Musical evenings in the Early Empire: new evidence from a Greek papyrus with musical notation

TitleMusical evenings in the Early Empire: new evidence from a Greek papyrus with musical notation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsJohnson, WA
JournalThe Journal of Hellenic Studies

With disarmingly open conceit, the Younger Pliny tells Pontius Allifanus that ‘my hendecasyllables are read, are copied, are even sung, and Greeks (who have learned Latin out of love for my poetry book) make my verses resound to cithara and lyre’ (Epist. 7.4.9). By Pliny's time, Greek musicians (and actors) were widely distributed and organized in a worldwide guild centred at Rome, so it will not surprise us that Greeks are the ones setting the verses to music. But what sort of music? When Pliny went out to hear his beloved poems sung to cithara and lyre, what did it sound like? Or, more generally, what did Pliny, or Martial, or, in an earlier generation, Horace see and hear when out for an evening's musical entertainment at the hands of a Greek troupe? Until fairly recently, we have known precious little. Literary sources give the odd anecdote, such as the reports of Nero's performances, but in general tell us little specific about the content or style of musical entertainment in the Roman era. And sources speaking more technically about music itself lend the impression that nothing significant happened after the ‘New Music’ was introduced in the fourth century BC. []

See attachment below for an Italian abstract.

Johnson2000_abstract.pdf76.52 KB

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