Greek music and the aesthetic of the fifth century theatre.


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Greek music and the aesthetic of the fifth century theatre.
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vi, 138 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Forbes, Gerald Byrd, 1929-
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Theater -- Greece   ( lcsh )
Music, Greek and Roman   ( lcsh )
Greek drama -- History and criticism   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 136-138.
Statement of Responsibility:
Gerald Byrd Forbes.
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Manuscript copy.
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University of Florida
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Full Text






August, 1964


The writer gratefully acknowledges the editorial assistance

provided by the members of his supervisory committee: Dr. L. L. Zim-

merman, Chairman, Dr. August W. Staub, Prof. H. P. Constans, Dr. Thomas

Pyles, and Dr. David Stryker. He takes this opportunity to express his

appreciation for their supervision of his doctoral program.

To G. Paul Moore, Chairman of the Department of Speech, and

J. Hooper Wise, formerly Chairman of the C-3 Department, he is deeply

indebted for the graduate assistantships which enabled him to complete

his work at the University of Florida.

A special expression of gratitude and affection is due his

wife, Ina Claire, whose loyalty and encouragement have been a constant



This study has been undertaken with the practicing theatre

man and the non-musician in mind. Its approach is believed to be unique

in one respect only, namely, that it has tried to establish a direct re-

lationship between the musical activity of the fifth century B. C. and

the theatre of the same period. Many excellent treatises on Greek music

have been published within the last twenty years, among them the works

of Gustave Reese, Paul H. Lang, and Curt Sachs. But these scholars,

while providing the student with voluminous amounts of information, have

been primarily motivated by musicological concerns. That is, they have

confined their interests, for the most part, to a consideration of Greek

music as music; there has been little or no attempt to establish the

relevance of the music to its contemporary art form, the classical thea-

tre, Moreover, the few attempts which have been made at citing analo-

gous elements in the two arts have usually bogged down under the weight

of conventional assumptions.

The present study is unlike those just mentioned in an addi-

tional respect. It is intended to supplement the work done by students

of theatre aesthetics and has therefore been written in non-technical

language out of consideration for students who may have had little formal

training in music. This limitation has made it necessary to include oc-

casional definitions of terms whose meaning would be immediately obvious

to the practicing musician. Additional terms have had to be redefined,

since contemporary meanings differ from those which would have been

understood by fifth century Greeks. A comparison of the classical and

current definitions of "music" provides a typical example of this type

of ambiguity. Contemporary usage limits the word specifically to compo-

sitions for, and performances of, voices and instruments. With the clas-

sical Greeks this was not the case. By the term mousiki they encompassed

the realms of melody, poetry, rhythm, and dance. Musical activity, then,

extended to several of the same areas with which theatrical activity was

concerned. This commonality of expression is believed to have been ex-

tensive enough to serve as a valid justification for the present inves-

tigation. Within such a context one omission will appear to be most

conspicuous. There has been no effort to deal with the Greek language

itself; in fact, poetry has been considered only insofar as it has af-

forded information about the varieties of lyric meters. For the most

part, the writer has, out of necessity, been compelled to consult secon-

dary sources on matters pertaining to the language. In this respect, the

translations of his friend and colleague, Mark Hawthorne, have been most

helpful and illuminating.

The study is contained in two parts, the first of which is de-

voted to the purely formal and philosophical aspects of melody as it was

conceived in the fifth century. Part Two embraces an examination of the

rhythmic and kinetic elements of Greek music, with particular attention

being given to the dance. The final chapter of the study, of course,

carries the investigation into the precinct of the theatre per se and,

in the process of forming conclusions, cites those areas within which

further research is needed.

























IONS .. .. ... .

DUALITY .. ....



. . .

















Figure Page
1. The Harmoniai Transposed into the Dorian Octave .. 6

2. The First Delphic Eymn .. .. .. 30

3. The Skolion of Seikolos ........... ... 38

4. The Hymn to the Sun by Mesomedes ... 72


Chapter 1


Any serious consideration of Greek music will soon disclose

the fact that, insofar as theoretical structure is concerned, the Greeks

were almost exclusively preoccupied with melody rather than harmony.

Since harmony was a comparatively late step in the development of music

as we know it today, such a preoccupation need not imply that Greek music

had not kept abreast of the other arts. In fact, the musical studies of

Pythagoras, Terpander, Timotheus, and Aristoxenus suggest that the mel-

odic texture conceived by the Greeks had greater passion and sensuousness

than we are accustomed to in the twentieth century. Undoubtedly, this

wide range of musical feeling resulted largely from a broad tonal variety

in the use of the various "modes," and from the employment of intervals

which were smaller than our present half-steps. But the sophistication

of Greek melodies may also be attributed to the ability of the listener

to discern and appreciate the complexities of the melodic process. It

was an ability which depended ultimately upon the faculties of reason and

sensory perception--faculties first cited by Aristoxenus as essential to

the apprehension of melody.

It is plain that the apprehension of a melody consists in noting
with both ear and intellect every distinction as it arises in the
successive sounds--successive, for melody, like all branches of
music, consists in a successive production. For the apprehension
of music depends on these two faculties, sense-perception and memory;

for we must perceive the sound that is present, and remember that
which is past. In no other way can we follow the phenomena of

In the above passage, the word "successive" is important be-

cause it signifies that, in contrast to the plastic arts, music is a dis-

cursive medium which cannot be presented wholly and completely within a

given moment of time. Consequently, melody, like the other elements of

music, was understood by the Greeks as a form which was always in "a pro-

cess of becoming"--a process in which one element passed into infinity

as another came into being. The transitory nature of this process exerted

a significant influence upon the structure of Greek melody. Because of

it melodies had to be designed in such a way that a listener could both

identify the magnitude of musical intervals and determine the function of

those intervals in a given system or arrangement.2 These two "audience-

considerations" must be kept in mind as we turn to an examination of mel-

odic structure.

Tetrachords. The tetrachord, the foundation on which Greek

melodies were built, was a group of four successive notes or musical de-

grees which originally corresponded to the tuning strings of the lyre and

thereby derived its name, "four strings." Of these four notes, the two

outer tones formed the interval of a perfect fourth and were fixed or in-

variable, while the two intermediate tones were given great flexibility

in pitch. The possibility of this internal variation within a framework

whose outer limits were rigidly controlled provided theoretically for an

infinite number of potential melodic patterns. At the same time, it

confined those patterns to a compass which could be easily followed and

1The Farmonics of Aristoxenus, Tr. H. S. Macran, pp. 193-94; hence-
forth referred to as Aristoxenus.
2Tbid., Cf. Macran's notes, p. 269.

remembered by a listener. In this way, the basic structure of Greek

melody was designed to call into play both the imaginative and rational

powers of the intellect.

The genera. A tetrachord was classified according to the man-

ner in which its intermediate tones were distributed, the distribution

falling into one of three genera. Identified respectively as (1) Dia-

tonic, (2) Chromatic, or (3) Enharmonic, these genera were composed in

the following manner. In diatonic tetrachords, the intervals within the

perfect fourth consisted of two whole steps plus one half-step.3 In

chromatic tetrachords, the intervals within the perfect fourth comprised

two half-steps plus one and one-half steps. In enharmonic tetrachords,

one interval--the ditone--occupied two whole steps while the remaining

intervals were each made up of quarter-tones or microtones.

As given above, the genera would seem to have been stable enough

to be readily identified by a listener. There would appear to have been

little difficulty in distinguishing one from another. Our appreciation

of the average Athenian's musical discrimination is immeasurably enhanced,

therefore, when we are told that the composition of the genera was fur-

ther complicated by the fact that certain "colours or shades of distino-

tion"^known as chroai were allowed to exist within at least two of the

three genera. Thus, in proportion to the degree to which the internal

intervals of each genus were either widened or narrowed, one could expect

to hear diatonic tetrachords which were designated as "flat" or "sharp,"

and chromatic tetrachords referred to as "soft," "hemiolic," or "tonic."4

3A half-step is the distance from one note in the major or minor
scale to the note immediately adjacent to it. Two such intervals, then,
constitute a whole step.
Aristoxenus, p. 248.

Consequently, there must have been times when a listener could not dis-

tinguish the chromatic from the enharmonic genus. If this was true, then

it is evident that the chroai were included in Greek melodies for other-

than-rational appeals. In other words, these intervals furnished audible

satisfaction without requiring a specific identification from the hearer.

Although the genera appear to be rather complex, all three types

are known to have been employed in the music of fifth century Greece. As

a matter of fact, the earliest evidence of the use of the enharmonic micro-

tones is a fragment from Euripides' Orestes, accepted by most musicolo-

gists as an authentic relic from the fifth century B. C.

Scales and keys. When two tetrachords of any type were placed

one after the other, they comprised a scale. The tetrachords could be

placed in either conjunctive or disjunctive sequence. When placed con-

junctly, the last note of the first tetrachord became the initial note

of the successive one, thus producing a seven-tone scale. Disjunctive

arrangement, on the other hand, placed one tetrachord consecutively after

another in an ascending or descending pattern of pitch. This resulted in

the eight-tone scale with which we are familiar today. When the same pro-

cess was duplicated an octave higher, a two-octave descending scale from

a' to B was formed and, in the case of conjunctive arrangement, the low

A was added.5 The entire scale was known to fourth century theorists as

the Greater Perfect System (Disdiapason).

Within this system, the basic tonal material from which melodies

were constructed was grouped into octave species called harmoniai. Each

specie originated at a specific point in the Disdiapason, extended to an

In musical terminology, a is located in the octave immediately
above middle c (al), a is in the octave just below it, and A is placed
still an octave lower than a.

octave above or below that note, and acquired a name which was supposed

to convey the essential character of the particular harmonia. The ter-

minology which prevailed in classical times was as follows:

a' to a Hypodorian (also Hyperphrygian, Aeolian, Lokrian)*
f to g Hypophrygian (also Hyperlydian, Ionian, Iastian)*
f to f 'Typolydian
eT to e Dorian
dT to Q Phrygian
iT to I Lydian
b to B Mixolydian (also Hyperdorian)*
The alternative names in parentheses represent the terminology
of later ages. Some of them indicate either lower or higher octaves.6

For practical purposes, such as the normal range of the adult male voice

and, in particular, the limited range of the kithara, the harmoniai were

used in transposition into the el e octave of the Dorian harmony. In

this transposition they became known in the Hellenistic period as tonoi

or "keys." Their respective tonalities may be indicated in modern nota-

tion by the addition of appropriate accidental to the standard white-key

scale on e, as given below:


nF. I


3F 3 Co o3


'Willi Apel, Harvard Dictionary of Music, p. 303; henceforth re-
ferred to as Harvard Dictionar.







1ou 0 5,o

Fig. 1.- The 1"armoniai Transposed into
the Dorian Octave.7

It is evident from these examples that the distinguishing char-

acter of a particular harmony or mode was due to the way in which the in-

ternal tones of its constituent tetrachords were varied. Moreover, an

attempt was made to associate these modal characteristics with the nation-

al temperaments of the various confederacies which existed in Asia Minor,

e.g., Dorian, Tonian, Aeolian, Lydian, and Phrygian. Since the modes

played an important part in fifth century drama, it is necessary to give

some consideration to the relationship postulated between mode and ethos.

To this subject Chapter Two is devoted.

7Fig. 1 is an elaboration of a suggestion in Apel's Harvard Diction-
ry, p. 303.

Chapter 2


Of all the prescriptions concerning music which have been be-

queathed to us by the ancient Greeks, the doctrine of the ethical nature

and function of music has been the most difficult to comprehend. One is

inclined to dismiss as naive those musical theorists who spoke of the

Dorian mode as "virile and bellicose," the Hypodorian as "majestic and

stable," the Mixolydian as "pathetic and plaintive," the Phrygian as "agi-

tated and Bacchic," the Hypophrygian as "active," the Lydian as "mourn-

ful," and the Hypolydian as "dissolute and voluptuous."8

Before we can attempt an explanation of musical ethos as it was

attributed to the various modes, however, we must be certain that we un-

derstand what was meant by the term "mode" itself. The musical scales

which were included in the preceding chapter must not be regarded as the

modes themselves but as simply a skeletal framework within which the es-

sences of the modes could be expressed. Hence, as Curt Sachs suggests,

ethos was attached not to the modal scales but to the melodies which were

based upon the essential characteristics of those scales.9 In his dis-

cussion of Jewish music, Abraham Idelsohn included a rather comprehensive

definition of mode which may illustrate some of its functions in a purely

musical sense. A mode, Idelsohn said,

8Curt Sachs, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, p. 248; hence-
forth referred to as The Rise of Music.
_______, Our Musical Heritage, p. 25.


is composed of a number of MOTIVES (i.e. short music figures or
groups of tones) within a certain scale. The motives have differ-
ent functions. There are beginning and concluding motives, and mo-
tives of conjunctive and disjunctive character. The composer oper-
ates with the material of these traditional folk motives within a
certain mode for his creations. His composition is nothing but his
arrangement and combination of this limited number of motives. His
"freedom" of creation consists further in embellishments and in
modulations from one mode to the other.10

But, as already mentioned, such a definition confines the con-

cept of mode to purely musical terms. It cannot hope to account for the

ethical force attributed to these "motives" by the ancient Greeks. Hence,

it becomes necessary to look elsewhere in order to enlarge our under-

standing of musical ethos. A significant source of investigation was ex-

plored by G. Lowes Dickinson in his treatment of the way in which clas-

sical Greece strove to identify the aesthetic and ethical points of view.

These two spheres, he maintained, were never sharply differentiated by

the Greeks;

thus the most beautiful work of art, in the Greek sense of the term,
was that which made the finest and most harmonious appeal not only
to the physical but to the moral sense, and while communicating the
highest and most perfect pleasure to the eye or the ear, had also
the power to touch and inform the soul with the grace which was her
moral excellence.11

It is interesting that Dickinson chose the word "harmonious" to

illustrate the identification of the aesthetic with the ethical, because

harmonia, in the sense in which it was used by the Greeks, signified a

close adjustment or "fitting together of parts." In musical terminology,

it connoted a "scale or system as a whole whose parts have been adjusted

10Abraham Idelsohn, Jewish Music; quoted in Gustave Reese, Music in
the Middle Ages, p. 10.

1G. Lowes Dickinson, The Greek View of Life, p. 209.

in their proper relations."12 The classical ideal of the interrelated-

ness of parts or harmonious proportions was believed to be as applicable

to the realm of character as to the realm of music. As Dickinson pointed


Character, in the Greek view, is a certain proportion of the various
elements of the soul, and the right character is the right propor-
tion. But the relation in which these elements stand to one another
could be directly affected, it was found, by means of music; not
only could the different emotions be excited or assuaged in various
degrees, but the whole relation of the emotional to the rational ele-
ment could be regulated and controlled by the appropriate melody and

Because he believed that the harmonies of music were analagous

to those of the human soul, Plato accorded music the highest position of

all the arts. In the Timaeus, he has his spokesman, Socrates, say,

Moreover, so much of music as is adapted to the sound of the voice
and to the sense of hearing is granted to us for the sake of harmony;
and harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of our souls,
is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by
them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the
purpose of it in our day, but as meant to correct any discord which
may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be pur ally in
bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself.1

It may be inferred from this passage that Plato was interested in the

harmonies of music, not so much as an end in themselves but as a means of

improving human behavior. Consequently, he saw music as a public rather

than private good, and his preference for certain harmonies was guided by

this belief in their ability to better the well-being of the state. With

the welfare of the res ubioa as his criterion, therefore, Plato rejected

the dirge-like Mixolydian and the intense Lydian as useless to women and

12Aristoxenus, p. 22. 13Dickinson, p. 220.

