The word procitharistes occurs three times in the inscriptions from Miletus and Didyma dating from the end of I – III AD. The role of the procitharist, priest for Apollo Delphinius, was fulfilled for a year by a young man.
Further conclusions are possible only from the analysis of the meaning of pro- in the compounds. (1) The meaning ‘playing publicly’ adds nothing to the word citharistes (public performance is a musician’s natural task). (2) ‘Playing for’ (Apollo) would duplicate the genitive tou Delphiniou Apollonos and imply that Apollo is not capable of playing himself. (3) ‘Position in front’: a musician could hardly stand in front of other worshipers, hindering the sacrifice. But he could move in front (though the musicians are in most cases pictured in the middle of a procession, auletai followed by citharistai). (4) ‘Priority of order’: many terms with a prefix pro- refer to an instrumental introduction. The procitharist would perform a prelude; the most probable continuation would be a choral hymn. (5) ‘Priority of rank’: the meaning ‘a leading citharist’ suits well the honorable title mentioned in inscriptions. This meaning of pro- corresponds to that of prot- (protos). In the inscriptions of I–III AD the term protaules, meaning a conductor of a group of musicians, can be found. Large ensembles are typical for the Roman period. The reasons for preferring a leading citharist to an aulete in Didyma are to be sought in the peculiarity of the cult of Apollo. The second parts could be performed both by instrumentalists and singers.
As a chief musician the procitharist could occupy the first place and play the introduction. The preference for a youth over a mature master makes us suppose that such matters as his appearance, skill in dancing or ability to traverse the long distance from Miletus to Didyma could be of importance for his duties. [Nina Almazova]