Music PrestigeMusic was a vital part of the ancient Greek culture.
Captivating music was displayed in banquet gatherings, funerals, marriages, and religious festivals. The understanding of ancient Greek music was made possible by timeworn musical instruments, age-old musical scores, and ancient writings. Vase painting and sculpture illustrated the musical instruments utilized in ancient Greece and how they were played. Art provided images of ancient Greek musicians and their musical events.Literary references indicated that professional musicians were awarded for their services. Archaeology verified monuments built in honor of admirable musicians. Grandiose concert halls were built.
The awe-inspiring concert halls, such as the Odeon of Pericles located on the south slope of the Athenian acropolis, revealed the significance of music in ancient Greek culture. The majority of Greek men trained in order to skillfully play an instrument. In addition, the men rehearsed singing and performing choral dances. Instrumental music and hymns became important components of everyday life in ancient Greece. From shepherds piping to their flocks to women in their homes, music could always be heard.The Greek philosophers recognized a relationship between music and mathematics.
They visualized music as a reflection of the order of the universe and the human soul.Among the numerous ancient Greek instruments, evidence uncovers three particular instruments favored by the Greeks: the cithara, the lyre, and the aulos.LyreThe lyre was the most prominent of the ancient Greek instruments. In Greek mythology, the lyre, a stringed musical instrument, was invented by the messenger god. Hermes created a lyre using a tortoise shell, gut, and reed. Hermes formed the instrument in order to successfully steal 50 prize cattle from the sacred herd of Apollo, the god of light. Once Apollo learned of the theft, Hermes offered the lyre and successfully calmed the enraged Apollo.
The mesmerizing sound of the lyre was played either by itself or accompanied by singing or lyric poetry. Surprisingly, all lyre players detailed in Greek art are right-handed.CitharaThe cithara was a musical instrument played by the ancient Greeks. The cithara, the ancient form of the guitar, was closely associated to the lyre. Similar to the lyre, the cithara was linked to the god Apollo. However, like the lyre, its invention is credited to Hermes who created the instrument from a tortoise shell.
A great skill was required to play the intricate instrument. The cithara was usually played in festivals and musical competitions. Men considered playing the cithara as a necessary element of their all-round education. Source: W. S. B. Matthews, A Popular History of the Art of Music (Chicago: The “Music” Magazine Publishing Co.
, 1894) 64.AulosThe aulos was an ancient Greek instrument made from cane, boxwood, bone, and ivory. This musical wind instrument was perhaps the most commonly played instrument of the ancient Greek culture.
Musicians played the aulos in athletic games, festivals, and religious practices relating to births and deaths. The aulos, an instrument connected to Dionysus, the god of wine, was often played at private drinking parties. The instrument produced sound as a musician blowed in the mouthpiece. The rhythmical and piercing sound of the aulos typically accompanied a male choir.Together, the three musical instruments dominated the heart of ancient Greek music.