1Plato, Timaeus, Tr. Benjamin Jowett, p. 30.

unfit for men. The Ionian and plain Lydian he described as soft and

convivial, while the Dorian and Phrygian were retained as exemplifying

those qualities which were most to be desired in the ideal state. In

The Republic Socrates, in speaking to Glaucon, says,

Leave us that harmony Lthe Dorian_7 that would fittingly imitate
the utterances and the accents of a brave man who is engaged in war-
fare or in any enforced business, and who, when he has failed, ei-
ther meeting wounds or death or having fallen into some other mishap,
in all these conditions confronts fortune with steadfast endurance
and repels her strokes. And another Cthe Phrygian/for such a man
engaged in works of peace, not enforced but voluntary, either trying
to persuade somebody of something and imploring him--whether it be a
god, through prayer, or a man, by teaching and admonition--or con-
trariwise yielding himself to another who is petitioning or teaching
him or trying to change his opinions, and in consequence faring ac-
cording to his wish, and not bearing himself arrogantly, but in all
this acting modestly and moderately and acquiescing in the outcome.
Leave us these two harmonies--the enforced and the voluntary--that
will best imitate the utterances of men failing or succeeding, the
temperate, the brave--leave us these.15

Plato's pupil, Aristotle, while agreeing with the basic posi-

tion that harmonies ought to be classified according to their influence

on the souls of men, nevertheless challenged his master's view that music

was to be admitted to society only as an instrument for promoting civic

virtue. He believed, for example, that entertainment and emotional re-

lease were legitimate ends of musical expression. In The Politics he al-

so charged Socrates with inconsistency in allowing the Phrygian harmony

to share equal honors with the Dorian. That charge is contained in the

following passage, where Aristotle says of Socrates,

RHeJ does not do well in allowing only the Phrygian harmony along
wth the Dorian, and that when he has rejected the aulos among in-
struments; for the Phrygian harmony has the same effect among har-
monies as the aulos among instruments--both are violently exciting
and emotional. This is shown by poetry; for all Bacchic versifica-
tion and all movement of that sort belong particularly to the aulos

5Plato, The Republic III.399, Tr. Paul Shorey.

among the instruments, and these metres find their suitable accom-
paniment in melodies in the Phrygian harmony among the harmonies.16

Along with the view that the harmonies altered character and

affected morals, the ancients held the notion that, in some way, each

harmony reflected the temperamental characteristics of the particular geo-

graphical region in which it supposedly originated. This was a belief

which persisted at least as late as the fifth century of the Christian

era, when Boethius, the Roman mathematician and philosopher, echoed Pla-

to's sympathies, saying,

From this source, also, the greatest alterations of character arise.
A lascivious mind takes pleasure in the more lascivious modes, or
often hearing them is softened and corrupted. Contrariwise, a
sterner mind either finds joy in the more stirring modes or is a-
roused by them. This is why the musical modes are called by the
names of peoples, as the Lydian and Phrygian modes, for whatever
mode each people, as it were, delights in is named after it. For
a people takes pleasure in modes resembling its own character.17

References indicate that the association of music with national

temperament was transmitted in uninterrupted succession from the classical

period to the Hellenistic, and from there into the early centuries of the

Christian era, from whence it carried over into medieval philosophy. Typ-

ical is the observation of Polybius of Megalopolis, who, in the second

century B. C., spoke of the natural willfulness and forbidding temper of

the Arcadians (who inhabited a province in the middle of the Peloponnesus),

and of the continuous efforts which were made musically "to tame and civ-

ilise" their "stubborn spirits by definite habituation."18 Athenaeus

(fl. 200 A. D.) cited the writings of earlier authors who also accepted

6Aristotle, The Politics VIII.vii.9-10, Tr. H. Rackham.
17oethius, De institution music; quoted in Oliver Strunk, Source
Readings in Music History, p. 80.
18Polybius of Megalopolis, Histories IV.20-21; cited in Arnold J.
Toynbee, Greek Historical Thought, p. 64.

the apparent correspondence between musical harmonies and tribal charac-

teristics. In the Deipnosophists he writes,

Feracleides of Pontus, however, says in the third book of his work
On Music that the Phrygian should not be called a separate harmony
any more than the Lydian. For there are only three harmonies,
since there are also only three kinds of Greeks--Dorians, Aeolians,
and Ionians. There is no small difference in the characters of
these three, for while the Lacedaemonians preserve better than all
other Dorians the customs of their fathers, and the Thessalians
(these are they who conferred upon the Aeolians the origin of their
race) have always maintained practically the same mode of life, the
great majority of the lonians, on the other hand, have undergone
changes due to barbarian rulers who have for the time being come in
contact with them. Hence the melodic style which the Dorians con-
structed they called the Dorian harmony; Aeolian they called the
harmony which the Aeolians sang; Ionian, they said of the third one,
which they heard lonians sing. Now the Dorian harmony exhibits the
quality of manly vigor, of magnificent bearing, not relaxed or merry,
but sober and intense, neither varied nor complicated. But the Aeo-
lian character contains the elements of ostentation and turgidity,
and even conceit; these qualities are in keeping with their horse-
breeding and their way of meeting strangers; yet this does not mean
malice, but is, rather, lofty and confident. Hence also their fond-
ness for drinking is something appropriate to them, also their love-
affairs, and the entirely relaxed nature of their daily life. Where-
fore they have the character of the Hypodorian harmony, as it is
called. This, Heracleides says, is in fact the one which they called
Aeolian Next in order let us examine the Milesians' character,
which the lonians illustrate. Because of their excellent physical
condition they bear themselves haughtily, they are full of irate spir-
it, hard to placate, fond of contention, never condescending to kind-
liness nor cheerfulness, displaying a lack of affection and a hardness
in their character. Hence also the kind of music known as the Ionian
harmony is neither bright nor cheerful, but austere and hard, having
a seriousness which is not ignoble; and so their harmony is well-
adapted to tragedy.19

While the Greek concept of musical ethos undoubtedly stemmed

from the lack of sharp differentiation between the ethical and the aes-

thetic, and from the predisposition of the ancient Greeks to attribute the

characteristics of national temperament to the various modes, it also pro-

ceeded from the belief that the human microcosm contained in miniature

19Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists VI, cited in Strunk, pp. 48-49.

the structure and internal relations of the universal macrocosm, and that

the musical harmonies themselves contained cosmological and, indeed, as-

trological significance. In the Timaeus, for example, Plato advises,

The motions which are naturally akin to the divine principle within
us are the thoughts and revolutions of the universe. These each
man should follow, and correct the courses of the head which were
corrupted at our birth, and by learning the harmonies and revolu-
tions of the universe, should assimilate the thinking being to the
thought, renewing his original nature, and having assimilated them
should attain to that perfect life which the gods have set before
mankind, both for the present and the future.40

Interpreting this view, Egon Wellesz suggests that it makes a

purely aesthetic appreciation of music, as an art, impossible. This at-

titude, he contends,

is of importance for the understanding of Platonic and Neoplatonic
musical theory. Music of the highest quality must of necessity be
beautiful, because the creative artist imitates the harmoniai ac-
cording to which the circles of the soul rLi.e. the World-Soul_
revolve. But his work could never transmit the perfection of the
cosmic harmoniai, because the human soul is blended of a mixture in-
ferior in quality to that from which the World-Soul was compounded.21

The relationship which existed between the "circles" of the human soul

and the universal harmonies was not only evident to classical Greece; it

was one of the constituent facts of Graeco-Roman and medieval philosophy.

This truth is borne out by the statements of two men--Diodorus of Agyr-

ium (ca. 90-20 B. C.) and Boethius (4807-520? A. D.). Diodorus declared,

God, in His Providence, has related in a single system the evolu-
tions of the stars of heaven and the characters of men, and main-
tains them in perpetual motion to all eternity, imparting to each
the lot which Destiny assigns.22

20Plato, Timaeus, pp. 73-74.
2Egon Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography,
2nd Ed., p. 50.

22Toynbee, p. 48.

Boethius expanded the earlier view in a way which was regarded favorably

not only by the Middle Ages but by the seventeenth century, where it was

incorporated in Milton's Paradise Lost. Boethius' belief, essentially,

was that there were three kinds of music:

the first, the music of the universe; the second, human music; the
third, instrumental music The first, the music of the uni-
verse, is especially to be studied in the combining of the elements
and the variety of the seasons which are observed in the heavens.
How indeed could the swift mechanism of the sky move silently in
its course? And although this sound does not reach our ears (as
must for many reasons be the case), the extremely rapid motion of
such great bodies could not be altogether without sound, especially
since the courses of the stars are joined together by such mutual
adaptation that nothing more equally compacted or united could be
imagined. For some are borne higher and others lower, and all are
revolved with a just impulse, and from their different inequalities
an established order of their courses may be deduced. For this
reason an established order of modulation cannot be lacking in this
celestial revolution.23

In postulating a correspondence between cosmic phenomena, modal

harmonies, and human activity, Greece laid hold of a process which had

begun in the Orient--a process in which the primitive superstitions of

magic were slowly converted into artistic forms and expressions. In this

conversion, the elemental forces of nature--"seasons of the year and

parts of the day, sun and moon cycles, growth and weather, Lthe inter-

action ofj man and woman, birth and death, healing, reincarnation24--

were brought into relationship with human temperament. Eastern cosmol-

ogy associated certain melodic patterns, and even individual notes, with

certain planets and with the gods by which those planets were reputedly

ruled. The gods, in turn, invested their respective planets with

23Strunk, p. 84.

24Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization, pp. 13-14.

appropriate attributes of character which were supposedly reflected in

the harmonies adopted by the various regions of Asia Minor. Thus, al-

though the analogy may not hold in every case, it is conceivable that

Jupiter, who represented majesty, was associated with the Hypodorian

mode; Mars, personifying virility, with the Dorian; Venus, encouraging

effeminacy, with the Lydian; Mercury, denoting craftiness, with the Hypo-

lydian or Hypophrygian; and Saturn, signifying sadness, with the Mixo-

lydian. With respect to these melodic patterns, Sachs observes,

Greece, like the Near and Middle East, must have known what the
Hindus call raXa and the Arabs magam, the homogeneousness, in
structure, mood, and character, of all the melodies belonging to
a certain scale. Greece must have had melodic patterns.25

Of all the ethical properties ascribed to the various harmon-

ies, however, those which were regarded by the ancient Greeks as homeo-

pathic in nature seem strangest from the modern point of view. Aristotle

accepted the trifold classification of the modes as educational, active,

and hypnotic, but he warned that, while the educational modes were valu-

able for general use, the active and hypnotic ones were to be employed

only by specialists.

SThe active and hypnotic ones, while we may listen to them ourselves,
should be left to other exponents. Mental disturbances, which are
pathological in some cases, afflict all of us in reduced or acute
measure. Thus we find pity and fear in the former instance and
pathological disorders in the latter. Persons who are a prey to
such disorders are seen to be restored when they listen to the de-
lirious strains of sacred song, just as though they had been medi-
cally treated and purged. In precisely the same way, pity, fear,
and other such emotions, in so far as they affect each of us, will
yield to the purificatory effect and pleasurable relief produced by
music. In fact, there is an element of harmless pleasure even in
the melodies of specifically purificatory purpose.26

25Sachs, Our Musical Heritage, pp. 25-26.

26Aristotle, The Politics, Tr. in J. G. Warry, Greek Aesthetic
Theory, pp. 122-23.

Conflicting statements by later scholars lead us to believe

that, whether for good or ill, the Phrygian harmony was the one most

naturally associated with the intoxicating and/or healing influences of

music upon the human body. For example, Athenaeus writes,

That music can also heal diseases Theophrastus has recorded in his
work On Inspiration: he says that persons subject to sciatica would
always be free from its attacks if one played the aulos in the Phry-
gian harmony over the part affected. This harmony was first dis-
covered by the Phrygians and constantly used by them.27

In contrast to this view Boethius declared,

Indeed, it is well known how often song has overcome anger, how many
wonders it has performed in affections of the body or mind. Who is
unaware that Pythagoras, by means of a spondaic melody, calmed and
restored to self-mastery a youth of Taormina who had become wrought
up by the sound of the Phrygian mode?28

The incongruity which inheres in the association of the Phry-

gian mode with homeopathic practices is found in the fact that, ostensi-

bly, Apollo was acknowledged as the god of healing; yet, because of its

connection with the dithyramb, the Phrygian harmony was regarded as being

specially dedicated to the worship of Dionysus. In this respect, Sachs

says that paeans--hymns of thanksgiving or songs of praise--were origin-

ally a means of warding off sickness and death, and that the belief that

music could heal through intoxication was one of the "numerous primeval

remainders in the spiritual life of Greece."29

Questions which arise within the pseudo-Aristotelian Problems

seem to indicate that there also must have been purely aesthetic factors

which contributed to musical ethos. With reference to the relationship

between music and ethos, the anonymous author of this work asks, "Why is

27Strunk, p. 48. 28Ibid., p. 82.

29Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 253.

it that of all things which are perceived by the senses that which is

heard alone possesses moral character? For music, even if it is unac-

companied by words, yet has character! whereas a colour and an odour and

a savour have not."30 Character, according to this passage, results

from the very nature of sound, namely, its intrinsic movement. But this

statement should not be misconstrued to mean the physical or acoustical

movement of sound; it is, rather, perceptive movement which influences

character. The author indicates as much when he states,

We perceive the movement which follows such and such a sound. This
movement resembles moral character both in the rhythms and in the
melodic disposition of the high and low notes Now these move-
ments are connected with action, and actions are indicative of moral

Putting aside the purely rhythmical properties of sound, one

feels that it is the elements of quality and pitch to which this author

refers. That these two are integrally related is indicated by Aristox-

enus' statement, "tension is the continuous transition of the voice from

a lower position to a higher, relaxation that from a higher to a lower.

Height of pitch is the result of tension, depth the result of relaxation."32

Sachs believes that pitch was an indispensable aesthetic factor in cre-

ating ethos. He cites the pseudo-Aristotelian Problem (19:49) which

characterizes a low note as "soft and calm," a high note as "exciting."

But by far the most direct evidence of the role which pitch played in

ethos, he claims, is Ptolemy's observation that

the same melody has an activating effect in the higher keys, and
a depressing one in the lower keys, because a high pitch stretches
the soul, while a low pitch slackens it. Therefore the keys in the

30roblemata XIX.9i9b, Tr. E. S. Forster. 31Ibid.

32Aristoxenus, p. 172.

middle near the Dorian can be compared with well-ordered and
stable states of the soul, the higher keys near the Mixolydian
with the stirred and stimulated states, and the lower keys near
the Hypodorian with the slack and feeble moods.33

Sachs points out that the relationship between pitch and ethos

in Greek music derives significant support from recent investigations of

Islamic music which attribute ethical qualities to the three pitch re-

gions, high, middle, and low. At the same time, however, these investi-

gations warn against our attaching too much importance to terms such as

"high" and "low." According to Sachs,

High and low in their simplest, absolute meaning seem to be irrele-
vant in view of the fact that all Greek scales, in spite of their
theoretical ranges, were out off at both ends to fit in the beat
register of voices and instruments "High" and "low," percep-
tible in the theoretical scales but imperceptible in actual melo-
dies, must have meant something different from range, ard probably
something that the Greeks themselves found hard to grasp and de-
scribe--else they would have been more explicit.
The solution can certainly not be given out of our own experi-
ence of musical pitch, but rather from the two points that essen-
tially distinguish the modern and the Greek co-ordination of keys.
Our Western music has (a) no definite borderline between high and
low, and (b) the keys follow one another at equal distances without
being organized in a consistent body. In Greece, on the contrary,
the Dorian mese imiutably parted high from low, and in the relation
of thesis and dynamics, this same note, immovable center of gravity
whatever the key, linked the tonalities together in a perspective
that made their characteristic distances apparent. Not the dis-
tances of range, however; but the distances from the thetic to the
dynamic mese, which gave Greek melodies their musical, and hence
nervous, tension. 3

A serious examination of thesis and dynamics, however, would entail a dis-

cussion of the idea of "musical space," which will be reserved for a sub-

sequent chapter.

The consideration of pitch as an essential ingredient of ethos

33The Harmonies of Claudius Ptolemy; quoted in Sachs, The Rise of
Music, pp. 248-49.

3Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 250.

must be concluded, with one reservation. Pitch was by no means the only

aesthetic factor involved in Greek melodies. On the basis of an analogy

with Oriental melodic patterns, Sachs speculates that the ethical quali-

ties of Greek melodies arose also from

(a) the steps used--quarter tones, semitones, etc.; (b) their ar-
rangement and sequence; (c) whether the scale appears in a medium
altitude or transposed up or downward by a fourth or a fifth or an
octave; (d) certain melodic turns; and (e) the tempo and mobility.35

In other words, the ethos which was attributed to classical melodies arose

as the result of a conscious, artistic effort on the part of composers.

Cleonides' observation on the differences between intervals and systems

furnishes additional sources of musical ethos about which we have, unfor-

tunately, scant information. He writes that, in regard to systems,

the differences are seven. Four of these were found also in inter-
vals; these are the differences in magnitude, in genus, of.the sym-
phonic and diaphonic, and of the rational and irrational. Three
differences are peculiar to systems; these are the differences of
the progression by step and by leap, of the conjunct and the dis-
junct, and of the non-modulating and the modulating.36

In postulating the various factors which may have contributed to the clas-

sical association of mode and ethos, it is perhaps best to take a position

similar to that of Eric Blom, who said, in reference to the subject of

modal dialects, "this subject, and that of the relationship of mode and

key, are controversial and must remain so in the absence of adequate


35ibid., p. 249.

6Cleonides, On Harmonic Introduction; quoted in Strunk, p. 40.

3Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Ed. Eric Blom,
Vol. III, p. 771; henceforth referred to as Grove's Dictionary.

Chapter 3


For many years the doctrine has been taught by theatre histor-

ians that Greek music, whatever it may have been, was subservient to

speech. Musicologists have gone so far as to say that the pattern of vo-

oal melodies was determined by the natural inflection of the Greek lan-

guage.38 Others have tried to relegate the role of music in the classi-

cal theatre to that of an accompaniment rather than conceiving of it as

a vital part of the dramatic performance. In so doing they have placed

upon the written text an emphasis which is disproportionate, if not un-

warranted. For example, in The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, Sir Arthur

Pickard-Cambridge says,

There can be no doubt that the music, or at least the musical ac-
companiment, was strictly subordinate to the words. Pratinas' pro-
test against the attempt to give predominance to the flute implies
this. Indeed it was essential that the words should be heard
clearly throughout the vast theatre and it must have been ne-
cessary even for singers in unison (as ancient Greek singers always
sang) to spend infinite pains on the enunciation of the words.39

This attempt to exalt the spoken word at the expense of every

other aspect of the dramatic performance has led a few to take the ex-

treme position that speech and, in particular, poetry governed not only

the meter and melody of the music used in the drama but, to a certain

38"The sequence of notes paid attention to the natural inflection of
the Ireek language, rising on an acute accent and, with less consistency,
rising or falling on a grave or a circumflex." (Sachs, Our Musical Heri-
tage, p. 27.)

39Arthur Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, p. 265.


extent, even the choice of model Typical of such a position is the fol-

lowing statement:

Because modes were distinguished from each other by patterns of
small and large intervals between individual tones, the pitch pat-
tern of some poetry demanded a particular mode.40

To establish these views as representative of an extreme position, one

need only examine the evidence which points to the existence in classical

Greece of music as an artistic entity in its own right, i.e. as separate

and apart from its association with speech.

The earliest of such evidence comes from a most unlikely source

in that its proponent, Plato, was one of those who insisted that music be

subordinated to speech and, in the same sense, that instrumental music be

employed primarily as an accompaniment to song. In the Laws (11:669),

Plato writes,

Our poets divorce melody and rhythm from words, by their employment
of kithara and aulos without vocal accompaniment, though it is the
hardest of tasks to discover what such wordless rhythm and tune sig-
nify. Nay, we are driven to the conclusion that all this so
popular employment of kithara and aulos, not subordinated to the
control of dance or song for the display of speed and virtuosity,
and the reproduction of the cries of animals, is in the worst of
bad taste,41

In speaking out against the practices of contemporary instrumentalists,

regardless of how widespread those practices were, Plato unwittingly left

posterity the testimony that the music of his day was not so strongly

wedded to speech as more recent scholars would have us believe. Moreover,

the vehemence of his protest may be an indication that he feared the ef-

fects of this virtuosity in instrumental music.

