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The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving complete epitadio composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world. The epitaph has been variously dated, but seems to be either from the 1st or the 2nd century AD.

It is a Hellenistic Ionic song in either the Phrygian octave species or Iastian tonos. While older music with notation exists for example the Hurrian songsall of it is in fragments; the Seikilos epitaph is unique in that sei,ilos is a complete, though short, composition.

The following is the Greek text found epitafii the tombstone in the later polytonic script; the original is in majuscule[Notes 1] along with a transliteration of weikilos words which are ce to the melody, and a somewhat free English translation thereof; this excludes the musical notation:.

The last two surviving words on the tombstone itself are with the bracketed characters denoting a partial possible reconstruction of the lacuna or of a possible name abbreviation [4]. Another possible partial reconstruction could be.

The tombstone has an inscription on it, selkilos reads in Greek:. A free translation of this reads: Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance. The inscription above each line of the lyrics transcribed here in polytonic scriptconsists of letters and signs indicating the melody of the song: Although the transcription of the melody is unproblematic, there is some disagreement about the nature of the melodic material itself.

This piece is … [in] Phrygic the D mode with its tonic in the same relative position as that of the Doric.

Although the epitaph’s melody is “clearly structured around a single octave, … the melody emphasizes the mese by position … rather than the mese by function”. The find has been variously dated, but the first or second century AD is the most probable guess. One authority states that on grounds of paleography the inscription can be “securely dated to the first century C.


The Epitaph was discovered in by Sir W. According to one source the stele was then lost and rediscovered in Smyrna inat about the end of the Greco-Turkish War of — It remained there until the defeat of the Greeks, having been taken by the Dutch Consul for safe keeping during the war; the Consul’s son-in-law later brought it by way of Constantinople and Stockholm to The Hague ; it remained therein untilwhen it was acquired by the Department of Antiquites of the National Museum of Denmark Nationalmuseeta museum situated at Copenhagen.

This is where the stele has since been located inventory number: A German scholar Otto Crusius inshortly after the publication of this inscription, was the first to observe that the music of this song as well as that of the hymns of Mesomedes tends to follow the pitch of the word accents. There are other places also where the initial syllable of a clause starts on a low note in the music. The meaning of these is still uncertain.

Category:Seikilos epitaph – Wikimedia Commons

According to an ancient source preserved as the Anonymus Bellermannithey represent an ‘ arsis ‘, which has been taken to mean a kind of ‘upbeat’ ‘arsis’ means ‘raising’ in Greek ; Armand D’Angour argues, however, that this does not rule out the possibility of a dynamic stress on the upbeat.

Is it an ictus mark, does it indicate stress, does it show arsis or thesis, and which part of the foot ought to be called arsis? Another view, by Soloman, is that the stigmai “signify a rhythmical emphasis”. If the Anonymus Bellermanni source is correct, this implies that whole of the first half of each double-foot bar or measure is the thesis, and the whole of the second half is the arsis.

Stefan Hagel, however, argues that this does not preclude the possibility that within the thesis and arsis there was a further hierarchy of strong and weak notes. A possible alternative way of rhythmizing the Seikilos song, in order to preserve the iambic ‘rising’, di-dum feel of the rhythm, was recently suggested by Armand D’Angour, with the barlines displaced one quaver to the right, as in the following transcription: When one attempts to sing the piece according to such dynamic accentuation Stefan Hagel, discussing an example in the Anonymus Bellermannisuggests the possibility of a similar transcription with displaced barlines of a line of music with this same rhythm.


From an ancient Greek rhythmician’s point of view, therefore, in Lynch’s opinion the conventional transcription is to be preferred. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Melody sung in an approximation of Koine Greek pronunciation and in modern popular vocal style. Landels The Pitch Height Rule”.

Journal of Hellenic Studies Tom Phillips and Armand D’Angour eds. Music, Text, and Culture in Ancient Greece. The Prosody of Greek Speech.

Seikilos epitaph – Wikipedia

Oxford and New York: Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Eppitafio and New York: Music Theory Spectrum 7: Acta MusicologicaVol. University of Nebraska Press.

Music and Ideas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Studies in the History of Music Theory and Literature 1. University of Illinois Press. Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments. Randel, Don Michael ed. The Harvard Dictionary of Music, fourth edition.


Belknap Press for Harvard University Press. American Journal of Philology Winter: Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history.

In other projects Wikimedia Commons Wikiquote. This page was last edited on 18 Novemberat By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Seikllos of Seikilos Melody sung in an approximation of Koine Greek pronunciation and in modern popular vocal style. Problems playing this file?