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Music of Ancient Rome

A visual lesson on music of ancient Rome for Latin 2H.
by

Jenny Hannah

on 20 January 2013

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Transcript of Music of Ancient Rome

Background Info Music of Ancient Rome The music of ancient Rome was tied to three main purposes: power, entertainment, and propaganda. Furthermore, it was primarily associated with military ceremonies, Roman theater, Roman religious practices, the ritual use of music at public games and events. Boethius and Music Theory Perhaps the most renowned person in Roman music was not even a musician, but a philosopher--Boethius. He was a genius in music as well as other areas that include theology, logic, and arithmetic.

In his most famous work about, De Institutione Musica, Boethius wrote, "Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired" The vast majority of instruments were not Roman in orgin, but were readily adapted into Roman culture. Despite the variety of instruments, singing was still the most common form of musical activity. Music Notation No written examples of Roman music is discovered. Furthermore, in the art of the period (mosaics of Pompeii), none of the musician are shown reading music. There are several reasons for this, one being that the early fathers of the Christian church opposed the music of theather, festivals, and pagan religions, suppressing it once Christian became the official religion of the Roman Empire Music in Roman Society In spite of the lack of musical originality on the part of the Romans, music of was a large part of their society. There were obvious military uses of the tuba for signaling. Music also played a huge role in funerals, private gatherings, public performances, large gladiatorial spectacles, and religious ceremonies. Roman saw music as part of their education. Musical contests were prevalent and attracted a wide range of competition, including King Nero himself. A mosaic found in the city of Pompeii. Musical Instruments De Institutione Musica De Institutione Musica (The Principles of Music) Boethius wrote De Institutione Musica in the 6th century, a book that was considered to be the stepping stone to understanding music in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In his renowned work, Boethius provides a disscussion on what music and defines, through reason, its place in the universe. According to Boethius, music is separated into three categories: music of the universe (musica mundana), music of human beings (musica humana), and instrumental music (musica instrumentalis). Orgins of Roman Music Many historians agree that the Romans were not very original when it came to music. They aborbed and modified music along with other cultural forms of the territories that they conquered. Overall, Roman music was heavily influenced by that of the Etruscans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians, and Arabians. Origins of Roman Music Percussion Instruments Stringed Instruments Organs Stringed instruments known to the Romans included harps, lyres, kithara, and barbitoi; the lute came later on (perhaps from Egypt or the Near East). Percussion instruments included drums, tambourines, cymbals, and castanets. Mosaics depict instruments that look like a cross between the bagpipe and the organ. The hydraulic pipe organ (hydraulis), which worked by water pressure, was "one of the most significant technical and musical achievements of antiquity." It was orginated in ancient Greece and became a vital and popular instrument in Rome. The hydraulis accompanied gladiator contests and events in the arena, as well as stage performances. It might also be found in homes of the wealthy. Wind Instruments Of the wind instruments, the syrinx and aulos (Greek origin) were the most common, while various other flutes and whistles were known. The panpipe was a group of pipes bound together. Horns and trumpets of various kinds are known, often used for hunting and in military contexts. Tuba player depicting Marcus Aurelius in triumph. A fresco showing a woman playing the kithara. It was the favorite accompanying instrument for Roman singing. A carving of Romans playing the tambourine. A mosaic showing the hydraulic. A mosaic found in the city of Pompeii, showing a masked theatrical troupe around an aulos player.
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