40May Burton, A Study of Music as an Integral Part of the Spoken
Drama in the American Professional Theatres 1930-1955, p. 15.
Sah, The Histor of Musical Instrument p. 19.
Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, p. 129.

The fact that it was also the poets, and not the instrumental-

ists alone, who were making these musical innovations suggests that the

poets recognized the independence of musical forms and made use of those

forms to convey nonverbal meanings to their audiences. Such an inference

acquires strength when it is associated with the ethical theory of the

modes. Since classical Greece believed so strongly in the power of music

to arouse ethical states and attributes by means of modes, melodic pat-

terns, and rhythms, it seems unlikely that the poets would have tried to

limit that power by making it exclusively dependent on the pitch accent

of speech. Unless meaning existed in melody in its own right, and with-

out the added interpretative value of the spoken word, the ethos of cer-

tain musical entities could not have held. As a matter of fact, there is

no good reason why the Greeks should have felt obliged to favor the spo-

ken idiom more than the musical, unless it was for the sake of intelligi-

bility. Arthur E. Haigh, in a study of Greek poetic diction, has shown

that intelligibility was really not a problem, and he states,

Greek poetry, as many critics have pointed out, though unsurpassed
for the truthfulness and simplicity of its general tone, was elab-
orate and artificial in form. It was written for the most part in
a conventional sort of diction, widely removed from the ordinary
language of the people. Greek tragedy forms no exception to
the general tendency. .. Indeed, the language of the Attic stage
is even more artificial in texture than that of the other species
of Greek poetry. The sources from which it is derived are more
various; and the curious intermixture of different dialects in the
same composition stamps it with a peculiar and exceptional charac-
ter. The ordinary tragic dialogue is written in Attic. But
the Attic employed is far more archaic than that which was spoken
in common life, and recalls an earlier stage in the history of the
language. Hence in the fifth century there had come to be a
marked divergence between the speech of an Athenian citizen and the
speech of the Ionic tribes of Asia Minor.42

42A. E. Faigh, The Tragic Drama of the Greeks, pp. 364, 365.

At the same time, the doctrine of musical ethos makes it quite

clear that classical Greece regarded music as an imitative or mimetic

form of art. That its success at imitation did not hinge on words or

speech alone is evident in a statement taken from Aristotle's Politics:

Musical times and tunes provide us with images of states of char-
acter--images of anger, and of calm; images of fortitude and tem-
perance, and of all the forms of their opposites images of the
other states--which come closer to their actual nature than any-
thing else can do. This is a fact which is clear from our own ex-
periencel to listen to these images is to undergo a real change of
the soul. Now to acquire a habit of feeling pain or taking delight
in an image is something closely allied to feeling pain or taking
delight in the actual reality.43

Such imitation was effected through the use of melodic formulas which were

regarded as being suitable for specific purposes or occasions--not for

specific texts. At least, this seems to be the import of the following

passage from Plato's Laws, which states,

Among us music was divided into various classes and styles;
one class of song was that of prayers to the gods, which bore the
name of "hymns"; contrasted with this was another class, best called
"dirges"; "paeans" fored another; and yet another was the "dithy-
ramb," named, I fancy, after Dionysus. "Nomes" also were so called
as being a distinct class of song; and these were further described
as "citharoedic names." So these and other kinds being classified
and fixed, it was forbidden to set one kind of words to a different
class of tune.44

The implication of the above passage, however unintentional it might have

been, is that the musical form took precedence over the literary--at

least to the degree that the poet, as he composed his lyrics, was con-

strained to keep uppermost in his mind the melodic alternatives which were

open to him. This limitation may have accounted for the close association

of music and poetry which has been cited by the scholars. It may also

4Aristotle, The Politics VIII.v.18-19, Tr. Ernest Barker.

Quoted in Reese, pp. 11-12.

help to explain why the greatest of Greek tragedians were musicians as

well as poets. One had to be a poet-musician in order to comprehend the

complexities of melooeia, which, according to Aristoxenus, was "the

science of the use of musical material" or the means of determining "which

class of melody is adapted to any particular subject."45

Further evidence which supports the theory that the music of

classical Greece was regarded as a legitimate art in itself is supplied

by an investigation of the structure of choral lyrics used in the drama.

Amy Dale, in commenting on the "measure of likeness, and also the kind of

difference, between the metres of dialogue and recitative on the one hand

and those compounded with song, or song and dance, on the other," states,

The conventional nature of many metrical principles discernible in
the latter, unrelated to the sense of the words or the rhythms of
prose, indicates that here is the element introduced by music, or
at least characteristic of poetry written to be sung as distinct
from spoken poetry. (Italics mine.)46

Moreover, after examining the strophes and antistrophes of choral odes,

she remarks,

Since strophe and antistrophe pay no attention to correspondence of
word-accent, either the melody here must also have ignored word-
accent or the melody of the strophe was not repeated in the antis-
trophe. The former is the more generally assumed, and on
a priori grounds appears the more likely. .. .
On the whole, then, there is no cogent reason for rejecting the
assumption, with its a priori likelihood, that the music repeated
from strophe to antistrophe in the choruses of drama. Antistrophic
verse would thus acquire an added formality in that unlike astrophic
it took no account at all of the rise and fall of pitch in the same
words delivered in the speaking voice.4?

45Aristoxenus, Cf. Macran's notes, pp. 266, 267,

Amy Dale, Lyric Metres of the Greek Drama, p. 4.

7Ibid., pp. 194, 196.

Miss Dale's conclusion corresponds with the view expressed in

what is undoubtedly the best existing proof of the priority of classical

melody over poetry, namely, Dionysius of Halicarnassus' observation that

"in the Orestes of Euripides the music did not rise and fall with the

speech-accents," and that "in two paired verses, strophe and antistrophe,

the melody must be identical."48 It would appear that this statement can

be taken as authentic since Dionysius admitted that in his own time the

situation was precisely the opposite; i.e. in the first century before

Christ, "music normally followed the rise and fall of speech."49

With the above evidence indicating that there is at least an-

other side of the question to be more thoroughly examined, what accounts

for the singular insistence of classical scholars on the verbal, as op-

posed to the musical, idiom? This emphasis might be attributed to the

fact that the written texts are all that have come down to us from the

fifth century theatre. The music which was indisputably a part of that

theatre was not written down with an eye toward preservation; consequently,

it was the first element of performance to perish. Our knowledge of that

music, as Pickard-Cambridge points out, begins for the most part at a per-

iod which was largely unfamiliar with the choral odes of Greek drama. As

a result, those odes were considered to be superfluous to the essence of

the drama. In the meantime, with the ascendancy of the solo actor and

the simultaneous minimizing of the chorus, it is only natural to expect

that the music which was intended for the respective agents would have

undergone a considerable change, a change which would have assigned

48Cited in New Oxford History of Music, Ed. Egon Welless,
Vol. I, p. 337.
Ibid., pp. 376-75.


greater prominence to the utterances of the single actor. The first

logical consequence of movements in this direction would have entailed

a preference for lyrical monodies rather than choral odes and, eventually,

either the elimination of music altogether or its relegation to a subor-

dinate role in the drama.

Chapter 4


The categories of melody which Plato mentioned in his Laws

seem to be fairly representative of the musical forms which prevailed in

the fifth century B. C. His definitions, however, often indicate either

that he mistook the characteristics of one class for those of another or

that the lines of demarcation between classes were not rigidly drawn. Al-

though none of the extant melodies can be dated back to the classical per-

iod, descriptions which have been preserved in literary sources seem to

indicate that, even though the formal categories were maintained, there

was nevertheless great flexibility in the melodies which were ascribed to

those categories, with the result that the characteristics of one musical

form were often found in another. This flexibility was encouraged, per-

haps, by the close affinity which professional music bore to folk music.

Indeed, Reese, in speaking of the evidences of this relationship in the

works of pre-olassical lyric poets, says,

He LArchilochus of Paros, a seventh century poet7 may have drawn
some of his inspiration from folk-song. The apparently widespread
folk-art is mentioned in literary remains which tell us of all man-
ner of work-songs--songs for stamping barley, treading grapes, spin-
ning wool; songs for rope-makers, drawers of water, watchmen, shep-
herds. Also inspired by the folk-influence, perhaps, were the lyric
works of the somewhat later poet-musicians of Lesbos--Sappho, Al-
kaios, and Anakreon.50

Other musicologists have found correspondences between the folk

50Reese, pp. 13-14.

music of present-day Greece and that of Hellenic times. Eric Blom, for

example, mentions the following types of contemporary Greek folk music:

religious, patriotic, heroic, amatory, farewell and nuptial songs,
lullabies, dirges, pastorals, songs for specific work on the moun-
tains or in the fields, at home or at sea, songs of the seasons,
songs connected with popular and national customs and legends, songs
of humour, laudatory and carousal songs, games, feasting-songs (sung
during popular banquets, which, according to very old customs, are
held to celebrate a marriage), etc.51

He then proceeds to associate this modern music with its ancient proto-

type by saying,

It is not difficult to recognize in many of these customs and songs
the survival of several traits of the old Hellenic life. We know
that the ancient Greeks also had special songs during their symposia
(paroinia, skolia). They had songs for various kinds of work (io_ s
or oylos sung during sowing, lityerses during harvest, epilenia dur-
ing the pressing of grapes, etc.); also nuptial songs (hymenaios),
lamentations (linos, ialenos) sung either for a beloved dead or for
a symbolical loss or disappearance of a god or goddess (Adonis, Per-
sephone), and so on.52

In regard to subject matter, then, it is evident that there are many cor-

resuondences between neo-Hellenic and ancient folk music, on the one hand,

and between ancient folk and professional music, on the other. Subse-

quent pages of this chapter will demonstrate the analogies which can be

detected in the form and structure of these musical genres. Before this

can be done, however, it is necessary to examine the respective types of

music which seem to have had some relevance to the classical theatre.

Of the two general categories, solo and choral music, the lat-

ter merits our attention most because it is unlike anything which can be

found in the theatre today. Modern directors are usually inclined either

to dismiss the choral odes of Greek tragedy as an impediment to the action

of the drama or to regard them as passive, transitional devices which

510rove's Dictionary, p. 268. 52Ibid.

have no motivating force in themselves and serve merely as reflections of

the positions taken by the major characters. An acquaintance with the

various forms of choral lyric, however, suggests that the role of the cho-

rus in the classical theatre was by no means confined to the formal odes

structured by the playwright, but that it involved a direct and continuous

participation in the action of the drama from beginning to end. That be-

ing the case, the chorus may well have served as a vicarious agent which

related the meaning of the dramatic action to the lives of the spectators.

What, then, were these categories of choral lyric, and how were they im-

plemented into the dramatic performance?

Hmns. The hymn technically was a song sung to the gods and ac-

companied by the lyre or kithara. T. A. Sinclair classifies hymns as pro-

sodiac, i.e. "sung by a chorus in procession," and stationary.53 But in

the latter classification he makes the same mistake that the scholiasts

made in their commentary on Aristotle. With reference to this error,

Dale writes,

The scholiasts--admittedly of unknown date--are found to have been
misled by the Aristotelian term stasimon for all odes subsequent to
the parodos or "coming-on song"; these were "stationary" merely in
the sense that the chorus had finished its progressive movement and
taken up its stance in the orchestra, but the scholiasts clearly
thought that the term implied "standing still"; i.e. an ode unac-
companied by dancing.54

Evidently hymns could take the form of praise and thanksgiving or they

could be invocatory in nature. The most extensive musical fragment which

has come down to us from ancient Greece is one known as the "First Delphic

Hymn." Although it dates only from about 138 B. C., its style,

5T. A. Sinclair, A History of Classical Greek Literature from Homer
to Aristotle, p. 108.

5Dale, p. 200.

nevertheless, is reminiscent of music of the fifth century B. C. in its
employment of archaic tunings, its modulation from one mode to another,

its frequent use of chromatic progressions, and its alternating conjunct

and disjunct structure. Because the third section of this hymn is incom-

plete, only the first two sections are reproduced here.

6 I I I I h I I h I I h -r I I- 0 I I
-r K F 1a r- I 0 1

I f i $ I d lF-
r i I ... r a I 1i I rI P F0

lo^ I I hIIr^ L I I I r i I- 1 I I i I I

J r I 1 I I hIV 1 r P P U I I
Ii i Ii Ir r f i ii I I I I I Ii 1 I -J I

0 to "'1 I I 1

Fig. 2. The First -Dephic Hymn55

Piatorical Anthology of Music, Archibald T. Davison and Willi Apel,
Eds., p1. 9 henceforth referred to as Historical Anthology.
'Eds., p. 9; henceforth referred to as F~istorical Anthology.

Even in this brief fragment, one cannot ignore the peculiarities of the

archaic or enharmonic style. If, as Aristoxenus asserted, the enharmonion

was "the noblest of all styles," then it is obvious that in ancient Greece

the concept of nobility and dignity was far different from that which pre-

vails today. This connotative difference is important when considering

the aesthetic of the classical theatre, since it helps avoid a presenta-

tion of classical concepts based on attitudes and prejudices which are es-

sentially Hellenistic.

As an example of the Hellenistic bias, A. E. Haigh distinguishes

hymns which were directed to Apollo from those which were sung to Dionysus

by saying that the former were dignified, symmetrical in structure, and

regular in rhythm, whereas the latter were precisely the opposite. But

the "First Delphic Hymn," which is addressed to Apollo, shows a structure

which is anything but symmetrical. Its first section is in the Phrygian

mode, while the second section is Hyper-Mixolydian; the tonality of the

first section is distinctly enharmonic, while that of the succeeding sec-

tion is chromatic. Supplementing this contrast in structure is an irreg-

ular rhythm known as cretic, which alternates between three-and two-beat

feet to create a quintuple measure. Even if this musical fragment did

not exist as evidence that irregular rhythms played a great part in the

music of ancient Greece, it would be possible to find such testimony in

the statements of Plutarch.56 Moreover, the enharmonic and chromatic

genera, although frowned upon by ascetics like Plato, are known to have

been employed in theatrical and professional performances of the fifth

century B. C. Since it is a known fact that the latter half of the fifth

56Plutarch, On Music; Cf. Lyra Graeca, Ed. J. M. Edmonds, Vol. I,
pp. 7-9.

century was an era of musical experimentation, the possibility is not at

all remote that these two styles were combined within single compositions.

While such experimentation was enthusiastically received by some--urip-

ides, for example--it was ridiculed and satirized by others, notably,

Aristophanes and Pherecrates. Unfortunately, the Hellenistic abandonment

of the enharmonic genus, with its characteristic microtones, led Aristox-

enus, the preeminent musical theorist of the fourth century B. C., to as-

sume that it had never played a very important role in the music of clas-

sical Greece. Scholars of the nineteenth century, following in the

footsteps of Aristoxenus, went on to maintain that Greek singers could

never have reproduced intervallic differences which were so minute and

required such delicacy of hearing. Some of these scholars, as Sachs points

out, were led to declare that the "so-called quarter tones might 'merely

have been symbols to indicate portamento."57 In the face of this critical

short-sightedness, there exists Ptolemy's dictum, "sliding tones are the

enemies of melody," Aristides Quintilianus' chronological listing of the

three genera as "enharmonic-chromatic-diatonic," and Plutarch's lament

that "our contemporaries have thoroughly neglected the finest genus, to

which the ancients devoted all their eagerness" (i.e. the enharmonic).58

Among the general category of hymns was a specific type which

had inherent possibilities for dramatic development. Although Menander

referred to this species as genealogicc hymns," it is quite likely that

he had the dithyramb in mind. The dithyramb was a hymn devoted to a par-

ticular god, originally Dionysus, and it described in song the birth of

the god, various episodes from his life, and his outstanding attributes.

57Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 207. 58bid., pp. 206-207.

It differed from hymns in general in its exclusive employment of the

Phrygian mode and its use of the aulos rather than the kithara or lyre.

Accompanied by mimetic dance and complex rhythms, it was capable of ex-

pressing a variety of emotions. According to Raigh, however, it is un-

certain whether it was serious or comic in nature. By the time of Aris-

totle the dithyramb had changed so in form that the antistrophic structure

which had once prevailed had disappeared, and the spoken dialogue had been

excised so that the form was regarded as a purely musical one. Yet, in

speaking of the earlier dithyramb, Aristotle expressed himself in such a

way that it is hard to escape the inference that he was equating the di-

thyramb with the drama. Haigh says, at this point,

He LAristotle7 tells us that the solemnity of tragedy was a later
development, and that the earlier performances were satyricc" in
tone, and characterized by comic diction, sprightly metres, and pan-
tomimic gesture. In the face of these statements it is impossible
to describe the early dithyramb as a sad and melancholy composition.59

Changes which took place in the dithyramb are analogous to those

changes which Plato decried in professional music as a whole during the

latter part of the fifth century B. C. Antistrophic form was sacrificed

to irregular meters, words were subordinated to music, sound was empha-

sized at the expense of sense, and attempts were made at musical imperson-

ations of such natural phenomena as thunderstorms and rushing rivers.60

In addition to the dithyramb, which probably bore the closest

semblance to the drama, there were prayers and paeans. These were theo-

retically classified as hymns; yet paeans, as mentioned earlier, undoubt-

edly originated in a different source from that of hymns in general.

Paianon, as Sachs points out, meant "healer."

59Haigh, p. 21. 60Ibid., p. 24.

It originally was a medicine dance and later, more generally, a
chorus dance in honor of Apollo, the healing God. As early a
source as the Iliad describes a paean to ban the plague, and sev-
eral centuries later, when the plague raged in Sparta, the govern-
ing board appointed the Cretan musician, Thaletas, to organize

Paeans cannot be dismissed, however, by merely relegating them to the

Apollonian cult. If they were associated with healing, then it is prob-

able that they, like the dithyramb, were highly ecstatic in nature. Thus,

they may well be the form of music described by Diogenes, the tragic poet,

when he says, in his Semele,

And yet I hear that the turban-wearing women of Asian Cybele, the
daughters of the rich Phrygians, with drums and bull-roarers and
booming of bronze cymbals in their two hands make loud din .
celebrating her who is the wise minstrel of the gods and healer as
well. And I hear that the Lydian and Bactrian maidens dwelling be-
side the Halys river worship the goddess of Tmolus, Artemis, in her
laurel-shaded grove the while they, 'mid plucking of triangles and
pectides, thrum the magadis in responsive twanging, where also the
flute, in Persian fashion, joins its welcome concord to the chorus.62

Hymns, then, may be understood to have included processionals, invocations,

dithyrambs, prayers, and paeans. These types seem to exhaust the possibil-

ities of sacred, as opposed to secular, choral lyric. Several kinds of

secular music remain yet to be discussed.

Dirges. The dirge or lament, according to J. M. Edmonds, orig-

inated in early ritual song-dance and thus was strongly associated with

hieratic elements. As it gradually became secularized, it dispensed with

the dance and eventually became separated from melic, or "tune-poetry."

It was still sung, however, as it always had been, to the accompaniment of

6tSachs, The Rise of Music, p. 267.

62Cf. Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, Tr. Charles Burton Gulick,
Vol. VI, pp. 431-331 henceforth referred to as Athenaeus.

the aulos.63 A passage from the closing pages of The Iliad indicates the

nature of the dirge as it describes the funeral lament over the body of


When he had been brought home, they laid him out on a bier, and
posted beside him mourners to lead the dirge, who sang their lamen-
table dirge while the women wailed in chorus. Andromache laid her
white arms about the head of her dead warrior, and led the lament:

So Andromache spoke weeping, and the women wailed in chorus.
Then Heoabe led the lament amid her sobs:

So Hecabe spoke weeping, and the women wailed long in chorus.
Helen came third and led the laments

So she spoke weeping, and the people wailed long and loud.

Then they put oxen and mules to their wagons and assembled be-
fore the city. Nine days they gathered infinite quantities of wood;
when the tenth day dawned, they carried out brave Hector weeping,
and laid the body on the pile and set it on fire.64

In view of a commentary by Fivos Anoyanakis on a recent record-

ing of neo-Hellenic folk song, it appears evident that the Homeric de-

scription was more than simply a literary convention. One of the types

included on the record is listed as "Moirologhia" (threnodies). Certain

elements of this music seem to have been retained since Homeric times,

e.g. the laments are sung by women mourners, and the threnody takes the

form of a choral round in which a sad, slow dance is performed around the

bier or grave of the deceased. Of the singers and instrumentalists who

made the recording, Anoyanakis remarks,

With the exception of Dora Stratou, the Director of the Group Lthe
Royal Greek Festival Company 7, no member of "Panegyris" has had

63Elegy and Imbus, Ed. J. M. Edmonds, Vol. I, p. 1.

64Homer, The Iliad, Tr. W. H. D. Rouse, pp. 296, 297.

any musical education beyond that handed down from father to son.
The result is that this music is performed as it was centuries

In The Republic Plato makes an unusual observation with respect

to the dirge. Speaking of those types of music which were appropriate for

instruments, he says, "but we said we did not require dirges and lamenta-

tions in words." (Italics mine.)66 The implication here is that the dirge

was so distinctive a musical genre that it did not depend on language as a

primary means of expression. It could be rendered just as effectively by

instruments as by the human voice. Part of that distinction may have been

due to the choice of mode and genus in which the dirge was composed. Plu-

tarch preserves a statement of Aristoxenus which indicates that Olympus,

the aulos-player, selected the Lydian mode for his lament for the serpent

Python.67 In another place Plutarch refers to the Mixolydian mode in a

way that lends support to the belief that it, too, was a favorite medium

for laments.

Euripides the poet one day at a rehearsal instructing the chorus in
a part that was set to a serious air, one of the company unexpectedly
fell out a laughing. "Sir," said Euripides, "unless you were very
stupid and insensible, you could not laugh while I sing in the grave
Mixolydian mode."68

In the previously mentioned recording, the singer is confined

to the lowest register of the female voice, and she sings a plaintive,

diatonic melody which is based on only the first tetrachord of the ancient

Hypodorian mode. Against the constant drone of a reed instrument, a clar-

inet accompanies her, duplicating the melody almost note for note. When

65Greek Folk Songs and Dances, Counterpoint Recordings; Cf. Notes by
Fivos Anoyanakis.

6f. Strunk, p. 4. 6Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, p. 7.
A. M. Nagler, A Source Book in Theatrical History, p. 7.

the voice stops, however, the clarinet takes on an entirely different

character. Then the range of melody is expanded to include the full Hypo-

dorian octave, the genus shifts from diatonic to enharmonic (with its mi-

orotonic intervals), and there is a series of tumbling roulades in the

higher register of the clarinet which imparts an incongruous ecstatic ele-

ment to the lament. Although this song is performed by a solo singer ra-

ther than by a leader and chorus, as in the case of the lament in The

Iliad, one cannot help wondering if the solo voice has taken over a func-

tion which was formerly assumed by the chorus, i.e. preserving the formal

structure within which the improvisations of the leader can occur. If

this has happened, then one could also surmise that the instrumentalist

now performs the improvisations which were once performed by the leader

of the chorus.

This form, with its successive improvisations set within a for-

mal sequence of responses or refrains, is by no means peculiar to a par-

ticular age and time. It prevails today in the litanies of various Chris-

tian liturgies. Nor is the form peculiar to the lament. F. M. Cornford

has shown that the same form lent itself quite naturally to a lighter

genre of song known as encomia.69 Included in the encomia were e2itha-

lamia (marriage songs), pyrrhic songs of victory, skolia (drinking rounds),

and the processional songs of children. In the Birds of Aristophanes

there is a remnant of a refrain--tenella kallinike--which was often used

in the victory song. In explanation of this expression the scholiasts

tell us,

The word "threefold" is used because they shouted the word kallinike
thrice, that is not thrice in immediate succession, but the strophe

9F. M. Cornford, The Origin of Attic Comedy, p. 105.

is threefold and the refrain repeated with each. But according to
Eratosthenes the chant of Archilochus is not really a victory-song
but a hymn to Heracles, and the word "threefold" does not refer to
its being composed of three strophes, but because the word kallinike
was used three times as a refrain. With regard to the word tenella
we are told by Eratosthenes that when the flute-player or lyre-
player was not present the chorus-leader took it up and spoke it
"outside of the song," and then the chorus of revellers joined in
with kallinike, and thus came the combination tenella kallinike.
The song begins "O hail victorious, etc.70O

Our only musical indication of what the encomia may have sounded

like is the "Skolion" of Seikilos, which has been dated almost anywhere

within the period from the second century B. C. to the second century A. D.

IE 'I! l P F I 1 l,

Fig. 3. The Skolion of Seikolos71

This fragment suggests nothing of the kind of structure which entails a

reciprocal action between a leader and a chorus or between an improvised

verse and a formal refrain. Its melody, however, is distinctly modal,

which implies a pre-Hellenistic origin. In addition, it is simple and

easily sung, and it is set to a rollicking triple measure. These factors

may indicate that the composer adapted his text to a well known, possibly

preexistent melody in order to engender an immediate popular appeal.

Nomes. In addition to the varieties of choral lyrio which have

70Elegy and Iambus Vol. II, pp. 175-77.

71Historical Anthology, p. 10.

been discussed, a particular species of solo music known as nomos had

some bearing on the theatre in that it was intended for professional per-

formances before the Olympian audiences. Nomes are known to have pre-

vailed in Greece as early as the Homeric period. They took the form of

short, traditional, melodic phrases which were repeated extensively by

early bards as they strummed their phorminxes and chanted the legendary

deeds of heroes. These early nomes appear to have contributed "a reper-

toire of 'law-giving,' fundamental melodic and rhythmic types which might

be worked over by musicians into something more or less new. / They

had no specific musical form common to all, but the division into a def-

inite number of 'movements' was essential."72 In the seventh century B. C.

Terpander of Lesbos, the earliest historical figure of Greek music, al-

tered the scope of the nome and made it more elaborate by increasing the

number of its sections to seven. Apel records that another seventh cen-

tury figure, Archilochus, contributed further innovations in the form of

triple rhythms, quicker tempi, and perhaps folklike elements.73 Whereas

nomes were at first vocal pieces accompanied by stringed instruments, Plu-

tarch tells us that as early as the seventh century B. C., Olympus the

Phrygian introduced a type of none which was intended for the aulos alone,

and that this new nome won popular acceptance by the Greeks at the fes-

tivals of their gods.74 Thus began the reign of professional art music

in Greece, a reign in which the quivering, ecstatic, Asiatic aulos played

a conspicuous part.

The pseudo-Aristotelian Problems states that nomes, in contrast

72Reese, p 11. arvard Dictionary, p. 302.

74Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, p. 5.

to choric songs, were astrophic in form. In a sense, then, the nome can

be regarded as a precursor of the lyrical monody sung by the solo actor.

That a good bit of freedom and improvisation were inherent in such music

is indicated by the following passage:

Why were "nomes" not composed in antistrophes like all other songs,
that is, choric songs? Is it because the "nomes" were assigned to
virtuosi, and as these were already able to imitate different char-
acters and sustain their parts, the songs composed for them became
long and elaborate? Like the words, therefore, the music conformed
to the imitation, becoming constantly different; for it was more es-
sential for the music to be imitative than the words.75

The only nome to have preserved its words, "The Persae" of Timotheus,

seems to imply the superiority of the music over the words. According to

E. S. Forster, it "resembles the meaningless libretto of an inferior

opera and must have depended for its effect on the music and the mimetic

Dowers of the performer."76

Toward the middle of the fifth century B. C. a musical revolu-

tion took place in Athens and ushered in an era of experimentation in

which the distinctions between various styles, modes, and genera were

blurred. Plato, writing a century later, described the previous revolu-

tion in terms which indicate his preference for the earlier and more eas-

ily categorized forms of music. In this instance he noted,

Our music was once divided into its proper forms. It was not
permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms
and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience.
There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for ap-
plause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers,
and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. But
later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent,
but were ignorant of the laws of music. Over-intoxicated with love
of pleasure, they mixed their drinks--dirges with hymns, paeans with
dithyrambs--and imitated aulos-music in their kitharoedic song.
Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there

75Problemata XIX.918b 76Ibid.

was no right or wrong way in music--that it was to be judged good
or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their works and their theories
they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves
adequate judges. So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and
aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrooracy--for had
it been a free democracy, it would have been nothing to fear. As
it was, the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscu-
ous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking.?7

Plato's main objection to the innovations of the previous cen-

tury was directed at the basis on which those changes were made, namely,

the "love of pleasure," a force that he felt was diametrically opposed to

the idealised, ethical society that he advocated. Classical experimental-

ism had occurred not only in the structure of music but in the instrumen-

tal means whereby it was presented to the public. Prior to the fifth

century there had been a fairly predictable degree of uniformity in in-

strumentation. A musical hierarchy had prevailed in which the kithara

and lyre stood supreme in the realm of soloistic music and the aulos

dominated the field of choral lyric. While there had of course been ex-

ceptions to this dichotomy, the fifth century brought an end to the hier-

archy, and the kithara ceded first place to the aulos as the preeminent

nationalistic instrument. The name of the aulete was not only included

in the didascalia (the catalogue of plays with their respective names

and dates), but eventually it was placed ahead of that of the playwright!

Moreover, a complex sort of orchestration began to appear in which reeds,

lyres, cymbals, brass, and percussion were combined in performance.78

Plato's resentment toward these changes may be considered as

representative of a conservative school to which Aristophanes and Pher-

ekrates belonged. These two men were so outspoken in their criticism of

Quoted in New Oxford History of Music, Vol. I, p. 395.
78 g, pp. 18 19.
Lang, pp. 18, 19.

the "new muic" that they used their plays as vehicles for caricaturing

and ridiculing it. As an example of this musical satire, Welless offers

the following description of the approach taken by Aristophanes:

Although Aristophanes' musical parodies are lost, his verbal meta-
nhors are vivid and illuminating. He defines the style by contrast
with the early classics. The new music was no longer virile, taut,
entonos--well tuned and unwavering; it was marked by flamboyant
kampai ("bends") and by a formless flexibility of melodic line.
Cf. Clouds 967ff._7 It is not clear whether kampai were in fact
modulations or decorative shakes, but Aristophanes certainly insists
upon the tonal instability of this music. The modernist tragedian
Agathon appears on the Aristophanic stage spreading out his strophae
to melt in the sunt if cold, they will not bend. When he sings,
his song is like the zigzagging of ants. LThesmophoriazusae 66-192.J
The new dithyrambists, ecstatic and effeminate creatures, are so
easily bent that they have to wear stays. Their bodies are willowy;
their souls after death go fluttering among the clouds in search of
brand-new anabolae; their music is made of snowflakes and feathers
eddying in the sky; they long to be birds. CPeace 839ff.,
Clouds 332ff., Birds 1372-1409L7 Aristophanes is obviously alluding
to te same new, sky-borne, fluttering manner when, in the Frogs, he
burlesques Euripides' coloratura on the first syllable of the word
for "twirling": ei-ei-ei-eilissousa. LFrogs 1314, 1348.779

Pherekrates, in his turn, publicly denounced experimentalism in music by

presenting on the stage, in the form of a violated virgin, Polyhymnia,

the Muse of sacred lyric.80

Speculating on the reasons for this advent of experimentalism,

one can distinguish several factors. For one thing, the rise of the new

music coincided approximately with the beginning of the Peloponessian War

between Sparta and Athens. Prior to this conflict, Dorian music (which

was typically Spartan in its austerity and predictability) had enjoyed an

era of unprecedented popularity in the realm of choral music. With the

coming of war, however, it seems only natural that the Dorian virtues of

7New Oxford History of Music, Vol. I, pp. 393-94.

8Lang, p. 19.

simplicity, rigidity, moderation, and discipline should have been ques-

tioned. Indeed, it is known that they were questioned by the architects

and sculptors of the period, for the works of art produced by late fifth

century artists contain a high degree of relativism in contrast to the

stark idealism of earlier ages. Since the name "Dorian," to the Athenian,

now had become synonomous with "alien" and "enemy," a decline in the pop-

ularity of Dorian music was only to be expected.81

It is worthy of mention that, considering the Athenian antipa-

thy to Doric elements in music, the leaders of the new school were two

non-Europeans, Phrynis of Mytilene and Timotheos of Miletus. Coming as

they did from localities in or near Turkey and Asia Minor, these composers

introduced into Athenian music elements which were essentially Asiatic,

among them, chromaticism, vibrato, and florid orchestration. In the lat-

ter category, it is possible to point to at least two kinds of auloi

which were known to the Athenians--Phrygian and Lydian pipes. These

pipes were of different sizes and pitches. According to Sachs, the Greeks

classified them as "parthenioi or 'girls" pipes as sopranos; paidikoi or

'boys" pipes as altos; teleioi or 'perfect' pipes as tenors; hyperteleioi

or 'superperfect' as basses. CAnd_7 There are many other names which

are not yet understood."82 The differences in quality and range supplied

by these various auloi added a richness to Greek music which was previ-

ously unknown. Such diversity may well have tempted players of the ki-

thara to try to achieve similar effects on stringed instruments. At any

81Cf. the views of Thucydides in Toynbee, Greek Historical
Thought, p. 42.
82Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, p. 139. Classifying
auloi according to pitch registers is supported by Aristoxenus, who pre-
fers the term kitharisterioi for tenors and teleioi for baritones.
Cf. Aristoxenus, p. 243.

rate, it is known that the school of Timotheos was criticized for mixing

aulos music with kitharoedic song.

The fifth century B. C. not only brought about the general hos-

tility of Athens toward Sparta and the Athenian preference for artistic

influences from the Near East; it witnessed a public reaction to the So-

phistic movement which had gained prominence. This movement, which chal-

lenged the validity of established beliefs and encouraged the skeptical

view that there were two sides to every question, could easily have lent

support to musical experiments by virtue of its claim that the individual

orator, through innate talent and acquired skills, was capable of making

the weaker argument seem the greater.

Finally, in the fifth century B. C. there evolved important im-

provements in the design and construction of both aulos and kithara. In-

novations in the aulos provided for greater melodic range and fluidity of

modulation between modes. In comparing the improved aulos with the previ-

ous type, Reese notes,

The number of holes, at first three or four, eventually grew to as
many as fifteen, and bands that could be turned round on the tube
were added to assist the fingers in closing holes not in use. Two
writers state that the improvements of Pronomos, the teacher of
Alcibiades (fl. fifth century B. C.), rendered Dorian, Phrygian,
and Lydian scales all playable on one pair of pipes, whereas pre-
viously a separate pair had been used for each. Double-pipes made
possible the playing of a melody simultaneously with either a
drone or simple accompaniment. Aristoxenos states that the
full compass of a single pipe or pair of pipes was over three oc-
taves--the total range of the Greek scales as given by Alypios.83

At approximately the same time the number of strings on the lyre and ki-

thara was increased from that of eight in the sixth century to as many as

eleven and twelve in the fifth century. The following passage in the Ion

83Reese, pp. 14-15.

of Euripides reflects the change:

Eleven-stringed lyre with thy flight of ten steps into the place
where the three concordant roads of Harmonia meet, once all the
Greeks raised but a meagre music, playing thee seven-toned four by

It is not clear whether the extra strings represented additional notes or

whether they were merely octave-duplications of the original tones. Apel

is inclined to the latter view and suggests that a limited degree of stop-

ping was possible "by merely pressing a finger against the string near its

lower'end. Thus, the pitch of a string could be raised a quarter-tone, a

semitone or a whole-tone."85 Sachs feels that the lyre, which was the

instrument of the amateur musician, retained its archaic tuning even with

the additional strings. It would therefore have been best suited to melo-

dies based on the pentatonic scale of the Orient.

