts excited renewed debate about the value of ancient Greek music and the prospect of understanding its legendary powers. With the publication during the 20th century of new critical texts, catalogues of manuscripts, and an enormous quantity of critical studies, scholars continued to build on these earlier foundations.

It is impossible to reconstruct every detail of the music of the ancient Greeks, but a broad range of source material provides a good deal of information. Four principal types of sources are available for the study of ancient Greek music and music theory: literature, works of graphic or plastic art, archaeological remains, and notated pieces of music. No single class of source material is sufficient to present a complete picture; each gains in relation to the others, and only when viewed as a complex do they begin to reveal the richness and vitality of mousikē.

2. Source material.

Musical allusions and general descriptions appear in the Iliad and the Odyssey, in lyric poetry, and in dramatic works of ancient Greece. As nearly all this literature was sung, danced, and accompanied by musical instruments, the literature itself is a part of the musical heritage of Greece. In addition, general descriptions of music and music theory abound in philosophy, collections of anecdotes, and similar types of literature. Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Sextus Empiricus, and other representatives of various philosophical schools wrote in detail about the use, character, and value of music. Historical, anecdotal, and lexicographical works such as Pausanias’s Description of Greece (Graeciae descriptio), Athenaeus’s Sophists at Dinner (Deipnosophistai), Plutarch’s Table-Talk (Sumposiaka problēmata), Photius’s Bibliotheca, the Etymologicummagnum, the Suda, and Pollux’s Onomasticon contain valuable detail on such matters as the construction and use of musical instruments, the types of music and occasions when it might be used, and the effect of music on behaviour.

Technical or systematic works that treat the theory of ancient Greek music extend over a wide period from the 4th century bce to the 4th century ce, or even later if works written in late antiquity and the Middle Ages in Latin, Greek, and Arabic are included. These later works, however, should be considered representatives of the transmission of ancient Greek music theory rather than parts of its primary corpus. Of the earlier treatises, some are technical manuals that provide valuable detail about the Greeks’ musical system, including notation, the function and placement of notes in a scale, characteristics of consonance and dissonance, rhythm, and types of musical composition. This group includes the Division of the Canon (Katatomē kanonos; sometimes erroneously attributed to Euclid); Cleonides, Harmonic Introduction (Eisagōgē harmonikē); Nicomachus of Gerasa, Manual of Harmonics (Harmonikon engcheiridion); Theon of Smyrna, On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato (Tōn kata to mathēmatikon chrēsimōn eis tēn Platōnos anagnōsin); Gaudentius, Harmonic Introduction (Harmonikē eisaōgē); Alypius, Introduction to Music (Eisagōgē mousikē); Bacchius, Introduction to the Art of Music (Eisagōgē technēs mousikēs); Dionysius, Introduction to the Art of Music (Eisagōgē technēs mousikēs); the so-called Bellermann’s Anonymous; and others. By contrast, some of the treatises are long and elaborate books showing the way in which mousikē reveals universal patterns of order, thereby leading to the highest levels of knowledge and understanding. Authors of these longer books – Aristoxenus, Ptolemy, Porphyry, and Aristides Quintilianus – were in some cases well-known figures of antiquity.

Literary sources supply much information about music, but they are not especially useful in determining how music sounded or was performed. Answers to these questions must be addressed through the music itself, musical instruments, and iconographic sources illustrating instruments, manner of performance (to some degree), and social contexts in which music was used, ranging from music lessons to processions, banquets, the theatre, and festivals. Various types of lyre, the aulos, and percussion instruments are seen being tuned and played (alone or in ensemble) or sometimes simply hanging on a wall. Statuary, gemstones, and coins exhibiting instruments in three dimensions or low relief help clarify the perspective shown in paintings. Remains of musical instruments discovered in archaeological excavations can be of incalculable value in making reconstructions of instruments; such reconstructions help to bridge the gap between performances captured by the graphic or plastic artists and the sound of the music itself.

A final source of inestimable importance is the ever-growing body of musical fragments that appear in manuscripts and on stone and papyrus. At least six important new pieces, including a second fragment from a work of Euripides, came to light during the last 30 years of the 20th century. Although the precise number varies according to the differing assessments of scholars, more than 40 ‘fragments’ dating from between the 3rd century bce and the 4th century ce are now known (see §8 below). Some of these pieces are indeed quite fragmentary, but others are complete or nearly complete compositions. Theoretical sources have made it possible to transcribe these pieces with reasonable certainty.

3. Scope.

The broad subject of ‘ancient Greek music and music theory’ requires some definition of region and chronological limits. Cycladic sculpture of musicians, belonging to the period 2700–2100 bce, has been discovered on the islands of Keros, Thera, and Naxos; frescoes from the Minoan period (c. 2300–1100 bce) survive; and various musical artefacts exist from Mycenaean (c.1550–1100 bce) and Iron Age and Early Geometric (1100–800 bce) cultures. While this iconographic evidence is valuable, the terminus a quo normally envisioned by the phrase ‘ancient Greek’ is the so-called Archaic period, which is generally taken as referring to the Greek culture of the 8th to 6th centuries bce. The terminus ante quem is more difficult to define because of the vitality of Greek culture, but for the purposes of this article it will be taken as the middle of the 5th century ce.

Within this extended period, a number of different regions contributed to a culture now commonly considered ‘Greek’. Broadly speaking, ancient Greek musical culture was centred in the area of modern Greece (including the Peloponnese); Crete; to the north, the southern regions of Albania, the former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria; to the west, the southern regions of the Italian peninsula; to the east, Asia Minor; and to the south, the northern regions of the African coast (especially in the area of Libya and Egypt). This area includes peoples and regions frequently noted in early literary sources: peoples such as the Dorians, Ionians, Aeolians, Achaeans, Lydians, Phrygians, Thracians, Macedonians, Libyans, and Egyptians; and regions such as Boeotia, Euboea, Aetolia, Attica, Achaea, Argolis, Laconia, Thessalia, Calabria, and Lucania.

4. Musical life in ancient Greece.

A history, in the modern sense, of ancient Greek music cannot be written because the surviving texts are insufficiently precise in matters of chronology, biography, attribution, and even factual detail. Ostensibly historical treatments (by such authors as Alexander, Aristoxenus, Glaucus of Rhegium, and Heraclides Ponticus) are cited and excerpted or paraphrased in Pseudo-Plutarch’s On Music (Peri mousikēs), but the early treatments themselves do not survive. As noted above (§2), other literary sources provide information about musical matters, but their approaches tend to be technical, antiquarian, or museographic rather than historical. It is possible to extract from the sources a considerable picture of ancient Greek music and musical life, but this picture must remain chronologically and historically ambiguous.

The Greeks developed specific musical forms for a wide range of occasions. Encountered in the literary sources are examples of hymns, dithyrambs, wedding songs, threnodies, drinking-songs, love songs, work songs, and many other types. Although the music (in the modern sense) for these compositions no longer survives, with the exception of the musical fragments, the texts themselves provide significant evidence about form, structure, and rhythm, and they also frequently describe music-making.

The term ‘composition’ should not be misunderstood to imply only a piece of music represented in musical notation. While such compositions of ancient Greek music do exist, pieces of music were also transmitted aurally and performed over the years by many different persons, doubtless with individual variations. On the other hand, some compositions apparently remained individual creations, no longer performed but still recalled by later Greek writers in descriptive terms that conveyed important and influential features of the work.

In the earliest traditions music was performed by a solo singer or chorus with and without instrumental accompaniment. Scenes of music-making already appear in the ‘Shield of Achilles’ (Iliad, xviii.478–607) and elsewhere in the Iliad; the Odyssey incorporates both Phemius and Demodocus, two of the most renowned traditional epic singers (aoidoi or ōidoi), as strategic characters within the epic. It is uncertain whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were sung or recited, but extended musical forms – both solo and choral – certainly existed. Purely instrumental music was also popular. Beginning in the 6th century bce, virtuosity and innovation became more prominent in instrumental music, which in turn encouraged complexity in the other musical forms. Conservative poets and philosophers deplored the violation of earlier traditions, but the new styles flourished. Remarkable descriptions of some famous compositions survive, including the Pythic Nomos, a composition for the aulos recalled by Strabo (fl c.1st century bce–1st century ce) in the Geography (ix.3.10; cf Pollux, Onomasticon, iv.78, 84). The composition is not preserved, but similar types of extended and vivid imitative pieces exist in other folk traditions, which may provide some idea of the remarkable effects that could have been used in the Pythic Nomos.

Music in this sense of a performing art was called melos. A distinction was made between melos in general, which might be no more than an instrumental piece or a simple song, and perfect melos (teleion melos; cf Aristides Quintilianus, On Music, i.4), which consisted not only of the melody and the text (including its inherent elements of rhythm and diction) but also highly stylized dance movement. Melic composition (melopoiïa) together with rhythmic composition (rhuthmopoiïa) was the process of selecting and applying the various components of melos and rhythm to create a complete composition (see §6(iii) (g) below). Melic composition is subdivided by Aristides Quintilianus (On Music, i.12) into three classes – dithyrambic, nomic, and tragic – parallel to his three classes of rhythmic composition (On Music, i.19) – systaltic, diastaltic, and hesychastic. In addition, the three broad classes of melic composition may contain various subclasses, such as erotic, comic, and panegyric. By these classifications Aristides Quintilianus would seem to be referring to music written in honour of Dionysus (dithyrambic) or Apollo (nomic) or for the tragedy. Any piece of music might be elevating (diastaltic), depressing (systaltic), or soothing (hesychastic), as appropriate (similar definitions are provided in Cleonides’ Harmonic Introduction, 13).

Although the treatise of Aristides Quintilianus is rather late, its system of classification accords with the statements of earlier writers, and there can be little question that from a very early period the Greeks had developed a sophisticated musical typology. Forms might be typified by subject matter, rhythm and metre, large-scale structure, and so on. Plato’s Athenian Stranger (Laws, iii, 700a8–e4) observes that the types were once distinct: a hymn would not be confused with a dirge, dithyramb, or paean. Nevertheless, Plato also clearly implies that this distinction was beginning to be lost by the mid-4th century bce. A similar point is made in his Republic (iv, 424b5–c6), where Socrates argues against innovations in music because they threaten the fundamental structure of the state: ‘One must be cautious about changing to a new type of music as this risks a change in the whole. The modes [tropoi] of music are never moved without movement of the greatest constitutional laws’. Plato’s remarks underscore the fact that the practical manifestations of music form only one part of the Greek concept of mousikē: music occupied a prominent place in everyday life not only because it was amusing and socially valuable but also because it embodied universal principles and was a vehicle for higher understanding.

Writers such as Plato restricted themselves to relatively general descriptions of musical types, but fuller typologies are preserved in the Sophists at Dinner (c.200 ce) of Athenaeus and the Bibliotheca (c.mid-9th century ce) of Photius, sources that tend, by their nature, to be lexicographic or museographic. Section 239 of the Bibliotheca, which preserves a summary of the Useful Knowledge (Chrestomathia) of Proclus (410/12–85 ce), provides a description of various musical types. After distinguishing between music intended for the gods and music intended for human activity, Proclus lists the types associated with each classification:

For the gods: hymn, prosodion, paean, dithyramb, nomos, adonidia, iobakchos and hyporcheme

For humans: encomion, epinikion, skolion, erotica, epithalamia, hymenaios, sillos, threnos and epikedeion For the gods and humans: partheneion, daphnephorika, tripodephorika, oschophorika and eutika.

It is impossible to know whether this particular typology would have been shared by earlier Greek writers, but it is clear that the Greeks were conscious of specific musical types and their distinctions. Proclus’s classification and typology supply a useful model for examining each form (see Dithyramb; Encomium; Hymenaios; Hymn, §I; Kōmos; Nenia; Nomos; Paean; Partheneia; Prosodion; Skolion; Thrēnos; and Tragōidia).

Although a complete picture of the musico-poetic types remains elusive, enough detail survives in the texts, early commentaries, iconography, and notated musical fragments to reveal considerable musical sophistication, variety, and vitality. Grander and more complex types such as the hymn, paean, prosōidion, and dithyramb played important roles in religious and civic life. The nomos, originally a form associated with venerable tradition, became the particular vehicle for musical innovation and the development of the virtuoso. The epinikion provided a form in which important personal and human victories could be memorialized to inspire future generations. In the dithyramb, hyporcheme, and partheneion, the relationship of dance and music was especially prominent, but the most complete union of music, text, movement, and costume was developed in the drama, which formed a centrepiece of the civic and religious festivals of the Greeks. Likewise, everyday social life was supported by wedding and funeral music, love songs, work songs, banquet songs, and so on. In each piece, whether formal and complex or simple and folklike, musicians drew on a wealth of tradition, a powerful and innately sonorous language, and virtually limitless combinations of rhythms, metres, tonoi, inflections of melodic scale, gesture, and dance, some of which are described in the technical treatises (see §6(iii) below).

5. Musical instruments.

Ancient Greek music was fundamentally vocal and literary in character, but musical instruments appealed to the Greeks at least as much as they did to other early musical cultures. The musico-poetic types noted above (§4) were coloured and brightened by the sounds of an array of instruments that could produce varied timbres ranging from percussive attacks to long, sustained melodic lines and from imprecise noise to the subtlest shading of pitch.

Athenaeus, Pollux, and the authors of other anecdotal and lexicographic works provide detailed definitions and classifications of musical instruments, the beauty of which also appealed to Greek painters and sculptors. Red- and black-figure vase painters portrayed countless scenes of Greeks of all classes, as well as the gods themselves, engaged in playing musical instruments, while sculptors portrayed musical instruments in terracotta statuary and on gemstones and low reliefs. In addition to this literary and iconographic evidence, a number of instruments survive as archaeological artefacts. Taken with the other evidence, these remains make it possible to reconstruct individual instruments and experiment with them to discover characteristics of timbre, pitch, tuning, and performing practice.

The instruments employed by the Greeks fall into the four traditional Hornbostel-Sachs classifications: idiophones, membranophones, aerophones, and chordophones. Distinctions between the chordophones and aerophones – and among the instruments in each group – were simply assumed by most writers, but the percussion instruments (idiophones and membranophones) receive little attention. They were, however, seen by some writers as sharing at least one trait with the chordophones: both were struck in order to sound. If classification is based on performing technique, the idiophones, membranophones, and chordophones can be considered a single class, distinct from the aerophones. Moreover, the chordophones and membranophones share a distinct physical characteristic that suggests they be grouped apart from the aerophones: both require tension for the instrument to sound. (The following paragraphs provide only a summary treatment; for a fuller technical description of many of the instruments, see the individual entries devoted to them.)

(i) Idiophones and membranophones.

The Greek idiophones include the krotala (crotala), kroupezai or kroupala, kumbala or krembala (cymbala), seistron (sistrum), rhombos, and kōdōn (bell). The rhoptron is, in a sense, an idiophone, but like the other drums (tumpana), it is also a membranophone. Idiophones, made of naturally sonorous materials that produced relatively indistinct pitches, were used for a variety of purposes, while the membranophones were associated particularly with the rites of Dionysus and Cybele. All these instruments, capable of a wide dynamic range and various types of articulation depending on the way in which they are struck, could have been used to articulate the rhythmic and metric patterns of music; in at least some cases they must have been used to coordinate performers by marking time. The percussion could also easily sound multiple simultaneous patterns, such as the contrast between the rhythmic and metric patterns that appears in the musical fragments, or a dynamic distinction between the arsis and thesis of various rhythmic feet.

(a) Krotala.

Made of hollow blocks of some hard material and hinged with leather, krotala (see Crotala) were held and clapped together in the hand; they were quite strongly associated with mystery, excitement, and vigorous celebration. In the Aristotelian On Marvellous Things Heard (Peri thaumasiōn akousmatōn, 839a1–2), the author recalls a haunted cave on the island of Lipara, where laughing is heard at night accompanied by the sound of drums, kumbala, and krotala; and the Homeric hymn To the Mother of the Gods (Eis mētera theōn) calls on the Muse to celebrate Cybele with the sounds of krotala, drums, and auloi.

(b) Kroupezai, kroupala.

These were essentially krotala worn on the foot and operated with the heel resting on the ground and the front part of the foot tapping up and down. Metal taps were normally attached to both of the inner faces of the kroupezai, and the sound of the instrument would have been harder, sharper, and more metallic than that of the krotala. If the tapping of the kroupezai was used to help coordinate an ensemble, it is probable that they struck some regular pulse, possibly marking the thesis in each foot or each individual metron. Augustine (De musica, iii.1) refers specifically to the role of the kroupezai (which he called scabellasee Scabellum) in articulating the larger metric patterns, and a number of the musical fragments exhibit dots (stigmai) that quite clearly mark rhythmic or metric patterns. If the kroupezai sounded at these points, an ensemble could easily follow the pattern.

(c) Kumbala, krembala.

Higher-pitched metallic instruments, rather like the finger-cymbals still common in Asian musical cultures, kumbala (see Cymbala) were mentioned by Athenaeus (Sophists at Dinner, xiv.39) as an example of instruments that simply produce a noise; he observed that they were popular with women for the accompaniment of dancing, adding that some people use shells or pieces of pottery to create a rhythm for the dancers.

(d) Seistron.

Commonly associated with the Egyptian cult of Isis, the seistron (see Sistrum) was likened to the krotala by Pollux, who observed that it was used by wet-nurses to amuse sleepless infants so they would fall asleep. Aristotle used the term platagē in Politics (viii.6, 1340b25–31) to refer to the ‘rattle’ of Archytas, which he commended as a useful toy for parents to give their children to amuse themselves and to distract them from breaking things in the house. As the verb platagein refers to clapping the hands, Archytas’s rattle was probably rather like the modern mounted castanets. The seistron, however, would have had a higher and more metallic tone, rather different from the krotala or Archytas’s rattle.

(e) Rhombos.

As a term in the context of sound, rhombos simply refers to a whirling or rumbling. The term can be applied to the Bullroarer, a piece of wood whirled around on a string, or as a synonym for the rhoptron, a drum with bronze snares stretched across the head to provide a nasal buzzing sound. The bullroarer might have been called a rhombos not only because of its whirling motion but also because the piece of wood may normally have been cut into a rhombus shape to cause it to vibrate more vigorously and produce more sound as it whirled through the air. Its mysterious rising and falling pitch, associated particularly with the ceremonies of the priests of Cybele, was caused by the speed at which the rhombos was spun.

(f) Rhoptron.

Associated with the Corybantes, it was described by Plutarch in his life of Crassus as an instrument used by the Parthians to frighten their opponents in battle. He observed that rhoptra make a dead, hollow noise, like the bellowing of beasts mixed with the sound of thunder. Plutarch’s definition accords with the definition provided by the Suda for tumpana, which are described as constructed from hollowed-out pine or fir, fitted with bronze bells (kōdōnes), the mouth (stoma) of the tumpanon covered with oxhide (see Tympanum). In both definitions the drum is described as an object with only one opening, not as a short hollow frame with two openings, and the bronze objects are not attached to the outside of the drum. In Plutarch’s definition they are stretched over the hollow, and in the definition of the Suda they are fitted into the drum before it is covered with oxhide. Although modern scholarship commonly refers to the rhoptron as a tambourine, the instrument is much more akin to a snare drum. While a chorus of tambourines could hardly produce the sort of sound described by Plutarch and the Suda, the sound of an ensemble of large snare drums could be overwhelming and terrifying in battle.

In addition to the rhoptra the Greeks used ordinary frame drums. Vase painters sometimes show these held by one hand inside the frame, indicating that only one end of the frame was covered with skin. The drums, however, are also shown held by a handle, and in these cases both ends may have been covered with skin. Rhoptra and frame drums alike seem to have been played with the fingers rather than with sticks of any sort. Although drums are sometimes shown in association with auloi and other percussion instruments, they were frequently used as solo instruments to accompany dance in the celebrations of Dionysus and Cybele or as instruments of the battlefield, together with the salpinx and horn.

(ii) Aerophones.

The primary wind instruments of the Greeks were the aulos, syrinx, hydraulis, salpinx, and horn (keras). Wind instruments, like the percussion, were associated particularly with the cults of Cybele and Dionysus, but the instruments were always regarded with some ambivalence in Greek musical culture as not truly ‘Greek’. This is reflected in the various myths surrounding the discovery of the aulos and the syrinx. While the invention of the lyre is clearly assigned to Hermes and the instrument is inextricably linked to Apollo, legend places the origin of the aulos in Phrygia. An origin in Asia Minor naturally links the aulos with Dionysus because prominent cults of Dionysus existed in both Phrygia and Thrace. Indeed, it was commonly assumed by ancient authorities that the god – and thus his music – had come to Greece from these ‘foreign’ regions. The syrinx, likewise, was said to have been invented by Cybele, the Celts, or other gods or non-Greek peoples. Nevertheless, as the aulos and the other wind instruments became fixtures of Greek musical culture in the festivals, symposia, the theatre, and everyday life, other legends attributed the discovery of the aulos to Apollo and to Athena, who threw it away when she realized that playing it distorted her features. The instrument, it seems, landed in Phrygia, thereby linking the two traditions.

(a) Aulos.

This was the most important of the Greek wind instruments; its use in some of the musical forms has already been noted above (§4). In addition to the larger cultural view of the instrument, literary sources give substantial detail about the origin, history, and construction of the aulos; numerous archaeological remains and iconographic representations provide specific examples. On this basis rather complete reconstructions of Greek auloi have been made, facilitating observations about the timbre, pitch, tuning, and performing practice of the instrument. (For a fuller description see Aulos, §I.)

It should be stressed that the aulos is a reed instrument – not a flute, as some continue to translate it – consisting of two quite distinct and separate parts: a mouthpiece and a resonator. The technical writings concern not only the various shapes and sizes of the resonator but also the material and construction of the reeds. Pollux (Onomasticon, iv.70) described the parts of auloi as the glōtta, trupēmata, bombukes, holmoi, and hupholmia. The resonators, or bombukes, were made of all sorts of material, laterally pierced by a number of finger-holes, trēmata or trupēmata. The reeds (glōttai) were held by the bulb-shaped holmoi, which could be inserted directly into the resonator or another bulb, the hupholmion, which increased the resonating length of the pipe.

The aulos had only four trupēmata until certain innovators (such as Diodorus or Pronomus) made one with ‘many holes’. Four finger-holes are frequently displayed in paintings of the aulos, and surviving pipes of Egyptian and other cultures indeed have only four holes; remains of Greek auloi, however, exhibit more than four trupēmata. Once the auloi were developed to include more than four trupēmata, it was necessary to find a way to close the holes not needed for a particular performance. Some of the surviving remains of auloi include metal bands encircling the pipe at the location of each trupēma, a hole in each band corresponding to the trupēma itself. The bands can be turned to open or close the various trupēmata; mechanisms were eventually developed to assist the performer in turning them more easily and quickly, thereby enabling the aulete to change and expand the intervallic patterns available on a single aulos.

Theophrastus in the History of Plants (Peri phutōn historias, iv.11) described the manufacture of the mouthpiece, but in the absence of any aulos mouthpieces the passage is subject to a number of interpretations. The literary evidence has been interpreted to refer to a double reed or to a single beating reed; the first section on the mouthpiece in the Aristotelian On Things Heard (Peri akoustōn, 801b34–40) may suggest, however, that the aulos was played with either type of reed.

Iconographic and textual evidence indicates that auloi came in various shapes and sizes and were normally, but not always, played in pairs. It is unclear whether the pipes played in unison or in some other manner. In order for the two pipes to sound simultaneously, the aulete would have had to provide a tight seal around both mouthpieces. This was accomplished with the aid of the Phorbeia, a kind of mouthband shown in many illustrations of auletes.

The aulos, with its unique sound and flexibility of pitch, was fully capable of playing the subtly inflected scales described in the treatises. Beyond this it is nearly impossible to generalize about the instrument, especially over several centuries’ development. It could be played with single or double reeds, in pairs or as a single pipe, in low or high registers, outdoors – in settings such as the theatre or processions – or indoors at symposia or private occasions, by men or women, with or without the phorbeia, and so on.

(b) Syrinx.

A single pipe or a group of reeds bound together, the syrinx (surinx) always remained a simple pastoral instrument. The ‘Shield of Achilles’ (Iliad, xviii.526) portrays shepherds delighting themselves with the syrinx, and even Plato (Republic, iii.10, 399d), while excluding all musical instruments from his city except for the lyra and the kithara, allows that ‘in the fields, the shepherds would have the syrinx’. The Homeric hymn To Hermes (Eis Hermēn, 511–12) attributes the general invention of the syrinx to Hermes; Pan, the son of Hermes, is the figure most commonly connected with the instrument, especially by later writers such as Ovid (Metamorphoses, i.689ff).

The syrinx could be tuned by cutting the pipes to the proper length, which would produce a fully graduated instrument of the type known to Pollux, who used (iv.69) the image of a bird’s wing in describing the instrument as an ensemble of reeds ranging from longer to shorter; by boring a single hole in each pipe to define its speaking length; and by plugging wax into the various pipes in order to produce sounding lengths in the proper ratio.

(c) Hydraulis.

Described by Philo of Byzantium (iv.77) as a ‘syrinx played by the hands’, the hydraulis (hudraulis) is briefly noted in Athenaeus’s Sophists at Dinner (iv.75) as the invention of Ctesibius, an engineer and perhaps a barber who lived in Alexandria, and its sound is characterized as ‘sweet and delightful’. Its mechanism was sufficiently complex to ensure that it could never have become a common instrument, but at least by the 1st century bce it had become a recognized part of the musical culture.

Descriptions suggest that the hydraulis was originally an instrument of flue pipes blown with a relatively light wind pressure, rather than the large instrument of metal pipes (and perhaps reeds) blown with a high wind pressure that later became common in outdoor arenas. The tuning of the pipes of the hydraulis is not specified in any source, and archaeological remains do not allow for a positive identification of their pitch. Most iconographic representations show eight pipes, but instruments with seven, nine, ten, and 15 pipes are also portrayed. It seems reasonable to suppose that the pipes were tuned in some combination of whole tones and semitones, but it is not possible to be certain.

(d) Salpinx and keras (horn).

The salpinx and keras produced specific pitches of considerable volume that could be heard over great distances. The Greeks recognized the value of such musical instruments in battle to provide military signals, stir the warriors, and frighten their opponents. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides all mention the salpinx on a number of occasions, and the second speaker in Pseudo-Plutarch’s On Music (1140c) confirms the military use of the instrument. Salpinxes are shown quite frequently in vase paintings; a number of nearly complete instruments survive. The instrument, made of bronze and iron with a bone mouthpiece, created a sound described as roaring, loud, powerful, violent, terrifying, war-like and hostile, and so on. Pollux also comments on the various signals played by the salpinx in its military role – such as encouragement, advance, and retreat – as well as its use for fanfares and other signals in various contexts. Players of the salpinx often wore the phorbeia, which must have served the same purpose as it did for the aulos.

Other simple pipes were also used by the Greeks and Romans for various types of signal, but little is known about them beyond occasional iconographic or literary references. Horns were sometimes added to the ends of long bronze pipes to form a type of bell. This instrument, the lituus, was used in Roman regiments. A curved salpinx supported by a central wooden crossbar was also used both by the Greeks, who called it a bukanē, and by the Romans, who called it a cornu.

(iii) Chordophones.

According to tradition, Hermes, after he had constructed a seven-string lyre, taught Orpheus to play it, who in turn taught Thamyris and Linus, while Linus taught Amphion (see Amphion (i)) and Heracles. When Orpheus was killed, his lyre was thrown into the sea and later washed onto the shore at Antissa in Lesbos, where fishermen found it and took it to Terpander. This line of descent supports the Greeks’ strong association of the string instruments with one of their most venerable composers. In fact, Terpander, Archilochus, Alcman, Sappho, Theognis, the tragedians, and others refer to one or another of the string instruments, and these early musicians are also associated with them by later Greek writers, who describe their everyday use. Thus, the string instruments remained most basic to the Greeks’ musical culture. In the Iliad, the Homeric hymns, and the Scutum Herculis, Apollo, Hermes, and Artemis play the phorminx with a plectrum. Mortals play the phorminx in both the ‘Shield of Achilles’ and the Scutum Herculis, and Pindar frequently refers to the instrument. Plato clearly preferred the string instruments to the winds.

Terms applied to the string instruments in literary sources are variable, but the instruments can be separated into two major classes: (a) lyres and (b) psalteria. Instruments of the first class, named for the lyra (lura), have freely resonating strings strummed with a plectrum; instruments of the second class, named for the psaltērion, were plucked by the fingers. In early Homeric literature, phorminx and kitharis are the common terms associated with instruments of the first class. Later, these terms are joined by lura and chelus (chelys; see Lyra (i), Barbitos and Kithara). The complementary evidence of iconography suggests that the chelys lyra was the small instrument, constructed on a tortoise (chelus) shell, used in music lessons and for private music-making; the phorminx, an instrument of moderate size with a rounded bottom and perhaps a fuller tone; the barbitos, associated with Dionysian ceremonies, a chelys lyra with long arms and probably a low and resonant tone; and the kithara, commonly associated with Apollo, the large concert instrument used in contests, the theatre, and festivals. Among the psalteria were the psaltērion itself; the epigoneion and simikion, instruments that may have had as many as 40 strings, perhaps rather like the modern zither; the magadis, pēktis, and phoenix, instruments with strings tuned in pairs, not unlike the modern dulcimer; and the sambukē (see Sambuca (i)) and the trigōnon, which were held aloft, like the modern Irish harp, and – especially in the case of the trigōnon – played primarily in the home by women (Pollux, Onomasticon, iv.58–61).

In addition to the instruments of the two major classes, iconographic sources occasionally represent a lute-like instrument, distinct from all the others in having strings stretched over a neck, and an instrument that has been described by modern scholars as a seistron or a xylophone but actually seems to have been played with the same sort of technique used for the other string instruments. No ancient names are known for either of these instruments.

(a) Lyres.

Instruction in playing the lyre was a basic part of Athenian education. Men and women could employ the instrument for simple recreation, the accompaniment of dancing, music in wedding ceremonies, or singing at symposia; the lyre was also employed in contests.

The construction of the lyra is described in the Homeric hymn To Hermes (41–56), supplemented by later authorities: the soundbox (ēcheion) is formed by the back of a tortoise shell, over which oxhide (derma boos) is stretched and pinned to the shell by stalks of reed (kalamos); two arms (pēcheis), spanned by a crossbar (zugon), extend from the shell; and seven consonant strings of sheep gut (hepta de sumphōnous oïōn chordas) are stretched from the crossbar across a bridge (magas) to the bottom of the instrument, where they are attached to the chordotonos. The instrument is played with a plectrum (plēktron). More detailed descriptions of individual parts of lyres are preserved by Athenaeus, Pollux, Hesychius, the Suda, and the Etymologicon magnum. This general design was used for all the instruments of the lyre family.

The number of strings on the lyra, phorminx, barbitos, and kithara is fairly well attested by literary and iconographic sources: it may have had in earliest times only three or four strings, but from at least as early as the time of Terpander, it had seven or more. As lyres developed, subsequent strings were added, each of which is attributed by the literary sources to such famous musicians as Prophrastus of Pieria, Histiaeus of Colophon, Melanippides, and Timotheus of Miletus. Beyond that, there is no literary source of comparable authority to Theophrastus’s History of Plants for the tuning and arrangement of the strings; despite much scholarly conjecture, the sound and tuning of the string instruments are essentially unknown. Only a few archaeological remains of parts of these instruments survive, and reconstructions are far more hypothetical than reconstructions of any of the other instruments.

In addition to being struck by the plectrum, the strings were manipulated in some way by the fingers of the performer’s left hand, which are usually represented as extended just behind the strings. The evidence is insufficient to determine precisely the function of the left hand, but it has been proposed that the fingers dampened or plucked certain strings, or lightly touched one or more of the strings to produce harmonics. Movement of the left hand was, however, restricted by the wrist band that supported the instrument. The fingers of the hand could move, and the hand itself might rotate, but the arm could not make sudden movements towards the left or right side of the instrument without upsetting its balance.

