Correcting ēthos and Purifying the Body. Musical Therapy in Iamblichus’ De vita pythagorica

TitleCorrecting ēthos and Purifying the Body. Musical Therapy in Iamblichus’ De vita pythagorica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsProvenza, A
Ancient AuthorsIamblichus Phil. (TLG 2023), Porphyrius Phil. (TLG 2034), Plato Phil. (TLG 0059), Aristides Quintilianus Mus. (TLG 2054)
JournalGreek and Roman Musical Studies

The tradition relating to the Pythagoreans and music therapy is most widely attested in two Neoplatonic works, Porphyry’s The Life of Pythagoras, and Iamblichus’ On the Pythagorean Way of Life. Although the chronological distance from the early Pythagoreans makes their accounts controversial, they offer interesting evidence on the beneficial effects of music. Iamblichus, whose work will be focused on in this paper, describes the effects of music on health through the notion of catharsis, which he often links with musical ēthos. The latter is not in fact attested before Plato, but Iamblichus, presenting Pythagoras in Platonic terms, emphasizes the importance he gives to the improvement of the individual’s character and life by means of music, which is used as a proper pharmakon. In such respect, Iamblichus’ work shows some similarities with Aristides Quintilianus’ De Musica, especially in connection with the “mixture” of melodies as if they were medicines. []


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