4Cited in Elegy and Iambus, Vol. II, p. 433.

85Harvard Dictionary, p. 389.

Chapter 5


With respect to misinterpreting the spirit of the classical

theatre, too often there has been a willingness to accept without ques-

tion such statements as the following:

It might be well if the revival of Greek plays in the modern theatre
could be prohibited until the public had learnt to tolerate nothing
more realistic than the masked and stylized, puppet-like, figures
that trod, with stilted gait, the stage of Aeschylus and Euripides.86

A touch of the Philistine does sometimes show itself in Aristotle.
But, though he is writing at a later period, the tendency which he
observed began to rise quite early in the history of tragedy. The
dialogue especially aims more and more at litotes and sapheneia,
"plainness" and "lucidity." Tragedy becomes possessed by that form
of the classical spirit which consists in self-restraint and

The foregoing passages ought to be recognized for what they

really are, namely, the reflections of a long-standing desire to impose

on classical culture an unwarranted one-sidedness. The desire has ac-

quired intellectual respectability by virtue of its affinity with the

views of Plato, Aristotle, and Aristoxenus, each of whom displayed a

typical Hellenistic bias in the direction of rationalism. In regard to

music, for example, Aristoxenus wrote,

The ultimate factor in every visible activity is the intellectual
process. For this latter is the presiding and determining princi-
ple We shall be sure to miss the truth unless we place the
supreme and ultimate, not in the thing determined, but in the ac-
tivity that determines.88

86Cornford, p. 178.
87Gilbert Murray, Aeschylus: The Creator of Tragedy, p. 57.

8Aristoxenus, p. 195.

Placing its ultimate emphasis on the "determining principle," however, is

precisely what traditional scholarship has failed to do or, at least, has

done insufficiently. Instead, it has foisted upon classical art, archi-

tecture, theatre, and music an arbitrary dichotomy which severs rational

and logical processes from emotional and intuitive ones. The former fac-

ulties are in turn regarded as the attributes of Apollo, while the latter

are held to stem from Dionysus. In the realm of music Sachs epitomizes

this distinction exactly by saying,

Being Apollon's attribute, the lyre expressed the so-called Apollo-
nian side of Greek soul and life, wise moderation, harmonious con-
trol and mental equilibrium, while the pipes stood for the Dionysian
side, for inebriation and ecstasy.89

The fallacy of this dichotomizing is evident to one who consid-

ers the aesthetic properties of music. Since inspiration and catharsis

are included among these properties, it is difficult to accept the argu-

ment that the intellect is the ultimate, determining activity in a work

of art, and that music must therefore be regarded as a purely rational

process. It was perhaps because Plato could neither comprehend nor cope

with poetic ecstasy that he excluded the poet from his projected common-

wealth. At least, the following conversation between Socrates and Glau-

con, in The Republic, seems to contain such an implication.

S. But tell me this--can there be any communion between soberness
and extravagant pleasure? . .
G. By no means.
S. But is there between pleasure and insolence and license?
G. Most assuredly.
S. Do you know of greater or keener pleasure than that associated
with Aphrodite?
G. I don't nor yet of any more insane.
S. But is not the right love a sober and harmonious love of the
orderly and the beautiful?
G. It is indeed .

8Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, p. 129.

S. Then nothing of madness, nothing akin to license, must be al-
lowed to come nigh the right love' .
G. Even so .
S. Do you not agree, then, that our discourse on music has come to
an end? It has certainly made a fitting end, for surely the end and
consummation of culture is the love of the beautiful.90

The difficulty inherent in a view such as Plato espoused via his charac-

ters is that it encourages one to think of Greek music, and indirectly,

of all art, in terms of polar extremes. By Plato's definition, music

which was moderate, restrained, and well-ordered was good; conversely,

that which tended to excess, freedom, and asymmetry was bad. One recog-

nizes in such judgments the predisposition to evaluate music not in terms

of its essence but in terms of its intention. In other words, what Plato

and his successors refused to concede was that the only legitimate sphere

in which the criticism of art can function is the aesthetic, not the ethi-

cal. Moreover, the realm of the aesthetic is wide in scope, embracing

both moderation and excess, restraint and license, proportion and dispro-


Warry suggests that what the views of Plato and Aristotle

amounted to was a division of experience into conscious and subconscious

states, in which conscious experience was compounded of rational and mor-

al values, and the subconscious of emotional and aesthetic ones.91 There

is reason to believe, however, that such an attempt would have been alien

to the spirit of classical Greece. The Greek citizen, it must be remem-

bered, was accustomed to receiving rational and moral pronouncements which

had evolved from ecstatic visions and oracular prophecies. Probably the

most celebrated fount of wisdom and morality was the Oracle at Delphi,

90Plato, The Republic III.403, Tr. Paul Shorey. The letters identi-
fying the speakers in the dialogue have been my own addition.

91Warry, p. 150.

which bore the inscription "Know Thyself." Yet, the moral imperative

which proceeded from this shrine was not the outcome of rational pro-

cesses but of irrational ones. Robert Graves provides an insight to the

nature of the procedure involved by saying,

The female celebrants of the Triple Goddess at Tempe had chewed
laurel leaves to induce a poetic and erotic frenzy, as the Baccha-
nals chewed ivy and when Apollo took over the Delphic oracle
the Pythian priestess who continued in charge learned to chew lau-
rel for oracular inspiration. The laurel had become sacred to
Apollo but he was now the God of Reason with the motto "noth-
ing in excess," and his male initiates wore the laurel without
chewing at it.92

A classic example of the way in which ethical pronouncements were made

during the course of ecstatic experiences is found in the Agamemnon of

Aeschylus. Cassandra, who had once spurned the advances of Apollo, iron-

ically becomes his priestess and, whenever the god possesses her, she is

transformed into a seer who interprets the portents of the future. In

one scene she foretells the hideous murder of Agamemnon in such a way

that it becomes an almost tangible experience for the chorus and audi-

ence. "Our souls are captivated by the suggestive power of this prophetic

madness to such an extent that the terrible events perpetrated in the

palace seem to us a nightmare, until Agamemnon's death cry calls us back

to the reality of the play."93

The scene described illustrates the hypnotic seduction of the

rational by the irrational, and it shows at once the inevitable breakdown

of arbitrary categories such as the conscious and subconscious, the Apol-

lonian and the Dionysiac. This breakdown occurs both in the realm of

waking experience and in dream states, for, as Warry says,

9Robert Graves, The White Goddess, pp. 434-35.

93Lang, p. 12.

Things which are formally beautiful or ugly exercise a fascin-
ating power; for that which focuses intellectual concentration ..
is in some sense hypnotic. There is no clear line of demarcation
between the stimulation and the lulling of the intelligence. Aware-
ness in one direction is achieved at the expense of abandon in an-
other. Thus the approach to beauty may be subjective or objective.94

Yietssche made much the same kind of observation on human endeavor when

he wrote, "Much will have been gained for esthetics once we have succeeded

in apprehending directly that art owes its continuous evolution to

the Apollonian-Dionysiac duality, even as the propagation of the species

depends on the duality of the sexes, their constant conflicts and periodic

acts of reconciliation."95

When one avoids the habitual inclination to regard Greek music

as an art that fluctuated between two extremes--the one representing har-

mony and moderation and the other, disorder and excess--it is possible to

approach a closer appreciation of the spirit of the music, if not its

visible outlines. Indeed, when the music of the fifth century B. C. is

viewed as an art form which exhibited a contrapuntal interplay of the two

mainstream of artistic expression, the rational and the intuitive, the

seemingly incongruous statements of several ancient authors are immediate-

ly clarified. For example, Athenaeus, in speaking of the music of the

"ancients" as a subject of philosophic reflection, said,

Taking it all together, it is plain that the ancient "wisdom" of
the Greeks was given over especially to music. For this reason
they regarded Apollo, among the gods, and Orpheus, among the demi-
gods, as most musical and most wise; and they called all who fol-
lowed this art sophists, as Aeschylus has done "Then the sophist
wildly struck his tortoise-shell lyre with notes discordant."96

9Warry, p. 150.

95Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music,
Tr. Francis Golffing, p. 19.
96Cf. St k, p. 5
Cf. Strunk, p. 54.

From the traditional Apollonian perspective, the words "wildly" and

"discordant" seem completely incompatible with the sophist, the lover of

wisdom, who played the lyre, the theoretical instrument of Apollo. From

the same perspective, it is almost impossible to comprehend the observa-

tion of Plutarch that "not only the lyre belongs to Apollo, but he is the

inventor of flute-playing as well as lyre-playing."97 (In this context

the flute must be understood as referring to the aulos, for the horizontal

flute was unknown in Greece until Hellenistic times.)

If the attributing of the aulos to Apollo seems strange to one

who customarily thinks of Greek music in terms of mutually exclusive ex-

tremes, then the association of the lyre with Dionysus appears equally

inappropriate. Nevertheless, Athenaeus records the following statement,

which reputedly dates from the seventh century poet, Archilochuss "For I

know how to lead off, in the lovely song of lord Dionysus, the dithyramb,

when my wits have been stricken with the thunder-bolt of wine."98 In

this transcription the verb "to lead off" is a translation of a Greek

word which was traditionally associated with the lyre rather than the

aulos. A similar instance occurs in the Orations of Himerius, where ref-

erence is made to the "Great Reveller--as the lyre calls Dionysus--when

the Muse-inspired poets lead him in the first dawn of Spring, crowned

'with Springtime blossoms' and ivy-clusters, now to the topmost heights

of Caucasus and the valleys of Lydia, now to the crags of Parnassus and

the Rock of Delphi.'99 A final example of the mixed references which are

found in ancient sources is taken from the writings of Herodotus, the

Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, p. 99. 980f. Strunk, p. 53.
99 a Gaeca Vol. I p. 299.
Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, p. 299.

fifth century historian who visited Egypt. Herodotus was strongly im-

pressed by the similarities between the Egyptian and Hellenic festivals

of Dionysus and recorded the belief of the Egyptian priests that "the

last God-King of Egypt had been Horus son of Osiris, whom the Hellenes

call Apollo." In a critical comment on the Egyptian ritual, Herodotus

established an inevitable connection between Apollo and Dionysus by point-

ing out that the Greek equivalent of "Osiris" was "Dionysus."100

The Apollonian-Dionysiac duality can be identified in three ma-

jor aspects of Greek music. Specifically, it occurs in the symbolistic

functions of instruments and voices, in the nature of the music itself,

and in the retention of many elements of folk ritual. Instruments, Sachs

says, have a significance which transcends the production of sound as

such and involves the subsidiary factors of shape, color, and substance.

Originally, he continues,

instrumental music, at first remote from passion, began in general
as a percussive act of the body: slapping the buttocks, the belly,
the thighs, or clapping the hands, or stamping the ground. Its
cause was a muscular urge concomitant to the nervous tension of
those who sang or listened to singing; its aim was audible order.i01

In other words, instrumental music derived its basic character from

rhythmic impulses, whereas vocal music was primarily concerned with the

free development of melodic forms. Instruments can therefore be regarded

as preserving the rudimentary, elemental, sensuous aspects' of music,

while voices are held to be the most effective means by which the freedom

of the human spirit overmasters "the daemonic element imported by such

music ."102

100Toynbee, p. 172.
0Sachs, The Wellsprings of Music, p. 92.
02Alfred Einstein, A Short History of Music, p. 10.

But the symbolism of instruments also extends to nonmusical

areas. It exhibits the sexual dualism which was so much a part of prim-

itive cultures and, particularly, of the Greek world. The impact of this

dualism, Sachs explains,

has been so strong, essential and consistent on the human mind that
the universe in all its manifestations, as planets, seasons, liquids,
colors, numbers, pitches, seemed to be an interplay of male and fe-
male qualities. If in these cosmological juxtapositions the sun and
daytime, blood, color red, odd numbers stood on the masculine side,
the moon, and nighttime, milk and color white as well as even numbers
stood on the feminine side.103

Accordingly, instruments such as the trumpet and pipes, by virtue of a

shape which had definitely phallic connotations and a sound that was ag-

gressive and menacing, acquired a masculine symbolism and function. By

the same reasoning stringed instruments, among them the lyre and kithara

of classical Greece, were assigned feminine characteristics.

They render a frail, subdued, and quite unaggressive sound so weak
that some resonance cavity is necessary to make it audible to
others--a pit in the ground, an earthen vessel, a gourd, or even
the player's mouth; and this resonator gives them a womb-like cavity.
They are allotted intimate, introvert roles.104

An understanding of this apparently universal symbolism necessitates a

reappraisal of the traditional dichotomy which Platonic thought imposed

on Greek music. If the dogmatic assignment of the lyre to Apollo and the

aulos to Dionysus is accepted, it becomes rather difficult to explain the

fact that Apollo, the son of Zeus and the preeminent deity of patriarchal

religion, preferred an instrument which was essentially feminine in nature.

On the other hand, Dionysus, the divine representative of the matriarchal

earth cults of Asia Minor, was the patron of an instrument that was inher-

ently masculine. In this context it is equally hard to explain the

103Sachs, The Wellsprings of Music, p. 94.

'Ibd., pp. 95-96.

intentions of ancient sculptors, who frequently represented the figures

of both Apollo and Dionysus in forms which are unmistakably effeminate.

The dualistic nature of Greek music can be appreciated by com-

paring it with the fine arts. In contrast to the architecture and sculp-

ture of the classical age, which were for the most part autochthonous,

Greek music was largely imported. It has never been ascertained, for ex-

ample, that any instrument ever originated in Greece; moreover, the prim-

itive state in which the kithara and aulos remained until the latter part

of the fifth century seems anomalous to the classical refinement of the

Greek temple. Indeed, it almost seems as if an unconscious attempt was

made to sustain the incongruities between music and the plastic arts.

Sachs admits such a possibility when he says,

Though Greece was geographically a part of Europe, its music was
largely Asiatic. The Greeks themselves admitted, indeed emphasized,
this fact. They credited Egypt, Assyria,.Asia Minor, and Phoenicia
with the invention of the instruments they used, named two of their
main tonalities after the Asiatic countries Phrygia and Lydia, re-
ferred to Egypt as the source of their musicopedagogic ideas, and
attributed the creation of Greek music to Olympos, the son of
Marsyas the Phrygian.105

It may well be that in the music of Asia Minor the Greeks dis-

cerned an element of mysticism that was lacking in the severe choral tra-

dition of the Doric mainland. This quality would have found a welcome

counterpart in the dithyramb, the dance-song which had achieved an im-

pressive degree of artistic development in Corinth as early as the sev-

enth century B. C. and was already highly ecstatic in nature. Mystical

elements were thus added to the self-inducing, hypnotic aspects of rhy-

thm via the melodies of the Near East. The resulting product, as far as

the music of the fifth century was concerned, was an agreeable blending

105Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 197.

of the rational quantities of form and structure with the irrational qual-

ities of mood and transcendence. This mixture apparently did not disap-

pear with the passing of the classical age. On the contrary, Blom sees it

as a constituent characteristic of neo-Hellenic folk music. Such music,

he maintains, if it is viewed comprehensively,

may be said to contain, on the one hand, fundamental elements of the
ancient Greek art (modes and tonal systems) and, on the other, well-
pronounced features of the chromatic oriental music. These
elements are rather freely intermixed and, therefore, are to be found
everywhere; but generally speaking the diatonic (modal) element pre-
vails over the chromatic.
Out of 1,108 folksongs and dances from every part of Greece,
both continental and insular, as they appear in the principal collec-
tions, we find 691 in the ancient (diatonic) modes, i.e. 62 per cent.
of the whole are exclusively modal; 91 are purely chromatic (8 per
cent.), while 142 (13 per cent.) contain both elements, the diatonic
and the chromatic. The remaining 184 (17 per cent.) are in the two
modern modes, mostly in the major which is related to the ancient
Lydian mode. It may thus be said that about 60 per cent, of the
Greek folksongs are modal, about 20 per cent. chromatic (either ex-
clusively or with a chromatic influence) and 20 per cent. "western
European," in the sense of being in the two modern modes.106

The success with which the rational and intuitive aspects of

music were combined may well have been the stimulus that tempted Attic

musicians to experiment with the structure of the enharmonic genus, a cat-

egory which they regarded as typically Hellenic, although it has since

been shown that it, too, originated in the Orient. Prior to the fifth

century, at any rate, aulos players never permitted themselves to divide

the semitone of the enharmonic scale; however, in the latter part of the

fifth century, quarter-tones were employed not only by auletes but by

lyre-players. Moreover, the experimentation with variable intervals did

not confine itself to the enharmonic genus alone. It extended to the

diatonic (which could be formed according to either of two distributions

106Grove's Dictionary, p. 269.

