En parcourant le Val des Muses. Remarques sur un concours musical de l’Antiquité: les Mouseia de Thespies

TitleEn parcourant le Val des Muses. Remarques sur un concours musical de l’Antiquité: les Mouseia de Thespies
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsBonnet, A
EditorPinault, G-J
Book TitleMusique et poésie dans l’Antiquité. Actes du colloque de Clermont-Ferrand, Université Blaise Pascal, 23 mai 1997
Series TitleCollection ERGA 2
PublisherPresses Universitaires Blaise Pascal

'In which way can the history of competitions throw some light on the links between poetry and music in antiquity'? 'How can we define and describe a music festival of the Greek past'? The example of the Mouseia helps to put into perspective the conclusions of J. Frei (1900) on this topic, since at that time many new important epigraphic documents of the site were not yet published. The history of the Mouseia is marked by a reform dated of the Hellenistic period, and later by the Roman influence which prevailed from the 1st century B.C. until the decline and the vanishing of those festivals. The reorganization of the musical competitions took place between 223 and 208 B.C., and concerned precisely the so-called 'thymelic' competition, that included specifically musical performances. On the other hand, during the time of the Roman power, the authorities in charge of the administration of the festivals achieved to increase the number of various competitions of declamation, which eventually became more important than the thymelic competitions.
In Greek antiquity, dramatic poetry was from the origins part of the festivals devoted to the Muses. The increase of performances in dramatic art is the effect of the Roman influence. The festivals were more and more placed under the close control of the political authority. This local event, which was originally of a religious nature, became more and more dedicated to the glorification of such and such rulers, as shown by the growing importance of the praise poetry. Apparently, the Romans have restricted the 'musical' practice to the declamation, rather than to song and music proper, and favoured the speech, rather than the harmonic sounds. Two inscriptions from the corpus of the Mouseia prevent us from the considering the rhapsodic song as one of the thymelic performances. This result is at variance with the lists of performances given by J. Frei in his study. It shows that many previous conclusions have to be put into question when confronted with the accessible documentation. [abstract, Wandering through the Muses Valley. Remarks about a musical competition, the Mouseia at Thespiai p. 124]