Music on stage in red-figure vase-painting of Magna Graecia (400-320 BC). The role of music in the so-called ‘phlyax vases’

TitleMusic on stage in red-figure vase-painting of Magna Graecia (400-320 BC). The role of music in the so-called ‘phlyax vases’
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsRocconi, E, Castaldo, D
EditorEichmann, R, Jianjun, F, Koch, L-C
Book TitleKlänge der Vergangenheit. Die Interpretation von musikarchäologischen Artefakten im Kontext = Sound from the past. The interpretation of musical artifacts in an archaeological context
Series TitleStudien zur Musikarchäologie 8; Orient-Archäologie 27

A flourishing and consistent theatrical tradition in comedy during the fourth century BC throughout Magna Graecia is nowadays attested by the copious South Italian red-figure vase-painting there produced between 400 and 320 BC, discovered in great quantities over the last two centuries (mostly in excavated tombs). This paper concentrates on the so-called ‘phlyax vases’, that is, on the pottery conventionally thought to depict an informal and improvised local farce, the Italic ‘phlyax play’ (recently interpreted, instead, as reflecting the Athenian Old Comedy performed in the western Greek colonies), focusing on the conspicuous presence in such depictions of musical instruments on stage. In order to interpret these artifacts, a detailed survey of the local contexts —both archaeological (when this results possible, since the material is, in many cases, of ‘illegal’ provenience) and cultural (the city of Taras was famous in antiquity for its religious festivities and its musical and theatrical activities)— is given. [Eleonora Rocconi]


Part 1 by Rocconi, pp. 343-348; Part 2 by Castaldo, pp. 348-352; Bibliography and Figures, pp. 352-360.

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