of musical steps: 1-1-1/2 or 1 1/4-3/4-1/2) and to the chromatic (which

had three variants, schematically designated as follows: 1 1/2-1/2-1/2,

1 5/6-1/3-1/3, or 1 3/4-3/8-3/8).107 These microtonic intervals, known

by the rhetorical term chroai, or "colors," were abandoned in Hellenistic

times. During the period of their popularity, they nonetheless exhibited

the duality under consideration here. For example, while they could be

reproduced both by instruments and the human voice, they could not be

identified by the intellect. "Our contemporaries," lamented Plutarch, in

the second century A. D., "have thoroughly neglected the finest genus, to

which the ancients devoted all their eagerness. Most of them have lost

the discernment of enharmonic intervals."108

Finally, if the presence of folk rituals in a nation's culture

can be interpreted as a sign that the sophistication of reason has failed

to obliterate the significance of fundamental beliefs and mores, then it

is evident that the music which was so much a part of Athenian life evi-

denced a dualism in the realm of myth and ritual. This dualism explains,

in part, the binary character that music took in other areas. An example

cited by Wellescz will suffice to illustrate this duality. In the Frogs

Dionysus accuses Aeschylus of usurping folk melodies as a source of musi-

cal themes, by asking him, "Did you get those water-drawer's ditties from

Marathon, or where?" To this question Aeschylus replies that folk music

was sacred to the Muses and that he would not reap from the same "holy

meadow" that Phrynichus had used. But the truth of the matter, Wellesce

believes, is that

Aeschylus did, in fact, draw upon the same rustic hymnal. Its influ-
ence appears in the rhythmical refrains used at the end of strophic

107Harvard Dictionary, p. 143. 10Sachs, The Pise of Music, p. 207.

movements in some of his choruses. LAgamemnon 381-85.7 Echoes of
a more primitive music are audible to. In a chorus of Persian el-
ders bewailing the destruction of Xerxes' army, his mind goes back
to the dirge-cry for Bormus sung by serfs as they reaped the corn-
fields by the Black Seal at the end of two choric strophae of the
Agamemnon he recalls the "Ailinon" of the Linus-song sung by peasants
since Homeric times. CAgamenon 121; Persae 935-40. 7 Aristophanes
himself, at the end of a play, will often use the old wedding-cry
"Hymenaeus," or the tenellaa kallinike" of Archilochus, or some
country dance. Popular melody was still an ingredient in the subtle
and modern music of Euripides, though he drew it (so Aristophanes
alleges) not from pure and solemn rural chants, but from the dregs
of vulgar song--dirges, drinking-catches, dances fit for castanets:
in fact, the harmonies of low life which Plato rejected.109

In the light of the evidence presented in the preceding pages,

it is evident that the various aspects of Greek music exhibit a duality

which has never been adequately acknowledged. It is not surprising that,

with perhaps the single exception of educational music, this duality per-

vaded the whole of Greek music. After all, music, as Sachs observes, has

"little to do with the mutable surface of life, and nothing with the

struggle for existence. This is why music is one of the steadiest ele-

ments in the evolution of mankind. It is so steady that races of a rela-

tively high cultural level hold onto musical styles of an astonish-

ingly archaic character; indeed, of the most primitive character we know."110

The dualism which has been cited as a distinguishing character-

istic of Greek music is important not only as a means of correcting the

one-sided aspect of traditional scholarship but also as a positive aid

toward a fuller understanding of the aesthetic which influenced the de-

velopment of Greek theatrical forms. That there is a close relationship

between the structure of music and the physical conventions of the thea-

tre can best be demonstrated by an analysis of the spatial concepts which

109New Oxford Dictionary of Music, p. 392.
110ach, The Rise of p. 21.
Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 21.

were reflected in musical theory.

following chapter.

This task will be undertaken in the

Chapter 6


Margarete Bieber's discussion of the classical Greek theatre

stresses the fact that the theatron, or auditorium, was oriented about

the circular orchestra, or dancing-floor. In the course of her analysis,

she refers to Dorpfeld's reconstruction of the fifth century skene and or-

chestra in order to demonstrate a nuclear arrangement in which the thymele

and altar were located precisely at the center of the orchestra. Further-

more, she establishes an integral relationship between the centrality of

the orchestra and the activity of actors and chorus when she says,

One thing is absolutely sure: players and chorus appeared through
the whole of the classical period, at one and the same place, that
is, in the orchestral area. Almost all extant dramas and all the
comedies contain scenes in which the players and the chorus act to-
gether, sometimes even mingling freely, coming to close quarters,
or returning together.111

In other words, the activity of Attic drama centered primarily in the or-

chestra and revolved, in all probability, about the focal point of the


This nuclear-oriented activity in the drama is paralleled to an

astonishing degree by the theoretical structure of early Greek music.

More than in any other way, the parallel exists in the terms which were

used to designate the respective pitches in the diatonic scale, e.g.

nete (highest), mese (middle), and hypate (lowest). Thus, the very na-

ture of this scale system suggests an attempt to organize music in terms

111Margarete Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater,
p. 58.

of a theory of proportions in which pitches were discriminated according

to their nearness to or distance fro a predominating note, mese. Even-

tually, an eight-tone scale was produced in which the various degrees

were given the following names: note, paranete, trite, paraese, nese,

lichanos, parhypate, and hate. The fact that mese was regarded as the

fundamental note by which all others were determined appears indisputable

when one remembers that it served not only as the center of the Dorian

mode but of all the Greater Perfect System (Supra., p. 5). Sachs says of

this system,

It was perfect as a unique attempt to organize the musical space
from one center, a. The center stands in its original octave of
Dorian structure, e2-e, which by adding half an octave above and
half an octave below, is extended to two octaves al-A. This new
unit could be shifted both up and down by half an octave either
way and thus cover three octaves.112

Of course, it must be admitted that the Greater Perfect System did not at-

tain its final form until the fourth century B. C. Nevertheless, the pro-

cess of systematizing was well under way in the fifth century, and the

centrality of mese had been established long before that.

The centripetal force which mese exerted was reflected in the

structure of the pentads and heptads which were the forerunners of the

enharmonic and diatonic genera. It is known, for example, that the orig-

inal enharmonion was pentatonic, its tetrachords consisting of a major

third with an undivided semitone immediately below (e.g. dl-b -a, a-f-e).

Likewise, the earliest notes to be identified in the diatonon formed the

pentatonic sequence di-b-a, a-g-e, which led ultimately to the Dorian

heotad dl-cl-b-a, a-g-f-e. All of these sequences illustrate the tendency,

prior to the fifth century, of Greek musicians to conceive of melodic

112achs, The Rise of Music, p. 222.

structure in terms of a central, orienting point, mese. The same pre-

disposition toward a center of concentration is evident in the way in

which stringed instruments were tuned. Instrumentalists, Sachs believes,

always began their tuning from a middle string, a (mese), and from there

made their way to the outer strings by a series of minor thirds. The con-

sequences of such a practice were indeed unique. "Musical space, vague

and shapeless in our music, became a palpable reality in Greece. Each key

had its own center, to be sure; but also musical space as a whole had its

iumovable center which, being the pitch tone, was never neglected."113

At the same time, the reluctance with which new strings were

periodically added to the lyre and kithara suggests that the "number of

strings on an instrument may not always have been determined for specifi-

oally musical reasons."114 Indeed, Sachs refers to a Babylonian vase de-

picting two harps with five and seven strings respectively as evidence

that the ancients had an almost supernatural awe of certain numbers which

were believed to contain cosmological significance. To illustrate, "five"

was regarded as efficacious in alleviating suffering, and this belief may

have indirectly contributed to the perpetuation of the archaic pentad in

music long after the enharmonic genus, with its quarter-tones, had come

into use. The sanctity of this number may also have been impressed upon

the public consciousness by the fact that the enharmonic pentad was es-

pecially favored by players of the aulos, the instrument traditionally

associated with healing.115

Whatever the reason may have been for the number of strings on

a particular instrument, the central authority of the middle string was

11 bid., p. 234. 114Reese, p. 6. 115bid.

unquestionable. Such an emphasis undoubtedly was supported by the philo-

sophic thought of the sixth century B. C. The cosmology of Anaximander,

for example, taught that all things in heaven and on earth had their ori-

gin in a fertile nucleus located at the center of many concentric circles.

Likewise, the Pythagorean concept of the universe held that it was a wheel

or ring which exhibited the cosmic virtues of order, proportion, and beau-

ty. In the fifth century B. C., as the consequence of two sequential

forces, love and strife, Empedocles viewed the world cyclically. Love was

identified in terms of the compositional attributes of mass, and strife

distributed that mass in separate, concentric layers. The whole process

was believed to be spherical in nature, with earth at the center and fire

at the circumference.116

It is also quite likely that the Greek insistence on an absolute,

fixed center of musical space stemmed from the religious orientation of

classical art forms. Mircea Eliade contends that the establishing of a

point of reference is "a primary religious experience that precedes all

reflection on the world." It necessitates a break in the "homogeneity of

space" by means of a hierophany which reveals an absolute reality--a

sacred space--that is opposed to the nonreality of the surrounding space.

Thus, Eliade says, "the religious experience of the nonhomogeneity of

space is a primordial experience," equivalent to an ontological founding

of the world.

In the homogeneous and infinite expanse, in which no point of refer-
ence is possible and hence no orientation can be established, the
hierophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center.117

11(. C. K. Guthrie, The Greek Philosophers from Thales to
Aristotle, pp. 27, 37, 52.

17Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, pp. 20, 21.

The principal symbols by which the sacred center was made manifest were

the circle and the wheel. Their intimate relation to human destiny can

be inferred from the oracular wheels of prophecy which decorated the tem-

ple of Apollo at Delphi, from the currency of such idioms as "the wheel

of existence" and "the navel of the world," and from the prominence which

was given to circular forms in classical art and architecture.

In view of the prestige which was attached to the concept of

centrality in music, philosophy, and religious ritual, it is natural to

suppose that the image would also have found expression in the theatre.

Such a supposition, strengthened by the analogies which have been cited,

lends weight to Bieber's thesis concerning the central position of the al-

tar within the orchestral circle. In addition, it suggests that the altar

performed a function--at least, in those plays which emphasized the role

of the chorus--comparable to that of mese. It provided a unique point of

orientation for the action of the drama by reminding the spectators that,

after all else had been considered, the basic core of the drama was the

reenactment of the Dionysian cycle of birth, death, and regeneration. In

the early days of the drama, this ritual purpose was clearly evident in

the dithyrambic choir of perhaps fifty men and boys who danced in a circle

about a central figure (the aulos-player) and sang of the god's passion

in melodies which, since their main tonalities were close to the thetic

center a--right in the middle of musical space--were "mesoid."118 More-

over, it is more than probable that the circumference of the orchestral

circle was regarded by the theatre audience as an enclosure of sacred

space, a space made sacred by virtue of the altar which stood at its

11Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 267.

center and by the consecration to the god of the rites which were per-

formed within that circle.

As already mentioned, the concept of mese implied a fixed, ia-

mutable center, a stationary force at the middle of musical space. But

it has also been demonstrated that Greek music was dualistic in nature,

and it is to this dualism that Sachs refers when he says, "a note can be

mese by thesis, and lichanos by dynamis."119 The discussion thus far has

dealt with mese as a thetic concept; mese must now be considered as a dy-

namic concept, one that involves a relative, functional position in musi-

cal space. In order to appreciate this function, one must examine the

relationships which the various modal scales bear to one another. These

relationships can best be illustrated by the following sequence:

Dorian e f g (a) bed
Hypodorian a b (d) e f g
Phrygian de f (g) a b c
Hypophrygian gab (c) def
Lydian cd e (f) gab
Hypolydian f g a (b) c d e
Mixolydian b c d (e) f g a

The series above is based on the order in which the various modes would

be formed when their respective tetrachords are placed in conjunct posi-

tion. Although the same principle of progression would apply to disjunc-

tive arrangement, the mobility of mese would not be as readily apparent

as it is in this series of conjunctive heptads. Here the dynamic function

of mese is at once evident in the way in which the mese of one mode be-

comes the tonic of the successive mode; thus, a cyclical movement is es-

tablished in which mese progresses at the interval of a fourth until it

resumes its thetic position within the Dorian mode. In expressing the

119ah Our ical ra p. 32
Sachs, Our Musical Heritage, p. 32.

principle involved, one may paraphrase Sachs's statement by saying, "a

note can be meas by thesis, and hate by dynamics With this cyclical

evolution in mind, one can fully appreciate the weight of Sachs's obser-

vation (which was only partially quoted on page 61),

Musical space, vague and shapeless in our music, became a palpable
reality in Greece. Each key had its own center, to be sure; but also
musical space as a whole had its immovable center which, being the
pitch tone, was never neglected. As a result, every melody had two
foci L italics mine7 every note or group of notes gravitated toward
two different centers at once, toward the center of the individual
key and toward the center of the imnovable perfect system. The first
bearing was called dynamics or "mobile force," and the second, thesis
or "stationary force." A note changed its dynamis according to the
key; its thesis was immovable. .. The mobile and the stationary
functions coincided only in Dorian.120

While the modes were therefore centrally oriented, that orientation was

paradoxical in essence, gravitating at one and the same time toward the

dynamic and thetic centers. Moreover, this paradox was peculiar to the

classical age, for the concept of dynamics was unrecognized in preclassical

times, and thesis disintegrated in the Hellenistic period.121

The fact that the Greeks conceived of musical space in cyclical

form may be further demonstrated by the internal structure of the tetra-

chords in each mode and by the relationships which these tetrachords bear

to one another. One can best indicate the nature of these structural re-

lationships by showing in sequence the sizes of the intervals separating

the tones of each tetrachord. The same conjunctive series, then, distrib-

utes the intervals (in terms of "steps") in the following patterns:

Dorian 1/2-1-1, 1-1/2-1
Hypodorian 1-1/2-1, 1-1/2-1
Phrygian 1-1/2-1, 1-1-1/2
Hypophrygian 11-1/2, 1-1-1/2
Lydian 1-1-1/2, 1-1-1

120Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 234. 121bid., p. 251.

Hypolydian 1-1-1, 1/2-1-1
Mixolydian 1/2-1-1, 1/2-1-1
Dorian 1/2-1-1, Ete.

Before one can appreciate the cyclical progression inherent in this schema,

he must take note of certain considerations. (1) The second tetrachord of

the primary modes--Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian--establishes a pattern

which is immediately repeated in both tetrachords of the secondary modes

following them. (2) This repetition occurs in every case, with one ex-

ception--the Hypolydian. (3) The Hypolydian, instead of retaining the

form of its first tetrachord, assumes a primary function by initiating a

new pattern in its second tetrachord. (4) The new pattern is then duti-

fully assumed by both tetrachords of the ensuing Mixolydian, and in this

way the cyclical process is both terminated and begun again. The devia-

tion in the Hypolydian mode may perhaps be explained by the fact that the

dynamic interval from pate (f) to mese (b) is not the perfect fourth

which is found in the first tetrachord of every other mode in the series;

it is an augmented fourth. Consequently, if the augmented fourth were to

be retained as the pattern for the Mixolydian, the resulting process

would be circular in form rather than cyclical. The fact that such a re-

sult did not occur suggests that the aberration in the Hypolydian mode is

a contrived departure recognized as necessary for the perpetuation of the

cyclical arrangement of musical space.

The foregoing analyses of the concept of mese have identified

the Creek modes in terms of an orientation which was essentially nuclear

and a movement which was primarily cyclical. In assuming and maintaining

such forms, classical music established norms which Aristoxenus later up-

held as being the foremost ingredients of melody; that is, aids were pro-

vided whereby one could follow the "process of a melody" with both the

ear and the intellect. In such a process, Aristoxenus said, "the ear

detects the magnitudes of the intervals as they follow one another, and

the intellect contemplates the functions of the notes in the system to

which they belong."122 Perhaps it was his awareness of the dualistic na-

ture and cyclical form of the ancient melodies that led him to an obser-

vation about music that applies just as appropriately to the nature of

the Greek theatre. The perception of music, he claimed, "implies the si-

multaneous cognition of a permanent and of a changeable element, and .

this applies without limitation or qualification to every branch of

muic .123

By transferring the concepts of thesis and dynais to the thea-

tre, one is equally impressed by a similar element of permanence and

change. The thetic element in Greek tragedy is, as previously stated,

the reenactment of the Dionysian myth. It was for this purpose that the

Athenian citizens flocked to the City Dionysia. It was to remind the

people of the sacramental nature of the celebration that the altar stood

in the center of the orchestra. Yet, one must concede that, with the in-

troduction of the individual actor, the element of thesis began to recede

in favor of a more dynamic center of emphasis. The action of the drama,

accordingly, suffered a shift in focus so that, rather than centering on

the passion of the god per se, it concentrated on the functional figure

of the tragic hero and on the cycle which was inherent in the stories of

Oedipus, Agamemnon, Medea, and so forth. In a sense, then, one might

say that, with the appearance of each successive tragic figure, the dra-

matic imitation was providing itself with a new, dynamic mese which

22Aristoxenus, Cf. Macran's notes, p. 269. 123id., pp. 189-90.


accelerated the cyclical action of the particular nzth. Nevertheless,

there was always an immutable undercurrent of thesis in the symbolic

activities of the chorus, who again and again brought the Athenian audi-

ence back to the ritualistic core of the dramatic event.


Chapter 7


Our modern divergence from the Greek attitude toward life and

art is nowhere more evident than in our understanding of the nature of

music. To the Greek of the fifth century before Christ, the term mousike

included in its scope melody, rhythm, dance, and poetry, and only he who

was highly skilled in each of these areas was fit to be called a "musical

man" (aner mousikes). While our conception of music freely admits such

principal categories as melody, harmony, and rhythm, it relegates to sec-

ondary or subsidiary levels the arts of dance and poetry. Dance, it is

grudgingly conceded, has certain affinities to musical form, and, perhaps

for this reason, it is possible for the layman to include dance within

his concept of music. Poetry, however, is by no means allowed such a con-

cession. Instead, it is regarded as an exclusively literary art, and its

association with music is at best only an incidental one. Consequently,

even though we speak of the lyric qualities of certain types of poetry,

the criteria by which we attempt to adjudge that lyricism are exclusively

literary in nature, with one exception--meter.