Although the four lyres exhibit significant structural differences, they have a great deal in common, and it is reasonable to suppose that a person able to string, tune, and play one of the lyres could also have played, at least to some degree, any of the others. The important role of musical instruction in playing the chelys lyra meant that any educated Greek might possess a degree of technical and musical facility that could be employed in any number of social and religious contexts. Likewise, the skill displayed by a kitharode in one of the competitions or in the theatre would be appreciated not just by an audience intellectually versed and prepared to respond as spectators and auditors but also by one that understood the achievement in quite practical terms. Thus, in a functional sense, the lyres served as the common thread that tied together the entire musical culture in a way not matched by any of the other instruments.

(b) Psalteria.

The role of the psalteria in Greek musical culture remains unclear. Although various instruments are mentioned here and there in literary sources, only some of them are represented in iconographic sources – and only infrequently. Psalteria, such as the psaltērion and epigoneion, with a large number of strings, may have been associated chiefly with the class of highly skilled musicians and musical scientists that appeared in the 6th century bce, but at least some of them, such as the sambukē and trigōnon seem to be exclusively women’s instruments. If the style of solo kithara music criticized by Plato (Laws, ii, 669d–670a) did indeed emerge from the music of the epigoneion, the historical importance of this instrument would be considerably greater than the limited literary and iconographic record would suggest.

The magadis and pēktis receive conflicting definitions among the ancient authorities. The magadis, attributed to both the Lydians and the Thracians, was particularly associated with antiphonal sounds of low and high pitch and especially with singing in octaves (Aristotelian Problems, xix.18, 39). If a particular characteristic of the magadis – and perhaps also the pēktis – was the simultaneous sounding of octaves, it is possible that its strings were tuned in pairs, an arrangement that would also have produced additional sympathetic resonance in the instrument.

Unlike the other psalteria, the trigōnon – a ‘triangular’ psaltērion – is represented with some frequency in vase painting, with at least three varieties of the basic instrument. In most representations the instrument sits on the performer’s lap or on a platform next to the performer; all are fairly large instruments that reach as high or somewhat higher than the top of the performer’s head, and all have a separate soundbox. In each case, the trigōnon rests on its arm, not on the soundbox. The number of strings shown varies from perhaps nine to 32. All the representations of the open trigōnon show the instrument with the longest strings most distant from the performer, who is in every case a female. The sambukē is frequently associated with the trigōnon and magadis in the literary sources, but its distinctive features remain uncertain. The literary emphasis on the similarity in appearance between the sambukē and a ship, taken together with the appearance of the soundbox in one of the closed trigōna, which resembles a hull, suggests that this particular form of the trigōnon might be the sambukē. Like the trigōnon, the sambukē was strongly associated with women. Aristides Quintilianus (On Music, ii.16) describes the instrument as having a faint sound, which would have made it suitable for use in the private chambers of the Muses or mortal women, the common context for the trigōna in vase paintings.

Athenaeus (Sophists at Dinner, iv.78, 80, 82) refers in a number of places to the Pandoura, which Pollux (Onomasticon, iv.60) defines as a three-string instrument invented by the Assyrians. Athenaeus (iv.81) also mentions a four-string instrument called a skindapsos, which may have been a larger version of the same instrument.

The general types of instrument used by the Greeks remained relatively stable over a long period, although particular instruments came in and out of favour and, with the possible exception of the percussion instruments, all became mechanically more complex over the centuries. The array of musical instruments employed in Greek culture attests the importance of varied colours in their musical expression, which involved various combinations of instruments and voices, the precise combination determined partly by tradition and partly by the preferences of individual performers. There is no question that part of the appeal of musical instruments in Greek culture was aesthetic. Their sound and appearance are often described in sensual terms and their iconography places them in scenes that range from the pleasant and appealing to the impressive and inspiring. Beyond this, the association of musical instruments with particular divinities provided a basis for the creation of affective responses that might complement or conflict with the responses elicited by other means, such as text, rhythm, tempo, and melodic structure.

6. Music theory.

A significant body of Greek literature can properly be considered music theory, although some works are known only as titles mentioned in passing or as brief quotations in the works of Athenaeus and similar writers. Nevertheless, a substantial portion of Greek music theory does survive (see §2 above). While this literature is commonly known to modern scholarship as ‘ancient Greek music theory’, the phrase is a misnomer. First, most of the surviving literature is not ancient in the sense of having been written before the 1st or 2nd centuries bce. With the exception of quotations in later literature, the earliest surviving independent theoretical works are Aristoxenus’s Harmonic Elements and Rhythmic Elements, both of which are fragmentary. At least some parts of the Division of the Canon are perhaps nearly contemporary, but all the other treatises date from the end of the 1st century ce or later. Secondly, the modern conceptual meaning of the phrase ‘music theory’ is foreign to these writings. With the possible exception of the rather late writer Alypius, it is quite unlikely that any of the authors intended his work for practising musicians or was concerned with actual pieces of music. Ancient Greek music theory is not primarily interested in analysing pieces of music or explaining compositional or performing practice. As long as its imperfections are understood, ‘ancient Greek music theory’ provides a useful phrase in referring collectively to the specialized literature ranging from the Pythagorean excerpts quoted in various sources to the treatises of Porphyry, Aristides Quintilianus, Alypius, and Bacchius written between the 3rd and 5th centuries ce.

The nature of the sources themselves is problematic. Of the independent theoretical works, only Aristoxenus’s Rhythmic Elements survives in any medium older than the 11th century ce, and with a few exceptions even those quoted in other sources exist only in manuscripts of this period or later. The extent to which these later copies preserve the form and content of any of the treatises is, in general, impossible to determine, and it cannot be established for certain whether the titles or even the authors assigned to the treatises in the manuscripts represent the actual authors and titles at the time the treatises were first composed. It is also uncertain whether the earliest treatises on ancient Greek music theory were ‘composed’ (in the modern sense of the term) by an individual author or whether they were only later assembled by disciples or from tradition. In rare cases it is possible to see the way in which a treatise ‘grows’, even to the extent of changing its entire method of argumentation, as it is transmitted across the centuries (see Barbera, M1990, and Euclidean Division, D.ii 1991). Of course, similar problems exist for other Greek literary remains, and there is no special reason to distrust the authenticity of the corpus of ancient Greek music theory, independent treatises, and fragments. Still, the inherent limitations of the form in which it exists must be recognized.

These problems notwithstanding, the tradition of scholarship in the field of ancient Greek music theory underlines an importance that goes beyond the evidence it supplies about the Greeks’ own music; the theory is also significant as an intellectual monument that exerted a profound influence on later Latin, Byzantine, and Arabic musical writings. As such, its significance resides in later writers’ use and understanding of the literature at least as much as in the degree to which it presents an accurate picture of ancient Greek music.

Three basic traditions may be discerned in the corpus of ancient Greek music theory: (i) a Pythagorean tradition (including its later manifestations in Platonism and Neoplatonism) primarily concerned with number theory and the relationships between music and the cosmos (including the influence of music on behaviour); (ii) a related, scientific tradition of harmonics associated with a group known as ‘Harmonicists’; (iii) an Aristoxenian tradition based on Aristotelian principles. Some of the treatises fit comfortably in a single tradition, while others combine the traditions. The characteristics of each tradition can be generalized (in so far as music is concerned), although for the most part no single treatise provides a comprehensive treatment of any of the traditions. (For discussion of individual theorists, see the separate entries devoted to them.)

(i) Pythagoreans.

These writers were particularly interested in the paradigmatic and mimetic characteristics of music, which they saw as underlying its power in human life. Plato in particular was greatly influenced by the Pythagorean tradition in his treatments of music and his concern with regulating its use, especially in the Republic, the Laws, and the Timaeus (see §§1 and 4 above; see also Damon; Ethos; and Mimesis). In general, Pythagoreans were not concerned with deducing musical science from musical phenomena because in their view the imperfection of temporal things precluded them from conveying more than a reflection of higher reality. The important truths about music were to be found instead in its harmonious reflection of number, which was ultimate reality. As a mere temporal manifestation, the employment of this harmonious structure in actual pieces of music was of decidedly secondary interest. The scientific side of Pythagoreanism, and particularly the part of it concerned with musical science, is primarily known through the Division of the Canon and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch (and the treatise On Music attributed to Pseudo-Plutarch), Nicomachus of Gerasa, Theon of Smyrna, Ptolemy, and, as later merged with Neoplatonism, the writings of Porphyry, Aristides Quintilianus, Iamblichus, and later writers.

Plato’s Republic, x.13–16, provides a general description of the ‘harmony of the spheres’, but in the Timaeus (34b–37c), Plato presents a much more detailed model for the creation of the soul of the universe, one that embodies characteristic Pythagorean ratios and means, which produce the kind of musical shape shown in fig.4 [figure not available online]. As a series of ratios, the numbers on the left represent such musical intervals as the octave (2:1), double octave (4:1), and triple octave (8:1), while the numbers on the right represent the octave and a 5th (3:1), the triple octave and a tone (9:1), and the quadruple octave and a major 6th (27:1). Aristides Quintilianus paraphrases this material quite closely in On Music (iii.24), developing it with various Neoplatonic interpretations of the numbers and mathematical processes.

Many of these same numbers and ratios appear in the Division of the Canon, which presents a systematic application of Pythagorean mathematics to such musical topics as consonance, the magnitudes of certain consonant intervals, the location of movable notes in an enharmonic tetrachord, and the location of the notes of the Immutable System on a monochord. The Introduction to the Division defines the physical basis of sound as a series of motions; by producing a percussion (plēgē) of air, motion creates sound: denser motion is associated with greater string tension and higher pitch, sparser motion with lesser string tension and lower pitch. Since pitches are related to the number of motions of a string, the pitches of notes are made up of certain numbers of parts; thus, they can be described and compared in numerical terms and ratios. Notes are related to one another in one of three numerical ratios: multiple, superparticular, and superpartient; the relationship of consonant notes (i.e. those spanning the 4th, 5th, octave, 12th, and 15th) can be expressed in a multiple or a superparticular ratio (i.e. 4:3, 3:2, 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1) formed only of the numbers of the tetractys (tetraktus) of the decad (1, 2, 3, 4, the sum of which equals 10), although the Division does not explicitly refer to this famous Pythagorean tetractys.

The Pythagoreans were also concerned with the measurement of intervals smaller than the 4th, which they identified through mathematical processes. The tone, for instance, was shown to be the difference (9:8) between the 5th and the 4th, and various sizes of ‘semitone’ were identified, such as 256:243 (the ‘limma’), 2187:2048 (the ‘apotomē’), and ‘semitones’ that could be created by proportioning the ratio 9:8 to create any number of small subdivisions (e.g. 18:17:16 or 36:35:34:33:32 etc.). The size of the semitone and the addition of tones and semitones to create 4ths, 5ths, and octaves became a subject of heated controversy between the Pythagoreans, with their fundamentally arithmetic approach, and the Aristoxenians, who adopted a geometric approach to the measurement of musical space.

The mathematical background for the Division of the Canon and other Pythagorean treatments of music is explained in Nicomachus’s Introduction to Arithmetic (Arithmetikē eisagōgē) and in On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato (especially ‘On Music’, 19–61) by Theon of Smyrna. Likewise, the Manual of Harmonics (6 and 8) of Nicomachus of Gerasa includes a discussion of the basic Pythagorean consonances (including the famous story of Pythagoras’s discovery of them, which also appears in a somewhat different version in the Harmonic Introduction, 11, of Gaudentius); the two means, harmonic and arithmetic, described by Archytas of Tarentum and employed by Plato in the Timaeus to construct his musical soul of the universe; and the scale of Philolaus. A group of excerpts (Jan, 266.2–282.18) attributed to Nicomachus in some manuscripts preserves further observations about the relationships between the 28 musical notes and the harmonia of the cosmos.

Both Gaudentius’s Harmonic Introduction (15–16), and Ptolemy’s Harmonics provide examples of the application of Pythagorean music theory to the construction of musical genera and scales also known in the other theoretical traditions. In Harmonics, i.13, Ptolemy describes Archytas’s measurement of the three genera of the tetrachord (see §6(iii)(c) below): the enharmonic (in descending order, 5:4, 36:35, and 28:27), the chromatic (32:27, 243:224, and 28:27), and the diatonic (9:8, 8:7, and 28:27); and in Harmonics, ii.14, he provides an extensive collection of measurements of the three genera expressed in terms of Pythagorean mathematics, attributed to Archytas, Eratosthenes, Didymus, and himself.

(ii) Harmonicists.

These theorists are primarily known through Aristoxenus’s negative assessment in his Harmonic Elements, at the beginning of which he defines the study of harmonics as pertaining to the theory of scales and tonoi (see §6(iii)(d–e) below). Earlier authors, identified by him as ‘the Harmonicists’ (hoi harmonikoi), had based their theory on a single genus in the range of an octave, which they had represented in a series of diagrams. Although the precise nature of the Harmonicists’ diagrams cannot be determined, they may have been something like the diagrams that form the last two sections of the Division of the Canon or the monochord division of Thrasyllus preserved in section 36 of Theon of Smyrna’s On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato.

Diagrams of this sort indeed show the ‘close-packing’ (katapuknōsis) of intervals that Aristoxenus describes as a feature of the Harmonicists’ diagrams, and, since they are intended to illustrate all the locations where pitches might be found rather than any genuine musical scale, they also fail to show, as Aristoxenus noted, anything about actual scales or tonoi. Aristoxenus refers to katapuknōsis on two principal occasions in the treatise: first (i.7: da Rios, 12.8–12), where he observes that there is a close relationship among scales, ‘positions of the voice’, and the tonoi, a relationship that must be examined not by close-packing, but rather in the reciprocal melodic relationships of the scales themselves; second (i.27–8: da Rios, 35.9–37.4), where he contrasts continuity (sunecheia) and consecution (hexēs) as he observes that musical continuity is a matter of musical logic, or synthesis (sunthesis), not a series of consecutive notes closely packed together on a chart with the smallest possible interval separating one from another. Two additional passing references (ii.38: da Rios, 47.15; and ii.53: da Rios, 66.5) appear later in the treatise, echoing the earlier points.

Turning to the concept of synthesis (i.5: da Rios, 9.12–11.10) as crucial to his study, Aristoxenus notes that the Harmonicist Eratocles (fl 5th century bce) was primarily interested in the possible cyclic orderings of the intervals in an octave, which led him – long before Ptolemy’s Harmonics – to observe seven species. Aristoxenus derides such mechanical manipulation, which was apparently typical of the Harmonicist approach, because it does not take into account the possible species of the 5th and 4th and the various musical syntheses, which would produce many more than seven species.

In treating the tonoi, some of the Harmonicists arranged them in the ascending order of Hypodorian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian, with the first three separated from each other by a half-tone and the final three by a tone, while others, basing their assumptions on the aulos, thought that the ascending order should be Hypophrygian, Hypodorian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian, with the first three separated from each other by three dieses, the Dorian and the Phrygian by a tone, and the last three once again by three dieses. Aristoxenus (ii.37–8: da Rios, 46.17–47.16) objected that their identification of a series of tonoi separated by some small interval resulted simply in a closely packed diagram and not in any useful understanding of musical phenomena.

The characteristics of the aulos and musical notation were two apparent preoccupations of the Harmonicists, but Aristoxenus dismisses both of these as unscientific. In his view, the Harmonicists ‘have it backwards when they think that placing some apparent thing is the end of comprehension, for comprehension is the end of every visible thing’ (ii.41: da Rios, 51.10–13); by concentrating on the ‘subject of judgment’ rather than on judgment itself, the Harmonicists ‘miss the truth’ (ii.41: da Rios, 52.1–4).

Though clearly representing the Pythagorean tradition, the Division of the Canon exhibits precisely the sort of limited diagrammatic view of music theory attributed by Aristoxenus to the Harmonicists. The two final sections of the Division may not have been part of its earliest form (Barbera, Euclidean Division, D(ii)1991, pp.40–44), but the structure of the demonstrations and the division of the monochord itself are nevertheless expressed in diagrammatic terms. Moreover, the Division says nothing at all about the ways in which one note might or might not move to another; makes no specific reference to the various genera, although the enharmonic genus is certainly produced by the demonstrations of propositions 17 and 18; and is limited to a single two-octave display. Likewise, the Introduction to Music of Alypius, devoted almost entirely to a series of notational tables (see §7 below), might be seen as growing out of the Harmonicist tradition, although its late date would make such a classification largely irrelevant.

(iii) Aristoxenian tradition.

The most systematic discussion of ostensibly musical phenomena is found in the fragmentary Harmonic Elements of Aristoxenus and later treatises based on its principles (especially the Aristoxenian epitome by Cleonides and parts of the treatises of Gaudentius, Bacchius, Ptolemy, and Aristides Quintilianus). Aristoxenus himself was concerned with the philosophical definitions and categories necessary to establish a complete and correct view of the musical reality of scales and tonoi, two primary elements of musical composition, and in the first part of his treatise he introduces and discusses such subjects as motion of the voice (hē tēs phōnēs kinēsis), pitch (tasis), compass (hē tou bareos te kai oxeos diatasis), intervals (diastēmata), consonance and dissonance, scales (sustēmata), melos, continuity and consecution, genera (genē), synthesis, mixing of genera (mignumenos tōn genōn), notes (phthongoi), and position of the voice (ho tēs phōnēs topos). From these, he develops a set of seven categories – genera, intervals, notes, scales, tonoi, modulation (metabolē), and melic composition (melopoiïa) – framed by two additional categories: first, hearing and intellect, and last, comprehension. As the later Aristoxenian tradition did not share Aristoxenus’s broader philosophical interests, the framing categories and much of the subtlety of language and argument largely disappeared, while the seven ‘technical’ categories (especially the first three) were rearranged and expanded to include additional technical details – such as the names of the individual notes – that Aristoxenus took for granted. The surviving portions of Aristoxenus’s treatise do not contain his explanations of each category, but the tradition as a whole may be summarized as follows.

(a) Notes.

Aristoxenus’s definition is both economical and sophisticated: ‘a falling of the voice on one pitch is a note; then, it appears to be a note as such because it is ordered in a melos and stands harmonically on a single pitch’ (i.15: da Rios, 20.16–19). This subtle definition distinguishes among a voice, which is articulate sound; a single pitch, which is a position of a voice; and a note, which is a production of sound at a single relative ordered position within a musical composition, a melos. In the treatise of Cleonides this becomes: ‘A note is the musical falling of the voice on one pitch’ (Jan, 179.9–10); while Gaudentius preserves much of the original: ‘a note is the falling of the voice upon one pitch; pitch is a tarrying and standing of the voice; whenever the voice seems to stop on one pitch, we say that the voice is a note that can be ordered in melos’ (Jan, 329.7–11). Aristoxenus did not name or define all the notes (since it seems they were ‘so well known to the adherents of music’; i.22: da Rios, 29.1–2), and the surviving portions of his treatise do not describe the full array of notes and tetrachords (groups of four notes) that came to be known as the Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems. Later theorists, however, present and characterize them as shown in Table 1. (In the table the pitches are purely conventional, intended only to show the intervallic pattern; various classifications pertaining to the genera are given in parentheses.)

Table 1: The Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems

* – enharmonic diesis (microtonal sharp)

imimmovable notes (all other notes are movable)

apnotes not part of a pykcnon

bp/mp/tpbottom/middle/top note of a pykcnon

Greater Perfect System (GPS)

Lesser Perfect System (LPS)

Proslambanomenos (im, ap)


Proslambanomenos (im, ap)


Hypateēe hypatōon (im, bp)


Hypate hypaton (im, bp)


Parhypatēe hypatōon (mp) [or, if enharmonic, b*]


Parhypate hypaton (mp) [or, if enharmonic, b*]


Enharmonic lichanos hypaton (tp)


Enharmonic lichanos hypaton (tp)


Chromatic lichanos hypaton (tp)


Chromatic lichanos hypaton (tp)


Diatonic lichanos hypaton (ap)


Diatonic lichanos hypaton (ap)


Hypate meson (im, bp)


Hypate meson (im, bp)


Parphypate meson (mp) [or, if enharmonic, e*′]


Parhypate meson (mp) [or, if enharmonic, e*′]


Enharmonic lichanos meson (tp)


Enharmonic lichanos meson (tp)


Chromatic lichanos meson (tp)


Chromatic lichanos meson (tp)


Diatonic lichanos meson (ap)


Diatonic lichanos meson (ap)


Mese (im, bp)


Mese (im, bp)


Paramese (im, bp)


Trite synemmenon (mp) [or, if enharmonic, a*′]


Trite diezeugmenon (mp) [or, if enharmonic, b*′]


Enharmonic paranete synemmenon (tp)


Enharmonic paranete diezeugmenon (tp)


Chromatic paranete synemmenon (tp)


Chromatic paranete diezeugmenon (tp)


Diatonic paranete synemmenon (ap)


Diatonic paranete diezeugmenon (ap)


Nete synemmenon (im, ap)


Nete diezeugmenon (im, bp)


Trite hyperbolaion (mp) [or, if enharmonic, e*″]


Enharmonic paranete hyperbolaion (tp)


Chromatic paranete hyperbolaion (tp)


Diatonic paranete hyperbolaion (ap)


Nete hyperbolaion (im, ap)


The tetrachord was regarded by Aristoxenus as the basic musical unit, and all but three of the note names indicate the tetrachord (hypaton, meson, synemmenon, diezeugmenon, and hyperbolaion) to which they belong. The proslambanomenos (‘added note’) was not considered a part of any tetrachord; the mese formed the upper limit of the meson and the paramese the lower limit of the diezeugmenon.

(b) Intervals.

Intervals are defined as bounded by two notes of differing pitch, distinguished by magnitude, by consonance or dissonance, as rational or irrational, by genus, and as simple or compound (the first four distinctions also apply to scales). For Aristoxenus, the 4th and the 5th, not the octave, were the primary scalar components of music and music theory. He required that intervals, in order to be musical, be combined in a certain way; thus the study of intervals was not just a matter of measurement, as it had been for the Pythagoreans and the Harmonicists, but a matter of understanding ‘synthesis’, the coherent musical arrangement of intervals (i.27: da Rios, 35.10–36.1). Once again, Cleonides simplifies the definition to: ‘an interval is bounded by two notes, dissimilar in height and depth’ (Jan, 179.11–12), although he provides (in §5) a rather comprehensive summary of the five Aristoxenian distinctions. Theorists readily accepted the possibility that intervals could be of infinite magnitude but in general restricted their interest to the range between the smallest enharmonic dieses (approximately a quarter-tone) and the double-octave-and-a-5th, identified by Aristoxenus as the practical range of the human voice or a musical instrument. The consonant intervals were at least the 4th, 5th, octave, 12th, and double octave; the Aristoxenians tended to include the 11th (or indeed any consonant interval compounded with the octave), while the Pythagoreans rejected this interval since it could not be represented by a multiple or superparticular ratio. Intervals were simple if bounded by musically consecutive notes (an implicit rejection of Harmonicist katapuknōsis), otherwise they were compound; thus an interval of the same magnitude might be simple or compound depending on the context. In clear contradistinction to the Pythagorean sense, intervals were rational if they were known and employed in music (e.g. the tone, semitone, ditone), irrational if they varied from the defined forms. For Pythagoreans, of course, rationality was a matter of expressible numerical relationships (e.g. 3:2, 4:3, 2:1 etc.): intervals that cannot be expressed in such a relationship are irrational, even though they may be employed in practice. Additional distinctions such as ‘paraphonic’ and ‘antiphonic’ were also developed by later theorists such as Theon of Smyrna, Gaudentius, and Bacchius.

(c) Genera.

Aristoxenus recognized three basic genera of tetrachords: the enharmonic (also known as harmonia), the chromatic (also known as chrōma, i.e. ‘colour’), and the diatonic, the last two of which exhibited various shades (chroai). The intonations were created by the two middle notes of the tetrachord, which were ‘movable’ (kinoumenoi), in relation to the two outer notes, which were ‘immovable’ (hestōtes). To describe these intonations Aristoxenus posited (i.21–7: da Rios, 28.3–35.8) a tetrachord of two and a half tones, with the tone itself consisting of half tones, third tones, and quarter tones. Specific numerical terms are avoided because his descriptions are intended to be approximations; the shades are not actually fixed but infinitely variable within their regions (i.23: da Rios, 30.14–16). The character of the genera is not perceived in a particular order of specific intervals arranged sequentially in a static scale but rather in characteristic dynamic progressions of intervals, or ‘roads’ (hodoi), that differ in ascent and descent (iii.66–72: da Rios, 83–9). These progressions are readily recognizable, even though the exact sizes of the intervals may vary from piece to piece. In order to convey the characteristic quality of the genera, the theorist does not need to specify every possible note and interval but rather the relative sizes of interval and their typical patterns of succession. So, Aristoxenus was able to reduce the infinite number of possible arrangements to a manageable series of archetypal genera.

In the later Aristoxenian treatises, only the static descriptions of the genera survive. Cleonides deduced a tetrachord of 30 units on which the genera and shades are projected in specific numbers (see Table 2). The three notes bounding the two small intervals were known as a pycnon (puknon) if their composite interval was smaller than the remaining interval in the tetrachord, as is the case in the first four shades. Later theorists expanded the division of the tetrachord into 60 parts, expressed the divisions in terms of ratios instead of parts, or provided somewhat different names, but the basic Aristoxenian design remained the standard for all subsequent theorists who concerned themselves with the subject of genera.

Table 2


3 + 3 + 24

Mild colour

4 + 4 + 22

Hemiolic colour

4½ + 4½ + 21

Whole-tone colour

6+ 6 + 18

Mild diatonic

6 + 9 + 15

Intense diatonic

6 + 12 + 12

(d) Scales.

Aristoxenus rejected the closely packed scales of the Harmonicists because by ignoring the principles of synthesis and continuity and consecution they did not accord with musical logic. Scales, he asserts, must always follow ‘the nature of melos’ (hē tou melous phusis): an infinite number of notes cannot simply be strung together; and if a melos ascends or descends, the intervals formed by notes separated by four or five consecutive degrees in the scale must form the consonant intervals of a 4th or a 5th. Scales larger than the tetrachord are assembled by combining tetrachords, either by conjunction (sunaphē, e.g. e′–f′–g′–a′ and a′–b♭′–c″–d″) or disjunction (diazeuxis, e.g. e′–f′–g′–a′ and b′–c″–d″–e″). Relying on the aforestated principles, Aristoxenus (iii.63–74: da Rios, 78.13–92.5) formulated a detailed set of possible progressions.

The later Aristoxenians expanded this discussion to include consideration of the ways in which the tetrachords are combined to produce the Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems, but they were also concerned with the classification of scales according to four of the distinctions applied to intervals, to which were added distinctions between gapped or continuous, conjunct or disjunct, and modulating or non-modulating scales. They also explored the various species (eidē) or forms (schēmata) of the 4th, 5th, and octave, perhaps building on Aristoxenus’s own description of the species of the 4th, which appears at the very end of the surviving portion of his Harmonic Elements. Of these, the octave species are the most important because of their apparent relationship to the tonoi; they are commonly described and named as follows: hypate hypatonparamese (bb′), Mixolydian; parhypate hypatontrite diezeugmenon (c′–c″), Lydian; lichanos hypatonparanete diezeugmenon (d′–d″), Phrygian; hypate mesonnete diezeugmenon (e′–e″), Dorian; parhypate mesontrite hyperbolaion (f′–f″), Hypolydian; lichanos mesonparanete hyperbolaion (g′–g″), Hypophrygian; and mesenete hyperbolaion (a′–a″), Common, Locrian, and Hypodorian. The association of ethnic names with the octave species probably does not come from Aristoxenus, who criticized (ii.37–8: da Rios, 46.17–47.16) their application to the tonoi by the Harmonicists.

The final distinction of scales as modulating or non-modulating pertains to the number of ‘functional’ mesai. According to Aristoxenus, function (dunamis) is a matter of context; Cleonides, the Aristotelian Problems, and, especially, Ptolemy (Harmonics, ii) elaborate on the term, making it clear that the ‘function’ of notes involved their relationship in a specific sequence of intervals typical of any one of the genera. The mese, in particular, played an important role because of its strategic position at a point from which a scale could proceed either by conjunction or by disjunction.

(e) Tonoi and harmoniai.

The section of the Harmonic Elements in which Aristoxenus discussed the tonoi has not survived, but it is clear from other sections of the treatise that Aristoxenus associated the tonoi with ‘positions of the voice’. This feature is preserved in Cleonides’ later definition (Jan, 202.6–8), which states that the term tonos can refer to a note, an interval, a position of the voice, and a pitch. Cleonides attributes to Aristoxenus 13 tonoi, with the proslambanomenoi advancing by semitone over the range of an octave between the Hypodorian and the Hypermixolydian; Aristides Quintilianus (On Music, i.10) observes that the ‘younger theorists’ (neōteroi) added two additional tonoi, and in fact just such a set of 15 tonoi is preserved in the notational tables of Alypius. The full set may be displayed as in Table 3 (the pitches are purely conventional). Cleonides probably borrowed his arrangement from an earlier ‘Aristoxenian’ treatise or inadvertently conflated material from the Harmonicist and Aristoxenian traditions. It is doubtful that the left column of this table is an accurate representation of Aristoxenus’s own treatment, inasmuch as he derided a rather similar arrangement of the tonoi by the Harmonicists.

Ptolemy (Harmonics, esp. ii.3–11) presents a different conception of the tonoi, based on the seven octave species; this is not strictly a part of the Aristoxenian tradition but is related to it. In Ptolemy’s view, since the seven octave species might be replicated within a single range of so-called ‘thetic’ notes and the dynamic function of the various notes is determined by the mese (which is itself partly determined by the intervals that surround it), there need only be seven tonoi (see Table 4).

Table 4



hh—hypate hypaton

td—trite diezeugmenon

phh—parhypate hypaton

pnd—paranete diezeugmenon

lh—lichanos hypaton

nd—nete diezeugmenon

hm—hypate meson

th—trite hyperbolaion

phm—parhypate meson

pnh—paranete hyperbolaion

lm—lichanos meson

nh—nete hyperbolaion












e″ (pm)

e″ (td)

e″ (pnd)

e″ (nd)

e″ (th)

e″ (pnh)

e″ (nh)


d″ (m)

d♯″ (pm)

d″ (td)

d″ (pnd)

d♯″ (nd)

d″ (th)

d″ (pnh)


c″ (lm)

c♯″ (m)

c♯″ (pm)

c″ (td)

c♯″ (pnd)

c♯″ (nd)

c″ (th)


b♭′ (phm)

b′ (lm)

b′ (m)

b′ (pm)

b′ (td)

b′ (pnd)

b′ (nd)


a′ (hm)

a′ (phm)

a′ (lm)

a′ (m)

a♯′ (pm)

a′ (td)

a′ (pnd)


g′ (lh)

g♯′ (hm)

g′ (phm)

g′ (lm)

g♯′ (m)

g♯′ (pm)

g′ (td)


f′ (phh)

f♯′ (lh)

f♯′ (hm)

f′ (phm)

f♯′ (lm)

f♯′ (m)

f♯′ (pm)


e′ (hh)

e′ (phh)

e′ (lh)

e′ (hm)

e′ (phm)

e′ (lm)

e′ (m)

Ptolemy’s conception is unexceptionable as a logical system, but it is unlikely that it represents either a historical view of the tonoi or a description of contemporary practice. Aristoxenus specifically repudiated such figures as Eratocles for limiting their view to a mechanical manipulation of the seven octave species or other intervallic patterns, and the Harmonicists in general for basing their theory on a single genus in the range of an octave, which they represented in a series of diagrams. Moreover, even the musical fragments dated to a period more or less contemporary with Ptolemy tend to exhibit a much wider range of tonoi and distribution of relative pitch than Ptolemy’s characteristic octave would suggest. His system did, however, have a profound impact on later theorists.

