I didn't include the bibliography to the paper.

The Epitaph of Seikilos

Music as we know it is not what music meant to the ancient Greeks. Our term "music" actually derives from the Greek term "mousike"—or the
art of the muses ("Ancient Roman Music"). But music involved much more than our English definition, such as dance, philosophy, poetry, education, and refinement (Garland 190). It was part of a man's education and contributed to a well-developed and disciplined personality (Garland 103). In fact, Greece was one of the first ancient civilizations to advance their music notation, and this would have greatly helped them. Music was an essential part of Greek life, used at gatherings, births, weddings, funerals, and religious events (Garland 190). However, of all the arts in the ancient world, the least is known about its music (Sienkewicz 1:98). Only forty-six fragments of ancient music have been found in the world and none are complete (Garland 192), except one: a little hymn known as Seikilos' Epitaph.

Found in 1883 near Aydin, Turkey ("Song of Seikilos"), it can be called "the origin of western folk music" ("Skolion of Seikilos"). Scientists presumed the piece was written for Seikilos' wife who had past away, Euterpe ("Song of Seikilos"). The notation was found on a tombstone. After its discovery, the epitaph became a part of the De Jong Collection in a museum in modern day Izmir, Turkey, until the city's burning (Mathiesen 148) during the Asia Minor Holocaust in 1922 ("Seikilos"). Then it was lost again for thirty-five years. In 1957, its rediscovery was announced (Mathiesen 148). When it was discovered, it was broken at its base. Apparently, a woman had used it as a vase in her garden, so she broke the stone to create a flat bottom ("Seikilos"). In 1966, it joined the collections at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. Scientists have securely dated it to the first century CE, although some speculate its existence may have gone back as far as 200 BCE (Mathiesen 148). As with almost all ancient music, the Epitaph of Seikilos is monophonic—meaning only one melodic line is present. Harmonization was virtually nonexistent in ancient Greece and when it did occur it would have only been in accompaniment to a vocalist (Borthwick 3:1508). The epitaph is also meant to be sung. Ancient Greek is inscribed under the notation on the stone ("Seikilos"). When translated and paraphrased, it means, "Live life to the full while you can for it is short" ("Skolion of Seikilos").

But, how did the ancient Greeks develop their music notation? No doubt it is nothing like our modern system. The earliest known music notation comes from Sumeria, but all were incomplete ("Music History Timeline- Early Music"). The method of writing music in Greece began in poetry with the use of meter. