Lecture #12: Musical Competitions
A ‘bard,’ meaning poet comes from the Greek aoidos. Musical competitions are a important
part of festivals as well as funerary games.
Odyssey Book 8
-Interesting description of a
bard. There are 2 stories,
and the bards were
concerned with divine
subject matter. Shows that it
is the muses who inspire the
bards song choices.
*Both Homeric epics begin
with a request of the muses
for divine skill
Tells us that the muses
choose their own
shepherd to be a bard.
They can put truths or
lies into their mouths.
-Game and idea: we cant
certainly tell what is true
Songs and singing are thus potentially divine revelation and that is why they are so
Q: Who are the 9 muses? They are patronesses to poets
and all intellectual writers, thus
also inspiring historians and
Orality- Oral Tradition
Greek culture was predominantly oral. Things were not necessarily written down, which is
why sources are from a later date. Therefore, in Homeric poems and epic cycles, variations
can occur and we see this in different translations
Like the athletic contests, the musical world also had its own heroes:
1. Orpheus: He is of Thrace, and he was able to charge songs with a divine power and with
this he could control nature. This even allowed him to influence the gods. We see him in a
number of stories, for instance he and his wife Eurydice vs. Hades. He was killed by the
Maenads, but his head did not die and it floated to Lesbos still singing and because of this it
is said that he taught there.
2. Musaeus: Of Athens, and his name is related to the muses, and it is where we get the word
for museum, musaeum.
3. Linus: Of Antissa, Lesbos and he was a mythical singer and composer. Believed to have
invented the threnos ‘dirge’ which is a song of lamentation. Said to be killed by Apollo
because he sang just as well as the god.
Competitions were also a place to learn from one another
Terpander, of Antissa dates to the early 7 C BCE, and he was a player of the Cithara. He was
head of a professional guild, and he apparently stopped a war by playing the cithara or auloi
pipes. Credited with inventing the 7 stringed cithara and the 7 citharodic nomoi, meaning 7
in total which competitors had to master all 7 nomoi, which are set songs- example, Pythikos
nomos. There was a nomos for every occasion, therefore there seems to be quite the range of
Carnea at Sparta, 676/5 BC
Lyra: Signifies a stringed instrument that was wither strung o