Many of the ethnic names applied to the tonoi are also applied to harmoniai described by Plato (especially in Republic, iii), Aristotle (especially Politics, viii), other philosophers, and some of the music theorists. Aristides Quintilianus, for instance, preserves in Alypian notation six scales, which he says Plato ‘calls to mind’ (mnēmoneuei) in his discussion of the character of the harmoniai.

These scales may indeed be early, and with their unusual gapped character they are reminiscent of the spondeion scale described in Pseudo-Plutarch’s On Music (1135a–b). It is also noteworthy that one of the earliest surviving fragments of ancient Greek music, which preserves a few lines from Euripides’ Orestes (PWien G2315), exhibits in its notation either the Dorian or Phrygian harmonia as presented by Aristides Quintilianus.

Both Plato and Aristotle considered that the harmoniai could have an impact on human character (see Ethos), but in their use of the term they are almost certainly referring to a full complex of musical elements, including a particular type of scale, range and register, characteristic rhythmic pattern, textual subject, and so on. In terms of Greek music theory, references to particular harmoniai would normally subsume the corresponding tonos, but the converse would not necessarily be true (see Mathiesen, F1976 and F1984).

(f) Modulation.

Since the functions of the notes in a scale would change in the course of a modulation, a full comprehension of musical logic would be impossible without determining the nature of a modulation. Aristoxenus’s discussion of modulation is not preserved in the fragments of the Harmonic Elements, but Cleonides articulates four types of modulation: in scale, genus, tonos, and melic composition. Scalar modulation is based on the number of potential ‘functional’ mesai within a scale, and shifts of this sort could be used to change from one tonos to another. Modulations involving shifts of a consonant interval or a whole tone were considered more musical because, as Cleonides states, ‘it is necessary that for every modulation, a certain common note or interval or scale be present’ (Jan, 205.18–19). The importance of the mese in establishing a modulation is confirmed by the Aristotelian Problems, xix.20 (919a13–28), which observes that ‘all good mele’ (panta gar ta chrēsta melē) use the mese more frequently than any of the other notes, adding that the mese – like the grammatical conjunction ‘and’ – is a kind of musical conjunction. Problems, xix.36 (920b7–15) further hypothesizes that the mese is so important because all the other strings of the instrument are tuned to it. Both statements are reasonable: the mese is not only an immovable note – and therefore well suited to govern the tuning of an instrument – but also the ‘pivot’ note from which the scale may ascend either through a conjunct tetrachord – the synemmenon – or across the tone of disjunction and into the diezeugmenon tetrachord. Several notes might function as mese, depending on the placement of whole tones and semitones in a scale and its range. In fact, such shifts of mesai can be seen in a number of the musical fragments; these would presumably fit Cleonides’ definition of ‘modulating’ scales.

Ptolemy’s Harmonics (i.16 and ii.16) demonstrates a series of tunings that would enable the performer to modulate among several tonoi, while Aristides Quintilianus (i.11) describes a ‘diagram of the modes akin to a wing’ (pterugi de to diagramma tōn tropōn ginetai paraplēsion), which demonstrates the various common points among the tonoi, at which a modulation might presumably take place. (See also Metabolē).

(g) Melic composition.

The subject of melic composition, Aristoxenus’s final category, remains obscure in the surviving treatises. Aristides Quintilianus (i.12) refers to choice (lēpsis), mixing (mixis), and usage (chrēsis) as the three parts of melic (and rhythmic) composition. Choice is a matter of deciding upon the proper scale and position of the voice; mixing involves the arrangement of notes, positions of the voice, genera, and scales; and usage pertains to three types of musical gesture: sequence (agōgē), succession (plokē), and repetition (petteia) (a fourth, prolongation – tonē – was added by Cleonides). In sequence, the melody moves up or down by successive notes (a revolving – peripherēs – sequence involves shifting between conjunct and disjunct tetrachords); in succession, the notes outline a sequence of parallel intervals moving up or down (e.g. C–E–D–F–E–G–F–A or C–F–D–G–E–A or other comparable patterns); repetition is a matter of knowing which notes should be used (and how often) and which not; and prolongation pertains to sustaining particular notes. Additional melodic figures are described in the Byzantine treatise known as Bellermann’s Anonymous, but these may pertain more to Byzantine than to ancient Greek music.

Aristides Quintilianus remarks that the particular notes used will indicate the ethos of the composition. Cleonides identified (Jan, 206.3–18) three types: (1) diastaltic, or elevating, which conveyed a sense of magnificence, manly elevation of the soul, and heroic deeds, especially appropriate to tragedy; (2) systaltic, or depressing, which expressed dejection and unmanliness, suitable to lamentation and eroticism; and (3) hesychastic, or soothing, which evoked quietude and peacefulness, suitable to hymns and paeans. Aristides Quintilianus, who identifies a similar triad, calls the hesychastic ‘medial’, and much of books ii and iii is devoted to an explanation of musical ethos.

(iv) Legacy.

By the end of the 4th century ce ancient Greek music theory was merely part of the residue of an ancient civilization, and the distinctions among the traditions were blurred or forgotten. Three of the latest treatises, however, those of Gaudentius, Aristides Quintilianus, and Alypius, were the immediate sources for writers such as Cassiodorus and Martianus Capella, who together with Boethius were the earliest writers to preserve and transmit the tradition of ancient Greek music theory to the Latin readers of the Middle Ages. Thus, these later Greek writers represent both the final stages of Greek music theory in antiquity and, as filtered through their Latin interpreters, the first stages of ancient Greek music theory as it came to be known in the Middle Ages.

7. Notation.

Fragments of ancient Greek music as early as the 3rd century bce already exhibit a type of musical notation recognizable from the various theoretical treatments written many centuries later. No surviving treatise contemporary with these earliest fragments discusses the notational symbols, despite the fact that they were certainly known to the Harmonicists and Aristoxenus. Bacchius, a late writer, uses notation in his treatise to illustrate many of his points, but this is unique. A number of explanations are possible for the absence of theoretical discussion before the treatises of Gaudentius, Aristides Quintilianus, Bacchius, and Alypius, but it is not unreasonable to assume that musical notation was largely the province of the practising musician rather than the theorist and came to be recorded in later theory only as a way of preserving (or recovering) a dying tradition.

(i) Pitch.

The fullest surviving treatment of Greek pitch notation is that in Alypius’s Introduction to Music (for a discussion of the notation itself see Alypius), but it is likely that Gaudentius, too, originally included all 15 tonoi of the ‘younger theorists’ in his Harmonic Introduction, even though the treatise now breaks off in section 22 in the middle of the Hypoaeolian tonos. Bellermann’s Anonymus includes a table of the Lydian scale and a brief discussion of the notation. A somewhat different type of diagram purporting to illustrate ‘the harmonia of the ancients’ (hē para tois archaiois harmonia) is presented by Aristides Quintilianus (i.7), who states that the first octave is marked out by 24 dieses and the second by 12 semitones.

Aristoxenus might have had just such a diagram in mind when he criticized the Harmonicists for katapuknōsis, and it could indeed represent an early form of notation. In any event, many of the signs and rotation of the note shapes are similar to signs and patterns in the tables of Alypius. An insufficient number of notes is present to fill out the double octave, but one or two symbols may perhaps be missing. Using symbols that match the tables of Alypius, Aristides Quintilianus also includes (i.11) other diagrams in which the notes advance by semitone and by tone and in which they are arrayed in the shape of a wing to show the concordances among the various tonoi (see Bellermann, J1847; Chailley, J1973; and Winnington-Ingram, J1973 and 1978).

(ii) Rhythm.

In general, the rhythm of a piece of music was indicated by the natural poetic rhythm of the text (descriptions of which appear in Aristoxenus’s Rhythmic Elements and Aristides Quintilianus’s On Music, i.13–29, as well as in numerous specialized Greek treatises on rhythm and metre), but the textual rhythm could be modified by the music. Thus, in addition to the symbols indicating various notes, some music written in ancient Greek notation, including some of the earliest fragments, exhibits symbols indicating rhythmic value, ligation, articulation, and rests; dots (stigmai) appear as well, perhaps marking out rhythmic or metric units, although this has been a matter of debate. The signs are described only in the much later Byzantine treatise known as Bellermann’s Anonymus.

The interpretation of these signs as they appear in pieces of music is not always certain, but in general the durational signs increase the value of an individual note (or a group of notes linked by a ligation sign) two-, three-, four-, or fivefold; the signs of ligation normally indicate that a group of notes is equivalent to whatever duration may be marked; the signs of articulation, which fall between the two repeated notes to which they apply, indicate either a hard (kompismos) or soft (melismos) articulation; the rest may appear alone or be combined with one of the durational signs; and the sign of division marks the beginning of an instrumental interjection within a vocal piece (an example appears in the famous fragment from Euripides’ Orestes; PWien G2315).

8. Extant ‘melos’.

Pieces of music notated with symbols recognizable from the tables of Alypius have been preserved on stone, on papyrus, and in manuscripts. Those preserved on stone can be dated with relative certainty, but the ones notated on papyrus may be earlier than the date applied on paleographic grounds. Pieces preserved in manuscript are (with the exception of the forgeries) certainly earlier than the dates of the manuscripts. Pöhlmann (L(i)1970) identified 40 pieces (including five he regarded as forgeries) in his edition, which remains the only reasonably comprehensive study of the music itself; current scholarship recognizes about 45 pieces, the approximation due to differences of opinion about the proper characterization of a ‘piece’. In the following list, the pieces included in Pöhlmann’s collection are only briefly described; the new fragments are given a somewhat fuller description, followed by bibliographic references, if available.

(i) Stone.

The Delphic hymns (c.128 bce; the precise dates of the two pieces are debated), originally installed on the walls of the Athenian Treasury at Delphi, are the most extensive surviving examples of melos. One of the pieces, a paean, is notated in vocal notation; a certain Athenaeus has recently been proposed (Bélis, L(i)1985) as the composer. The other piece, a paean and prosodion notated in instrumental notation (see Hymn, §I, 3), was composed and performed by Limenius, according to the title. Both pieces exhibit modulation and a generally complex musical style. (Pöhlmann, nos.19–20)


Fragments inscribed on stone from a sanctuary in Caria (1st century bce) unfortunately do not preserve a single complete word, although occasional musical notes appear. (West, L(i)1992, pp.8–10)


The Epitaph of Seikilos (1st century ce), inscribed on a tombstone, consists of a brief heading (including the name of Seikilos) and a complete epigram meticulously notated in vocal and rhythmic notation. (Pöhlmann, no.18)


A Hymn to Asclepius (3rd century ce, but perhaps preserving an earlier composition), inscribed on red limestone, is composed in hexameters, preceded by a single line of musical notation. West (L(i)1986) has proposed that every line of the hymn was sung to the same music.

(ii) Papyri.

A fragment from Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, 1499–1509 and 784–92 (PLeid Inv.510; c.280 bce) exhibits either a rearrangement of the text as it is known in later manuscript sources or a composite of excerpts, such as might be used by a virtuoso performer. The melody, which modulates and includes the reduplication of syllables for which Euripides was famous, is rather disjunct and chromatic; some rhythmic notation appears. (Mathiesen, L(i)1981)


A fragment from Euripides’ Orestes, 338–44 (PWien G2315; mid-3rd century bce) exhibits an enharmonic or more probably a chromatic melody, accompanying instrumental notes, and, once again, reduplication of syllables. (Pöhlmann, no.21)


Two small fragments (mid-3rd century bce) appear in an ostensible treatise on music (PHibeh 231), but very little can be positively transcribed. (West, L(i)1992, pp.2–4)


Two phrases, perhaps from a tragedy, are exhibited in diatonic notation in PZenon 59533 (mid-3rd century bce). (Pöhlmann, no.35)


Two small vocal fragments (PWien G13763 and 1494; c.200 bce), mixing vocal and instrumental notation, may perhaps belong to a single piece. (Pöhlmann, nos.28–9)


A set of six small fragments (PWien 29825a–f); c.200 bce), perhaps from a satyr play or a tragedy, provides additional examples of modulation and the diastolē. (Pöhlmann, nos.22–7)


A fragment from a satyr play (POxy 2436; 1st–2nd century ce) preserves in vocal notation a rather melismatic melody, with considerable use of rhythmic notation. (Pöhlmann, no.38)


A passage from a tragedy (POslo 1413; 1st–2nd century ce), written in anapests, exhibits a highly florid melody and abundant use of rhythmic notation. A second passage from the same papyrus, written in iambic trimeter on the subject of Philoctetes, displays a similar melodic style but may not be from the same composition. (Pöhlmann, nos.36–7)


A long passage of tragic dialogue on the return of Orestes, interrupted by a line of untexted vocal notation, is preserved in PMich 2958 (2nd century ce); here again, the setting makes use of a number of two- and three-note melismas. A second, shorter passage of indeterminate subject appears in the same papyrus. (Pöhlmann, nos.39–40)


Several fragments, probably from a tragedy, are preserved in POxy 3704 (2nd century ce). (Haslam, L(i)1986, pp.41–7)


PBerlin 6870 and 14097 (2nd–3rd century ce) contain an anthology of compositions – including a paean, two instrumental pieces, a lament, and a lyric phrase – exhibiting as usual vocal, instrumental, and rhythmic notation. (Pöhlmann, nos.30–33; cf West, L(i)1992, pp.12–14)


POxy 3161 (3rd century ce) contains fragments from dramatic laments concerning Thetis and Achilles and the Persians and Lydians, one lament on each side of the papyrus. (Mathiesen, L(i)1981)


POxy 3162 (3rd century ce) a short fragment of indeterminate content, exhibiting a stigmē on almost every note. (Mathiesen, L(i)1981)


POxy 3705 (3rd century ce) is unusual in providing four alternative musical settings of the same iambic trimeter. (Haslam, L(i)1986, pp.47–8; cf West, L(i)1992, pp.14–15)


POxy 1786 (late 3rd century ce) preserves the earliest surviving Greek Christian hymn with musical notation, almost every vocal note of which is also marked with rhythmic notation. The melody employs a considerable number of two- and three-note melismas. (Pöhlmann no.34; cf West, L(i)1992, pp.47–54)


POxy 4461 (2nd century ce), a short fragment preserving a series of musical excerpts. (West, L(i)1998, pp.83–5 and pl.XII)


POxy 4462 (2nd century ce), five small fragments notated in the Hyperiastian tonos, perhaps representing several compositions. (West, L(i)1998, pp.86–9 and pl.XII)


POxy 4463 (2nd–3rd century ce) preserves 15 lines of text, 13 of which exhibit musical notation in the Hyperiastian tonos and several melismas. (West, L.i 1998, pp.89–93 and pl.XIII)


POxy 4464 (2nd–3rd century ce) contains eight lines of text with musical notation, perhaps representing musical excerpts. (West, L(i)1998, pp.93–5 and pl.XIII)


POxy 4465 (2nd–3rd century ce) exhibits two columns of text, notated predominantly in the Hyperiastian tonos and with several short melismas. (West, L(i)1998, pp.95–7 and pl.XIII)


POxy 4466 (3rd or 4th century ce) preserves the beginning of seven lines of text with notation in the Lydian tonos; line 2 begins with an elaborate nine-note melisma. (West, L(i)1998, pp.98–9 and pl.XIV)


POxy 4467 (3rd century ce) exhibits 12 lines of a lyric, nine of them with notation in the Hypoiastian tonos. (West, L(i)1998, pp.99–102 and pl.XIV)


POxy inv.89B/29–33 and a new fragment in Yale University’s Beinecke Library (PCtYBR inv.4510) await publication.

(iii) Manuscripts.

Several hymns addressed to the Muses, the sun, and Nemesis (commonly attributed to Mesomedes) appear in a number of manuscripts, sometimes with vocal notation, sometimes without. No rhythmic notation is present, and the lines and notation are frequently garbled in the manuscript tradition. (Pöhlmann, nos.1–5; cf Mathiesen, L(i)1981)


Six short pieces in instrumental notation (with occasional rhythmic notes and stigmai) demonstrating various rhythmic patterns are provided in Bellermann’s Anonymous. (Pöhlmann, nos.7–12)


Hē koinē hormasia, which appears in several manuscripts and exhibits an enigmatic table of notation, may provide a pattern for tuning a lyre in the Lydian tonos, but no fully convincing interpretation of this diagram has been offered. (Pöhlmann, no.6; cf Mathiesen, L(i)1981)


and other resources

This is a highly selective bibliography, with an emphasis on current literature; for further bibliography see the dictionary entries on the various authors and topics referred to in the text. Fuller bibliographies may also be found in the surveys listed in §B below. A Manuscripts. B Surveys. C Encyclopedias. D Greek authors – texts, translations, commentaries (i) Collections (ii) Individual authors (selective list). E General accounts. F Greek musical life (including ethos and education). G Instruments. H Pythagorean theory and the harmony of the spheres. I Aristoxenus, Aristoxenians, and Harmonicist theory. J Notation. K Rhythm, metre, and dance. L Extant melos – collections and transcriptions: (i) Literature (ii) Recordings and videotape. M Influence and history of scholarship.

A. Manuscripts
  • T.J. Mathiesen: Ancient Greek Music Theory, RISM, B/XI (1988)
B. Surveys

Bibliographies, Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, xi (1877), 1–33 [covering the years 1873–7, ed. H. Buchholtz]; xv (1878), 149–70 [1877–8, ed. W. Velke]; xxviii (1881), 168–82 [1879–80, ed. H. Guhnauer]; xliv (1885), 1–35 [1881–4, ed. H. Guhnauer]; civ (1901), 1–75 [1884–99, ed. K. von Jan]; cxviii (1903), 212–35 [1899–1902, ed. E. Graf]; cxliv (1910), 1–74 [1903–8, ed. H. Abert]; cxciii (1923), 1–59 [1909–21, ed. H. Abert]; ccxlvi (1935), 1–42 [1921–31 and some later entries, ed. K.G. Fellerer]

  • R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘Ancient Greek Music, 1932–1957’, Lustrum, vol.3 (1958), 6–57, 259–60
  • T.J. Mathiesen: A Bibliography of Sources for the Study of Ancient Greek Music (Hackensack, NJ, 1974)
  • H. Ōki: Répertoire de littérature musicale de la Grèce antique: 1958–1978 (Yokohama, 1981)
  • A.J. Neubecker: ‘Altgriechische Musik, 1958–1986’, Lustrum, vol.32 (1990), 99–176
  • T.J. Mathiesen: Apollo’s Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln, NE, 1999), 669–783
C. Encyclopedias
  • F. von Drieberg: Wörterbuch der griechischen Musik in ausführlichen Artikeln über Harmonik, Rhythmik, Metrik, Kanonik, Melopoie, Rhythmopoie, Theater, u.s.w. nach den Quellen neuarbeitet (Berlin, 1835)
  • S. Michaelides: The Music of Ancient Greece: an Encyclopaedia (London, 1978)
D. Greek authors – texts, translations, commentaries
    (i) Collections
    • StrunkSR2, i [trans. of excerpts from Plato’s Republic and Timaeus, Aristotle’s Politics, Athenaeus’s Sophists at Dinner, Aristides Quintilianus’s On Music, and the full treatises of Cleonides, Gaudentius, and Sextus Empiricus’s Against the Musicians]
    • J. van Meurs, ed.: Aristoxenus, Nicomachus, Alypius: auctores musices antiquissimi (Leiden, 1616) [Gk. texts]; repr., with Lat. trans. by M. Meibom, in van Meurs’s Opera omnia, vi (Florence, 1745), 335–528
    • M. Meibom, ed. and trans.: Antiquae musicae auctores septem (Amsterdam, 1652/R) [Gk. texts and Lat. trans., with copious annotations, for the treatises of Aristoxenus, Cleonides and the Division of the Canon (both attrib. Euclid in this edn), Nicomachus, Alypius, Gaudentius, Bacchius, and Aristides Quintilianus; also incl. Lat. text for bk ix of Martianus Capella]
    • K. von Jan, ed.: Musici scriptores graeci: Aristoteles, Euclides, Nicomachus, Bacchius, Gaudentius, Alypius et melodiarum veterum quidquid exstat (Leipzig, 1895/R) [incl. texts for the Aristotelian Problems (and other passages from Aristotle), the Division of the Canon (attrib. Euclid), Cleonides, and the other authors listed in the title]
    • A. Barker, ed.: Greek Musical Writings (Cambridge, 1984–9) [vol.i: trans. of excerpts from Homer, Hesiod, the Homeric hymns, Pindar, lyric poetry, tragedy and comedy, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle and the Aristotelian Problems, Theophrastus, Pseudo-Plutarch’s On Music; vol.ii: excerpts from Pythagorean writings, Plato, Aristotle and the Aristotelian Problems and On Things Heard, Theophrastus, minor authors quoted by Theon of Smyrna and Porphyry, and full teatises of Aristoxenus, the Division of the Canon, Nicomachus, Ptolemy, Aristides Quintilianus]
    • L. Zanoncelli, ed. and trans.: La manualistica musicale greca: [Euclide], Cleonide, Nicomaco, excerpta Nicomachi, Bacchio il Vecchio, Gaudenzio, Alipio, excerpta neapolitana (Milan, 1990) [incl. Gk. texts of Jan listed in the title, together with It. trans. and commentary]
    (ii) Individual authors (selective list), not including editions and translations in the above collections
      • C.E. Ruelle, trans.: Alypius et Gaudence ... Bacchius l’Ancien (Paris, 1895)
      Anonymous (Bellermann’s)
      • D. Najock, ed. and trans.: Anonyma de musica scripta Bellermanniana (Leipzig, 1975)
      Aristides Quintilianus
      • R.P. Winnington-Ingram, ed.: Aristidis Quintiliani De musica libri tres (Leipzig, 1963)
      • T.J. Mathiesen, trans.: Aristides Quintilianus on Music in Three Books (New Haven, CT, 1983)
      • C.E. Ruelle, ed. and trans.: Problèmes musicaux d’Aristote (Paris, 1891)
      • F.A. Gevaert and J.C. Vollgraff, ed. and trans.: Problèmes musicaux d’Aristote (Ghent, 1903/R)
      • C.E. Ruelle, H. Knoellinger, and J. Klek, eds.: Aristotelis quae feruntur Problemata physica (Leipzig, 1922)
      • W.S. Hett, trans.: Problems (London and Cambridge, MA, 1926–37, 2/1965–70)
      • C.E. Ruelle, ed. and trans.: Eléments harmoniques d’Aristoxène (Paris, 1871)
      • R. Westphal, ed. and trans.: Aristoxenos von Tarent: Melik und Rhythmik des classischen Hellentums (Leipzig, 1883–93/R)
      • H.S. Macran, ed. and trans.: The Harmonics of Aristoxenus (Oxford, 1902/R)
      • R. da Rios, ed. and trans.: Aristoxeni Elementa harmonica (Rome, 1954)
      • L. Rowell: ‘Aristoxenus on Rhythm’, JMT, vol.23 (1979), 63–79
      • L. Pearson, ed. and trans.: Elementa rhythmica: the Fragment of Book II and the Additional Evidence for Aristoxenian Rhythmic Theory (Oxford, 1990)
      • G. Kaibel, ed.: Athenaei Naucratitae Dipnosophistarum libri XV (Leipzig, 1887–90/R)
      • C.B. Gulick, ed. and trans.: The Deipnosophists (London and Cambridge, MA, 1927–41/R)
      • K. von Jan, ed. and trans.: Die Eisagoge des Bacchius (Strasbourg, 1890–91)
      • O. Steinmayer, trans.: ‘Bacchius Geron’s Introduction to the Art of Music’, JMT, vol.29 (1985), 271–98
      • G. Friedlein, ed.: Anicii Manlii Torquati Severini Boetii De institutione arithmetica libri duo, De institutione musica libri quinque (Leipzig, 1867/R)
      • O. Paul, ed. and trans.: Fünf Bücher über die Musik (Leipzig, 1972/R)
      • C. Bower, trans.: Fundamentals of Music (New Haven, CT, 1989)
      • C.E. Ruelle, ed. and trans.: L’introduction harmonique de Cléonide: La Division du canon d’Euclide le géomètre: Canons harmoniques de Florence (Paris, 1884)
      • J. Solomon, ed. and trans.: Cleonides: Eisagōgē harmonikē: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary (diss., U. of North Carolina, 1980)
      • J.F. Bellermann, ed.: ‘Eisagōgē technēs mousikēs Bakcheiou tou gerontos’, Anonymi scriptio de musica (Berlin, 1841), 101–8
      • A.J.H. Vincent, trans.: ‘Introduction à l’art musical par Bacchius l’ancien’, Notice sur divers manuscrits grecs relatifs à la musique, avec une traduction française et des commentaires (Paris, 1847), 64–72
      • T.J. Mathiesen, trans.: ‘An Annotated Translation of Euclid’s Division of a Monochord’, JMT, vol.19 (1975), 236–58
      • A. Barbera, ed. and trans.: The Euclidean Division of the Canon: Greek and Latin Sources (Lincoln, NE, 1991)
      • C.E. Ruelle, trans.: Alypius et Gaudence ... Bacchius l’Ancien (Paris, 1895)
      Martianus Capella
      • A. Dick, ed.: Martianus Capella: De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (Leipzig, 1925/R)
      • W.H. Stahl, R. Johnson, and E.L. Burge, trans.: Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts (New York, 1977)
      • J. Willis, ed.: Martianus Capella (Leipzig, 1983)
      • C.E. Ruelle, ed. and trans.: Nicomaque de Gérase: Manuel d’harmonique et autres textes relatifs à la musique (Paris, 1881)
      • F.R. Levin, trans.: The Manual of Harmonics of Nicomachus the Pythagorean (Grand Rapids, MI, 1994)
      • J. Kemke, ed.: Philodemi de musica librorum quae exstant (Leipzig, 1884)
      • G.M. Rispoli, ed. and trans.: Il primo libro del Peri mousikēs di Filodemo (Naples, 1969)
      • G.M. Rispoli: ‘Filodemo sulla musica’, Cronache ercolanesi, vol.4 (1974), 57–84
      • A.J. Neubecker, ed. and trans.: Philodemus: Über die Musik IV. Buch (Naples, 1986)
      • D. Delattre: ‘Philodème, de la musique, livre IV’, Cronache ercolanesi, vol.19 (1989), 49–143
      • J. Burnet, ed.: Platonis opera (Oxford, 1900–07/R)
      • H.N. Fowler and others, eds. and trans.: Plato (London and Cambridge, MA, 1914–35/R)
      • H. Weil and T. Reinach, eds. and trans.: Plutarque de la musique; Peri mousikēs (Paris, 1900)
      • F. Lasserre, ed. and trans.: Plutarque: De la musique (Olten, 1954)
      • K. Ziegler, ed.: Plutarchi Moralia, vi/3 (Leipzig, 1966)
      • B. Einarson and P.H. de Lacy, eds. and trans.: ‘On Music’, Plutarch’s Moralia, xiv (London and Cambridge, MA, 1967)
      • L. Gamberini, trans.: Plutarco ‘Della musica’ (Florence, 1979)
      • I. Düring, ed.: Porphyrios Kommentar zur Harmonielehre des Ptolemaios (Göteborg, 1932/R)
      • I. Düring, trans.: Ptolemaios und Porphyrios über die Musik (Göteborg, 1934/R)
      • J. Wallis, ed.: Klaudiou Ptolemaiou harmonikon biblia g (Oxford, 1682/R)
      • I. Düring, ed.: Die Harmonielehre des Klaudios Ptolemaios (Göteborg, 1930/R)
      • I. Düring, trans.: Ptolemaios und Porphyrios über die Musik (Göteborg, 1934/R)
      Sextus Empiricus
      • C.E. Ruelle, ed. and trans.: Contre les musiciens (livre VI du traité contre les savants) (Paris, 1898)
      • R.G. Bury, trans.: ‘Against the Musicians’, Sextus Empiricus, iv (London and Cambridge, MA, 1949/R), 372–405
      • J. Mau, ed.: Sexti Empirici opera (Leipzig, 1954–62)
      • D.D. Greaves, ed. and trans.: Against the Musicians (Adversus musicos) (Lincoln, NE, 1986)
      Theon of Smyrna
      • E. Hiller, ed.: Theonis Smyrnaei philosophi platonici: Expositio rerum mathematicarum ad legendum Platonem utilium (Leipzig, 1878/R)
      • J. Dupuis, trans.: Théon de Smyrne, philosophe platonicien: Exposition des connaissances mathématiques utiles pour la lecture de Platon (Paris, 1892/R; Eng. trans., 1979, as Mathematics Useful for Understanding Plato)
      • A. Hort, ed. and trans.: Enquiry into Plants and Minor Works on Odours and Weather Signs (London, 1916)
      E. General accounts
      • F.A. Gevaert: Histoire et théorie de la musique de l’antiquité (Ghent, 1875–81/R)
      • A. Rossbach and R. Westphal: Theorie der musischen Künste der Hellenen, i–iii (Leipzig, 3/1885–9/R)
      • L. Laloy: Aristoxène de Tarente, disciple d’Aristote, et la musique de l’antiquité (Paris, 1904)
      • T. Reinach: La musique grecque (Paris, 1926)
      • W. Vetter: Antike Musik (Munich, 1935)
      • C. Sachs: The Rise of Music in the Ancient World: East and West (New York, 1943)
      • M. Wegner: Das Musikleben der Griechen (Berlin, 1949)
      • F. Behn: Musikleben im Altertum und frühen Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 1954)
      • I. Düring: ‘Greek Music: its Fundamental Features and its Significance’, Journal of World History, vol.3 (1956), 302–29
      • I. Henderson: ‘Ancient Greek Music’, NOHM, vol.1 (1957), 336–403
      • H. Husmann: Grundlagen der antiken und orientalischen Musikkultur (Berlin, 1961)
      • L. Gamberini: La parola e la musica nell’antichità, confronto fra documenti musicali antichi e dei primi secoli del Medioevo (Florence, 1962)
      • H. Koller: Musik und Dichtung im alten Griechenland (Berne, 1963)
      • G. Wille: Musica romana: die Bedeutung der Musik im Leben der Römer (Amsterdam, 1967)
      • A.J. Neubecker: Altgriechische Musik: eine Einführung (Darmstadt, 1977)
      • G. Wille: Einführung in das römische Musikleben (Darmstadt, 1977)
      • J. Chailley: La musique grecque antique (Paris, 1979)
      • La musica in Grecia: Urbino 1985
      • G. Comotti: La musica nella cultura greca e romana (Turin, 1979; Eng. trans., rev., 1989)
      • A. Riethmüller and F. Zaminer, eds.: Die Musik des Altertums (Laaber, 1989)
      • M.L. West: Ancient Greek Music (Oxford, 1992)
      • W.D. Anderson: Music and Musicians in Ancient Greece (Ithaca, NY, 1994)
      • J.G. Landels: Music in Ancient Greece and Rome (London, 1999)
      • T.J. Mathiesen: Apollo’s Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln, NE, 1999)
      F. Greek musical life (including ethos and education)
      • H. Abert: Die Lehre vom Ethos in der griechischen Musik (Leipzig, 1899/R)
      • E.M. von Hornbostel: ‘Tonart und Ethos’, Musikwissenschaftliche Beiträge: Festschrift für Johannes Wolf, ed. W. Lott, H. Osthoff, and W. Wolffheim (Berlin, 1929/R), 73–8
      • G. Pietzsch: Die Musik im Erziehungs- und Bildungsideal des ausgehenden Altertums und frühen Mittelalters (Halle, 1932/R)
      • L. Harap: ‘Some Hellenic Ideas on Music and Character’, MQ, vol.24 (1938), 153–68
      • O. Tiby: La musica in Grecia e a Roma (Florence, 1942)
      • H.I. Marrou: Histoire de l’éducation dans l’antiquité (Paris, 1948; Eng trans., 1956)
      • E.K. Borthwick: The Influence of Music on Greek Life and Thought (diss., U. of Cambridge, 1952)
      • H. Kollere: Die Mimesis in der Antike (Berne, 1954)
      • P. Moraux: ‘La “mimesis” dans les théories anciennes de la danse, de la musique, et de la poésie’, Etudes classiques, vol.23 (1955), 3–13
      • A.J. Neubecker: Die Bewertung der Musik bei Stoikern und Epikureern: eine Analyse von Philodems Schrift De musica (Berlin, 1956)
      • L. Richter: Zur Wissenschaftslehre von der Musik bei Platon und Aristoteles (Berlin, 1961)
      • E.A. Lippman: ‘The Sources and Development of the Ethical View of Music in Ancient Greece’, MQ, vol.49 (1963), 188–209
      • E.A. Lippman: Musical Thought in Ancient Greece (New York, 1964)
      • W.D. Anderson: Ethos and Education in Greek Music (Cambridge, MA, 1966)
      • E.A. Lippman: ‘The Place of Music in the System of Liberal Arts’, Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance Music: a Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed. J. LaRue (New York, 1966), 545–59
      • J.G. López: ‘Sobre el vocabulario etico-musical del Griego’, Emerita, vol.37 (1969), 335–52
      • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Problems of Terminology in Ancient Greek Theory: harmonia’, Festival Essays for Pauline Alderman, ed. B. Karson (Provo, UT, 1976), 3–17
      • C. Lord: Education and Culture in the Political Thought of Aristotle (Ithaca, NY, 1982)
      • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Harmonia and Ethos in Ancient Greek Music’, JM, vol.3 (1984), 264–79
      • K. Ioannides: ‘L’éthos musical chez Platon’, Philosophia, vols.15–16 (1985–6), 254–65
      • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Music, Aesthetics, and Cosmology in Early Neo-Platonism’, Paradigms in Medieval Thought: Applications in Medieval Disciplines: Northridge, CA, 1987, ed. N. van Deusen and A.E. Ford (Lewiston, NY, 1990), 37–64
      • A. Scheithauer: ‘Musik, musikalische Bildung und soziales Ansehen im frühen Griechentum’, AMw, vol.53 (1996), 1–20
      G. Instruments
      • A.A. Howard: ‘The Aulos or Tibia’, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol.4 (1893), 1–60
      • H. Huchzermeyer: Aulos und Kithara in der griechischen Musik bis zum Ausgang der klassischen Zeit (nach den literarischen Quellen) (Emsdetten, 1931)
      • K. Schlesinger: The Greek Aulos (London, 1939)
      • M. Wegner: Die Musikinstrumente des alten Orients (Münster, 1950)
      • J.G. Landels: Ancient Greek Musical Instruments of the Woodwind Family (diss., U. of Hull, 1961)
      • M. Wegner: Griechenland, Musikgeschichte in Bildern, ii/4 (Leipzig, 1963, 2/1970)
      • H. Becker: Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der antiken und mittelalterlichen Rohrblattinstrumente (Hamburg, 1966)
      • J.G. Landels: ‘Ship-Shape and Sambuca-Fashion’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol.86 (1966), 69–77
      • E.W. Bushala: ‘Rhoptron as a Musical Instrument’, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, vol.10 (1969), 169–72
      • H. Hickmann: ‘Eine Sonderform des griechischen Sistrums’, Musa – mens – musici: im Gedenken an Walther Vetter, ed. H. Wegener (Leipzig, 1969), 27–8
      • H. Hickmann: ‘Der Skindapsos: ein Nachtrag zur Terminologie antiker Saiteninstrumente’, Speculum musicae artis: Festgabe für Heinrich Husmann, ed. H. Becker and R. Gerlach (Munich, 1970)
      • H.D. Roberts: Ancient Greek Stringed Instruments, 700–200 B.C. (diss., U. of Reading, 1974)
      • M.A. Schatkin: ‘Idiophones of the Ancient World’, Jb für Antike und Christentum, vol.21 (1978), 147–72
      • E. Keuls: ‘The Apulian “Xylophone”: a Mysterious Musical Instrument Identified’, American Journal of Archaeology, vol.83 (1979), 476–7
      • J.M. Snyder: ‘Aulos and Kithara on the Greek Stage’, Panathenaia: Studies in Athenian Life and Thought in the Classical Age, ed. T. Gregory and A. Podlecki (Lawrence, KS, 1979), 75–95
      • L. Vorreiter: Die schönsten Musikinstrumente des Altertums (Frankfurt, 1983)
      • A. Bélis: ‘Auloi grecs du Louvre’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, vol.108 (1984), 111–22
      • D. Paquette: L’instrument de musique dans la céramique de la Grèce antique: études d’organologie (Paris, 1984)
      • A. Barker: ‘Che cos’era la “mágadis”?’, La musica in Grecia: Urbino 1985, 96–107
      • A. Bélis: ‘A propos de la construction de la lyre’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, vol.109 (1985), 201–20
      • M. Di Giulio: ‘Iconografia degli strumenti musicali nell’arte apula’, La musica in Grecia: Urbino 1985, 108–20
      • A. Bélis: ‘La phorbéia’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, vol.110 (1986), 205–18
      • A. Bélis: ‘L’aulos phrygien’, Revue archéologique, vol.48 (1986), 21–40
      • A. Bélis: ‘Kroupezai, scabellum’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, vol.112 (1988), 323–39
      • M. Maas and J.M. Snyder: Stringed Instruments of Ancient Greece (New Haven, CT, 1989)
      • M.J. Kartomi: On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments (Chicago, 1990)
      • D. Restani: ‘Dionysos tra aulos e kithara: un percorso di iconografia musicale’, Dionysos: mito e mistero: Comacchio 1989, ed. F. Berti (Ferrara, 1991), 379–95
      • M. Maas: ‘Polychordia and the Fourth-Century Greek Lyre’, JM, vol.10 (1992), 74–88
      H. Pythagorean theory and the harmony of the spheres
      • E. Frank: Plato und die sogennanten Pythagoreer: ein Kapitel aus die Geschichte des griechischen Geistes (Halle, 1923)
      • B.L. van der Waerden: ‘Die Harmonielehre der Pythagoreer’, Hermes, vol.78 (1943), 163–99
      • G. Junge: ‘Die Sphärenharmonie und die pythagoreisch-platonische Zahlenlehre’, Classica et mediaevalia, vol.9 (1947), 183–94
      • J. Handschin: ‘The Timaeus Scale’, MD, vol.4 (1950), 3–42
      • M. Vogel: ‘Die drei Tongeschlechter des Archytas’, GfMKB: Hamburg 1956, 233–5
      • O. Becker: ‘Frühgriechische Mathematik und Musiklehre’, AMw, vol.14 (1957), 156–64
      • J. Handschin: ‘Die Lehre von der Sphärenharmonie’, Gedenkschrift Jacques Handschin (Berne and Stuttgart, 1957), 359–64
      • B. Kytzler: ‘Die Weltseele und der musikalische Raum (Platons Timaios 35a ff.)’, Hermes, vol.87 (1959), 393–414
      • E. Moutsopoulos: La musique dans l’oeuvre de Platon (Paris, 1959)
      • G. Arnoux: Musique platonicienne, âme du monde (Paris, 1960)
      • K. von Fritz: Mathematiker und Akusmatiker bei den alten Pythagoreern (Munich, 1960)
      • W. Burkert: Weisheit und Wissenschaft: Studien zu Pythagoras, Philolaos und Platon (Nuremberg, 1962, Eng. trans., 1972, as Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism)
      • E. Moutsopoulos: ‘Dialectique musicale et dialectique philosophique chez Platon’, Annales de la Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines d’Aix, vol.37 (1963), 159–63
      • R. Crocker: ‘Pythagorean Mathematics and Music’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol.22 (1963–4), 189–98, 325–35
      • R. Haase: Geschichte des harmonikalen Pythagoreismus (Vienna, 1969)
      • E.G. McClain: ‘Plato’s Musical Cosmology’, Main Currents in Modern Thought, vol.30 (1973), 34–42
      • F.R. Levin: The Harmonics of Nicomachus and the Pythagorean Tradition (University Park, PA, 1975)
      • E.G. McClain: ‘A New Look at Plato’s Timaeus’, Music and Man, vol.1 (1975), 341–60
      • E.G. McClain: The Pythagorean Plato: Prelude to the Song Itself (Stony Brook, NY, 1978)
      • F. Zaminer: ‘Pythagoras und die Anfänge des musiktheoretischen Denkens bei den Griechen’, JbSIM (1979–80), 203–11
      • A. Barbera: The Persistence of Pythagorean Mathematics in Ancient Musical Thought (diss., U. of North Carolina, 1980)
      • G. Jahoda: ‘Die Tonleiter des Timaios: Bild und Abbild’, Festschrift Rudolf Haase, ed. W. Schulze (Eisenstadt, 1980), 43–80
      • A. Barbera: ‘Republic 530C–531C: Another Look at Plato and the Pythagoreans’, American Journal of Philology, vol.102 (1981), 395–410
      • A.C. Bowen: ‘The Foundations of Early Pythagorean Harmonic Science: Archytas, Fragment 1’, Ancient Philosophy, vol.2 (1982), 79–104
      • A. Barbera: ‘The Consonant Eleventh and the Expansion of the Musical Tetraktys’, JMT, vol.28 (1984), 191–224
      • A. Barbera: ‘Placing Sectio canonis in Historical and Philosophical Contexts’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol.104 (1984), 157–61
      • A. Bowen: ‘Euclid’s sectio canonis and the History of Pythagoreanism’, Science and Philosophy in Classical Greece (New York, 1991), 164–87
      • A. Barker: ‘Ptolemy’s Pythagoreans, Archytas, and Plato’s Conception of Mathematics’, Phronesis, vol.39 (1994), 113–35
      I. Aristoxenus, Aristoxenians, and harmonicist theory
      • D.B. Monro: The Modes of Ancient Greek Music (Oxford, 1894)
      • R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘Aristoxenus and the Intervals of Greek Music’, Classical Quarterly, vol.26 (1932), 195–208
      • R.P. Winnington-Ingram: Mode in Ancient Greek Music (Cambridge, 1936/R)
      • O. Gombosi: Die Tonarten und Stimmungen der antiken Musik (Copenhagen, 1939/R)
      • A. Auda: Les gammes musicales: essai historique sur les modes et sur les tons de la musique depuis l’antiquité jusqu’à l’époque moderne (Woluwé-St Pierre, 1947)
      • L. Richter: ‘Die Aufgaben der Musiklehre nach Aristoxenos und Klaudios Ptolemaios’, AMw, vol.15 (1958), 209–29
      • J. Chailley: L’imbroglio des modes (Paris, 1960)
      • M. Vogel: Die Enharmonik der Griechen (Düsseldorf, 1963)
      • R. Crocker: ‘Aristoxenus and Greek Mathematics’, Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance Music: a Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed. J. LaRue (New York, 1966), 96–110
      • J. Chailley: ‘Nicomaque, Aristote et Terpandre devant la transformation de l’heptachorde grec en octocorde’, Yuval, vol.1 (1968), 132–54
      • F.R. Levin: ‘Synesis in Aristoxenian Theory’, Transactions of the American Philological Association, vol.103 (1972), 211–34
      • A. Barker: ‘Hoi kaloumenoi harmonikoi: the Predecessors of Aristoxenus’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, vol.24 (1978), 1–21
      • A. Barker: ‘Music and Perception: a Study in Aristoxenus’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol.98 (1978), 9–16
      • A. Barbera: ‘Octave Species’, JM, vol.3 (1984), 229–41
      • A. Barker: ‘Aristoxenus’ Theorems and the Foundations of Harmonic Science’, Ancient Philosophy, vol.4 (1984), 23–64
      • J. Solomon: ‘Towards a History of Tonoi’, JM, vol.3 (1984), 242–51
      • A. Bélis: ‘La théorie de l’âme chez Aristoxène de Tarente’, Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes, vol.59 (1985), 239–46
      • A. Bélis: Aristoxène de Tarente et Aristote: le Traité d’harmonique (Paris, 1986)
      • M. Litchfield: ‘Aristoxenus and Empiricism: a Reevaluation Based on his Theories’, JMT, vol.32 (1988), 51–73
      • L.E. Rossi: ‘POxy9 + POxy 2687: trattato ritmico-metrico’, Aristoxenica, Menandrea, fragmenta philosophica, ed. F. Adorna (Florence, 1988), 11–30
      • A. Barker: ‘Aristoxenus’ Harmonics and Aristotle’s Theory of Science’, Science and Philosophy in Classical Greece, ed. A.C. Bowen (New York, 1991), 188–226
      J. Notation
      • J.F. Bellermann: Die Tonleitern und Musiknoten der Griechen (Berlin, 1847)
      • C. Sachs: ‘Die griechische Instrumentalnotenschrift’, ZMw, vol.6 (1923–4), 289–301
      • C. Sachs: ‘Die griechische Gesangsnotenschrift’, ZMw, vol.7 (1924–5), 1–5
      • G. Pighi: ‘Ricerche sulla notazione ritmica greca’, Aegyptus, vol.21 (1941), 189–220; vol.23 (1943), 169–243; vol.39 (1959), 280–89
      • J.M. Barbour: ‘The Principles of Greek Notation’, JAMS, vol.13 (1960), 1–17
      • A. Bataille: ‘Remarques sur les deux notations mélodiques de l’ancienne musique grecque’, Recherches de papyrologie, vol.1 (1961), 5–20
      • J. Chailley: ‘Nouvelles remarques sur les deux notations musicales grecques’, Recherches de papyrologie, vol.4 (1967), 201–16
      • J. Chailley: ‘La notation archaïque grecque d’après Aristide Quintilien’, Revue des études grecques, vol.86 (1973), 17–34
      • R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘The First Notational Diagram of Aristides Quintilianus’, Philologus, vol.117 (1973), 243–9
      • R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘Two Studies in Greek Musical Notation’, Philologus, vol.122 (1978), 237–48
      • D. Jourdan-Hemmerdinger: ‘La date de la “notation vocale” d’Alypios’, Philologus, vol.125 (1981), 299–303
      • E. Pöhlmann: ‘Zur Frühgeschichte der Überlieferung griechischer Bühnendichtung und Bühnenmusik’, Beiträge zur antiken und neueren Musikgeschichte (Frankfurt, 1988), 23–40
      K. Rhythm, metre, and dance
      • R. Westphal: Die Fragmente und die Lehrsätze der griechischen Rhythmiker (Leipzig, 1861)
      • R. Westphal: Griechische Rhythmik und Harmonik nebst der Geschichte der drei musischen Disziplinen (Leipzig, 1867)
      • C. del Grande: Sviluppo musicale dei metri greci (Naples, 1927)
      • L. Séchan: La danse grecque antique (Paris, 1930)
      • W.J.W. Koster: Rhythme en metrum bij de Grieken van Damon tot Aristoxenus (Groningen, 1940)
      • T. Georgiades: Der griechische Rhythmus: Musik, Reigen, Vers und Sprachen (Hamburg, 1949/R; Eng. trans., 1956/R, as Greek Music, Verse and Dance)
      • J. Dewaele: ‘Une genèse difficile: la notation de “rhythme”’, Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, vol.6 (1953), 420–29
      • H. Husmann: ‘Zu Metrik und Rhythmik des Mesomedes’, Hermes, vol.83 (1955), 231–6
      • P. Moraux: ‘La “mimesis” dans les théories anciennes de la danse, de la musique, et de la poésie’, Etudes classiques, vol.23 (1955), 3–13
      • T. Georgiades: Musik und Rhythmus bei den Griechen (Hamburg, 1958)
      • L.B. Lawler: The Dance in Ancient Greece (London and Middletown, CT, 1964)
      • G. Prudhommeau: La danse grecque antique (Paris, 1965)
      • M. Wegner: Musik und Tanz (Göttingen, 1968)
      • G. Pighi: Studi di ritmica e metrica (Turin, 1970)
      • W.J.W. Koster: ‘Quelques remarques sur l’étude de rythmique Ox. Pap. 2687(9)’, Revue des études grecques, vol.85 (1972), 47–56
      • J.W. Fitton: ‘Greek Dance’, Classical Quarterly, new ser., vol.23 (1973), 254–74
      • H. and H. Huchzermeyer: ‘Die Bedeutung des Rhythmus in der Musiktherapie der Griechen von der Frühzeit bis zum Beginn des Hellenismus’, Sudhoffs archivalische Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, vol.58 (1974), 113–48
      • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Rhythm and Meter in Ancient Greek Music’, Music Theory Spectrum, vol.7 (1985), 159–80
      • M.W. Haslam: ‘3707: Treatise on Meters’, Oxyrhynchus papyri, vol.53 (1986), 56–60 and pl.7
      • B. Gentili and F. Perusino, eds.: Mousike: metrica ritmica e musica greca in memoria di Giovanni Comotti (Pisa and Rome, 1995)
      L. Extant ‘melos’ – collections and transcriptions
        (i) Literature
        • K. von Jan, ed.: Musici scriptores graeci: supplementum melodiarum reliquiae (Leipzig, 1899/R)
        • T. Reinach: Les hymnes delphiques à Apollon avec notes musicales (Paris, 1912)
        • J.F. Mountford: ‘Greek Music in the Papyri and Inscriptions’, New Chapters in the History of Greek Literature: Second Series, ed. J.U. Powell and E.A. Barber (Oxford, 1929), 148–83
        • E. Pöhlmann: Griechische Musikfragmente: ein Weg zur altgriechischen Musik (Nuremberg, 1960)
        • M.L. West: ‘Two Notes on Delphic Inscriptions’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol.2 (1968), 176 only
        • E. Pöhlmann: Denkmäler altgriechischer Musik (Nuremberg, 1970) [transcrs. and analyses of most of the extant pieces]
        • A.W.J. Hollerman: ‘The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1786 and the Relationship between Ancient Greek and Early Christian Music’, Vigiliae christianae, vol.26 (1972), 1–17
        • M.W. Haslam, ed.: ‘3161 and 3162: Texts with Musical Notation’, Oxyrhynchus papyri, vol.44 (1976), 58–72, pls.VI–VII
        • J. Solomon: ‘Orestes 344–45: Colometry and Music’, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, vol.18 (1977), 71–83
        • D. Jourdan-Hemmerdinger: ‘Le nouveau papyrus d’Euripide: qu’apporte-t-il à la théorie et à l’histoire de la musique?’, Les sources en musicologie: Orléans 1979, 35–65
        • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘New Fragments of Ancient Greek Music’, AcM, vol.53 (1981), 14–32
        • A. Bélis: ‘A proposito degli “Inni delfici”’, La musica in Grecia: Urbino 1985, 205–18
        • J. Solomon: ‘The New Musical Fragment from Epidaurus’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol.105 (1985), 168–71
        • M.K. Černý: ‘Druhý zhudebněný fragment z Euripida’ [The second fragment of Euripides with music], Listy filologické, vol.109 (1986), 132–40
        • M.W. Haslam, ed.: ‘3704 and 3705: Texts with Musical Notation’, Oxyrhynchus papyri, vol.53 (1986), 41–8 and pls.II, IV, VI
        • J. Solomon: ‘The Seikilos Inscription: a Theoretical Analysis’, American Journal of Philology, vol.107 (1986), 455–79
        • M.L. West: ‘The Singing of Hexameters: Evidence from Epidaurus’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol.63 (1986), 39–46
        • M.L. West: ‘Analecta musica’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol.92 (1992), 1–54
        • M.L. West: Ancient Greek Music (Oxford, 1992)
        • M.L. West, ed.: ‘III: Texts with Musical Notation’, Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol.85 (1998), 81–102 and pls.XII–XIV
        (ii) Recordings and videotape
        • The Theory of Classical Greek Music, F.A. Kuttner and J.M. Barbour, Musurgia Records, Theory Ser., A/1 (1955)
        • Musique de la Grèce antique, Atrium musicae de Madrid, cond. G. Paniagua, Harmonia Mundi HM 1015 (1978)
        • La musique grecque antique, videotape, dir. H. Oki (Yokahama, 1990)
        • Music of Ancient Greece, cond. C. Hilaris, Orata ORANGM 2013 (1992)
        • Music of the Ancient Greeks, De organographia, Pandourion 1001 (1995)
        • Musiques de l’antiquité grecque, Ensemble Kérylos, cond. A. Bélis, K617069 (1996)
        M. Influence and history of scholarship
        • F.A. Gevaert: La mélopée antique dans le chant de l’église latine: suite et complément de l’histoire et théorie de la musique de l’antiquité (Ghent, 1895/R)
        • H. Abert: Die Musikanschauung des Mittelalters und ihre Grundlagen (Halle, 1905/R)
        • H.G. Farmer: ‘Greek Theorists of Music in Arabic Translation’, Isis, vol.13 (1930), 325–33
        • W. Vetter: ‘Zur Erforschung der antiken Musik’, Festschrift Max Schneider zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. H.J. Zingel (Halle, 1935), 137–46
        • K.G. Fellerer: ‘Zur Erforschung der antiken Musik im 16.–18. Jahrhundert’, JbMP 1936, 84–95
        • R. Wagner: ‘Zum Wiederaufleben der antiken Musikschriftsteller seit dem 16. Jahrhundert: ein Beitrag zur Frage Kircher oder Pindar’, Philologus, vol.91 (1936), 161–73
        • F.B. Turrell: Modulation: an Outline of its Prehistory from Aristoxenus to Henry Glarean (diss., U. of Southern California, 1956)
        • I. Düring: ‘Impact of Greek Music on Western Civilization’, International Congress of Classical Studies II: Copenhagen 1954 (Copenhagen, 1958), 169–84
        • E. Wellesz: A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography (Oxford, 2/1961) [incl. copious material on ancient Greek music and music theory]
        • L. Richter: ‘Antike Überlieferungen in der byzantinischen Musiktheorie’, DJbM, vol.6 (1962), 75–115
        • E. Pöhlmann: ‘Antikenverständnis und Antikenmissverständnis in der Operntheorie der Florentiner Camerata’, Mf, vol.22 (1969), 5–13
        • F. Zaminer: ‘Griechische Musiktheorie und das Problem ihrer Rezeption’, Über Musiktheorie: Berlin 1970, 9–14
        • A. Holbrook: The Concept of Musical Consonance in Greek Antiquity and its Application in the Earliest Medieval Descriptions of Polyphony (diss., U. of Washington, 1983)
        • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Aristides Quintilianus and the Harmonics of Manuel Bryennius: a Study in Byzantine Music Theory’, JMT, vol.27 (1983), 31–47
        • C.V. Palisca: Humanism in Italian Renaissance Musical Thought (New Haven, CT, 1985)
        • C.V. Palisca: The Florentine Camerata: Documentary Studies and Translations (New Haven, CT, 1989)
        • A. Barbera: ‘Reconstructing Lost Byzantine Sources for MSS Vat.BAV gr.2338 and Ven.BNM gr.VI.3: What is an Ancient Treatise?’, Music Theory and its Sources: Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Notre Dame, IN, 1987, ed. A. Barbera (Notre Dame, IN, 1990), 38–67
        • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Ars critica and Fata libellorum: the Significance of Codicology to Text Critical Theory’, Music Theory and its Sources: Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Notre Dame, IN, 1987, ed. A. Barbera (Notre Dame, IN, 1990), 19–37
        • D. Restani: L’itinerario di Girolamo Mei dalla ‘poetica’ alla musica, con un’appendice di testi (Florence, 1990)
        • T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Hermes or Clio? The Transmission of Ancient Greek Music Theory’, Musical Humanism and its Legacy: Essays in Honor of Claude V. Palisca, ed. N.K. Baker and B.R. Hanning (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992), 3–35
        • A.E. Moyer: Musica scientia: Musical Scholarship in the Italian Renaissance (Ithaca, NY, 1992)

III. In the Byzantine Empire.

1. Sacred music.

  • Alexander Lingas

In the year 330 ce Emperor Constantine I moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, which he christened ‘Constantinople, New Rome’. At that time the borders of the Roman Empire encompassed most speakers of the Greek language, whose major cultural centres were spread across a geographic area from southern Italy in the west to the great cities of Alexandria and Antioch in the east. Musical practices and repertories that since the later 19th century have been described as ‘Byzantine’ emerged from the 4th century ce onwards. Greek-speaking Christians from late Antiquity to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, however, described themselves primarily as ‘Romans’ (Romaíoi or, colloquially, Romoioí), a usage that remained common under Arab and Ottoman rule. During the same period use of the term ‘Hellene’ as a marker of identity was problematic due to its association with paganism, but this did not prevent scholars and scribes of the medieval Christian East from retaining ancient music theory within a curriculum of Greek higher education that changed only superficially during the Middle Ages. Indeed, Greek harmonic science was preserved and eventually passed on to the Italian Renaissance by the scholars of Byzantium, who not only copied ancient texts, but also made editorial interventions, offered commentaries, and produced their own syntheses, the most extensive of which is the treatise on Harmonics by Manuel Bryennios.

Ancient Greek vocal and instrumental notation were available to the intellectual elite of Byzantium, but there were no systematic efforts to deploy them for practical use. While new notational systems of varying musical specificity were developed to facilitate the transmission of ecclesiastical chant, medieval Greek secular song and instrumental music appear to have been entrusted entirely to oral traditions. Yet sources without musical notation – depictions of music-making in visual art, manuals of court ceremony, canonical legislation, homilies, the lives of saints, and secular poetry – reveal that music remained ubiquitous in Greek private and public life throughout the Byzantine period (for a fuller discussion, see §2 below). Distinguishing between musical continuity and change in these sources is made difficult by their many archaisms, but careful study has revealed an evolving instrumentarium both at the imperial court in Constantinople, where organs appear to have been displaced by wind bands after the Crusades, and in secular entertainments, where the names of the ancient aulos and kithara became generic terms signifying, respectively, wind and string instruments. Some scholars have discerned echoes of medieval Greek secular music in later traditions of Greek folk song and Ottoman court music.

Christian chant from the liturgical traditions of Jerusalem and Constantinople is by far the best documented form of Greek music from the Byzantine Empire, with many thousands of items recoverable for modern study and performance thanks to their regular transmission from the late 10th century onwards with neumatic notations. Only traces remain of other Greek traditions of Christian chant that flourished in the regions of Antioch, Alexandria, southern Italy, and mainland Greece prior to the politically turbulent 7th century. These include not only the small and mostly fragmentary corpus of Greek chant texts preserved on papyrus (some with what appear to be rudimentary forms of musical notation), but also the retention of chants in the Greek language by the Coptic Church of Egypt and, to a lesser degree, the Latin rites of Italy. Indicative of the scope of what has been lost is the fact that not a single liturgical text has survived from mainland Greece prior to 732, when the papal vicariate in Thessalonica was abolished and jurisdiction over Illyricum and southern Italy passed from the Roman Papacy to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Urban and monastic Christians worshipping in Greek during the 4th and 5th centuries ce took a leading role in forming musical practices and repertories that circulated both inside and outside the Roman Empire among speakers of such other languages as Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, and Georgian. Having adopted the biblical Book of Psalms and selected canticles of the Old and New Testament as the primary sources for liturgical song, they often rendered them in public services using patterns of call-and-response that facilitated the hierarchically ordered participation of congregations, choirs, and soloists. In responsorial psalmody one or more soloists delivered verses punctuated with a choral or congregational refrain, while antiphonal psalmody employed more complex schemes of alternation between multiple groups of singers.

State patronage of churches and their singers amplified the complexity and scale of psalmody in Constantinople, leading to the creation of a system of worship for Justinian’s Great Church of Hagia Sophia and its dependent churches. Originally called the Ekklēsiastēs, the cathedral rite of the Great Church featured three Eucharistic liturgies – the Divine Liturgies of St Basil, St John Chrysostom, and the Presanctified Gifts – and a divine office known during the 2nd millennium ce as the ‘Sung Office’ (Asmatikē Akolouthia). Constantinopolitan cathedral worship integrated the prayers and petitions of higher clergy and congregational responses and refrains with the responsorial and antiphonal chanting of multiple soloists and choirs, including boys from the imperial orphanage and a choir of deaconesses attached to Hagia Sophia. The only substantial corpus of extra-scriptural hymnody native to the Ekklēsiastēs is the kontakion, a strophic genre modelled on Syriac prototypes that emulated urban psalmody with its use of a congregational refrain. The kontakion was brought to maturity in 6th-century Constantinople by Romanos the Melodist, a deacon who performed his hymns during the breaks between services at popular vigils held on the eves of major feasts. The cathedral rite was celebrated regularly in Constantinople until the Fourth Crusade sacked the city in 1204, after which it was displaced by the Roman rite in Hagia Sophia until the Byzantine recovery of the capital in 1261. The solo and choral chants of the old Constantinopolitan rite are represented now in a small number of sources mainly from southern Italy and Thessalonica, some of them copied as late as the 15th century.

It is mainly from Armenian and Georgian translations of lost Greek originals that scholars are reconstructing the development of the Hagiopolitēs, the stational liturgy of the Holy City of Jerusalem. These sources reveal a system of urban worship adapted to its sacred topography in which the selective use of biblical texts increasingly gave way to the composition of hymns for integration among the fixed psalms and canticles of the Palestinian Divine Office. By the 6th century Hagiopolite psalmody and hymnody was sung and ordered liturgically according to the Oktōēchos, a system of eight modes that later became a key musical feature of the hybrid Byzantine rite. Production of hymns for the rite of Jerusalem reached its apogee under Muslim rule following the Arab conquest of Byzantium’s African and Middle Eastern provinces with the works of such poet-composers as Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem and John of Damascus, by which time the creation of Greek hymns in Palestinian genres had been taken up elsewhere by Andrew of Crete and Germanos of Constantinople.

Greek liturgical traditions fusing the Divine Offices of the Palestinian Book of the Hours with the sacraments, readings, and elaborate solo and choral chants of the rite of Hagia Sophia spread widely after the beginning of the 9th century. Forged at leading Constantinopolitan institutions including the chapels of the Great Palace and the monastery of Stoudios, these syntheses were adopted across a wide geographic area from southern Italy to Kievan Rus’ and fostered the composition of vast numbers of new hymns. Dissemination of hymnody and florid psalmody was aided from the 10th century onwards by the development of increasingly specific forms of neumatic notation. Cantors and scribes gradually enriched Palaeo-Byzantine families of neumes to produce Middle Byzantine Notation, a fully diastematic system employed without substantial graphical change from the late 12th century to the early 19th.

The defeat of the Byzantine army at Manzikert in 1071 brought about the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks, while Constantinopolitan rule in Italy ended the same year with the withdrawal of the last imperial garrison from Bari. Despite these political setbacks, Byzantine chant flourished alongside Greek monasticism for another two centuries in southern Italy, nor did they hinder the wider process of continuing to fill out the calendrical cycles of Byzantine worship with new music. Far more disruptive were Crusader invasions that climaxed in 1204 with the sack of Constantinople. Under Latin occupation regular celebration of the Constantinopolitan cathedral rite ceased permanently in both the Great Church of Hagia Sophia and the Parthenon, which for centuries had served as the cathedral of Athens.

The restoration of the imperial government to Constantinople in 1261 ushered in a period of intellectual, spiritual, and artistic renewal that continued, despite accelerating political decline, until the Ottoman conquest of 1453. Court singers beginning with Ioannes Glykes, Xenos Korones, and Ioannes Koukouzeles pursued musical renewal through the consolidation of existing repertories and the creation of kalophonic (‘beautiful sounding’) chants of unprecedented sophistication, length, and abstraction. During the 15th century leading Constantinopolitan cantors Manuel Gazes, Ioannes Laskaris, and Manuel Chrysaphes transplanted these traditions to Crete, where they subsequently flourished under Venetian rule. Eyewitness accounts of Orthodox services by Western Europeans and the adoption of simple polyphonic performance practices by some Byzantine cantors indicate that Greek and Latin chanting remained aurally compatible through the middle of the 15th century.


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2. Secular music.

  • Nikos Maliaras

Music was present in the lives of people of the Byzantine state (4th–15th centuries ad) in various functions, including religion. Byzantine church music developed its own notation and was recorded in numerous musical manuscripts and explained in theoretical treatises, thus forming an important branch of international musicological scholarly studies. The case is unfortunately different for secular music. This was not notated. Its teaching and dissemination were dependent entirely on oral tradition, and as a result it is primarily classified with traditional music. Attempts to demonstrate that some dubious and isolated late- or post-Byzantine pieces are examples of secular music must therefore be regarded with great caution, and the same is true for attempts to revive allegedly Byzantine secular pieces that are distinct from Greek traditional music in later periods, although a relation between the two certainly exists.

(i) Sources.

The sources already present some difficulties in creating a methodology for the study of Byzantine secular music and musical instruments because such research can be only carried out through indirect sources, which must be used with great caution to arrive at dependable results. The most important sources are ceremonial books, especially the Book of Ceremonies by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (first half of the 10th century), and the Book of Offices (14th century). One can also find information in books by historians and chroniclers, in military treatises, and in various other texts. These contain rare pieces of information about occasions when secular music, with or without instruments, was heard. Literary sources can provide anything from simple references to detailed descriptions, including song verses, which imply rhythm, metre, and eventual relation to church melodies. Depictions can give additional information about musical practice, dances, and musical instruments, which cannot be found elsewhere. There is also data in several poems in the demotic language from the middle- and late-Byzantine period (the oldest of these is the Armouris poem (10th century), followed by the younger Akritika); those poems were most probably sung and danced to, as were Greek demotic songs of later periods, which continue an unbroken tradition. However, scholars have not been able to restore their melodies.

(ii) Genres and practices.

Music in Byzantine society was usually connected to entertainment practised in various cities including the capital, and celebrating some important political or social event (e.g. the arrival of a high official or the emperor himself, the celebration of a military victory etc). In later Byzantine centuries, most celebrations developed into parts of official court or state ceremony. Many social and private celebrations could also connect to some major religious feast. Secular celebrations including music and dance were generally disregarded by church officials; the frequency with which church rules were issued against them, however, only demonstrates their great popularity. They took place in public or private places (the latter being preferably mansions of rich country aristocrats or the imperial palace) and could include songs, dances, and musical instruments. Musical feasts could also follow wedding ceremonies, banquets, or receptions. Many detailed descriptions exist for similar events introduced into court ceremony, including references to musical instruments and song verses heard in the palace.

Another popular entertainment, especially in the early centuries, was the spectacle called mimos: groups consisting of actors, acrobats, singers, dancers, and instrumentalists staged their acts on the streets or were invited to the mansions of the rich in order to entertain guests after banquets or receptions. The members of those groups belonged to the lower classes of society and their art was rejected by the church and by the ethics of ‘proper society’; this did not reduce their popularity, however. This form of spectacle was partly restricted during the middle period, but it never really disappeared; on the contrary, it survived even within the imperial palace.

Certain musical forms are mentioned in the Book of Ceremonies and are described in considerable detail. Acclamations of court officials and members of the demes to the Emperor form an important part. They had various verse or musical forms and carried names such as phonē, apelatikos, trilexin, tetralekton, poluchronion etc. Some of them were sung on church modal scales, others were probably only short refrains, rhythmically recited by the crowd responding to longer verse-stimuli set by the heralds (kraktai). Other songs were sung as prosomoia (contafacta on widely known religious melodies). Sometimes we also know the intonation formulas introducing those melodies, which were very similar to the ones used in religious music and sometimes appear to have been played by the Byzantine organ. Historical sources sometimes also carry the verses of poems spontaneously recited by improvised choirs of the audience in the hippodrome: they were usually used to mock officials or the emperor himself.

Information about military music is drawn mainly from special strategic texts. This was often related to ceremony, especially in the early and late centuries, and was performed by military instruments. There were special instruments and pieces for all signalling functions, which were performed during battle or related to every day life in the military camp.

(iii) Musical instruments.

Many Byzantine instruments originated in the ancient Greek or Roman period. However, practically no archaeological evidence of musical instruments has survived. Many instrument names found in sources (historical literature, lexica, psalm commentaries) are only vaguely related to reality and it is very uncertain whether they really refer to existing instruments. As a result, illustrations of musical instruments (especially those contained in manuscript miniatures) are the most important sources in this respect; they must be studied with great caution, however, because they can be very deceiving as far as instrument details, dating, and models are concerned.

Byzantine instruments can in most cases neither be directly related to a single kind of music nor to any specific instrument combination or group. In dances, feasts, and other entertainments, any instrument could be used, and they were occasionally played by women. Exceptions were military instruments and the court organ, the latter occasionally taking part in informal public feasts in the earlier centuries. Byzantine instruments never really possessed stable shapes or constant features such as numbers of strings or holes. Their features tend to vary and the tiny size of most miniatures will not allow for many details. There is also a great confusion in regard to terminology, the same name often being used for several different instruments or a whole category of them, or easily transferred to another instrument.

(a) Chordophones.

Lutes have a great variety of sizes and numbers of strings. The usual names are laouto, pandoura, tambura, and kithara. All are played with a plectrum. Instruments of the psaltery family—called psalterion and plinthion, but also kithara—are of triangular, trapezoidal, or rectangular shape. Larger psalteries usually bear a string-dividing bridge, as in modern instruments. Members of the harp family (trigōnon, pēktis, sambukē) were, on the contrary, scarcely used. Bowed instruments, which came from Arabic states, appear in Byzantium in the 11th century. There are two types, the bottle- and the pear-shaped; there are also two ways of playing them, a gamba and a braccio. Their Byzantine name was lyra, a term surviving today in Greece and southern Italy. This name initially belonged to the lyre, but that had been long forgotten in Byzantine times when the name was transferred to the bowed instrument. In contrast to what was previously believed, it seems that two types of the Byzantine lyre and not the Arabic rabāb of Northern Africa or Mozarabic Spain are the direct ancestors to the medieval rebec and the vielle.

(b) Aerophones, membranophones, idiophones.

Direct and transverse flutes are very often seen in the sources, as well as single and double reed instruments. Any instrument with side-holes could be called a pipe (aulos, kalamos, donax); the transverse flute was often called plagiaulos. Panpipes are called syrinx or polukalamos. Other aerophone types include direct trumpets (salpinx, tuba) and curved horns (bukanē) with a cylindrical or conical bore. They were mainly used in military and ritual music, but they seem to have also been used in entertainment environments during the later Palaeologian centuries. The use of those instruments is very similar to their use in Western Europe, especially after the Crusades (11th–13th century).

All instruments, except for military ones, can form groups in various combinations. Groups can also include percussion instruments, such as single or double cymbals of various sizes, bells and other idiophones (kumbalon, cheirokumbalon, seistron, oxubaphon, kōdōn), as well as drums (tumpanon). Drum types include open instruments with one membrane and closed ones with two, as well as kettledrums (as an Eastern influence) which were usually played in pairs (anakarades, nakers). Percussion instruments were also used in the military (another Arabic influence). Drums were played with the hand or with one or two sticks.

(c) Organ.

A rule of the Eastern Orthodox Church created in the period of the Church Fathers (4th–5th centuries) and still in power today determines that instruments are not allowed to take part in worship or enter the church. This is the case with the organ too, which was never a church instrument in Byzantium: it only took part in secular music. During early Byzantine centuries, the use of the organ was similar to that in the Roman period. During middle-Byzantine centuries, it gradually became related to the hippodrome factions (the demes) and developed into an exclusive participant of imperial ceremonies and an imperial symbol of wealth and power: its sound was heard only in ceremonies under the presence of the Emperor. Two faction-organs (i.e. the organs belonging to and operated by the two hippodrome factions or demes) were installed in the hippodrome and could also be transported to other places in the city in order to participate in certain ceremonies; two other imperial organs were made of gold and were only used in the palace. A luxurious and impressive musical automaton was also placed in the Great Throne Hall. It imitated the sounds of birds and beasts and was used in receptions for foreign officials.

The Byzantine organ had the size of a modern positive organ and functioned with sliders. Therefore it could not play swift melodies. As a rule, it played some short musical phrases, a kind of intonation formula introducing ceremonial acclamations, or songs of the factions or other officials. In some cases it also accompanied a human voice with short melodies, some of which were probably of church origin (e.g. the Trisagion). Its third function was to accompany a ceremonial movement. The Byzantine organ was abandoned after the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, but had been previously transplanted to Western Europe; it initially functioned as an imperial symbol (9th century) and was gradually adopted by the Catholic Church, which initially used it only in important cathedrals (possibly since the 10th century). Its role was not very different from that in Byzantium, that is introducing (and later accompanying) an important ceremonial chant (which in the case of the Catholic Church, was a congregation chant).


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  • A. Voutyra, ed.: Ellinika Mousika organa [Greek musical instruments] (Thessaloniki, 2012)

IV. Under Eastern and Western Rulers.

1. Under the Ottomans.

(i) Church music.
  • Achilleus Chaldaiakis

The Ottoman era (1453–1821) was a particularly productive and significant period for Greek church music. I will refer here to some examples indicative of the activity of the most significant Byzantine and post-Byzantine composers as regards the development of Greek church music in general. At the same time I will look more specifically at developments in the notation of this repertory, and at the formation of its Melos Genera (‘psalmody species’).

The musical legacy of the major composers of the 14th century, which includes numerous settings of the Psalms of David and which also involved the shaping of an elaborate, so-called Kalophonic, tradition of chant, constitutes much of what we now consider the standard ecclesiastical repertoire and provided the basis for the so-called Papadic Melos of Greek church music. This compositional activity continued well into the 15th century and beyond, notably in the work of John Kladas, a composer whose main theme was the Virgin Mary (his Akathistos Hymn is highly regarded to this day), and of composers such as John Laskares, Manuel Argyropoylos, Manuel Vlateros, and Manuel Gazes. In the mid-14th century Manuel Chrysaphes emerged as a key figure, with a pivotal and multifaceted body of work, but his contemporaries Gregory Alyates, Gerasimos Chalkeopoulos, Mark, Bishop of Korinthos, and John Plousiadenos were hardly less influential. In the 16th century, the main centres of composition moved from the core Greek territory under Ottoman rule (which was increasingly preoccupied with the preservation of an existing tradition) to regional centres, where more innovatory and original music was composed, characterized by distinctive local styles. During this period (16th–17th centuries), for example, Cretan musicians came centre stage, notably Antony Episkopopoulos, Venedictos Episkopopoulos, Cosmas Varanes, Dimitrios Damias, and Ignatios Frielos, as well as Cypriot composers such as John Cordokotos, Thomas Cordokotos, Constantine Flagkes, and Hieronymos Tragodistes. Towards the end of the 16th century, however, there was a revival of creativity in Constantinople, following a long period of conservatism and inertia, and this gave prominence to some of the major figures involved in a renaissance of church music, one that also involved the development of new forms. Characteristic of this renaissance was Patriarch Theophanes Karykes, famous for his Heirmologion, as well as his student, Panagiotes Chrysaphes, and also Arsenios (known as ‘the small’), who is generally considered a ‘herald’ of the Kalophonic Heirmoi. Moreover, other major composers from this era, including Constantine from Anchialos and his compatriots Gabriel and Gennadios, Dionysios of Herakleia, Nick Oursinos Doukatares, and Klemes of Mytilinae, left a legacy of work notable for its innovatory approach to the established tradition. The high point of this ‘renaissance’ really came in the second half of the 17th century with four major composers: Panagiotes Chrysaphes, Germanos, Bishop of New Patrae, Balasis the Priest, and Peter Bereketes. Compositions on the Stichirarion and Anastasimatarion by Panagiotes Chrysaphes are still considered unique, while the Stichirarion composed by Germanos is also very highly valued. Also important was the embellishment of the Heirmologion by Balasis, whose significant notational reforms in his so-called ‘Athenian’ Asmatikon Trisagion of 1670 paved the way for a later simplification of church music notation. Also of note was the contribution of Peter Bereketes to the formation of the Kalophonikon Heirmologion. Among the contemporaries of these musicians were Cosmas (‘the Macedon’), who was a skilled calligrapher, a school friend of Balasis and a student of Germanos, the hiero-monk Damianos, the Patriarch Athanasios, and the priest Antony, each of whom played a key role in the impressive resurgence of church music in the years prior to the beginning of the 18th century. In the middle of that century there was a temporary inertia in the tradition of Greek church music, but this might also be interpreted as an interim stage preparing for its final flowering in the period beginning in the late 18th century and stretching through to the early 19th. Among the major representatives of the tradition during the period 1720–70, we might cite Panagiotes Halatzoglus and Cyril Marmarinos (the bishop of Tinos Island), who produced important theoretical treatises, Daniel the Protopsaltes, and John Protopsaltes of Trapezus, a student of Halatzoglus, who focused both on composition and on the copying of music codices. Most importantly, John Protopsaltes ‘used a way of writing, which is different from the old and akin [to] the analytical way, used by his student Peter’. This comment by Chrysanthos of Madytos describes the key concern of the composers who were to flourish in the next period (1770–1820), which was the establishment of a more detailed notational system, accessible to a wider music-loving audience. Numerous distinguished musicians contributed to this project, while at the same time producing shorter compositions that responded to new forms of worship developed at this time. One might cite here Peter the Peloponnesian and Peter the Byzantios (respectively Anastasimatarion and Heirmologion) as well as Jacob the Protopsaltes (Doxastarion), Meletios the Cretan and his compatriot George, Manuel the Byzantios, and last but not least the codex writer Apostolos Konstas from Chios. All of these contributed to the major Music Reform of 1814, which was described as ‘good service to the nation’, and to the application of the ‘New Method of Analytical Notation’, supported by the ‘Three Teachers’, as they came to be known, that is Chrysanthos from Madytos, Gregory the Protopsaltes, and Chourmouzios the Chartofylax. Apart from their compositional and theoretical work, the ‘Three Teachers’, along with the Mount Athos monks Matthew Vatopedinos, Nick Docheiarites, Joasaph Dionysiates, and Theophanes Pantokratorinos, left an important legacy of Byzantine and post-Byzantine church music, using the ‘New Method’ associated with what has come to be known as Chrysanthine notation.

(ii) Secular music.
  • John Plemmenos

Ottoman rule was officially imposed on Greece in the 1450s, after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul (Constantinople) and the collapse of the Byzantine Empire. However, the Ottoman conquest was not homogeneous for the entire Greek world, leaving some important pockets under Venetian rule (such as the Ionian Islands). In the same manner, Greece did not come out from Ottoman rule as a whole – only half of it (the central and southern part) became independent in 1830 (following the Greek Revolution of 1821) and the rest a century later (following the Balkan Wars of 1912–13). Because of this, Greek culture (including music) under Ottoman rule has many faces and facets.

The most affected areas inhabited by Greeks were Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), the Balkans (particularly Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania), and northern Greece (Thessaloniki). The music of these areas was mainly influenced in terms of modality (the use of makam – the Ottoman modal system) and instruments (Ottoman ney (‘transverse flute’), tambur (‘long-armed lute’), kanun (‘psaltery’) etc.). Yet, the adoption and adaptation of Ottoman modes and instruments by the Greeks was a slow process; it is attested as early as the late 16th century, but accelerated during the 17th. Remnants of Ottoman musical influence are still witnessed in modern Greece, particularly in the ports and the administrative centres.

The Ottoman modal system (makam) is a descendant of the Arab-Persian maqam, developed in the 13th century (the golden period of Arab-Persian civilization). The Ottomans, by adding their own modal entities to the original and replacing others with new ones, created a system of some hundred makams, each with its own character. The reception of Ottoman theory by the Greeks was based on equating the modes to their Byzantine counterparts (echoi).

The first record of Greek use of Ottoman makam comes from the mid-17th century, when some Persian songs, called adjem (Persian Acem), were copied in Greek characters and Byzantine notation, following the Ottoman conquest of Iran and the influx of Persian musicians to Istanbul. Since music education was mainly provided by the official church, the transcribers and copyists of these songs were clergymen (monks, priests, and a patriarch). The same period witnesses the emergence of the first Greek professional musicians (instrumentalists and vocalists), employed by the Ottoman court or the dervish lodges, who were (and are still) regarded by the Turks as masters of Ottoman music.

The makam gained popularity among Greek musicians during the 18th century, through two treatises on Ottoman music, written in the first half of the century, and the emergence of the Phanariot repertoire in the second half. The treatises were written (in Greek) by Panagiotes Haladjoglou, the first cantor of the Patriarchate (1728) and Kyrillos of Marmara, Bishop of Tinos Island, respectively (1740s). They contain an account of the Ottoman modal system compared to the Byzantine system, and draw their material from Ottoman works (e.g. those by Cantemir).

In the 1770s Petros of the Peloponnese, the second cantor of the Patriarchate, inaugurated a new genre of Greek secular songs that makes ample use of the Ottoman makam, adapted to Greek rhythmic and formal elements. The appellation ‘Phanariot’ comes from the district of Phanar, where the Greek Patriarchate of Istanbul has been based since the early 17th century. Between 1770 and 1820 over 300 such songs were recorded in manuscript collections produced in Istanbul and the Danubian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia), then under Ottoman rule and Greek governance. Apart from Phanariot songs, these collections contain a substantial number of Turkish songs.

Some of the Ottoman instruments were attested from the late-Byzantine period (13th–15th centuries) but their particular form and technique came from the Ottomans via the Arab-Persians. The earliest Greek encounter with Ottoman instruments dates from the late 16th century in an indirect manner, and concerns some paraliturgical works called kratēmata (sing. kratēma), based on nonsense-syllable song texts that were often used as supplements to religious chants. Some works of this genre are given names of Ottoman instruments, for example, naya (from the Ottoman nay (‘transverse flute’)) or miskal (‘panpipe’). A direct involvement of Greek musicians in Ottoman instrument-playing dates from the 17th century, the first instrumentalist being Angeli Tamburi (‘tambur player’), Cantemir’s teacher. Among the Greek musicians playing Ottoman instruments, one encounters cantors of the Patriarchate, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Professional Greek instrumentalists are mentioned in the first half of the 20th century (in Istanbul).


  • W. Feldman: Music of the Ottoman Court: Makam, Composition and the Early Ottoman Instrumental Repertoire (Berlin, 1996)
  • E. Popescu-Judetz and A. Arabi Sirli: Sources of 18th Century Music: Panayiotes Chalathzoglou and Kyrillos Marmarinos’ Comparative Treatises on Secular Music (Istanbul, 2000)
  • O. Wright: Demetrius Cantemir: the Collection of Notations, ii (London, 2000)
  • J.M. O’Connell: ‘In the Time of Alaturka: Identifying Difference in Musical Discourse’, EthM, vol.49 (2005), 177–205
  • J. Plemmenos: Ottoman Minority Musics: the Case of 18th-Century Greek Phanariots (Berlin, 2010)
  • K. Kalaitzidis: Post-Byzantine Music Manuscripts as a Source for Oriental Secular Music (15th to Early 19th Century) (Istanbul, 2012)

2. Under Western rulers.

(i) Crete, Cyprus.
  • Pyrros Bamichas

The sale of Cyprus to the Franks in 1192 marked the beginning of a longstanding flourishing for the island. Local government was organized under the feudal standards of Europe and a new court was established in Nicosia. The Franks treated the local population as colonized groups; for them, the Greeks and Armenians solely existed to serve and pay tribute to their masters. The reign of the 17 Lusignan rulers (1192–1489) left a strong legacy of French culture. It is no coincidence that, according to the 15th-century chronicler Leontios Makhairas, ‘the people began to learn French, and their Greek deteriorated – and it remains so even today’. The courtly and musical culture reached its peak during the reign of Pierre I de Lusignan (1358–69) and especially Janus I (1398–1432).

Pierre I’s music court in particular must have been an illustrious one, for after Charles V’s coronation as King of France, Charles donated 80 gold francs for the musicians of the King of Cyprus when the latter visited Rheims during his extended three-year tour to courts of the European continent. This long journey, which contributed greatly to Pierre’s fame – even Guillaume de Machaut wrote a rhymed chronicle of 8000 lines in his honor, La Prise d’Alexandrie [‘The Conquest of Alexandria’] – brought him into contact with the most important musical centres of Europe. Following his return the Lusignan court was to become an important centre of the Ars Nova and Ars Subtilior. The lavish interior of his successor’s palace was praised by Khabil Dhabeir, chronicler to the Mameluk Sultan Al-Malik al-Ashraf Barsbay, who testifies to the existence of a great organ highly admired by his master due to its wonderful sound.

But the only tangible proof of music blossoming in Nicosia’s court was the so-called Torino J.II.9 manuscript, an extensive codex which, according to recent research, was created most probably around 1435 with the possible involvement of the chapel master to the King of Cyprus, Jean Hanelle. Its anonymous and unique repertory, sacred and secular, ranges from monophonic cycles of the Ordinary of the Mass, including the Offices for St Hilarion (accompanied by a relevant approbation by the Pope dated 1413) and St Anna, to polyphonic Mass movements, motets in Latin and French, ballads, virelais, and rondos. The rich content of this manuscript stands as a solid witness to an art related to the French music of the period which appears to have been created by and for the court musicians. In addition, vocal independence and rhythmic complexity evident in novelties such as syncopatio, colour, and proportion, and new note symbols in the polyphonic texture reveal the uniquely idiomatic character of the Ars Subtilior style cultivated in Nicosia.

On the other hand, very little is known about musical life in Cyprus when the island passed to Venetian hands (1489–1570). The only sample of polyphonic music is Ō Pascha to mega (‘O Easter the Great’) upon the final troparion of the Easter Canon of Joannes Koukouzeles, composed for four voices by Ierōnymos o Tragōthistēs (‘Hieronymus the Cantor’) and placed at the end of his theoretical treatise Peri chreias mousikēs graikōn charaktērōn on the reformation of the Byzantine neumes. In 1554 Giandominico La Martoretta dedicated his third book of madrigals to the nobleman Piero Singlitico, whose hospitality he enjoyed in Cyprus upon his return from a trip to the Holy Lands. Most of the individual dedicatees of the pieces connect the book with the island. O pothos isdio is the only madrigal ever written entirely in Greek.

For over four and a half centuries under Venetian rule (1211–1669) Crete stood at the most important crossroads for Latin and Byzantine cultures. The political stability and economic prosperity that had begun in the 14th century resulted in an unprecedented blossoming of arts and literature. Despite the fact that no manuscript or printed source of Western music comes down to us from the Venetocracy, a number of testimonies – such as the 17th-century memoirs of Joannes Papadopoulos and the 1625 report to Rome by the Catholic Archbishop of Crete, Lucca Stella (1623–32) – offer valuable information about musical life in Crete.

Unlike the rural areas, the relations between Italians and Greeks in major cities were so intimate that public dances with the participation of women and members of the Catholic priesthood were fairly common. During summer nights Italian and Greek companies sauntered in the city while singing, accompanied by instruments like the mandola, lute, violin, bass, flute, and guitar. Records about the use of the organ in Latin services date back to the first half of the 15th century. Apart from the Catholic cathedral of St Titus in Candia, organs were located also at the Latin convents of St Francis, St Peter, and St Catherine. Smaller organs also existed even in Orthodox churches of the capital and Latin churches in other cities. Following the Venetian model, the Duke of Candia maintained his own chapel (St Marc) and orchestra (piffari) which was present at all the lay and religious feasts on the island. Its members, all virtuoso instrumentalists, were Greek craftsmen and therefore remained anonymous.

Regardless of the island’s vigorous music life however, it seems that advanced music training could be received only in Italian music centres; Francesco Londariti, the most important Greek musical figure of the 16th century, must have been trained in Rome before starting his successful career in Venice and Munich. Although it is possible polyphony may have been used in major churches, Latin vocal music was usually limited to Gregorian chant and likely biscantus (or cantus planus binatim), an archaic form of polyphony also occasionally practised in local Orthodox churches.

The decline of ecclesiastical chanting and teaching among Latin clergy that occurred in the second half of the 15th century was dealt with by drastic measures but it was not before the first decades of the 17th century that music training acquired a systematic character in schools for priests (seminaria) in the most important Latin bishoprics. Venetian authorities were also interested in the preservation of Byzantine music. In 1544, 1619, and 1622 subsidized schools of Byzantine music were founded respectively in Candia, Rethēmnon, and Chania following a ducal decree.


  • G. Wagner: Carmina graeca medii aevi (Lipsiae, 1874)
  • R.H. Hoppin, ed.: Cypriot-French Repertory (15th c.) of the Manuscript Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS J.II.9, CMM, 21 (1960–63)
  • A. Xirouhakis: Ai Synodoi tou Gerolamo Lando (1467–1474–1486) [The Synods of Gerolamo Lando (1467–1486)] (Athens, 1986)
  • N. Panagiotakis: I Mousiki stin Kriti kata ti Venetokatia [Music in Crete during Venetian domination] (Athens, 1990)
  • N. Panagiotakis: I Paideia kai i Mousiki stin Kriti kata ti Venetokatia [Education and music in Crete during Venetian domination] (Crete, 1990)
  • U. Günther and L. Finscher, eds.: The Cypriot-French Repertory of the Manuscript Torino MS J.II.9: Paphos 1992, MSD, 45 (Neuhausen and Stuttgart, 1995)
  • J. Papadopoulos: Memories of Seventeenth Century Crete, L’Occhio (Time of Leisure), by Zuanne Papadopoli, ed. A. Vincent (Venice, 2007)
  • F. Kritikou: ‘Compositions of Credo: Influences of the Latin Settings on the Respective Byzantine Ones of Cretan Origin (16th–17th cent.)’, Cantus Planus Study Group of the International Musicological Society: Vienna 2011 (Vienna, 2012), 210–18
  • K. Kügle: ‘Glorious Sounds for a Holy Warrior: New Light on Codex Turin J.II.9’, JAMS, vol.63 (2012), 633–90
  • J. Samson and N. Demetriou, eds.: Music in Cyprus (London and New York, 2015)
(ii) The Ionian Islands.
  • Kostas Kardamis

The Ionian Islands came gradually under an almost incessant Western administration beginning in the 12th century. The Venetian rule, which ended in 1797, was the longest and influenced the formation of the islands’ society and culture.

At least since the 16th century there are contracts concerning music instruction, constituting thus a parallel with similar practices in Crete. Reports of music performances in the Ionian Islands’ urban centres before the 18th century are not scarce and the music ensembles of the Venetian officials also participated in such activities. However, opera performances became the moving power of the islands’ musical development. The earliest opera in the Ionian Islands was performed in 1733 in the San Giacomo theatre of Corfu, the region’s administrative centre. Opera performances commenced on a systematic basis at least from 1771, despite the earlier presence of singers and other musicians. In 1791 the earliest opera by a local composer (Gli amanti confusi ossia Il brutto fortunate by Stefano Poyago) was presented in Corfu and the operatic activity continued there without interruption until 1930s.

During the 19th century permanent opera houses were constructed in Zante (1836, 1875) and Kefalonia (1838, 1858), a fact that underlined opera’s dissemination in the region. Regular operatic seasons employing Italian troupes were organized by Italian and Greek impresarios, and the Ionian theatres soon became part of the Italian operatic piazza.

Opera, its related concert activities, and the central role of music in 19th-century society resulted in the increase of interest in musical instruction within both the private and the public sphere. The presence of Italian performers on the islands, who also offered private music lessons, played a central role in this respect. Nikolaos Mantzaros was the earliest local composer and teacher and already in the 1820s offered a high standard of musical instruction regardless of his students’ social background and thus contributed to the formation of a critical mass of indigenous teachers and composers.

However, the demand for the musical education of the larger social strata was not met before the foundation of local philharmonic associations. The earliest such institution, the Zante Philharmonic, was founded in 1816 and, despite being short-lived (its last reported performance was in 1823) and rather confined in its aims (the formation of a wind band), underlines the aforementioned demand. Similar associations in Argostoli (1836) and Lixouri (1837) were also limited to their wind bands’ activities. The earliest philharmonic institution that offered the complete curriculum of a music academy (instruction of wind and string instruments, vocal music, piano, and music theory) was the Corfu Philharmonic Society (founded in 1840), which appointed Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros as its artistic director starting in 1841. In later years choral ensembles and mandolinatas also played an important role in practical musical instruction.

The aforementioned dynamic resulted in the emergence of an impressive (given the Ionian Islands’ population) number of local composers, who formulated Greek musical production and education during the 19th century, even before the islands’ annexation to the Greek Kingdom (1864). The earliest of them was Mantzaros, but soon the activities of Spyros Xyndas, the Liberalēs brothers, Domenikos Padovanēs, and Dionysios Rodotheatos in Corfu, Frankiskos Domeneghinēs and Antonios Kapnisēs in Zante, and Nikolaos Tzanēs-Metaxas and Petros Skarlatos in Kefalonia created a new musical impetus in the Ionian Islands. Moreover, Pavlos Karrer and Spyros Samaras made important careers as opera composers in Italy, and the latter became an international celebrity. Dionysios Lavrangas made notable contributions both as composer and as the Greek Operatic Troupe’s leader.

Italian music, as an international lingua franca, held a central role and during the 1850s most of the aforementioned composers presented full-scale operas on Italian librettos. However, as late as the 1820s the use of Greek language was essential in vocal works described as ‘national’. Since the late 1830s Herderian ideas were also evident in the background of such works as the compositions of ‘national character’ by the Liberalēs brothers and Karrer’s patriotic operas. Such compositions expressed the demand for the creation of works that would creatively amalgamate folklore elements with ‘learned practices’ during an era of national and social upheaval. However, the earliest full-scale opera in the Greek language, Xyndas’s O ypopsēfios was not presented until 1867, as a result of the constant scarcity of professional Greek-speaking singers. The aforementioned ideas regarding ‘national music’ were part of the Greek composer’s creative agenda during the early 20th century and constituted an integral, though ineffable, part of Kalomoirēs’s 1908 manifesto regarding the so-called ‘Greek National School’.


  • S.G. Motsenigos: Neoelliniki moussiki: symvoli eis tin historian tis [Neohellenic music: a contribution to its history] (Athens, 1958)
  • G. Leōtsakos: ‘Oi chamenes ellinikis operes, i o afanismos tou mousikou mas politismou’ [The lost Greek operas, or the destruction of our musical culture], Epilogos ’92 (Athens, 1992), 398–428
  • G. Leōtsakos: Lychnos ypo ton modion: Erga Hellinon syntheton gia piano 1847–1908 [Light under a bushel: piano works by Greek composers] Crete University Press CPE 11 (Athens, 1999) [disc notes]
  • G. Leōtsakos: Paulos Karrer: Apomnimoneumata kai Ergografia [Pavlos Karrer: memoirs and works] (Athens, 2003)
  • H. Xanthoudakis: ‘Composers, Trends and the Question of Nationality in Nineteenth-Century Musical Greece’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, vol.8/1 (2011), 41–55
  • G. Leōtsakos: Spyros Samaras (Athens, 2013)
  • K. Kadamis: ‘The Music of the Ionian Islands and its Contribution to the Emergence of “Greek National Music”’, The Ionian Islands. Aspects of their History and Culture, ed. A. Hirst and P. Sammon (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014), 340–66
  • K. Kadamis: ‘Music Migrations and Creative Assimilations: The Ionian Islands’, Musicians’ Migratory Patterns: The Adriatic Coasts,ed. F Sciannameo (New York, 2017), 23–40

V. In a Modern State.

1. The 19th century.

  • Katy Romanou

At its foundation (1830), the Greek state consisted of the southern point of the mainland, the group of islands called the Cyclades, and the Peloponnese. Further gains in the 19th century were the Ionian Islands (1864) and Thessaly (1881).

The country was initially inhabited by autochthonous Greeks, many of whom were fighters of the Greek Revolution, and Europeans who, together with Greeks of the diaspora, took over the organization of the state, and worked for its progress, envisaged as its Westernization and secularization, fostering an awareness of the heredity of Ancient Greece.

More numerous than the locals during most of the century, Greeks in the diaspora (citizens of Trieste, Vienna, London, Paris, Odessa, as well as the cities of the Ionian Islands (up to their union with Greece in 1864) and Asia Minor (such as Constantinople and Smyrna), had strong national feelings, cultivated by Western Enlightenment and Philhellenism (to which they had also contributed), and were well educated and assimilated in European culture and politics. The significant role played to the westernization of the nation state of Greece, in politics and culture, by the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands is inestimable. From the Ionian Islands were the first governor, Iōannēs Kapodistrias (whose political acumen had benefited Russia and Switzerland), Spyros Samaras (an opera composer famous in Italy and France), Nicolò Manzaro and Dionysios Solōmos (the composer and the poet of the Greek national hymn), Dionysios Lavragkas (the organizer, teacher, and conductor of the first Greek opera group), and many among the musicians who manned the first philharmonic societies in Athens and other cities.

The exploitation of the ancient Greek heritage provided the unique solution to the impossible task of bridging the gap dug during four centuries of dissociation from Western Europe and integrating the country within; to transform people accustomed to Eastern and rural daily life into European bourgeois, and to build from their foundations government organization and finance, urban infrastructure, and hygienic and educational institutions.

It was Greeks (of the diaspora) who ‘civilized’ (autochthonous) Greeks. Greeks were both passive and active subjects of the country’s Westernization and secularization, a situation that produced a cultural and social dichotomy.

Regarding music, the long duration of the dichotomy was embedded in the monophonic texture and apposite neumatic notation of church music, given the facts that the Orthodox Church (associated with the meaning of ‘nation’ during Ottoman rule) was still looked upon by the people as its protector, and the reformed (in 1814) Byzantine notation was widely applied. Although even the clergy in Constantinople considered seriously, at some point, the advantages of harmonized liturgy (performed in most Greek churches of the diaspora), monophonic chanting finally preponderated, a fact decided by the Church, but widely accepted under the influence of restoration trends in the West, as Western opinion weighed always in decisions related to culture. Nonetheless, harmonized chant was performed in central churches in Athens (their choirs directed by Iōannēs Sakellaridēs, Themistoklēs Polykratēs, and others) and at the royal chapel during the reign of George I and his Russian wife, Olga (reigned 1867–1913). The director of the royal chapel’s choir was Alexandros Katakouzēnos, who came from Odessa in 1870. His contribution to the dissemination of Western music was paramount, as he wrote the majority of songs taught in elementary education.

The three musicians mentioned also belong in the long list of Greeks who wrote music for performances of ancient Greek tragedies and comedies, including Geōrgios Pachtikos, Iōsēph Kaisarēs, Napoleōn Lambelet, Dionysios Lavrangas, Loudovikos Spinellēs, Petros Zachariadēs, and others. The popularization of ancient theatre is a distinct characteristic of Westernization in Greece, fired up during the Olympic Games and the Olympiads that preceded them starting in 1858, that comprised contests and exhibitions in many fields besides athletics, including music and its commerce. The Olympic Games coincided with discoveries of important ancient Greek music relics (notably, Seikilos’ epitaph, 1883, and the Delphic paeans, 1893), performed in various adaptations by wind bands etc., before heterogeneous publics. In the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games (25 March 1896), Spyros Samaras came from Italy to conduct his Olympic Hymn on the poet Kōstēs Palamas’ invocation to the ‘ancient immortal spirit’ to reveal itself upon its own ‘earth and sky’.

The idea of a continuous Greek tradition was also popularized by the publicity of Borugault-Ducoudray’s ideas, exposed in his 30 mélodies populaires de Grèce et d orient (1876), about the similarity of the modal structure of Greek folk melodies to ancient and Byzantine modes. Similar texts followed, by both foreigners and Greeks, that altered the attitude of the bourgeoisie towards the music of the folk, at a time when the urbanization of the country was in its infancy, a fact that further deepened the social and cultural dichotomy of the population, as the aesthetics of ‘purity’ inhibited the creativity and the education of the folk.

Greek collections of ‘national’ or ‘demotic’ songs were encouraged and published, in both neumatic notation (by Antōnios Sigalas (1880) and Andreas Tsiknopoulos (1896)), and stave notation (by Iōannēs Sakellaridēs (1882) and Chrēstos Vlachos (1892, 1894)). Many more followed at the opening of the 20th century.

In most other aspects, the Westernization of music in Greek cities (Aegina and Nauplion (the early capitals, in 1828 and 1829–34 respectively), Athens, Piraeus, Patra, and Hermoupolis) had common characteristics with that of new Western conquests all over the world: music making in homes connected to the kings (the Bavarian Otto and the Danish George I), wind bands (of the palace, the army, and the amateurs’ societies) playing marches and dances in the open air, and performances of opera, operetta, and spicy music reviews, by Italians and Heptanesians, as a rule, produced on makeshift stages, and the decent theatres that replaced them. Popular were subjects connected to the Greek Revolution or later heroic events: the opera of the Zakynthian Paulos Karrer, Markos Botsarēs, was given its première in Patra in 1861 and up to the end of the century had 18 productions (most with multiple performances) in Greece and in cities abroad populated by Greeks. Equally successful was Arkadion, a dramatic suite by the hellenized Italian Rafaelle Parisini, narrating the holocaust of the monastery Arkadi in Crete during the 1866 revolt.

Rafaelle Parisini directed the Philharmonic Society Euterpē (1871–6), one of the most active among several institutions combining music amateurism with philanthropy that appeared in the century’s three last decades. Most important was the Ōdeion Athēnōn (Conservatory of Athens) of the Music and Drama Association (founded in 1871). Geōrgios Nazos, who in 1891 replaced Katakouzēnos, its first director, reformed music education in the conservatory (and in Greece), introducing, in collaboration with Western musicians, the methods, programmes, and repertory of the most progressive Western institutions.


  • L.A. Bourgault-Ducoudray: 30 mélodies populaires de Grèce et d’orient (Paris, 1876; repr. Katerini, 1993)
  • G. Lambelet: ‘Ho Hymnos tou Apollōnos en tōi Homilōi tōn Philomousōn’ [The Apollo’s hymn in the Society of the Philomuses], Mousikē Ephēmeris, vol.7 (1894) 2–3
  • Th. Polykratēs: Hē Tetraphōnos Mousikē en tēi Ekklēsiai [Four-voice music in the church] (Athens, 1916)
  • Th. Synadinos: Historia tēs Neohellēnikēs Mousikēs 1824–1919 [History of Neohellenic music 1824–1919], i (Athens, 1919)
  • I.E. Chrysaphēs: Hoi Synchronoi Diethneis Olympiakoi Agōnes [The contemporary international Olympic Games] (Athens, 1930)
  • G. Drosinēs: Geōrgios Nazos kai to Ōdeion Athēnōn [George Nazos and the Athens conservatory] (Athens, 1938)
  • S. Motsenigos: Neohellēnikē mousikē: Symbolē eis tēn Historian tēs [Neohellenic music: contribution to its history] (Athens, 1958)
  • B. Nettl: ‘World Music in the Twentieth Century: a Survey of Research on Western Influence’, AcM, vol.58 (1986), 360–73
  • K.D. Kalokyrēs: Ho Mousourgos Iōannēs Th. Sakellaridēs kai hē Byzantinē Mousikē [The composer John Th. Sakelarides and Byzantine music] (Thessalonika, 1988)
  • G. Philopoulos: Eisagōgē stēn hellinikē polyphōnikē ekklēsiastikē mousikē [Introduction to Greek polyphonic ecclesiastical music] (Athens, 1990)
  • N. Bakounakēs: To phantasma tēs Norma: Ē ypodochē tou melodramatos ston ellēniko choro to 19o aiōna. Hermoupolĕ-Patra [The phantom of Norma: the reception of opera on Greek space in the 19th century. Hermoupolis-Patra] (Athens, 1991)
  • K. Baroutas: Ē Mousikē stēn Athēna to 19o aiōna [Music in Athens in the 19th century] (Athens, 1992)
  • K. Rōmanou: Ethnikēs Mousikēs Periēgēsis 1901–1912: Ellēnika Mousika Periodika ōs pēgē ereunas tēs Historias tēs Neohellenikēs Mousikēs [Wandering national music 1901–1912: Greek music periodicals as a source of research for the history of Neohellenic music] (Athens, 1996)
  • G. Leōtsakos: Paulos Karrer: Apomnēmoneumata kai ergografia [Paolo Carrer: Memoirs and works] (Athens, 2003)
  • N.-M. Jaklitsch (Wanek): ‘Benedikt Randhartinger: zur Vertonung der griechisch-orthodoxen Jahresliturgie’, Benedict Randhartinger und seine Zeit (Tutzing, 2004), 97–113
  • K. Rōmanou, M. Barbakē, and Ph. Mousoulidēs: Ē Ellēnikē Mousikē stous Olympiakous Agōnes kai tis Olympiades (1858–1896) [Greek music in the Olympic Games and the Olympiads (1858–1896)] (Athens, 2004)
  • M. Barbakē: ‘“Mousikoi thiasoi” orchēstres pneustōn stēn Athēna tōn telōn tou 19ou aiōna’ [“Music troops" wind orchestras in Athens at the end of the 19th century], Polyphonia, vol.6 (2005), 7–34
  • K. Rōmanou: Entechnē Ellēnikē Mousikē stous Neoterous Chronous [Greek art music in modern times] (Athens, 2006)
  • M. Barbakē: Oi prōtoi mousikoi syllogoi tēs Athēnas kai tou Peiraia kai ē Symbolē tous stē mousikē paideia (1871–1909) [The first music societies of Athens and Piraeus and their contribution to music education (1871–1909)] (diss., U. of Athens, 2009)
  • K. Romanou and M. Barbaki: ‘Music Education in Nineteenth-Century Greece: its Institutions and their Contribution to Urban Musical Life’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, vol.8 (2011), 57–84
  • A.A. Siōpsē: Ē neoellēnikē politismikē physiognōmia mesa apo to rolo tēs mousikēs se anabiōseis tou archaiou dramatos: Mousikes diadromes ōs antanaklaseis tēs archaias Helladas stē neoterē [The Neohellenic cultural physiognomy through the role of music in revivals of ancient drama: music itineraries as reflections of ancient Greece upon modern Greece] (Athens, 2012)
  • G. Leōtsakos: Spyros Samaras 1861–1917: O megalos adikēmenos tēs entecnhēs hellenikēs mousikēs: Dokimē biographias [Spyro Samara 1861–1917: the greatly unjustified person of Greek art music: essay of a biography] (Athens, 2013)
  • J. Samson: Music in the Balkans (Leiden and Boston, 2013)
  • A. Xepapadakou: Paulos Karrer [Paolo Carrer] (Athens, 2013)

2. The 20th century (pre-1950).

(i) Art music.
(a) Musical life.
  • Sofia Kontossi

The promotion of Western music in Greece as part of the country’s Europeanization, established as a main national policy in the early 20th century, was unsupported by any long-term government planning. Thus Western music became mainly an activity of the social elite and failed to infiltrate to the base of the social pyramid, obstructed by a large part of the population’s still evolving, experience-based relationship with ecclesiastical and traditional music. Developments in music occurred primarily in Athens, and the thriving music press of the times (Phorminx, Mousika Chronika, Mousiki Zoi etc.) records the attendant ideological sword-crossing.

The wider dissemination of the Western musical tradition was hampered by the shift from concepts about the aesthetics and function of music propagated by the composers of the Ionian Islands since the 19th century and bearing strong Italian influences, to their German counterparts, prevalent in Europe and gaining ground with the reorganization of the Athens Conservatory (1891, dir. Georgios Nazos). These latter concepts were staunchly promoted – and in open disagreement with the Ionian composer Georgios Lambelet (1875–1945) – through the activity of Manolis Kalomiris (1883–1962) from 1908 onwards, in view of the desideratum for the creation of a national music school in the manner of the ‘advanced’ musical cultures of Europe. This stance is also reflected in the first History of Modern Greek Music by Theodoros Synadinos (Athens, 1919) and concludes in the progressive isolation from musical activity of the highly educated Ionian musicians.

The lack of state planning for the dissemination of Western music through institutional agencies was filled exclusively by private initiative up until the end of the 1930s. With the exception of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki (1914), musical education based on the numerous philharmonic societies following the Italian model – of amateur orientation and often a philanthropic character – was undertaken entirely by private conservatories with professional curricula inspired by their French and German counterparts (the Athens Conservatory, Lina von Lottner Conservatory (1899), Pireus Music Association (1903), Conservatory of the City of Volos). The teaching of Byzantine music was equally systematized after 1904 at the Athens Conservatory by Konstantinos Psachos (c. 1866–1949), in an attempt to preserve unaltered the monophonic Byzantine chant as an expression of cultural identity. In 1919 Kalomiris founded the Hellenic Conservatory and, following that, the National Conservatory (1926) whose annexes catered for music education in the Greek provinces as well.

The musical life of the period appears extroverted: the tradition of Hausmusik was never satisfactorily developed in Greece but concert activity was impressively intensive, revolving around symphonic music, Italian opera performances, and operetta.

Symphonic concerts were held by the Athens Conservatory Symphonic Orchestra (1894; successive conds. Frank Choisy, Armand Marsick, Jean Boutnikoff), which under Dimitris Mitropoulos (cond. 1927–38) acquired distinctive kudos and became a pole of attraction for artists of international acclaim while the repertory was aligned with that of the European music stages.

Opera performances were put on by foreign and Greek groups, the latter including the short-lived but active National Operatic Troupe (1933–5) founded by Kalomiris as well as the Third Hellenic Operatic Troupe (1900–43) under the direction of the composer Dionysios Lavrangas. These two troupes also systematically promoted Greek opera repertory which thus reached the Greek communities of Russia, Romania, Egypt, Constantinople, and Smyrna. Choral music was especially promoted by the Athens Choir (1921: cond. Philoktitis Oikonomidis).

The endeavour to popularize Western music by means of concerts with a wide public appeal was taken up by the internationally acclaimed Athens Plucked Orchestra (1900–43; cond. Nikolaos Lavdas), the Symphonic Orchestra of Neo Phaliro (founded by Kalomiris), and the Athens Conservatory Symphonic Orchestra.

Several institutions were gradually set in place for the protection of musicians’ professional rights: the Pan-Hellenic Music Association (1913), the Greek Theatre and Music Critics’ Union (1927), and the Greek Composers’ Union (1931), the latter also promoting the performance and publication of Greek works.

Governmental interest in musical matters manifested as part of the cultural policy of the right-wing dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936–41). In 1938 the House of Letters and Arts, the Athens Radio Post, and the Radio Symphonic Orchestra (cond. Antiochos Evangelatos) were founded. Musicians’ longstanding request for the creation of a state opera theatre was put into effect in 1939 within the Royal Theatre, by its director Kostis Bastias (conds. Walter Pfeffer, Leonidas Zoras). The above organizations continued their operations intensively during the occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers (1941–5). In 1942 the Athens Conservatory Symphonic Orchestra was promoted to become the Athens State Orchestra (conds. Ph. Oikonomidis, Theodoros Vavagiannis) and in 1944, due to political pressure, the Lyric Stage became independent under Kalomiris’ artistic direction.

The lack of a well-assimilated tradition of Western music allowed, after the end of the Civil War (1949) and in the context of cultural policy during the Cold War (when Greece belonged to the Western sphere of influence) for the unobstructed introduction of the public to modernism.


  • M.A. Raptis: Epitomi Istoria tou Ellinikou Melodramatos kai tis Ethnikis Lyrikis Skinis 1888–1988 [A short history of the Hellenic Operatic Troupe and the Greek National Opera] (Athens, 1989)
  • K. Romanou: Ethnikis mousikis periigisis 1901–1912: Ellinika mousika periodika os pigi ereunas tis istorias tis neoellinikis mousikis [Wandering national music 1901–1912: Greek music periodicals as a source for the research of Neohellenic music] (Athens, 1996)
  • T. Kalogeropoulos: Kratiki Orchistra Athinon: Proistoria kai istoria [The Athens State Orchestra: history and prehistory] (Athens, 2004)
  • K. Romanou: Entechni Elliniki Mousiki stous Neoterous Chronous [Greek art music in modern times] (Athens, 2006)
  • S. Kontossi and M. Economides: Manolis Kalomoiris – Leonidas Zoras: Mousikes kai istorikes syngeneies [Manolis Kalomiris – Leonidas Zoras: musical and historical affinities] (Athens, 2007)
  • G. Belonis: Hē mousikē dōmatiou stēn Ellada sto prōto miso tou 20ou aiōna: Hē periptōsē tou Mariou Varvoglē [Chamber music in Greece during the first half of the 20th century: the case of Marios Varvoglis] (Athens, 2012)
  • S. Kontossi: ‘Leonidas Zoras at the “Lyric Stage” during the Axis Occupation and the Greek Civil War’, Crossroads: Greece as an Intercultural Pole of Musical Thought and Creativity, ed. E. Nika-Sampson and others (Thessaloniki, 2013),
  • J. Samson: Music in the Balkans (Leiden and Boston, 2013)
(b) Composers.
  • Myrto Economides

During the 1910s the foundations were set for a national school modelled mainly after German precedents, and for the rejection of the Italian-oriented Ionian School as inferior and non-Greek. Herder’s ideas found broad acceptance and the Greek intelligentsia acknowledged the folk song as an expression of the true spirit of the nation. Legends and historical occurrences provided ready conceptual and symbolic correspondences with the contemporary era. Literature, as expressed in demotic Greek language, was the first to pave the road in that direction, thus providing the ideological substratum for the creation of a folk-based musical nationalism, aligned with the politics of Eleftherios Venizelos and the notion of the ‘Great Idea’. The nationalistic trend in music was spearheaded by the charismatic Manolis Kalomiris from Asia Minor (1883–1962), whose programme note for the concert of his own works given in 1908 at the Athens Conservatory had the intended effect of a manifesto and signified the establishment of the Greek national school. With his early emblematic works such as the Romeic Suite for orchestra (1907), the first Greek song cycle Magiovotana (‘Magic Herbs’, 1914), the opera Protomastoras (‘Master-Builder’, 1915) and the Symphony of Leventia (‘Valour’, 1920), he emerged as a leading figure of the movement who eventually, through his multifaceted undertakings, provided direction to music life overall, during the first half of the 20th century.

Composers coming from the Ionian Islands had also been preoccupied with ideas about the Greek national music. Georgios Lambelet (1875–1945) first published in 1901 his essay ‘National Music’ and composed the representative orchestral work Giorti (‘Feast’, 1907), while the opera by Dionysios Lavrankas (?1860–1941), Dyo adelphoi (‘Two brothers’), based on a folk song, was hailed by the press in 1900 as ‘rejecting the fetters of false Italian classicism and aspiring to rise to the sphere of truth’.

The musical aesthetics of Kalomiris differ from the composers coming from the Ionian Islands. Unlike them, he blends poetry written in demotic Greek with modes and rhythms of Greek folk music and elements primarily from late Romanticism, the Russian national school, and Impressionism. Already in his early works he focused on genres that were popular among the late 19th-century composers, also preoccupied with national music projects. Indicative examples are his five operas, all of which are embracing Wagnerian principles, his symphonic works with programmatic character, and song circles on poetry expressing the national sentiment.

Folk-sounding music can also to be found in the operettas, beginning in 1911, of the cosmopolitan composer Spyridon-Philiskos Samaras (1861–1917) and others; Theophrastos Sakellaridis (1883–1950) and Nikos Chatziapostolou (1884–1941) were particularly successful in this widely popular urban genre.

The conditions that nourished the Greek music nationalism ceased with the Greek defeat in Asia Minor at the Greco-Turkish War, in September 1922 (Asia Minor Disaster). Yet, due to the persistent efforts of Kalomiris and his likeminded composers, the aesthetics of the Greek national school continued to dominate until the 1950s. Main trends followed by the Greek composers who aimed at creating a national style include late Romantic influences – as illustrated in the works of Antiochos Evangelatos (1902–81), Georgios Sklavos (1888–1976), Theodoros Karyotakis (1903–78), and Petros Petridis (1892–1977) – along with Byzantine chant, modality, and neoclassicism. French trends (impressionism, neoclassicism etc.) in Aimilios Riadis (1880–1935, best known for his songs), Theodoros Spathis (?1884–1943), Marios Varvoglis (1885–1967), Antreas Nezeritis (1897–1980), Giannis Konstantinidis (1903–84), and also Georgios Poniridis’ (1887–1982) and Giannis A. Papaioannou’s (1910–89) works until the 1950s. Very loosely connected to nationalism are Dimitrios Levidis (1886–1951), Georgios Kazasoglou (1908–84), Konstantinos Kydoniatis (1908–96), Menelaos Pallantios (1914–2012), and the leftist Alekos Xenos (1912–95), who draws inspiration from the struggle for independence, folksong, and Shostakovich. Untouched by the Greek musical nationalism, Dimitrios Lialios (1869–1940) and Charilaos Perpessas (1907–95) wrote in a post-Romantic style.

Although in the post-World-War-II years national schools came increasingly to be viewed as anachronisms, significant works were still produced, in parallel with composers who now clearly turned to contemporary trends, such as Leonidas Zoras (1905–87) and the young Giannis Christou (Phoenix Music, 1948–9).

Early modernism trends appear in the works of Dimitris Mitropoulos (1896–60) and Nikos Skalkottas (1904–49), who studied in Berlin during the 1920s. They both failed in establishing a modernist movement in their home country and their works were seen as undermining the efforts of the Greek national school. Mitropoulos was the first Greek composer to have experimented with atonality (Passacaglia Intermezzo e Fuga, 1924) and serialism (Ostinata in tre parti for violin and piano, 1927). Skalkottas, a student of Arnold Schoenberg, whose most productive years were the late 1930s and 1940s, achieved international recognition soon after his death in 1949 and came to be considered as the father figure of musical modernism in Greece.


  • O. Frangou-Psychopedi: I ethniki scholi mousikis: Provlimata ideologias [The national school of music: problems of ideology] (Athens, 1990)
  • Y. Svolos, ed.: Works by Greek Composers: 19th–20th Century (Athens, 2004) [disc notes]
  • K. Romanou: Entechni elliniki mousiki stous neoterous chronous [Greek art music in modern times] (Athens, 2006)
  • Y. Belonis: ‘The Greek National Music School’, Serbian and Greek Art Music, ed. K. Romanou (Bristol, 2009), 125–61
  • N. Maliaras: Elliniki mousiki kai europi: Diadromes ston Dytikoeuropaiko politismo [Greek music and Europe: itineraries in Western European culture] (Athens, 2012)
  • N. Maliaras and A. Charkiolakis, eds: Manolis Kalomiris – 50 chronia meta: Afieroma sti symplirosi misou aiona apo to thanato tou syntheti [Manolis Kalomiris – after half a century: a commemoration of fifty years from the composer’s death] (Athens, 2013)
  • J. Samson: Music in the Balkans (London, 2013)
  • K. Kardamis: ‘“Ellinikin Mousikin. Embros!” O Manolis Kalomiris, o mousikos folklorismos kai i anazititi tis “ethikis mousikis” stin Ellada mechri tin avgi tou 20ou aiona’ [‘Greek Music! On the march!’: Manolis Kalomiris, folkorism in music and the quest for ‘national music’ in Greece until the eve of the 20th century], Istoria Eikonographimeni, vol.539 (2013), 95–107
(ii) Urban popular music.
  • Dafni Tragaki

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the major Greek cities were cosmopolitan centres participating in the networks of genres circulating within the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, Western and Central Europe, and the Middle East. So-described ‘oriental’ music-making was performed in the café-amans, the coffee-shops mainly hosting santouroviolia (santouri – a sort of hammered dulcimer – and violin-based ensembles), which thrived approximately until the second decade of the 20th century. Their repertory included urban popular traditions from Asia Minor, mainly smyrneiko (literally meaning ‘song of Smyrna’), and politiko (literally meaning ‘song of Constantinople’), as well as amanes (a vocal improvisational genre based on the makam modal system) and dimotiko tragoudi (rural folk song), next to popular tunes from the broader Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans (such as Armenian, Jewish, and Arab). The performing musicians were of diverse origins: Greek, Jewish, Armenian, and Turkish, among others. Several of them became popular in recordings by Odeon, HMV, Columbia, and Parlophone, made locally and abroad (mainly the USA) issued by the end of the 19th century. Western European popular genres, such as the Neapolitan canzone, French cabaret shows, tango, and waltz, as well as sensual professional female dancing, were, according to press reports of that era, mostly performed in the entertainment venues known as café-chantants that declined during the early years of the 20th century.

At the same time, an oral tradition of popular song developed among the socially marginalized urban enclaves in the hashish-dens and prisons, later known as rebetiko song. Rebetiko lyrics narrated stories of drug consumption, prison life, illegal activities, love pain, violent affrays, and the risky adventures of the rebetiko outlaw male hero, the mangas (sing.). Following the Asia Minor War (1922) waves of refugees brought with them the traditions of the opposite coast that invigorated music-making in the Greek cities, especially in the major ports of the country. At the same time, the US-made rebetiko recordings also marketed in Greece inevitably popularized the genre outside the underworld context. All the while, rebetiko musicians, Markos Vamvakaris being among the most representative of this generation, began to perform in the tavernes (‘taverns’), venues employing ensembles (kompanies) featuring the bouzouki (a long-necked lute with three pairs of strings) as a leading instrument accompanied by the guitar and baglamas (a small version of the bouzouki). Having attracted an ever-expanding clientele, several of them were soon recruited by the recording studios and, eventually, in the 1930s the bouzouki kompania prevailed over the cafe-aman orchestras.

Rebetiko was based on the modal system of dromoi (sing.: dromos; ‘road’), many of them named after the Arab-Persian makams, although the tunes were structured on the equal-tempered system and were mainly performed with fretted instruments. Among its most representative rhythmic patterns was the zei bekiko(s) which is also the name for the solo, originally exclusively male, improvisational dance style. Because of its so-described ‘oriental’ musical aesthetics, rebetiko was often contested in the context of fervent ideological debates over the ‘true’ character of Greek ‘national’ music troubling the modern nation-state that was anxious to define its cultural identity. In 1936 it was censored by the dictator Metaxas as dangerous for Hellenic customs and morals, while revue theatre song (epitheorisiako tragoudi) and ‘light’ (elafry-o) popular song continued to prosper. Those were equally popular traditions mostly disseminated through radio broadcasting and on the numerous theatre stages of the major Greek cities and the capital, where also the tradition of kantada developed. Kantada is a guitar-based serenade love song, drawing from the tradition of eptanisiaki kantada, often performed by male duets at night while walking in the streets. Also part of the ‘European’ music scene was the Greek operetta that thrived during the second and third decade of the 20th century. It was a local version of the French and Viennese operetta, often with a comic character, combining prose, dance, choral, and orchestral performances. Epitheorisiako tragoudi, broadly identified with (elafry-o), is commonly acknowledged as the Greek belle-époque song, and was represented by famous musically literate composers (Attik, Kostas Giannidis, Christos Chairopoulos, Mihalis Sougioul). It was mostly composed on the piano, often in the rhythms of the tango and waltz, or in jazz and Latin-American styles, featuring a bel canto style of singing (as in the performances, for instance, of Sofia Vempo and Danae Stratigopoulou) and played by orchestras styled in the form of Western European popular entertainment ensembles. Several ‘light’ popular songs were also adaptations of famous Western European songs, although songs of patriotic content were also produced during the World War II era. The emergence of the arhontorebetiko style in those years launched by Sougioul (and substantially developed by Manolis Chiotis in the postwar years) blended musical elements from globalized popular genres (such as swing, cha-cha, rumba, tango) with those of rebetiko song, that in the meantime continued to thrive despite the censorship that was imposed in 1946. Having been reformed by the prolific composer Vasilis Tsitsanis, rebetiko songs were now harmonically structured (in so-called ‘primo-secondo’) and further sophisticated, and were thus brought closer to the ‘light’ popular song aesthetics. Tsitsanis’ music had a considerable impact on laïko tragoudi that emerged in the 1950s.


  • I. Petropoulos: Rebetika Tragoudia [Rebetiko songs] (Athens, 1968)
  • G. Holst: Road to Rembetika: Music of a Greek Subculture: Songs of Love, Sorrow & Hashish (Limni Evoias, 1977)
  • S. Gauntlett: ‘Rebetiko Traghoudi as a Generic Term’, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, vol.8 (1982–3), 77–102
  • S. Gauntlett: Rebetika Carmina Graeciae Recentioris:a Contribution to the Definition of the Term and the Genre Rebetiko Traghoudi through Detailed Analysis of its Verses and of the Evolution of its Performance (Athens, 1985)
  • T. Hatzipantazis: Tis Asiatidos Mousis Erastai [The suitors of the Asian muse] (Athens, 1986)
  • O. Smith: ‘Cultural Identity and Cultural Interaction: Greek Music in the United States, 1917–1941’, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, vol.13 (1995), 125–35
  • R.P. Pennanen: ‘The Development of Chordal Harmony in Greek Rebetika and Laika Music, 1930s to 1960s’, British Journal for Ethnomusicology, vol.6 (1997), 65–116
  • Y. Zaimakis: Katagogia Akmazonta: Parekklisi, Politismiki Dimiourgia, Anonymo Rebetiko (1900-1940) [Thriving dens: deviation, cultural creation, anonymous rebetiko] (Athens, 1999)
  • I. Petropoulos: Songs of the Greek Underworld: the Rebetika Tradition (London, 2000)
  • D. Tragaki: Rebetiko Worlds: Ethnomusicology and Ethnography in the City (Newcastle, 2007)
  • M. Seiragakis: To Elafry Theatro sti Mesopolemiki Athina (Athens, 2009)

3. The 20th century (post-1950).

(i) Art music.
(a) Musical life.
  • Ioannis Tsagkarakis

During the early 1950s Greece’s subdued concert life, mainly concentrated in Athens, significantly benefited from the musical activities of foreign cultural institutes such as the British Council, the French and Goethe Institutes, and the Hellenic American Union. In particular, the Music Department of the Athens branch of the United States Information Service that was founded at the time soon became a musical hub attracting, both to its music library (the first of its kind in Greece) and its concert series, the vast majority of the younger generation of Greek composers.

From 1962 the regular seminars, workshops, and concerts of the Studio für Neue Musik, housed at the Goethe Institute of Athens and co-directed by the German composer Günther Becker (1924–2007) and the musicologist John G. Papaioannou (1915–2000), functioned for almost two decades as a channel through which contemporary music trends were introduced to Greek composers and audiences.

The Hellenic Association of Contemporary Music that subsequently emerged in 1965 organized a large number of musical events, among which the Five Hellenic Weeks of Contemporary Music that took place from 1966 until 1976 arguably stood out among the most vibrant festivals of the European periphery.

Sponsored by the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Athens–Epidaurus Festival, founded in 1955, hosted top tier classical music ensembles in order to create a cosmopolitan atmosphere during the summer months. The Athens State Orchestra and the Greek National Opera have also been regular participants.

Soon after the end of the seven-year dictatorship in 1974 the National Radio Orchestra, the Orchestra of Modern Music, the Radio Choir, and Greek Radio 3 – all part of the Greek Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) – began to play a more active role in the domestic musical life by organizing regular musical events and live broadcasts. The well-attended concerts of Mikis Theodorakis and Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001) and the critical involvement of Manos Hadjidakis (1925–94) in key administrative posts in many of the above-mentioned organizations signalled a new era in art music in Greece. Among the major non-governmental institutions that promoted art music in Athens during the latter part of the 20th century were the Athenaeum International Cultural Centre (established in 1974) and the Greek Composers’ Union (active since 1931), which particularly focused on the promotion of the work of its members. Both the Contemporary Music Research Centre, founded in 1986 by Xenakis, and the Institute for Research on Music and Acoustics, founded in 1989 by Kostas Moschos, received EU funds and carried out both educational and pioneering research programmes. However, the most dramatic shift in the concert life of Athens occurred in 1991 when Megaron, the first purpose-built concert hall in Athens, which was partly subsidized by the Greek state, opened its doors and rapidly dominated the musical life of Athens.