If we are to try to assess the relationship of Greek music to

the aesthetic of the classical theatre, we must, for the sake of objec-

tivity, conduct our examination from the modern point of view and include

in our discussion only those elements of poetry which are definitely al-

lied with musical form. Meter, although associated with the sound and


sense of words, is at the same time intimately related to the regularly

recurring impulses of rhythm and is thus a legitimate topic of investi-


Citing a relationship between rhythm and meter, however, is not

the same thing as saying that the two are identical; nor is it an asser-

tion that the former proceeds from the latter. Indeed, if Aristotle is

to be taken at his word, it would seem that just the opposite is the case,

for in the Poetics he says, "it is natural for us to take pleasure in ai-

metic representation as well as in harmony and rhythm; for metres are

clearly species of rhythms."124 On the basis of this passage, then, Aris-

totle evidently felt that meter was subservient to rhythm. His view

lends weight to the argument presented in Chapter 3 ("The Literary Bias"),

which holds that Greek music was not exclusively oriented to the spoken

text either for its melodic line or its rhythmic foundation. Dale, in

her discussion of Greek lyric meters, has also pointed out that in dra-

matic lyrics the phrase units were often determined by a rhythm which op-

erated independently of meter.125

In order to understand how it was possible for the separate en-

tities of rhythm and meter to be integrated into an artistic whole, one

has merely to examine a fragment of Greek music dating from the early

Graeco-Roman period, namely, the "Skolion" of Seikilos. (Cf. Fig. 3,

p. 38, supra.) Throughout this fragment Sachs has discerned the use of

rhythmical symbols. Such a practice is a declaration in effect that the

melody of the song is independent of the meter of the poem. In other

124Aristotle, The Poetics 1448b.20-22; in Warry, pp. 100-101.

125Dale, p. 13.

words, a metrically irregular text has been adapted to a symmetrical,

possibly preexistent melody with the result that the "time" of the piece

can best be expressed not by the invariable regularity of the metronome

but by a rhythmically flexible unit known as "three" time. According to

Sachs, the asymmetrical combination of meter with time, indicated by the

composer by the addition of certain signs (i.e. equaled two units of

time, L- represented three units, L-i four, and LA- five), suggests that

the poetic meters were being ignored. Had they been observed, there would

have been no need of signs denoting length.126

Another indication of the independence of rhythm from meter is,

as Sachs so carefully demonstrates, the use of geometric signs for musical

rests. In his opinion, the importance of signs indicating rests cannot

be overestimated, for

there were no rests in poetry or verse-ruled melody. A verse might
have a caesura; but it was a mere breath to emphasize the incision.
A relaxing silence might separate the verses; but the disconnection
was irrational and not counted in: meter ran from the first to the
last syllable of a verse; the following vacuum was metric, indeed,
antimetric. A musical rest, on the contrary, was rational and
counted in as a part of the measure; though inaudible it was felt
to obey a beat and to hold the listener's attention.127

Unfortunately, the distinction between rhythm and meter was not

preserved by the Alexandrian theoreticians, those who felt called upon to

continue the classical tradition. These men were unfamiliar with the

poet-musician of antiquity; they themselves were neither musicians nor

poets but grammarians. Strictly metricistic in orientation and exclu-

sively concerned with philology and speech enunciation, they roared little

about the principles by which poetry had been bound to music and the dance;

instead, they gave their primary attention to such matters as "the

126Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 264. 127bid., p. 265.

measuring of syllables."128 The result of their efforts is the mistaken

notion, deriving from the late Hellenistic period, that the melodies of

ancient Greece were dominated by the pitch accent of speech, and that

rhythm was determined by the meters of poetry. The logical consequence

of such an emphasis was, of course, a deliberate imitation on the part of

composers living around the time of the Second Sophistic (ca. 100 B. C.

to 200 A. D.) of what they believed to be archaic styles of melody and

rhythm. The "Hymn to the Sun" of Mesomedes, dating from the second cen-

tury A. D., is an excellent example of such imitation.

Fig. 4. The Hymn to the Sun by Mesomedes129

One is at once struck by the extremely metrical rhythm of this fragment.

It is almost entirely anapaestic throughout and shows a marked accommoda-

tion of not only rhythm but even of melody to meter. Of the two frag-

ments in question, it is significant that the "Skolion," the one nearest

in time to classical Greece, is the one in which there is the most evi-

dent divergence between the rhythm of the melody and the meters of the

verse. Such evidence may lend support to Plutarch's claim that the rhy-

thms of Hellenic music formed a complex patchwork which eventually gave

way to conventional patterns in deference to melodic experimentation.

Plutarch even designated the older composers as "rhythmophiles" while he

128Lang, p. 9; Cf. Sachs, Rhythm and Tempo, p. 145.

129reproduced from Sachs, Rhythm and Tempo, p. 139.

referred to the later ones as "melophiles."130

While these two examples illustrate certain aspects of rhythm--

the "Skolion" expressing the numerical and the "Hymn to the Sun" the

purely metrical--they also suggest two distinct categories of rhythm

which were certainly known to ancient Greece and must therefore be ac-

counted for. These may be respectively identified as "additive" and

"binary" rhythms.

The terms "additive" and "binary" are employed by musicologists

as tools of analysis. With respect to rhythm, they apply more to units

of time than to metrical beats, although they are also concerned with the

distribution of metrical patterns. The terminology used by both ancients

and moderns is often ambiguous and misleading, and one frequently is ex-

asperated at the use of poetic terms to convey musico-rhythmic concepts.

Sachs feels, however, that such confusion is inevitable, for

both poetry and music offer a contradictory rhythmical picture. As
essential parts of orchestics, they were inseparably connected with
the stride of man; but as basically metrical structures, they were
"breathing" rather than "striding." As a consequence, one half of
the meters were divisive and binary, and the other half, additive
and measured by an odd number of beats.131

The units of time by which rhythms were classified were determined ac-

cording to the quantitative principle; i.e. they were identified in both

poetry and music as long syllables or notes among short ones rather than

as strong beats among weaker ones, although it has never been convinc-

ingly demonstrated that stress was unimportant in Greek music. The basic

unit on which the quantitative principle rested was the "brevis" or short

note. For the Greeks it represented a chronos protos, a "first time" or

130Sachs, The Wellsprings of Music, p. 120.

131Sachs, Rhythm and Tempo, pp. 142-43.

elemental musical atom "which could not be divided by either a syllable

or a note or a gesture."132 In this qualification we can see once more

that the rhythm of poetry was closely bound up with that of the dance and

mime. The long syllable or note was later given the name longaa," and

even though it was theoretically equivalent to two brevess," in practice

it was often given a time value of from two to four times the length of

the chronos protos, depending on its use in prosody, marching, or the


From the manner in which the "longae" and brevess" combined, it

is possible to ascertain both the various metrical systems of poetry and

the rhythmical patterns of music. Aristoxenus tells us that such combin-

ations were effected by means of ratios between the accented and unac-

cented parts of a rhythmic foot or by "an irrational relation such as

lies midway between two ratios familiar to sense."134 By "irrational"

he presumably had in mind a time-length which, although it was capable of

being produced mathematically, could not be introduced into rhythmical

composition. Sachs agrees with Aristoxenus in regard to the division of

each foot into two equal or unequal phases and notes that feet could be

classified in one of four groups. The ratios represented by these groups

were as follows: 1:1 (isa or "equals"), 2:1 (diplasia or "doubles"),

3t2 (hemiolia or "increased by one and a half"), and 4:3 (epitrita or

"increased by four-thirds"). These rhythmic ratios make it clear, Sachs

believes, that the Greeks found an essential correspondence between rhy-

thm and melody, for the ratios just given coincide exactly with the

132Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 260.
133Sachs, Rhythm and Tempo, pp. 119-20.
SAristoxenus, Elements of Rhythm, p. 4131 cited by Macran in
Aristoxenus, p. 239.

harmonic ratios of the unison, octave, fifth, and fourth.135

Even though it has not been universally accepted, it is quite

likely that Sachs's categorizing of both poetic meters and their rhyth-

mic equivalents is the most reliable system presently available to schol-

ars.136 The following arrangement is an attempt to classify the system

generically, according to the binary or additive nature of its respective


I. Binary Rhythms
A. Isa ("equals" or dactylic feet) Time
1. Prokeleusmatikos or Pyrrhichios 2
2. Prokeleusmatikos (doubled) 4/8
3. Anapaistos (the modern dactyl) J 2/4
4. Anapaistos J 2/4
5. Spondeios 2 I 2/4
6. Spondeios (doubled) d o 2/2
B. Diplasia ("doubles" or iambic feet)
1. Iambos 3/8
2. Trochaios 3/8
3. Orthios o 3/2
4. Trochaios Semantos o 3/2

II. Additive Rhythms
A. Hemiolia (paeonic feet or five-beat measures)
1. Paion diagyros ("bent paion") 5/8
2. Paion epibatos ("climbing paion") d c 5/4
B. Epitrita (seven-beat measures)
These rhythms, in which one part of the measure stood to
the other as four-to-three or three-to-four, were relinquished
not long after Aristoxenus' death.137

A word of explanation must be given to account for the listing of diplasia

under the binary heading. Since their ratios are indicated by 1:2 in the

case of the iamb and 2:1 in that of the trochee, these meters would seem

to correspond to modern, three-beat measure and would ordinarily be con-

sidered additive. Further investigation, however, discloses that, perhaps

135Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 260.

136Cf. Dale, p. 47, for exceptions to Sachs's categories.

13Sachs, The Rise of Music, pp. 260-61.

because they were so frequently used in marching and dance rhythms, later

iambs, trochees, and anapaests existed only in pairs and not as individual

feet. Indeed, Horace said, "the long syllable preceded by a short is

called an iambus--a rapidly moving foot: its swiftness fixed the name of

iambic trimeter upon verse which has six beats and is without variation

first or last."138 Moreover, Dale, who probably would be reluctant to

concede that iambics and trochaics are essentially binary in character,

admits that both lend themselves to vigorous dancing and that in the lyr-

ics of comedy "the overwhelming majority of cola are Ctrochaic_ dimeters

or compounds of dimeters."i39

While little information has come down to us concerning the an-

cient epitrita, their use in neo-Hellenic folk music is most conspicuous.

Blom has gone so far as to say, in fact, that "seven-part (7/8, 7/4) time

is the Greek national time par excellence." He further alleges that the

average Greek feels as comfortable in this rhythm as the ordinary western

European does in 2/4 time. In folk song and dance, he points out, the

measure is usually subdivided into 3 + 2 + 2 beats, with metrical accents

occurring on the first and fourth beats; but a contrary arrangement is

also possible.140 Such evidence is often dismissed because of the gap

which exists at the present time between art music on the one hand and

folk music on the other. Such a breach was unknown in ancient Greece,

and it is therefore quite possible that neo-Hellenic folk music preserves

many of the features which were characteristic of classical Greece.

138The Great Critics, Eds. J. H. Smith and E. W. Parks, p. 121.

139Dale, p. 86.
140ove's Dictionay, p 24
Grove's Dictionary, p. 274.

The four categories, isa, diplasia, hemiolia, and epitrita,

were fundamental to rhythm and meter. They provided the framework with-

in which rhythmic patterns could be formulated, and composers did not go

beyond their limits. An explanation by Sachs will suffice to show both

the limitations and the possibilities of such a system.

A series of ten beats, the Greeks said, could not be rhythmically
divided into one plus nine, or two plus eight, or three plus seven
beats. Four plus six, on the contrary, would be admissible as
hemiolia in the ratio 2:3, and also five plus five, as isa in the
ratio 1it. Three plus seven beats were acceptable by cleaving the
seven into three and four, so that the ten beats could be organized
into three plus three plus four in all permutations. Not only per-
mutation was conceded; two or more beats could be drawn together in
order to form longer notes.141

Besides dividing rhythmic feet into two equal or unequal phases,

Aristoxenus added another important qualification, namely, that the

lengths of the feet should vary in response to the general rate of move-

ment. This variance should occur, he maintained, without any alteration

in the characteristic proportion by which each type of rhythm was recog-


And while the magnitudes are constant, the quality of the feet under-
goes a change; and the same magnitude serves as a foot, and as a com-
bination of feet. And in general, while rhythmical composition
employs a rich variety of movements, the movements of the feet by
which we note the rhythms are always simple and the same.142

Thus, if a crotchet or quarter note is used as the fundamental time unit,

a dactylic foot might be rendered in several different ways: as oJ c ,

as c- 1 9, or as c In these three examples the dactylic char-

acter is retained in the isometric ratio of the first phase to the second.

The lengths of the feet, on the other hand, vary because of a difference

141Sachs, The Rise of Music, pp. 263-64.
142Aristoxenus, p. 190.
Ariutoxenus, p. 190.


in the rate of movement from one example to another.143

When speaking of the relationship of one part of a rhythmic

foot to another, one almost always becomes involved in questions of quan-

tity versus quality or, to use the traditional terms of the controversy

over classical rhythms, length versus stress. It is to this subject that

the ensuing chapter is devoted.

1431bid., Cf. Macran's notes, p. 260.

Chapter 8


The question of whether Greek music knew stress, in the west-

ern European understanding of that term, has by no means been settled.

Controversy over the matter has been kept alive by those who insist on

confusing the quantitative basis of meter with the qualitative nature

of rhythm and also by their failure to account for the tremendous impact

which the dance has had upon rhythm down through the ages. The issue is

further obscured by the argument which holds that occidental ears cannot

possibly appreciate, or even hear, purely quantitative rhythms.144 Ap-

parently, no one has ever raised the question of whether there is such a

thing as a "purely quantitative rhythm." In theory, such a phenomenon

would in all likelihood be construed to be a measure of time which is

based solely on the length and quantity of syllables or sounds. But if

such a theory were valid, then there could be no distinction between me-

ter and rhythm, and the rhythm of any piece could be determined exclu-

sively in terms of a metronomic distribution of counts. The belief that

such a determination is possible is reflected in the statement by at

least one author that "no real distinction can be drawn between the rhy-

thms of Greek music and the metres of Greek poetry."145

Evidently, however, the hypothesis of a purely quantitative

rhythm is not maintained without some reservations, for Dale, one of its

144Dale, p. 4. 145Grove's Dictionary, p. 771.

foremost advocates, admits at the same time that there is a "duality in-

herent in all rhythm--motion and rest, sound and stillness, up and down,

left, right, loud and soft, quick and slow," and that even within a met-

rioal foot "there must be some kind of alternation or swing to make its

rhythm perceptible."146 Moreover, she grants to spoken verse a "pitch-

accent" which was distinguishable from the purely quantitative meter and

says that no regular relation between the two is predictable.

Warry holds a view of rhythm which admits the possibility of

qualitative differences and also furthers the idea of an inherent dual-

ity. This view he proffers as being close to Aristotle's understanding

of the concept. He suggests that when we give our attention to the meta-

phor which infuses the word rhythms, "the full range of its meaning be-

comes apparent."

Rhythm means "flow" and is derived from the verb which means "to
flow.". Shroder considers a fragment of Archilochus in which
the human soul is represented as storm-tossed amid the billows of
varying fortune. There is here a clear analogy between the rhythm
of human life and that of the waves. Yet rhythm is not simply a
question of rise and fall but also of current and direction. In
Greek, the word sometimes seems to be applied simply to the rise
and fall of the waves of the sea, but the truth is that the Greeks
regarded the Ocean as a river, and the Bosphorus was similarly re-
garded. When Greek poets refer to the "flow" of these seas, they
are thinking not only of undulation but of current, and the Greek
idea of rhythm is one of current combined with alternation, of con-
tinuity with vicissitude. (Italics mine.)14T

The idea of current at once implies the presence of some kind of pulsa-

tion, and pulsation in turn requires an alternating and recurring pattern

of stress and release. This necessity raises a serious question in re-

gard to Blom's observation that although stress was undoubtedly present

in the performance of Greek music, it cannot be regarded as necessary,

and "still less can it be assumed that stresses were equidistant."148

146 147
Dale, p. 201. Warry, pp. 114-15.
148Gves Dictionar 771.
Grove's Dictionary, p. 771.

For it is obvious from the context that Blom has failed to discriminate

between the constituents of rhythm and those of meter. For a proper un-

derstanding, then, of the part which stress may have played in Greek mu-

sic, we must avoid confusing the metricality of Greek poetry with the

rhythmic alternation of the music to which that poetry was often set. It

is apparent, of course, that a recurring pattern of strong and weak beats

would have been fundamental to instrumental rhythms; Sachs, however, be-

lieves that it is rather unlikely that Greek vocal practice was ever able

or willing to ignore rhythmic factors in its meters, for, he declares,

Even in poetry the metrical unit was called a verse foot, which like
all metaphors must originally have been a reality: the Greek, ac-
customed to conceive poetry, melody, and the dance in its widest
sense as one mousike, cannot have forbidden his body and its time
rhythm to interfere with meter.149

Because rhythmic considerations may have interfered with exclu-

sively metrical ones (as they certainly did in the later "Skolion"),

Sachs applies the theory of rhythmic alternation to the verse foot itself

and divides each verse foot into two sections, one of which was given a

strong and the other, a weaker weight. His examination of the extant

manuscripts has convinced him that, with the possible exception of iambs,

the longg" was stressed wherever it stood in the foot. He further as-

serts that ancient notation often indicates the need for stress by a sin-

gle dot (stigam) above the note and, occasionally, a double dot, which

may have called for a stronger accent.150 The respective terms which were

attached to the two sections of the verse foot were arsis (for the weaker)

and basis (Aristoxenus' term) or thesis (for the stronger). In contem-

porary terminology these would designate the upbeat and downbeat of the

149Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 263.

150Sacha, Rhythm and Tempo, pp. 128, 132, 141.

conductor's baton. That these terms indicated the presence of more than

a merely quantitative difference between the two sections of a poetic

foot, and that they often were used to denote stress or accent, is sug-

gested by the references which have come down to us from the Greeks and

Romans. One needs to be reminded that they thought of thesis as psophos

(noise), krotos (rap) and percussion (from the Latin, "to strike"), and

of arsis as ano (up) and eremia (silence).151 In addition, the diversi-

fied instrumentation mentioned by Athenaeus--drums, bull-roarers, cymbals,

triangles, pectides, and magades--testifies to a rhythm indisputably con-

cerned with the percussive effects of striking, thrumming, and twanging.152

But the most impressive evidence, by far, which clarifies the

function of arsis and thesis comes by way of two Greek lexicographers,

Pollux and Hesychius, both of whom speak of a wooden sandal called a

kroupalon. This sandal, Sachs claims, was thick enough to allow for two

boards, with castanets between them, to be hinged at the heel in such a

way that a stamping of the foot would bring them together in a sharp,

cracking sound. Thus, "the contrast between the noisy down beat or thesis

and the noiseless arsis of lifting was so strong that a 'qualita-

tive' discrimination was inevitable."153 The pseudo-Aristotelian De Mundo

speaks perhaps to this point when it says that the chorus leader "gives

the signal to begin,"154 and the Problems observes that it is up to the

leader to keep the chorus together.155 It may have been with such

15Ibid., pp. 128, 141. 152Athenaeus, pp. 431-33.

153Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 263.
154De Mundo VI.399a.16, Tr. E. S. Forster.

155Problemata XIX.919a.

precedents before him that Pollux connected the stamping of the kroupalon

with the function of the coryphaeus, saying, "and he struck the wooden

sandal which produced the keynote of the chorus."156 The theory, at any

rate, is upheld by Egon Wellesz, who believes that such a relationship

can be dated as far back as the Homeric period when strolling bards per-

formed the role later assumed by the coryphaeus. In that early age, he

writes, when speech may have indicated the intonation for song,

the beat of the dancing foot (sometimes marked by castanets) ex-
pressed the rhythm. The bard advances into a dancing-ground (chorus
or orchestra) and the youths dance time to his song. If a dance is
performed without song there is no music either: the rhythm
is conducted by the hand-claps of the spectators.157

Pickard-Cambridge, on the other hand, is loath to associate the kroupalon

with the coryphaeus; he connects it instead with the aulos-player, per-

haps as a result of his reluctance to admit that stressed rhythms were

essential to Greek choral music, and that if they were indeed present at

times, it was more in the nature of an intrusion than by way of planned

participation. His very language unintentionally reveals such a reserva-

tion when he says,

To lead the singing the first note (endosimon) was given not by an
instrument but by the coryphaeus, though it is to be feared that the
start was sometimes assisted by the flute-player, not with his in-
strument only but with a wooden shoe (kroupela) which he wore for
the purpose.158

At any rate, whether it was the coryphaeus or the aulete who wore the

kroupalon, its use in choral music makes it almost certain that the terms

arsis and thesis pertained to stress and that accent was known

Julius Pollux, Onomastikon VII.87; cited in Pickard-Cambridge,
p. 267.

157New Oxford History of Music, Vol. I, pp. 377-78.

158Pickard-Cabridge, p. 267.

to classical Greece.

The problem to be resolved, then, is whether or not, in the

face of documentation indicating that stress and accent were known fac-

tors in Greek music, it is reasonable to accept the "brevis" as the pri-

mary time unit of rhythm. As stated in the preceding chapter, the "brevis"

was the chronos protos of the quantitative principle, a principle almost

exclusively pertinent to metrical systems. But once it has been estab-

lished that rhythm demands something in addition to quantity or length,

i.e. that it is qualitative as well as durative, then a revaluation of

elemental units becomes essential. In this regard, Sachs observes that,

above all,

any beat rhythm leads straightway to conceiving the beat itself as
the time unit or chronos protos; to uniting two, three, or more of
these units in groups of measures; and to subdividing these mea-
sures in entire freedom, without sticking to poetic meters, by sim-
ply following those ratios that man's ear accepted as rhythmical.159

The foregoing chapter listed certain categories of time which

were regarded by the Greeks as fundamental to both rhythm and meter, name-

ly, isa, diplasia, hemiolia, and epitrita. It is time now to reconsider

those categories, keeping in mind that our interest in them is no longer

with metrical ratios but with rhythmic ratios which illustrate definite

patterns of arsis and thesis. In each of the feet which have been in-

cluded in the last three categories, the shorter beat is the arsis or up-

beat; in the first category the two short beats of dactyls and anapaests

are arses; the first beats of prooeleusmatics and spondees, on the con-

trary, are theses or downbeats. Arsis and thesW, however, by no means

applied solely to single feet; they were also involved with complex

159Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 263.

combinations of feet known as dipodies, tripodies, and tetrapodies. Using
an eighth note as the unit of time, Sachs has provided us with the follow-
ing examples of such combinations:160
1. Dipody a two-foot unit of time (in this case, consisting of
nine beats, the arsis comprising the first four and the thesis the
last five) with th following notations

2. Bakchios: a two-foot unit comprised of trochees and iambas

J JJ 3+3or J J r
(arsis-thesis) 8 (thesis-arsis) 8
3. Tripody: a three-foot combination, as, for example, a pyrrhic,
an iamb, and a trochee:

n j2+ +3
(thesis-arsis-thesis) 8
4. Tetrapody: a combination of four feet, such as an iamb, a
pyrrhic, another iamb, and a trochee:

JJ n j j 3+2+3+3
(arsis-thesis-arsis-thesis) 8

For a proper understanding of these rhythms, it is essential
to realize that arsis and thesis apply only to the entering note. In
other words, accent per se is no longer relevant once the note has sound-
ed, regardless of the number of beats which make up the foot. In binary
rhythms this principle is unconsciously assumed and taken for granted,
and it is not until we enter the realm of additive rhythms that the prin-
ciple suddenly becomes conspicuous. Indeed, Sachs feels that in the
"strict indivisibility of the sounding note we have probably the most

60Ibid., pp. 261-62.

essential contrast to divisive Lbinary_7 rhythms No beat can in-

terfere with the pattern; no beat can be heard, seen, or even felt while

a note is still sounding."161

To say, therefore, that fifth century Greece knew accent and

stress, and that in choral music the chronos protos must have been the

beat rather than the metrical "brevis" is not to allege that the length

of the sounding unit had no part to play in rhythm. As a matter of fact,

it was the subtle blending of accentual force with additive patterns that

made the rhythm of classical Greece distinctively artistic. The truth of

this statement emerges at once when one learns that the tripodies and

tetrapodies previously illustrated were not regarded as being too complex

for ordinary usage or as being specifically intended for professional

dancers. Instead, as Sachs demonstrates, they were freely used in "pro-

sodiakoi or marching rhythms for solemn processions, which in our civili-

zation are reduced to poor 4/4 beats--left, right, left, right."162 The

association of complex rhythmic patterns with such a commonplace pastime

as marching is an eloquent witness to the richness of classical culture,

a culture in which the arts were finely integrated and mousike achieved

its highest expression as a fusion of poetic speech, intricate melody,

subtle rhythm, and athletic dance movements. Athenaeus reflects a senti-

ment that had persisted from the classical epoch to the early centuries

of the Christian era when he says, "the best varieties of lyric poetry

are those which are danced."163 For Plato had said, perhaps half a mil-

lenium before Athenaeus, "he who best blends gymnastics with music and

6Sachs, Rhythm and Tempo, p. 131.

6Sachs, The Rise of Music, p. 262. 163Athenaeus, pp. 407-408.


applies them most suitably to the soul is the man whom we should most

rightly pronounce to be the most perfect and harmonious musician, far

rather than the one who brings the strings into unison with one an-

other."14 The subsequent chapter will study more closely the classical

interrelationship between music and the dance.

164Plato, The Republic III.412, Tr. Paul Shorey.

Chapter 9


Of all the arts the dance is perhaps the oldest, for it origi-

nated as soon as man gave vent to his emotions by swaying his body and

beating his feet. In extant primitive cultures the dance inheres in ev-

ery aspect of life--birth, death, courtship, marriage, battle, corona-

tion, and worship. In regard to classical Greece, however, modern schol-

arship is handicapped by a serious lack of explicit records pertaining to

sequences of step, movement, and pantomime. Yet, it would appear reason-

able to assume that in Greece, as in other countries and cultures, the

dance obtained a profusion of forms which were capable of being classi-

fied in terms of physical relationship, bodily movement, levels of ab-

straction, ritualistic function, thematic content, and motif. Scholars

must content themselves with mythological derivations of the dance, the

literary descriptions of it which are contained in classical and early

Christian sources, and remnants of the ancient dance which may still ex-

ist in the folk dances of modern Greece. The balance of our attempts to

assess the role which the dance played in classical culture must be based

on the few inferences which can be drawn from the principles set forth

in the previous chapter as being fundamental to Greek rhythms.

As far as the mythological derivations of the dance are con-

cerned, classical Creece reflected the oriental belief that the dance

was one of the primordial elements in the creation of life itself.

Hinduism, for example, claimed that the gods who had created the cosmos

were themselves created by the dance. Siva, in his dualistic role of

destruction and restoration, was often referred to as "Lord of the Dance."

In much the same sense the Athenaeum speaks of "Apollo the Dancer," and

the Declamations of Himerius quote Simonides (ca. sixth century B. C.) as

saying, "a dance is ever dear to the Muses, but when they espy Apollo

about to lead a round, then more than ever they put forth their best in

music and send down Helicon an all-harmonious sound."165 Indeed, legend

held that the cosmos itself moved in a definite rhythm, and to join in

the dance was therefore to ally oneself with the "soul of the universe."

Damon of Athens, the teacher of Socrates, echoed this credo when he

claimed that song and dance resulted from the mortal soul's being in a

kind of motion, and that a causal relationship existed between a noble

and beautiful soul and a modest and dignified bearing.166

Insofar as literary definitions or descriptions of the dance

are concerned, they can be discovered in the writings of late antiquity

and the early Christian era. These are, for the most part, unsatisfying.

About the most that can be hoped for is the mention of certain dances and

their assignment to an appropriate category. Granting that this categor-

izing has been fairly accurate, certain assumptions may be made with re-

spect to the influence which the dance exerted on the music of the fifth

century B. C. and, possibly, to the reciprocal effects which music may

have had on the dance.

The classification of the various dances which are mentioned in

ancient sources has been enormously accelerated by the extensive research

16Lfyra Graeca Vol. II, p. 277. 166Athenaeus, pp. 387-88.

of Curt Sachs, in his time probably the world's foremost historian of the

dance. His World History of the Dance demonstrates that there are first

of all two main categories by which all dances may be identified--the non-

harmonic and the enharmonic. Nonharmonic dances are those purely convul-

sive performances which entail wild paroxysms of the body, loss of indi-

vidual will, and often a complete lack of consciousness. The experience

of the dancer, then, is not one of joy but of suffering. Convulsive danc-

es, Sachs observes, are characteristic of shaman cultures; they occur

where magic and religion are under the control of a witch-doctor or medi-

cine man. Religious expression and cult experiences in such an environ-

ment are viewed as largely the product of hypnosis. On first acquaintance

with this category of dance, one tends to dismiss it as inimical to the

spirit of classical Greek culture. There will be cause later, however,

to consider the nonharmonic dance in connection with the fifth century

theatre. At the other extreme from the convulsive dance is the enhar-

monic. It, too, involves exhilaration and ecstasy, but, rather than a-

chieving these ends through the mortification of the flesh, enharmonious

dances secure them by exalting the flesh, by releasing it from gravity

through bodily motions that are forward and upward. Dances "in harmony"

with the body are also distinguished from nonharmonious dances by move-

ments which are strongly attached to bodily functions. These movements

may in turn be classified as either expanded and open or centralized and


Expanded movement is deeply imbedded in vigorous motor reac-

tions; it involves a type of activity which seems almost to defy the law

of gravity in its varied leaps and lifts. It also intensifies the rhyth-

mic beat by means of slapping, striding, kicking, skipping, and lunging

which are designed to release excessive energy through a rapid alterna-

tion of tension and relaxation, contraction and expansion. Close move-

ment, on the other hand, requires the dancer to maintain a fixed center

of motion and a suspended kind of expression that is rigidly confined to

a limited range of movement, as, for example, sitting, swaying, swinging,

and whirling. Rhythm in close movement is very carefully measured and

symmetrical, and while contributing to and facilitating ecstasy, it never-

theless suggests the feminine graces of quietness, stability, and


Enharmonic dances may be classified again according to their

respective level of abstraction. This classification seeks to identify

each type of dance by its fundamental design or purpose. With this stan-

dard in mind, we can designate two distinct extremes in the enharmonic

category--the "image" or mimetic and the imagelesss" or abstract dances.

Between these polar extremes is an ambiguous middle ground which can best

be described as "mixed."

Image dances adhere rigidly to natural, pantomimic forms as a

means of anticipating an event, dramatizing a desired or necessary end,

and thus forcing a compliance with that end. They are found chiefly in

patriarchal cultures and employ movements that are extrovert and open,

bound to the body, sensory, and given to primarily empirical purposes.

Clearly, these were the dances Plutarch must have had in mind when he re-

ferred to the dance as "a silent poetry" and to poetry as "a speaking

dance," for, he continued,

it would appear that, as if it were a matter of painting, the poems
themselves are like the colours, and the dances to which they belong

6Sachs, World History of the Dance, Cf. Chapter 1; henceforth re-
ferred to as World History.

like the outlines which the colours fill. And the poet who is
thought to have done his best and most expressive work in the Hypor-
cheme or Dance-Song proves that the two arts (of dancing and poetry)
stand in need of one another; compare:
"Come pursue the curving course of the tune,
and imitate with foot a-whirl in the contest
unapproachable horse or Amyclean hound."168

Athenaeus also tells us that ancient Greek poets composed dance-figures

as well as melodies for their poetry, "and they used the dance-figures

only to illustrate the theme of the songs hence they termed such

performances hyporchemes" (dances which were accompanied by pantomime or

were subordinate to song, as indicated by the prefix "hyp--").169

Imageless dances differ from mimetic ones in that they are con-

cerned not so much with concrete events and empirical ends as with intel-

lectual abstraction and definite, religious goals. They achieve their

purposes without the aid of pantomimic movement or the easily identified

forms and gestures of life and nature. Ecstasy is either self-induced

or proceeds from the "Mystic circle," in which power jumps across from

those on the outside of the circle to the one in the center, or vice-

versa. Such forms are confined, for the most part, to matriarchal cul-

tures which favor movements that are introvert, free of the body, imagi-

native, and capable of a high degree of abstraction. It should not be

too surprising to learn that imageless dances are most compatible with

close, centralized movements and measured, symmetrical rhythms. As a

matter of fact, the monotonous regularity of meter and rhythm has a

great deal to do with producing ecstasy, for it exerts a subconscious,

hypnotic effect upon both the beholder and participant. This very pro-

pensity of metrical rhythm led Aristotle to discourage its use in prose

168~ ra Graeca, Vol. II, p. 331. 169Athenaeus, pp. 387-88; Cf.
Editor's note.

speech by saying, metree is to be avoided because its irrational poten-

tiality is too great."170 Again, Plutarch may have been thinking of the

irrational and ecstatic elements of both poetry and the dance when he

spoke of certain passages which seem to "call down the subject-matter of

the dance from heaven above, and to pull and guide one's hand and feet,

or rather one's whole body, with the puppet strings of its music, the body

being unable to keep still while they are being sung or said."171

Mixed dances combine both mimetic and abstract elements and are

often performed by both sexes. With few exceptions they take the form of

simple choral dances which retain two prominent characteristics: (1) the

dancers remain in some sort of linear arrangement, and (2) all movements

are originated and led by a dance leader. Some of the most easily iden-

tified types of the mixed dance are the Round, the Serpentine, the Choral

Front, the Place-Changing Choral, and the Couple Dance. Round dances may

consist of one or several concentric circles, with or without a person or

object in the center. Serpentine dances are unmistakably imitative in

movement but with no apparent, practical end in view, the object of the

dance being merely to prolong a continuous winding. Choral Fronts con-

tain special features which are not found in other types, namely, a sym-

metrical arrangement of the dancers according to sise, a distribution of

the dancers into several rows in the form of a horse-shoe or semi-circle,

the use of brilliant costumes, and uniformity of arm, head, and trunk

movements. Place-Changing Choral dances are more complex than simple

choral forms, since the dancers are often independent of the dance lead-

er and change places frequently. Couple dances in very early cultures

170Aristotle, The Rhetoric 1408b.22; Tr. in Warry, p. 112.
171Lra Graeoa, Vol. II, pp. 331-32.

are performed exclusively by meng the presence of both sexes usually is

indicative of a transitional culture. Moreover, dances where the part-

ners touch each other with both hands are late in appearing and are very


In attempting to categories Greek dances specifically according

to their degrees of imitation or abstraction, perhaps the wisest policy

is to admit that, on the basis of the small amount of information avail-

able today, most forms seem to have belonged to the mixed category. Even

more difficult is the matter of describing a dance on the sanction of its

title, for just as single dances have freely acquired both imitative and

abstract elements, so has the subject matter of one dance outgrown its

boundaries and intermingled with that of another. Originally, perhaps,

dances of hunting, fertility, initiation, courtship, mourning, and battle

were predominantly imagistic or imitative. It was not long, however, be-

fore most of these themes were found in abstract forms as well. With the

blending of types, of course, an amalgamation of thematic content could

be expected. Consequently, a single dance such as a weapon dance cannot

be relegated tasingle motif such as war, for it is also found in connec-

tion with marriage ceremonies, fertility rites, and initiatory rituals.

Some effort must nevertheless be made to identify the main divisions of

Greek dance, if only to derive a partial understanding of why certain

dances were incorporated into the drama.

Athenaeus mentions three kinds of dance appropriate to dramatic

poetry--the tragic dance called emmeleia, the comic dance known as kordax

and the satyric dance, sikinnis. These, he declares, correspond roughly

to three dances found in lyric poetry--the "naked-boy-dance," the hypor-

chematic, and the pyrriche or war dance. The naked-boy-dance, by his