In Greece’s second largest city, the annual festival ‘Dimitria’, the Thessaloniki State Orchestra, the State Conservatory, and the Music Departments at both the Aristotle and Macedonia Universities together with the Thessaloniki Concert Hall (opened in 2000) have significantly enriched the musical life and cultural infrastructure of northern Greece. Among the many summer festivals held in the provinces (Aegina, Corfu, Heraklion, Kavala, Nafplion, Santorini, Syros, Volos etc), the International Festival of Patras, founded in 1986 and directed by the composer Thanos Mikroutsikos featured performers and symphony orchestras of an international calibre.

The last two decades of the 20th century saw an explosion in the demand for musical training resulting in the proliferation of private and public music schools and conservatories. However, only the two state universities operating in Thessaloniki, and the Athens and the Ionian Universities, offered higher degrees in music.

Following the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe highly trained musicians, either of Greek descent or immigrants, increased the country’s limited reservoir of string players in particular. This was beneficial for the Orchestra of Colours, founded in 1989 by Hadjidakis, and the Athens Camerata, the resident orchestra of the Megaron founded in 1991.

During the 1990s several non-governmental organizations such as the B. & M. Theocharakis Foundation for Fine Arts and Music, the Onassis Cultural Centre, and the Benakis Museum revitalized the musical life of Athens with their new venues hosting regular concerts. Since 2017, an imposing cultural centre that houses the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece (a donation to the Greek State by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation) has become a new reference point in the musical life of the Greek capital.


  • N. Slonimsky: ‘New Music in Greece’, MQ, vol. 51/1 (1965), 225–35
  • T. Kalogeropoulos: To Lexiko tis Ellinikis Mousikis [The dictionary of Greek music] (Athens, 1998)
  • J. G. Papaioannou: 20th Century Greek Avant-Garde Music: a Cross Section (Athens, 1998)
  • K. Romanou: Entechni Elliniki Mousiki stous Neoterous Chronous [Greek art music in modern times] (Athens, 2006)
  • A. Kostios: Ta 75 Chronia tis Enosis Ellinon Mousourgon, 1931–2006: Apo to Chroniko stin Istoria [75 Years of the Greek Composers’ Union, 1931–2006: from chronicle to history] (Athens, 2007)
  • K. Romanou, ed.: Serbian & Greek Music Art Music: a Patch to Western Music History (Bristol, 2009)
  • D. Papaioannou: To Trito Programma tis Ellinikis Radiofonias sta Chronia tou Manou Hadjidaki [The Greek Radio 3 during the years under Manos Hadjidakis] (Athens, 2013)
  • J. Samson: Music in the Balkans (London, 2013)
(b) Composers.
  • Kostas Chardas

In one of the first post-World-War-II historical accounts of European modernism (Hartog, 1957) Greece is the only country of the ‘periphery’ that is represented by a unique composer: Nikos Skalkottas. The writer John G. Papaioannou (a musicologist and pianist who would become one of the key figures within Greek modernism) gives particular emphasis to the atonal/serial side of Skalkottas’s music, sealing his posthumous discovery and dissemination as a neglected genius. Skalkottas became the emblem of the internationally recognized Greek composer within the post-1950 turn of Greek music towards modernist idioms. Universalism and synchronization with the West emerged as the new imperatives, within a musical climate that became openly suspicious of the nationalist agenda of the previous generation. Although recent studies have shed light on the strong role of Cold War politics in this attempt to harness Greek music (and culture) to Western contemporary artistic issues (Romanou, 1996, pp.232–7), at that time a sense of euphoria followed the successes of new Greek works in international competitions. Yannis A. Papaioannou’s Symphony no.3 was such a work. It was awarded a prize in the 1953 Queen Elizabeth International Composition in Belgium and it was publicly received both as an anathema (from the nationalists) and as a paradigm for new Greek music. Papaioannou’s symphony exemplifies the early acclimatization of modernist idioms in Greece: melodic serialism contributes to the overall organic (cyclical) formal conception, while it is in dialogue with tonal elements that delineate standard Western formal moulds. A similar compositional attitude is also discerned in works of the 1950s by Yorgos Sicilianos, the other pioneer of the period. The music of both composers up to 1965 offers, in effect, an overview of the techniques associated with modernism (12-note, serial, post-serial) while formal clarity through aurally accessible tonal processes suggests a quest for comprehensibility and a didactic stimulus. This attitude is also expressed in public statements by Sicilianos and, mainly, through Papaioannou’s teaching of modernist techniques – many composers of the next generations were his students before embarking abroad for further studies.

In the 1960s large symphonic works of Papaioannou and Sicilianos contributed to the cosmopolitan ‘cultural tourism’ (Romanou, 249) offered by the Athens Festival, as also did the modernist approaches, by them, Antoniou, and others, to music for ancient drama productions in the Epidaurus Festival. The cosmopolitanism of Greek modernism in the early 1960s was also emphasized by the acquaintance of the Greek musical climate with two distinctive composers living abroad (Iannis Xenakis and Anestis Logothitis), while it also exerted influence on composers who had served nationalist ideals (George Poniridis and Leonidas Zoras).

However, it was Yannis Christou who, in addition to his own unique contribution to music for ancient drama, sealed the modernist phase of Greek music history. Having reached technical mastery in his early symphonic work Phoenix Music (1959), Christou heavily contributed to the post-1965 heyday of Greek modernism through the exploration of the cathartic power of music with reference to archetypal psychological processes of ancient rituals. In general, the exploration of elements from Greek antiquity echoes the Western modernist universalist values, but also becomes a recurrent element of self-definition within Greek modernist music (e.g. the Pythagorean arithmetic processes in works by Nikos Mamangakis and the ancient Greek expressive and structural elements in cantatas by many composers). More generally, tradition had a multivalent presence, such as in the idiomatic blending of Byzantine elements with avant-garde techniques by Michalis Adamis and Dimitris Terzakis, and in the structural dialogue of traditional music from Epirus with modernist elements by Dimitris Dragatakis. This attitude to tradition possibly explains the wide acceptance of Yannis Constantinidis’s music (based, mainly, on the harmonic enrichment of folksong melodies). Other important composers of the era are Arghiris Kounadis, Yannis Ioannidis, and Yannis Vlachopoulos.

While a post-romantic attitude had remained alive in the music of composers who expressed the ideological and/or the aesthetic orientation of the Greek national school (Manolis Kalomiris, Antiochos Evanghelatos, Andreas Nezeritis, Alekos Xenos, Nikos Astrinidis, Constantinos Kydoniatis), the period from 1980 onwards saw many expressions of ‘the narrative of homecoming’ (Samson, 2013, pp.581, 626). Tonality, modality, and melodicism re-emerge, as elsewhere, as potent creative resources (e.g. modal micropolyphonies can be found in stylistically different music by Terzakis, Adamis, Antoniou, Minas Alexiadis, and Yorgos Koumendakis). Tonality/modality is re-invented often through extended instrumental techniques (Apostolos Paraskevas, Alexandros Kaloyeras), within a cross-over attitude (Kyriakos Sfetsas, Dimitris Marangopoulos, Alexiadis) or alongside polyrhythmic clothing (Dimitris Nicolaou). The voice (and the language in general) becomes a potent expressive vehicle within a bold operatic production (George Couroupos, Periklis Koukos, Marangopoulos, Mikis Theodorakis) and, also, conveys theatricality in music of a modernist attitude (Michalis Lapidakis), of meditative impulse (Iosif Papadatos), or of postmodernist expressivity (Charis Xanthoudakis). Neoromanticism emerges in the 1990s in Christos Samarás’s wavering between atonality and tonality, while this oscillation often provides expressionist character in the music of Giorgos Zervos and Michalis Travlos. Many Greek composers moulded their musical language abroad (Dinos Constantinidis, Demis Visvikis, Christos Hatzis). Most of the composers of the newer generations (born after 1960) studied composition in Greece and many found residence abroad, having often won prizes in prestigious international competitions. Their music expresses postmodernist plurality: eclecticism in styles and resources (Calliope Tsoupaki, Alexandros Markeas, Dimitris Andrikopoulos, Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, Aspasia Nasopoulou, Lina Tonia, Yannis Aggelakis), post-Xenakian adherence to scientific organizational impulses (Leontios Hatzileontiadhis, Phivos-Angelos Kollias), new complexity (Nikolas Tzortzis), exploration of synergies between East and West (Panayiotis Liaropoulos, Constantia Gourzi), ancient Greek inspiration (Apostolos Darlas, Gourzi), post-minimalist narratives (Savvas Tsilighirhidis), and a focus on the exploration of timbre (Panayiotis Kokoras).


  • H. Hartog, ed.: European Music in the Twentieth Century (London, 1957) [incl. J.G. Papaioannou: ‘Nikos Skalkottas’, 320–29]
  • N. Slonimsky: ‘New Music in Greece’, MQ, vol.51 (1965), 225–35
  • A. Symeōnidou: Lexiko Ellinon syntheton [Dictionary of Greek composers] (Athens, 1995)
  • C. Xanthoudakis: ‘Papaioannou, Xenakis kai metapolemikē protoporia’ [Papaioannou, Xenakis, and the Postwar Avant-Garde], ‘Antis gia oneiro’: Erga Ellinon synthetin, 19os–20os Aionas [‘Instead of dream’: works by Greek composers, 19th–20th century], ed. Y. Svolos (Athens, 2004), 84–90 [disc notes]
  • K. Romanou: Entechni elliniki mousiki stous neoterous chronous [Greek art music in newer times] (Athens, 2006)
  • Y. Sicilianos: Gia tē moysikē [On music] (Athens, 2011)
  • J. Samson: Music in the Balkans (Leiden and Boston, 2013)
  • K. Chardas: ‘Anazitontas to aenao, diekdikontas to kainourgio: Ellinikos monternismos kai archaios ellinikos logos’ [Seeking the perpetual, claiming the new: Greek modernism and the ancient Greek language], Musicology, vol.22 (2015), 205–18.
(ii) Popular art music.
  • Manolis Seiragakis

The music of this period was characterized by the emergence of so-called popular art music  (literally, ‘artistic popular music’). This controversial term refers to the music and songs composed by a new generation of composers who were educated (in contrast to the musicians of the former rebetiko song), but also eager (in contrast to the representatives of the national school) to serve the needs of mass audiences for a series of appealing and tuneful songs, aimed primarily for entertainment and not for concert halls.

In the early 1950s Hadjidakis’s famous lecture on rebetiko (1949) still reverberated. Confronting directly the conventions and prejudices of the past, his position quickly won the acceptance of significant music critics (F. Anogeianakis, M. Dounias, S. Spanoudi), and as a consequence conquered venues where the use of popular music had previously been unthinkable, including the Epidaurus Festival and the Greek Dance Theatre of Rallou Manou. During the 1950s Hadjidakis’s dominance in the field of incidental music, especially for ancient drama, was absolute.

Yet, there were also rabid attacks. The representatives of the national school realized that Hadjidakis was revealing their preconceptions about high and low music, especially their refusal to freely use song as a worthy medium of artistic expression. Among the criticizers were many conservative musical critics, and among the most serious rivals was a group of very notable composers, both from the rebetiko and the light song traditions, still writing excellent pieces (e.g. K. Yiannides, M. Souyioul, V. Tsitsanis). The emergence of two great singers, M. Ninou and, mainly, S. Kazantzidis, finally signalled the transition from the pre-war-rooted rebetiko tradition to the postwar revamped popular song, which, whether considered artistic or not, also started a creative and successful new period of musical life.

In the early 1960s Hadjidakis wanted to devote himself to compositions of more personal and sentimental style, having discovered a new ideal singer in N. Mouschouri. But, just then Mikis Theodorakis returned from Paris, determined to launch a second round of attacks against the musical status quo, using the same tools as Hadjidakis: a provocative manifesto, a radical concert using bouzouki as solo organ played by M. Chiotis at the head of a classical orchestra (Kentrikon 1961), combined with a series of works of exceptionally high quality which spread not only throughout mass audiences, but also conquered the most significant places of art music (Epidaurus, Greek Dance Theater). The difference between the two composers is accurately reflected in the release of the song-cycle Epitaph (1960), a poem by Yiannis Ritsos set to music by Theodorakis. Two different orchestrations appeared: the first by the composer, with the popular music singer G. Bithikotsis, popular style, and band, featuring the bouzouki as solo instrument; the second was by Hadjidakis with N. Mouschouri and a symphonic orchestra. The audience was immediately divided and thus Greek song entered a new period.

With these two competitive works of Hadjidakis and Theodorakis on Epitaph, and with the release of Theodorakis’ Axion Esti (1964) on Elytis’ poem, Greek composers restored a very close relationship between poetry and popular song, one that had been broken for half a century. The majority of late 19th-century songs consisted of poetry set to music by notable composers. Furthermore, Theodorakis attempted to transmit the music to the people both as a cultural asset and as a means of political communication and struggle, to which Hadjidakis responded with works that seemed apolitical. The ban of Theodorakis’ songs during the dictatorship (1967–74) further underlined the dichotomy between the two composers. With both their international success (the Oscar award to Hadjidakis in 1961, the smash hit of Theodorakis’ Zorba the Greek) and their works acting as a catalyst for the formation of Greek identity, new conditions were imposed on Greek song: the bouzouki was established as its iconic instrument, the composer preceded the singer in the musico-social hierarchy, and popular art music, gaining respect and popularity, preceded folk and the urban popular, as the former could freely and creatively utilize elements of the latter two, but not vice versa. At the height of the creative rivalry between Hadjidakis and Theodorakis, the first descendants of the two composers appeared (M. Loizos, D. Moutsis, H. Leontis), in the context of their collaboration on the musical Μαγική Πόλις (‘Magic City’, 1963).

Shortly thereafter more would follow – including S. Xarhakos, S. Kouyioumtzis, Y. Markopoulos – creating a new generation in the shadow of the two main composers. D. Savopoulos stands out among them for his unique style both in music and in lyrics, and for his conscious attempt to be unhooked from the impact of the two main composers. T. Mikroutsikos followed a similar path, with a very sharp political use of song. During the 1980s, this dual trend of imitation of and secession from the influence of Hadjidakis and Theodorakis enriched Greek song with stylistic diversity, challenged the primacy of the bouzouki as the main solo instrument, allowed the use of rock elements that had been neglected (N. Asimos, V.Germanos, D. Tsaknis, L. Machaeritsas, N. Portokaloglou), mitigated the use of poetry set to music, encouraged the recording of tracks or even discs of purely instrumental music (S. Spanoudakis, E. Karaindrou, E. Rembutsika, D. Papademetriou), brought balance between tradition and modernization, and created the character of modern Greek song, a mixture of European and East Mediterranean elements and influences.


  • G. Holst: Theodorakis: Myth and Politics in Modern Greek Music (Amsterdam, 1979)
  • M. Theodorakis: Gia tin elliniki mousiki [For the Greek music] (Athens, 1986)
  • M. Hadjidakis: O kathreftis kai to Machairi [The mirror and the knife] (Athens, 1988)
  • A. Koutoulas: O mousikos Theodorakis, keimena –ergografia –kritikes (1937–1996) [Theodorakis the musician, texts – catalogue of works – critiques (1937–1996)] (Athens, 1998)
  • D. Papanikolaou: Singing Poets: Literature and Popular Music in France and Greece (1945–1975) (Oxford, 2007)
  • K. Chardas: ‘Greece: Entechno’, Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, ed. D. Horn and J. Shepherd, vol.11: ‘Genres: Europe’ (London and New York, 2017)
(iii) Popular music.
  • Dafni Tragaki

The postwar Greek popular music scene features a variety of genres and scenes, inspired both by long-established local traditions and by globally circulating styles and trends appropriated by local musicians. In the 1950s and 1960s ‘light’ (elafry-o) continued to thrive in luxurious entertainment venues, while it was also accommodated by the variety orchestra of the Greek State Radio. Next to tangos, waltzes, habaneras, boleros, and cha-cha and boogie-woogie styled songs, often accused by leftist intellectual circles for idealizing the American capitalist lifestyle, several composers produced Greek adaptations of internationally famous tunes. Archontorebetiko, already launched in the 1940s and now substantially elaborated by Manolis Hiotis, together with the newly emerging laïko tragoudi (bouzouki-based popular song) were additionally disseminated in those years through popular Greek cinema. Laïko tragoudi was formulated in the 1960s and has dominated the Greek popular music scene (Stelios Kazantzidis is among its iconic singers) capitalizing on the rebetiko tradition, while drawing influences from musical styles of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (such as Arabesk and Indian film song). The majority of laïko lyrics express the pains of love, social alienation, and poverty, while the songs of xenitia (‘foreign land’) express the nostalgia and sorrows experienced by the Greeks who were forced to migrate abroad as a result of the postwar destitution and misery. Although then broadly disapproved of by the elitist enclaves of Greek society, laïko song dominated the proliferating local record industry and the performance venues known as bouzoukia. Meanwhile, during the 1950s and 60s, and in the echoes of the Greek civil war, a debate over the ‘true’ nature of Greek popular song arose in the music and intellectual, mostly left-wing, circles also echoing earlier controversies over Greek/European identity and the legacy of the ‘oriental’ past. Postwar popular song has largely been moulded and advanced in the work of Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, among others, who have also actively participated in the identity debates and introduced in those years what was later labelled ‘art-song’ (entechno). Entechno was a product of experimentation with poetry, Western European art music and song styles, and local traditions, especially rebetiko (acquiring the form of so-described entechno-laïko song) which was by now released from its underworld stigma. In the work of Hadjidakis and Theodorakis, who have been highly influential upon subsequent generations, entechno followed diverse directions, integrating diverse musical elements of local traditions (such as dimotiko tragoudi) and instrumentation, continuing to develop disparate musical languages and attract a large number of devotees. During the dictatorship era (1967–74) a tradition of politiko tragoudi (literally meaning political song; emblematized in compositions by Mikis Theodorakis) was developed as a response to the repressive cultural politics of the Colonels’ state next to a protest song scene that was basically inspired by the May 1968 movements and the global 1960s political upheavals (exemplified in the work of Dionysis Savvopoulos). Rebetiko song and late Ottoman urban traditions attracted the interest of the youth counter-culture associated with the anti-Junta movement as forbidden musical genres. Meanwhile, in 1960, the Oscar-winning film song ‘Ta Paidia tou Peiraia’ composed by Manos Hadjidakis became an international success and, ever since, stereotyped and essentialized abroad as the sound of the ‘Greek soul’. ‘Greekness’ was also globally idealized in the choreographed syrtaki dance ‘Zorba the Greek’ by Mikis Theodorakis, composed for the soundtrack of Zorba the Greek (1964). In the 1970s a guitar-based ballad tradition known as neo kyma (new wave) was formed under the impact of the French nouvelle vague and became popular in small performance venues mostly attracting a youth clientele named, after the French term, boîtes. The impact of globally circulating musical genres is also evident in the development of a local rock music scene, from the 1960s onwards, while hip-hop, electronica, Brit-pop, reggae music, and world music scenes have been flourishing since the 1990s, next to an ever-expanding jazz and blues scene. At the same time, since the 1980s, laïko tragoudi developed to what is pejoratively described as skyladiko (“dog song”), associated with profligate entertainment practices and represented by musicians publicly profiled and adored as super stars and sensual divas, still prospering in Greek popular entertainment and the music market.


  • G. Holst-Warhaft: Theodorakis: Myth & Politics in Modern Greek Music (Amsterdam, 1981)
  • D. Papanikolaou: Literature and Popular Music in France and Greece (Oxford, 2007)
  • L. Economou: Stelios Kazantzidis. Travma kai Symvoliki Therapeia sto Laiko Tragoudi (Athens, 2015)
  • D. Tragaki, ed.: Made in Greece. Studies in - Popular Music (London and New York, 2018)

VI. Traditional music.

  • Sotirios Chianis and Rudolph M. Brandl

Greek traditional music (dimotiki mousiki) consists of several autonomous regional styles with similarities that are apparent only at a second glance (the skopos principle, verse forms etc.). It includes the music both of minorities on the mainland (Vlachs, Albanians, Bulgarians, southern Slavs, and Roma) and of Greek communities outside the state of Greece itself, particularly in Italy, the USA, and Australia. Less well known are the Greeks of the Crimea and the Azov area. The Cappadocians, the Greeks of Pontos, and the Bulgarian Greeks of Asia Minor now live in Makedonia. The Phanariots of Constantinople developed their own style of Ottoman art music and left their mark on the urban culture of Romania in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The music of Greece divides into three major stylistic areas: the mainland, the islands, and Asia Minor. It can be further divided into urban and rural musics. The emergence in the 20th century of a small pan-Greek repertory (the kritikos, pentozalis, kalamatianos, tsamikos, and sirtos) was the result of media influence (radio, records) and the promotion of folklore for tourists. Another pan-Greek form is rebetika, arising from an urban sub-culture and developing between 1810 and 1955 into a taverna song and dance form. Folk terminology distinguishes between the secular singer, tragoudistis, and the Orthodox church singer, psaltis.

The oldest (neumatic) notations are of urban Phanariot songs of the 16th and 17th centuries from Athos. The instruments have been fully described by Karakasis (1970) and in particular by Anoyanakis (1979). Theories about the ancient roots of Greek traditional music are largely hypothetical. The question of origin cannot be answered by the study of historical sources, and influences from other Balkan styles were already present by the Byzantine period. Conversely, it can be shown that Greek influence was brought to bear on Slav, Turkish, and Arab music in the Ottoman period through the Phanariot and Levantine-Greek maritime trade. The intermediaries were professional Greek, Spanish-Jewish, Armenian, and Roma musicians.

1. Pan-regional principles.

(i) Song, drone, and metre.

Traditionally the ancient term mousiki is hardly used at all. Classification is functional, depending on whether a piece is a song (tragoudi) or a dance (choros), the latter term being applied to purely instrumental dances. As well as instrumental dance music there are slow dance-songs (kato choros) sung after festive meals with verses improvised to fit the situation. Melodies sung rubato tis tavlas, tou trapeziou (‘at the table’ of a taverna or feast) are called tragoudi; if they are danced the same melodies are called choros. Traditionally, song and dance titles are formed in terms of a personal possession (e.g. skopos tou Georgiou, ‘tune of George’), denote function (e.g. tou gamou, ‘wedding song’), or involve place names and regional names (e.g. kalamatianos, a dance from Kalamata; pogonisios, a dance-song from Pogoni). Titles relating to content (e.g. zoumpouli, ‘hyacinth’) or quoting the opening line of the text are rare, and often derive from collectors. Songs with standard texts (ballads) are called stereotipika. Various ballad texts are frequently sung to the same melody (idiomelos).

The musicians themselves hardly think at all in terms of scales and chords, or if they do they describe them as maiore (‘major’) or minore (‘minor’). Only in Epirus did the old professional musicians (mastores) use ‘fanariot makamat’ (dromoi). Teachers, but not village musicians, know the oktoichos (oktōēchos; see Byzantine chant). Terms such as taksimi and (a)manes are used synonymously, and the terms makami and dromoi only in rebetika.

Folksongs employ syllabic lines of 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, and, very rarely, 13 syllables. In the Phanariot ballads of Constantinople the 15-syllable (8 + 7) line predominates (called ‘political’ verse from the Greek polis, ‘city’). Scholars agree that there is no strict assignment of syllables to musical metres (chronos protos), instead syllables are freely distributed over a melodic line beginning with exclamations (eri, more, aide, ela, aman), with filler syllables (tsakismata, ‘chopped pieces’, inserts) and syllabic repetition (yirismata) within words and phrases, providing the melodic line with the requisite quantity of syllables. The analogy between the rhythm of the music and the rhythm of the verse corresponds to an ideal rather than practice in performance.

Rhyme was introduced into the islands by the Crusaders at the end of the 14th century, but not until 1800 on the mainland, at the court of Ali Pasha at Ioannina (1792–1822). Rhymed ‘political verse’ also occurs in improvised couplets, introduced by the lead singer with an exclamation at the start. In the islands, improvised couplets (madinades, kotsakia) are more frequent than pre-set texts. Every half-line (only the second in Crete) is repeated by the chorus, in a tradition of competitive singing.

In Cappadocia, and in the women’s songs of Thessalia, 15-syllable and 8-syllable lines occupy three melodic lines in the pan-Balkan ballads The Dead Brother, The Woman Sacrificed, and The Husband Ruined by his Wife. This is also the typical form of a ‘table song’ on the mainland, the rizitika of Crete, the Carpathian sirmatikos, the Cypriot women’s ballads, and laments for the dead in Mani. Moirologia (‘laments for the dead’) and nanourismata (‘cradle songs’) are not considered ‘songs’ or ‘music’. They are sung only by women (often professional mourners) and only on the relevant occasion, since they are otherwise thought to bring bad luck. Work songs, songs linked to customs, and children’s songs (such as the kalanda, ‘demand songs’) are dying out.

In the areas of Greek, Vlach, and Albanian settlement, Vlach influences (doina) can be found in the shape of pentachords. Greek melodies, on the other hand, are constructed on the tonic, sub-tonic, or hyper-tonic. The migration of melodies within mainland Greece and between the islands and Asia Minor shows that scales and rhythms are not constant but can be exchanged, although a concept of melody common to them all does exist, and is distinct from both Western and makami principles.

Epirus (as elsewhere in the Balkans) has a diaphonic style with a choral drone in three parts employing microintervals (see Albania, §II, 1). It is described by the singers themselves as ‘Albanian’ (with a narrow tonal range in the second part) or ‘pastoral Vlach’ (with the second part falsetto). Here, as elsewhere, it imitates the sound of Byzantine bells. Its origin and antiquity are not known and there is no proof of an archaic or monogenetic origin. The rhythm is regular or in a metre of five beats, and also occurs with seven syllables in the old Albanian area of settlement around Parnassos (Arahova).

On Karpathos, until about 1930, there was a two-part diaphony sung by women (with an alternating drone of sub-tonic and tonic) in imitation of the tsabouna (see §(iv) below). The drone is called the ison or bassos (as in ecclesiastical song). On the islands and in Asia Minor the infix drone provides the tonal framework of the melody (with a whole-tone alternating drone). On the mainland the low drone (e.g. of the gaida) either embeds the melody in a static sound surface or else turns into ostinato figures. In the Dodekanisa, since the Italian occupation (1912–47), the alternating drone (tonic and sub-tonic or tonic and hyper-tonic) or the drone of 4th-plus-5th (d–g–a–d′) has become increasingly pseudo-harmonic (alternating d–g/d–a). The triadic harmonies of the Ionian islands and Italo-Greek areas are imported from southern Italy.

The regional styles display considerable difference: regular time with a chronos protos on the islands, asymmetrical rhythms with two chronoi (long–short) on the mainland, and a rapid basic tempo in Makedonia and among the Pontic Greeks. In Epirus and the Peloponnisos the ‘Albanian’ tsamikos in 3/4 occurs side by side with binary rhythms (e.g. pogonisios and sirtos). The 7/8 of the kalamatianos is purely Greek. Some rhythms of nine beats (the karsilamas and zeibekikos) are originally Turkish (zeybek) but display differences in melodics, emphasis, and tempo. The derivation of all asymmetrical rhythms from the Turkish aksak is a theory that cannot be maintained, any more than Bartók’s hypothesis of southern-Slav Bulgarian origin.

(ii) ‘Skopos’.

A monophonic melody can be formed either in terms of spatial pitch (ihos/makami) or on a structural principle of themes and motifs. In ihos/makami separate pitches refer spatially (high or low) to modal tones. Intervals and rhythms within a phrase do not shape the structure as a whole. In the motif principle the sequence of notes is conceived as a self-contained unit and one that can be transposed; it is based on internal intervals and internal rhythms shaping the structure.

Both principles complement each other in the Greek skopos (‘tune’). Each skopos has a skeletos (‘framework melody’) of spatial pitch, lacking set rhythm and metre and usually consisting of two formulae established only in outline. These are neither motifs nor in the nature of the makami, since the makami melody is bound to a certain modality. The skeletos is independent of any scale, exists only in the minds of the musical ensemble of performers, and can be extracted only through the comparison of many actual performances. Only in its realization can the skeletos be placed in a regional scale determined by initial notes. When it moves to another region other scales and rhythms can be used for the same ‘skeleton’. Consequently, the same skopos may be pentatonic, tetrachordal, or chromatic on the mainland but diatonic on the islands.

A second layer of music is added to this skeleton by the musician. This consists of figures and melismas, trills, runs, glissandi etc., structured within by intervals (as pseudo-motifs) and capable of transposition. These realize the skopos by substituting, paraphrasing, or connecting the (imagined) notes of the skeleton with a figure or group of notes, so-called ‘melodic folding’ or ‘melodic splitting’. Popular terms employed are stolidia (‘ornamentations’), doxaries (‘bow strokes’), figures played on a stroke of the bow, or daktylia (‘fingers’), and figures running on ‘of themselves’. Such stolidia are also performed by singers. They are not part of the skeletos or bound to a scale but are characteristic of a musician and a musical landscape. Depending on the region they may be microtonic and perceptible separately from the skeleton (on the mainland and in the Peloponnisos), or diatonic and acoustically merged with the skeleton (on the islands). On the mainland, they result in the aesthetically important ‘dirty playing’ of the zournas or gaida. These improvised figures are fixed in the chronos (metre): either in one metre (on the islands) or in two (2 +1, 3 + 2) on the mainland. The melodic and rhythmic tension they produce (tonos is the folk term) gives the imaginary skeleton temporal shape, with different lengths of phrases and lines. The duration of the line depends on function: in kato choros the melodic line coincides with the rhythmic periods; at the festive table or in the kafeneion the music is performed rubato (to the point of being in free metre), particularly in the case of kleftika.

Only the synthesis of both of these is described by musicians as skopos (skeletos + doxaries = skopos). Thus the skopos has one line with two melodic dimensions: the non-rhythmic tonally spatial skeletos and the metrically established figures rhythmically structured within themselves. In the identity of a skopos, therefore, scales and rhythms are subsidiary features, features that can be interchanged but are locally significant, so that when melodies migrate these features do not go with them.

Traditionally, a parea (‘company of musicians’) performs in parts, in the same register and in hierarchical order. The singer or aerophone (or if there is none present a string instrument) leads, improvising the louder main part. The other musicians play subordinate, softer variants of the skopos (lira, violin) or the (alternating) drone (lute, santouri), i.e. the modal framework (tonic, sub-tonic or hyper-tonic, 4th, 5th). It is a general rule that the playing must be symfono (‘in agreement’), that is, the musicians will ‘all proceed in common [symfono] with the same aim [the skopos] but each in his own way, waiting for one another at certain places’ (identical statements of this principle have been made in Epirus and Karpathos). These ‘meeting places’ are the notes of the modal frame and are held for lengths of different duration depending on the tonos of the stolidia of the other players while one of the musicians adds a ‘melodic splitting’ figure. Consequently, there are several simultaneous realizations of a skeleton, producing heterophony. This is never understood as polyphony, since there are no vertical harmonies. Instead all the performers are performing one and the same melody ‘in agreement’ (symfonia).

Besides the instrumental choros, played for as long as is wished (e.g. the sousta and pano choros of the islands), with an open form of improvised sequences of small groups of notes repeated and varied three to four times (e.g. A + … A′ + B + … B′ + C + … C′ [+ A, B] + D … etc.), there are certain melodic features in the urban Greek styles (Phanariot music, rebetika, and some kleftika) that are analogous to the ichoi/makamia. These are distinct from the skopos principle in having long paraphrases of tonal levels in a specific mode, involving sequences. The Greeks give the makami different axial tonal notes and melismas from those given them by the Turks.

(iii) Dance.

Dance rhythm is independent of the skopos and can change from region to region. Emphasized beats form a rhythmic framework and the unemphasized beats are improvised. If there is no drum present the rhythm is marked by plucking the lute and the stamping of feet. Only in the Pontic style does the dance sometimes go against the rhythm.

Dancing in villages is confined to saints’ days (panigyria), weddings, christenings, and farewell parties for emigrants (tis xenitias, ‘the foreigner’). To this day, these occasions are the traditional opportunity for young people to flirt. Traditionally, there are no couple-dances between men and women but instead a hierarchical arrangement in ranks or in a circle with the musicians standing or sitting in the middle, as in the islands and in the region of Zagori. In the mainland, they sit on a podium (balk). In Makedonia, only the drummer or bagpiper moves with the lead dancer. Men and women dance together, very occasionally separately.

Dances in tavernas are urban (rebetika) or are performances for tourists, as solos or with two dancers performing opposite each other or with three to four men in a row. The rebetika as danced in the tekkedes gave rise to spontaneous solo dances, the dancer being surrounded by men clapping the rhythm (zeibekikos, servikos, chasapikos, or tsifteteli).

Dancing is usually anti-clockwise, and is clockwise only in certain dances (e.g. zervos). A hierarchy analogous to that of the parea among musicians prevails: the lead dancer (usually a man, a woman only in specific parts of a wedding or christening dance) improvises leaps, turns etc., employing a traditional canon of figures. He is usually held by one hand, or by a cloth. The second most important role is allotted to the second dancer, who may be male or female. He or she must hold the first dancer’s hand and lead the other dancers, of both sexes, who perform only the basic steps. After a few rounds the lead dancer changes, and the musicians are paid. On the mainland these musicians are Roma professionals, on the islands they are semi-professional village musicians who take turns to play without interrupting the dance. Large dance forms containing over five separate dances are found on Cyprus (the karsilamas suite). On Karpathos, the pano choros is danced for up to ten hours without a break.

A special form of traditional music is the wedding march (in Epirus the patinada) tou dromou (‘on the way’, i.e. to the church, to the bride’s house, to the place of the wedding celebrations), generally in a stately 6/8 or 4/4. The wedding sponsor and family friends go at the head of the procession, dancing and singing, while the bride and bridegroom walk at a serious, measured pace.

(iv) Instruments.

The flogera is an obliquely held end-blown flute of cane or wood. In mainland Greece it is generally associated with shepherds and goatherds, although in villages it may also provide solo dance music.

The terms pipiza and karamoutsa (karamouza) are commonly used in the regions of Roumeli and the Peloponnesus to denote a double-reed wind instrument. There is no clear distinction between these two instruments: each has seven finger-holes, a thumb-hole, and a conical bore, and is about 30 cm long. Several additional holes are bored in the bell of the instruments (possibly to tune the lower notes). In Makedonia, Epirus, and Thrakia musicians use a larger form of this instrument called the zournas. These are traditionally played in pairs (zygia). One sustains a tonic drone while the other interprets the melodic line with tonal inflections, slides, and ornamental formulae, commonly referred to as dreves. The performers use circular breathing to provide a continuous melody, whose piercing tone quality is well-suited to outdoor playing.

The klarino (‘keyed clarinet’), which was introduced to Greece in the first half of the 19th century, is the principal melodic instrument of the mainland. The Albert-system clarinet in C is the most common, and full use is made of cross and partly covered fingerings. The clarinet usually forms part of an instrumental ensemble consisting of lute or guitar and violin, which doubles the clarinet in unison or at the octave in heterophonic style. These ensembles accompany dancing as well as the Kleftic ballads.

There are two types of bagpipe: the gaida, which has a single chanter and a drone pipe (with a single reed), is found in mainland Greece, while the tsabouna (or askomandoura), with a double chanter but no separate drone, is played in the islands. The bagpipes are played solo or (in the case of the gaida) may accompany singing with a drone. On the island of Karpathos, the tsabouna is often played in an ensemble with the string instruments lyra and laouto. The laouto was introduced there in the 1930s during the Italian occupation. Elsewhere it may be accompanied by a drum known as the daouli or by the doumbi, its smaller version. The daouli (also termed toubano) is the most common type of drum. It is a large cylindrical double-skin drum, hung from the player’s left shoulder. The main accented beats of the metre are played with a heavy wooden beater held in the right hand, while subtle subdivisions of these beats are played with a light flexible stick held in the left hand. The daouli provides rhythmic accompaniment to the zournas (as well as the pipiza and the karamoutsa) and may also accompany the bagpipes and, less commonly, the lyra (e.g. on Crete).

Traditionally in parts of mainland Greece but especially in the islands, the principal melodic instrument is the lira, a fiddle which is held upright on the player’s knee and played with underhand bowing. There are four basic types of lira, three of which, the Cretan lira (fig.1), the lira of the Dodekanisa, and the Thrakian lira, are pear-shaped and have three or four metal or gut strings which are stopped from the side by the fingernails, allowing for glissandos and fine ornamentation. Bells on the bow were once common, but are now rare. The fourth type, the Pontic lira or kementzes, was brought to Greece by refugees from the Turkish Black Sea coast. The instrument has a long, narrow body, tapering towards the pegbox. Its three metal strings are placed close together and tuned in 4ths, enabling the performer to play the melody in parallel 4ths on two strings simultaneously. The violi (‘violin’) has in some places supplanted the lira as one of the most prominent melodic instruments. It is tuned in 5ths, gd′–a′–e′.

The chief accompanying instrument of traditional Greek ensembles is the laouto (‘lute’). The neck has 11 movable frets (an additional eight are glued to the soundboard) and the four double courses of metal strings are tuned in 5ths (cgd′–a′). Traditionally the laouto is played with a quill plectrum. Except on Crete where it is usually used to play a simplified version of the melody, in heterophony with the lira, its prime role is to provide a rhythmic or chordal accompaniment. In some areas it is rapidly being replaced by the guitar and the laoutokithara (a guitar with added tuning pegs and movable frets, tuned as a laouto).

The santouri and tsimbalo are trapeziform dulcimers; like the laouto they provide chordal accompaniment in ensembles. The strings of both instruments are struck with cotton-covered mallets. The basic difference between the two lies in the distribution of their strings and in their tuning. The santouri is more closely allied to the instrumental and vocal music of the (eastern Aegean) islands, while the tsimbalo is more commonly found on the mainland.

Two instruments of great importance in urban music are the bouzouki, a long-necked lute, and its smaller version, the baglamas. The bouzouki has three or four double courses of metal strings tuned either e–b′–e′ or d–g–b′–e′ and is played with a plectrum. It was closely associated with rebetika musicians, and through virtuoso performers, such as Manolis Hiotis, and widespread recording it has become extremely popular.

2. Music regions.

(i) The mainland and the Peloponnisos.

Epirus (including southern Albania as far as Gjirokastër) has a self-contained regional style taking in the Vlach area of Metzovo and northern Thessalia. Greeks, Albanians, and Vlachs have settled side by side in Epirus. We can differentiate between (modal, melodical, rhythmical, in accompaniment) substyles of the regions of Metzovon, Ioannina and Zagori, Tzoumerka, Preveza-Igoumenitsa, Pogoni, and Konitza. Dance is dominated by the sirtos (2/4, 2/4), tsamikos (arvanitikos, 3/4, from former settlements of the Çamen, now living in Albania), and the local dances in regular time of Pogoni and Delvino (2/4, 4/4). The end-blown floiera and tzamara flutes are dying out. A regional feature is a diaphonic style of vocal polyphony in Pogoni. A composite style developed under the Albanian Ali Pasha of Ioannina, its outstanding features are the Ioannitika, Alipasalitika, and other Kleftika (‘robber ballads’ of the 19th century) in free metre. This style was influenced by the Phanariots and the Ionian islands, but transmitted to the mainland (Makedonia, Thessalia, Roumeli, and Peloponnisos) by the Roma professional ensemble known as koumpaneia (Albanian saze) consisting of clarinet in C, violin, laouto, and defi (frame drum). In this ensemble the violin plays double-stopped ostinato figures while the lute plays drone ostinati. In the koumpaneia styles of Drama and the Peloponnisos the violin plays only the drone. Since the 1990s a new modern ensemble became dominant instead of the traditional koumpaneia, consisting of clarinet, synthesizer, electric guitar, and a drum-battery with amplification, playing the same musical features; free metred ballads became rare, because young people and emigrants (80% of the people of Epirus) lost interest in them. Also since 1990 Roma musicians from Southern Albania together with Greek singers are playing at smaller paniyiria, because they are less expensive. A special feature of these mixed groups is a mixed vocal-instrumental polyphonic style with two vocal parts. Instrumental preludes in free metre called doina indicate Vlach origins. The cafe aman existed in towns in these areas until 1930. The klarino style, with electronic amplification after 1960, is hardly found at all on the islands, but during the years 1960–90 it superseded the daouli-zournas, also Gypsy music, on the mainland, and competed successfully with bouzoukia at paniyiria.

Makedonia has song-lines of 7, 6, 8, and 15 syllables. An irregular 7/16 (3 + 2 + 2) is found in the Makedonian oro, and the Bulgarian rezenitsa (7/16, 2 + 2 + 3) corresponds to the madilatos. In western Makedonia (Kozani and Kastoria) the dominant ensemble is a kobaneia influenced by southern Slav military music, consisting of clarinet, cornet (or trumpet in E), concertina, daouli, and cymbals. Kleftika are performed at festive tables as instrumental pieces in free metre. The structure is simpler (using drone ostinati) than in Epirus.

Until 1917 Thessaloniki had a predominantly (70%) Jewish population and it developed a synthesis of Turkish, Western European, and southern Slav music which now exists only in historic recordings. In 1924 refugees from Asia Minor settled there and were integrated. They gave a new home to rebetika when it was driven out of Athens in 1940.

An older form of ensemble (the ‘Thrakian makam’ or ‘Thrakian amanes’) is found in eastern Makedonia around Drama, a former hunting preserve of the sultans, in an area extending to Alexandroupolis. It is based on the Ottoman fasıl ensemble and is known as the psili foni, with clarinet, violin, outi, sadouri (dulcimer) or kanonaki (psaltery), and toubeleki (goblet drums). The makamia are the same as the ichoi in the Phanariot tradition.

Near the eastern coastal area of Smyrna (now Izmir) the music of Asia Minor divides into Cappadocian and Pontic traditions (since 1924 in Makedonia). The music of the Pontic Greeks of the Black Sea is a composite Graeco-Lazean style (the Lazes are from Georgia) with parallel 4ths and 2nds and a hexachordal system using a rapid basic tempo with many asymmetrical rhythms. The instruments are the kementses or Pontiaki lira (see §1(iv) above) and the touloumi (tsabouna), as well as the daouli-zournas ensemble.

Cappadocia had an ensemble consisting of sine keman (a box-shaped fiddle with resonating strings) and outi, sometimes with toubeleki (a pair of goblet drums). All the instruments are of urban origin. At festivals, women performed danced ballads with two forms of the 12-syllable line (5 + 7 and 7 + 5), as well as 15-syllable lines and 11-syllable lines with emphasis falling on the 10th syllable.

The Thrakian lira tradition and the Byzantine ballad cycle of Akritika (of the 13th century, telling the tales of the heroes Digenis Akritas and Mikrokonstantinos) survive around Serres (five villages around Ayia Eleni) through the Orthodox sect of anastenarides (fire-dancers). A hexachordal system with dga tonality (the tuning of the lira) predominates. Whole villages from Bulgaria were resettled here in 1924, so that a repertory similar to the Bulgarian exists, with asymmetrical rhythms (e.g. baidouska, rezenitsa) played on the gaida, together with daouli and the Bulgarian Kaval, or shepherd’s pipe.

Centres of the exclusively Roma, professional daouli-zournas ensemble (consisting of two large conical oboes and double-headed drum, with the second oboe playing an alternating drone), which developed from the Janissary band (see Turkey, §II, 4), include Makedonia, Pelion and Parnassus, Arkadia and Xanthi, and the Pontic region. It has superseded the village bagpipe and drum ensemble. Since 1924 there has been a composite repertory, the result of Pontic-Greek influence. Recently a research project by a group of scholars from the Universities of Thessaloniki and Athens has documented the music of the Pomaks of the Thrakian and Turkish border.

The stylistic region of Roumeli and the Peloponnisos contains remnants of an older Albanian tradition (around Delphi and as far as Thebes) including kleftika. It has been influenced by the style of Iperios since 1960. The old karamouzes ensemble (small conical oboe and daouli) and the flogera shepherd’s flute are dying out. In the Peloponnisos the dominant style is an older one, Christian cum Albanian cum Vlach, with kleftika, Alipasalitika, and tsamika. The scales are tetratonic, pentachordal, and pentatonic, with microtonic ornamentation (stolidia/psevtikes). The repertory of Arkadia is similar to that of Roumeli. As well as the sirtos in regular time, asymmetrical rhythms are found: e.g. the kalamatianos is in 7/8 time, the Albanian kagkeli in 7/8 time moving into 2/4 time, and the Albanian tsakonikos from Çamen in 5/4 time. The Mani in the Taigetos mountain range is famous for its laments for the dead (moirologia), a legacy of blood feuding.

(ii) The islands.

Companies of Singspiel performers kept the Ionian islands and Dalmatia (Ragusa, now Dubrovnik) in cultural touch from the 13th century to the 19th. Southern Italian influences reached Epirus and Athens. The guitar (lute) and an unorthodox harmonic system of 3rds and triads was imported into the Athenian kantades (‘canzonas’) by way of the Heptanes (Ionian islands).

The capital of Evvoia, Halkis, has remnants of an old Albanian tradition (the kagkeli) and was a centre of rebetika. Ensembles of violin and laouto and koumpaneia ensembles perform in musicians’ cafés in the marketplace, where music in makami style (dromoi) is played. In the south of the island the ziyia ensemble still exists, consisting of a pear-shaped lyra and daouli, performing old Albanian songs.

There are no asymmetrical rhythms in the Aegean area. Regular time without clear accents dominates. The scales are heptatonic or hexatonic, with a tonality of dgad′. Until 1930 Siros, from which came such well-known rebetika musicians as Markos Vamvakaris, was a place of cultural exchange between East and West. The music of the Dodekanisa was influenced by the Italian occupation of 1912–47. Thanks to the Muslim minority, a mixture of Levantine and Italian influences exists on Rhodes, Naxos, and Hios. In Samos there existed until the 1960s songs accompanied by fisharmonika, a mobile small harmonium with an airbag on the top, on which the metre was beaten by one hand and the other hand played on the claviature. A drone was fixed by a wooden piece on a key.

Since 1985 modern love songs and drinking songs of the Sporades and Cyclades, sung to the zygia ensemble of violin and lute or santouri, have become known throughout Greece as nisiotika (‘island songs’). They are accompanied by an alternating chordal drone (4th/5th plus tonic) in the basic metre.

In the Aegean, Cyprus and Crete form two focal points for the region, along with the old-fashioned lirotsabouno style of Karpathos, and Kasos and Halki which have akritika sung at the festive table in the same way as the kleftika on the mainland. Only Crete has its own kleftika (rizitika). The pear-shaped lira occurs here (see §1(iv) above) and so do the tsabouna of the tulum type and the askomandoura, laouto, and santouri (on Kasos). The Cretan lyra tradition has been in decline since the master musicians Nikos Hilouris and Yeoryios Moudakis died without successors. The kondilies, melodic blocks in different modes put together to form strophes, are characteristic of western Crete. Baud-Bovy suspected Venetian influence on the vocal music of eastern Crete. The urban voulgari (small long-necked lute) and the violin zygia style of the old Turkish coastal towns of Crete are in decline. The Cretan Muslims were resettled around Bodrum in Asia Minor in 1924. There are still itinerant poiitarides (‘bards’) on Cyprus. Their melodies are called fonai or fones.

(iii) Urban musics.

The art music of Asia Minor and Greek Armenia is a branch of the Turkish makamat with its own modal characteristics. The Phanariots use Greek terminology, and the Smyrna style employs Graecized Turko-Arabic terms. The main source is the ‘Pandora’ collection made in 1830 in opposition to the Western art music favoured by King Otto I (1832–62), with its Western polyphony and tonal system. This art music has compositions in a synthesis of ichoi and makamat.

Related to this form of art music are the Smyrneïka (pieces in the Smyrna style) which emerged around 1820, with makami/dromoi (‘paths’) melodies or European song forms, taksimia and (a)manedes (sung taksimia, ‘amorous laments’). The women singers (many of them Armenian Jewish, e.g. Roza Eskenazi, Rita Arbatzi, and Marika Ninou) are accompanied by violin, outi, çumbus, and defi (Turkish: def, ‘frame drum’). They performed in public not only in seaport towns in the cafe aman – the Turkish version of the French café chantant – but also in some villages along the Via Ignatia in mainland Greece. Both forms existed from 1893 (when the first cafe aman opened in Smyrna) until 1950 in all the seaports of the Levant, and were in existence as early as around 1810 in Yalata, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, and Arta.

After the forcible resettlement of Greeks from Asia Minor in 1924, rebetika developed from the professional Smyrna style and a nostalgic subculture (with songs sung to the small long-necked baglamas lute) in the tekkedes (‘hashish bars’) around the bazaars of Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki. Despite police bans and censorship, they spread quickly through recordings made in the USA by emigrants. Vasilios Tsitsanis started to use European scales (maiore, minore) instead of the dromoi (makami) in about 1955, and the texts have subsequently been toned down. A typical group is the bouzouki ensemble, comprising a baglamas, one or two bouzouki, piano, and percussion.


And other resources
Traditional music
  • S. Baud-Bovy, ed.: Chansons du Dodécanèse (Athens, 1935–8)
  • S. Baud-Bovy: Etudes sur la chanson cleftique (Athens, 1958)
  • D.B. Mazaraki: To laiko klarino stin Ellada [The folk clarinet in Greece] (Athens, 1959)
  • S. Chianis: Folk Songs of Mantineia, Greece (Berkeley, 1965)
  • S. Chianis: ‘Aspects of Melodic Ornamentation in the Folk Music of Central Greece’, Selected Reports, vol.1/1 (1966), 89–119
  • S. Chianis: The Vocal and Instrumental Tsamiko of Roumeli and the Peloponnesus (diss., UCLA, 1967)
  • D. Ikonomidou: ‘I laiki orologia tou ellinikou dimotikou tragoudiou’ [The folk terminology of Greek folksong], Epeteris tou kentron ereunis tis ellinikis loagraphias, vols.10–11 (1967–8), 26–50
  • G.K. Spyridaki and S. Peristeri: Ellinika dimotika tragoudia [Greek folk songs], iii (Athens, 1968) [incl. Eng. summary]
  • S. Karakasis: Ellinika mousika organa [Greek musical instruments] (Athens, 2/1970)
  • A. Ayoutanti, D. Mazaraki, and S. Baud-Bovy, eds.: Chansons populaires de Crète occidentale (Geneva, 1972) [incl. disc]
  • E. Frye: The Marble Threshing Floor: a Collection of Greek Folksongs (Austin, 1973)
  • F. Hoerburger: ‘Bordunbildung in der Volksmusik Griechenlands’, Der Bordun in der Europaïschen Volksmusik: St Pölten 1973, 129–4
  • M.F. Dragoumis: Elliniki paradosiaki mousiki, iv: Rebetiko tragoudi [Greek traditional music, iv: Rebetiko song] (Athens, 1974)
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘Über das Phänomen Bordun (drone)’, Studien zur Musik Südost-Europas, ed. K. Reinhard (Hamburg, 1976), 90–121
  • F. Hoerburger: ‘Die Zournas-Musik in Griechenland: Verbreitung und Erhaltungszustand’, ibid., 28–48
  • M.Ph. Dragoumis: ‘Deigmata dimotikis mousikis apo tin Ionian se diskous stou 1930’ [Ionian folk music examples from recordings of 1930], Deltio Kentrou mikrasiatkon spoudon, vol.1 (1977), 267–87
  • F. Anoyanakis: Greek Popular Musical Instruments (Athens, 1979)
  • A.-M. Stieglitz-Goffre: Musiques festives en Crète et dans les Cyclades aujourd’hui (diss., Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, 1982)
  • A. Askari, R.M. Brandl, and H.-J. Maucksch: ‘Das volkstümliche Klarinettenensemble zwischen Orient und Balkan’, Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis VIII: Piran 1983, 67–85
  • S. Baud-Bovy: Essai sur la chanson populaire grecque (Nauplion, 1983)
  • G. Amarjanakis: ‘Bemerkungen über die kretische Volksmusik’, Griechische Musik und Europa: Antike – Byzanz – Volksmusik der Neuzeit: Würzburg 1986, 81–90
  • A. Caraveli: ‘The Bitter Wounding: the Greek Lament as Social Protest in Rural Greece’, Gender and Power in Rural Greece, ed. J. Dubisch (Princeton, NJ, 1986), 169–94
  • D. Themelis: ‘Die Entstehung der neugriechischen Kunstmusik im Anschluss an die europäische Musiktradition im 19. Jahrhundert’, Griechische Musik und Europa: Antike – Byzanz – Volksmusik der Neuzeit: Würzburg 1986, 51–66
  • K. Zacharenakes: Kalanta kai paradosi tou dodekaemerou [Carols and traditions of the 12 days of Christmas] (Athens, 1986) [incl. Eng. summary]
  • C. Ahrens: Aulos – Touloum – Fischetti: antike Traditionen in der Musik der Pontos-Griechen und der Graeko-Kalabrier (Aachen, 1987)
  • S. Auerbach: ‘From Singing to Lamenting: Women’s Musical Role in a Greek Village’, Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective, ed. E. Koskoff (New York, 1987), 25–43
  • S. Delorenzi-Schenkel: ‘Children’s Music of Greece’, World of Music, vol.29/3 (1987), 28–46
  • D. Themelis: ‘Ilyra tis Thrakis’ [The lira in Thraki], Laographiastou Voreioelladikou Chorou V: Thessaloniki 1987, 273–82
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘“Parea” ein musiksoziologischer Schlüsselbegriff in der griechischen Volksmusik’, Anuario Musical, vol.43 (1988), 201–20
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘Die Struktur traditioneller Volksmusik-Ensembles in Griechenland’, Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis X: Lillehammer 1989, 103–8
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘Die Tektonik der griechischen Volksmusik: das Skopos-Prinzip’, Probleme der Volksmusikforschung, ed. H. Braun (Berne, 1990), 135–58
  • D. Themelis: ‘Die Funktion von Text und Musik bei der Formgestaltung im grieschen Volkslied’, ibid., 158–67
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘Cooperation in the Study of Greek Folk Music: the Triadic Relationship between Foreign Field-worker, Greek Folklorist, and Musicians (Problems and Expectations)’, Music in the Dialogue of Cultures: Traditional Music and Cultural Policy, ed. M.P. Baumann (Wilhelmshaven, 1991), 336–46
  • C.N. Seremetakis: The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani (Chicago, 1991)
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘Die Schwebungsdiaphonie im Epiros und verwandte Stile im Lichte der Psychoakustik’, Von der Vielfalt musikalischer Kultur: Festschrift für Josef Kuckertz, ed. R. Schumacher (Salzburg, 1992), 43–80
  • R.M. Brandl and D. Reinsch: Die Volksmusik der Insel Karpathos (Göttingen, 1992)
  • R.M. Brandl: ‘The “Yiftoi” and the Music of Greece: Role and Function’, World of Music, vol.37/1 (1996), 63–76
Urban musics
  • G. Holst: Road to Rembetika (New York, 1975, 3/1983, rev. 1994)
  • I. Petropoulos: Rembetika tragoudia [Rebetika songs] (Athens, 1979)
  • S. Gauntlett: Rebetika: carmina graeciae recentioris (Athens, 1985)
  • E. Dietrich: Das Rebetiko: eine Studie zur städtischen Musik Griechenlands (Hamburg, 1988)
  • M. Einarsson: ‘Some Aspects of Form as an Intersubjective Framework in Instrumental Improvisations (taximia) in Greek Bouzouki Music’, Ethnomusicology: Cambridge 1989, 181–96
  • L. Torp: ‘An Urban Milieu and its Means of Expression: a Case Study of the Rebetika’, ibid., 371–80
  • D. Muddyman and M. Dubin: ‘Songs of Hash and Heartache: Rebetika and the Folk Music of Greece’, World Music: the Rough Guide, ed. S. Broughton and others (London, 1994), 148–60 [incl. discography]
  • T. and E. Petrides: Folk Dances of the Greeks (New York, 1961/R)
  • M.G. Kaloyanides: The Music of Cretan Dances: a Study of the Musical Structures of Cretan Dance Forms in the Iraklion Province of Crete (diss., Wesleyan U., 1975)
  • D.B. Kilpatrick: Function and Style in Pontic Dance Music (diss., UCLA, 1975)
  • R. Holden and M. Vournas: Greek Folk Dances (Brussels, 1976)
  • J.K. Cowan: Dance and the Body Politic in Northern Greece (Princeton, NJ, 1990)
  • S. Apostolakis: Rizitika: ta dimotika tragoudia tis Kritis, [Rizitika: the folk songs of Crete] (Athens, 1993)
  • A. Hapsulas: Informationen über das traditionelle griechische Musikleben in Reiseberichten des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen, 1997)
  • Erevnitiko Programma Thraki, Mousikes tis Thrakis: mia diepistimonki prosengisi [Research programme for Thrace, music of Thrace: an interdisciplinary approach] (Athens, 1999)
  • G.M. Paidousi-Papantoniou: Ta arvanitika tragoudia tis Ermionidas [The Arvanitic songs of Ermionida] (Nafplio, 1999)
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘Mousika dromena stin Konstantinoupoli tou 18ou ai. kai ton archon tou 19ou aiona mesa apo tis perigrafes europaion periigiton tis epochis’ [Musical performances in Constantinople of the 18th and beginnings of the 19th centuries from the description of the European tourists of the era], Mousikologia, vols.12–13 (2000), 156–74
  • S.D. Imellos ed.: Ta satyrika dimotika tragoudia [Satirical folk songs] (Athens, 2000)
  • E. Makris: Tragoudia Sarakatsanika [Songs of the Sarakatsani] (Ioannina, 2000)
  • L. Norgaard: Dimotika tragoudia apo tis sylloges tou Kerkyraiou Georgiou A. Kontou [Folk songs from the collection of the Corcyrean Georgios A. Kontos] (Corfu, 2000)
  • M.G. Barbounis: Opseis kai morfes tou ellinikou paradosiakou politismou [Aspects and forms of Greek traditional culture] (Athens, 2001)
  • C. Kapsomenou-Chatzitaki, ed.: Ellinikos paradosiakos politismos: laografia kai istoria: synedrio sti mnimi tis Alkis Kyriakidou-Nestoros [Greek popular culture: folklore and history: a congress in memory of Alkis Kyriakidou-Nestoros] (Thessaloniki, 2001)
  • G. Katalida: Dimotika tragoudia apo ti Boreia Ipeiro [Folk songs from the Northern Continent] (Athens, 2001)
  • E. Legrand: Receuil de chansons populaires grecques publiées et traduites pour la première fois (Athens, 2001)
  • M.G. Michailidis-Nouaros: Karpathiaka dimotika asmata [Carpathian popular hymns] (Thessaloniki, 2001)
  • G. Saunier: Ellinika dimotika tragoudia: synagogi meleton (1968–2000) [Greek folk songs: collection of studies (1968–2000)] (Athens, 2001)
  • T. Moraitis, ed.: Anthologia arbanitikon tragoudion tis Elladas: katagrafi se notes me istorikes, glossologikes, prosodiakes kai metrikes analuseis [Anthology of the Arvanitic songs of Greece: recording in notes with historical, linguistic, prosodic, and metrical analyses] (Athens, 2002)
  • T.A. Soulakellis: Dimodi asmata: Reïs Ntere: tragoudismena apo tin oikogeneia Sotiriou Maurakaki [Public hymns: Reïs Ntere: sung by Sotirios Mavrakakis’ family] (Athens, 2002)
  • A. Chapsoulas: Mousikes katragrafes melodeon Xiropotamou Dramas [The musical recordings of the melodies of Xiropotamus in Drama] (Athens, 2003)
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘O mousikos politismos ton nision tou Aigaiou kata tin periodo tou 18ou kai 19ou aiona’ [The musical culture of the Aegean islands throughout the 18th and 19th centuries] (Athens, 2003) 82–101
  • M. Dragoumis: I paradosiaki mas mousiki [Our traditional music] (Athens, 2003)
  • S. Tsianis: Dimotika tragoudia tis Skyrou: tou nisiou tou chrysoprasinou aetou [Folk songs of Skyros: the island of the golden eagle] (Herakleion, 2003)
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘I kosmiki Mousiki sto Byzantio tou 4ou ai. mesa apo ta keimena Pateron tis Ekklisias’ [The secular music of Byzantium of the 4th century through the texts of the Church Fathers], Mousikologia, vol.19 (2007), 217–38
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘Ellinika paradosiaka mousika organa: Palaies morfes (18os–19os ai.), synchrones ekfraseis’ [Greek traditional musical instruments: old forms (18th–19th century), modern expressions], Folklor ekfraseis [Folklore and Expressions] (Athens, 2010), 149–58
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘Ethnomousikologikes-Istorikes proseggiseis tis ellinikis dimotikis mousikis [Ethnomusicological-historical approaches to Greek folk music], Mousikologia, vol.20 (2011), 250–61
  • A. Chapsoulas: ‘Elliniki Paradosiaki Mousiki: I problimatiki tis synecheias’ [Greek traditional music: the problems of continuity], Syllogikos tomos tou Tmimatos Mousikon Spoudon tou Panepistimiou Athinon [Volume of the Department of Musical Studies at the University of Athens] (Athens, 2013), 96–109
  • I elliniki mousiki paradosi tis kato Italias/The Hellenic Musical Tradition in Southern Italy, Peloponnisiako Laographiko Idryma PFF 6–7 (1983) [incl. notes by L. Liavas and others]
  • Folk Music of Greece, coll. W. Dietrich, rec. 1966–9, Topic Records TSCD907 (1994)
Videos (DVD)
  • Live-Recordings by Brandl, Rudolf M. from the ‘R.M. Brandl Collection’ in the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna/Austria in the ‘Orbis Musicarum’-Edition (OM), Cuvillier Verlag, Goettingen/Germany: ‘panegyria’ (saints festivals), weddings and ‘glentia’ (local musical entertainment), ‘kleftika’ and ‘Ali Pashalitika’ (heroic ballads) from Epiros, Makedonia/Greece, Karpathos from 1998–2013: OM 15–21, 50–59, 62–68, 70–74, 76–81, 154, 157, 158, 161–167, 171–173, 182, 183, 196, 197.
  • Choros tis Xenitias I (Thrakika) – Greek dances in a foreign land – with the Greek community in Goettingen 1999, OM 22A 1999
  • Choros tis Xenitias II (Rembetika) – Greek dances in a foreign land – with the Greek community in Goettingen 1999, OM 22B 1999
  • Mask procession of the „Arapides“ in Xiropotamos/Dramas, Makedonia/Greece on 6th/7th Jan. 2000, OM 24 2000
  • Greek shadow theatre (2 plays) ‘Karayiossis’ of troupe „Aris“ from Korfu in Ioannina und Anatoli (Epiros) 2011, OM 159 2011
  • Grigoris Kapsalis: My Musical Heritage: 60 Kleftika and other Ballads from Epiros (Greece) from my manuscript 1941–1952, Documentary Recordings 2012, with Sourcebook, 3 DVD, OM 88 2012
  • Easter in Olympos/Karpathos/Greece 2013, liturgy and customs, 9 DVDs, OM 199 2013
O. Strunk: Source Readings in Music History (New York, rev. 2/1998 by L. Treitler)
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians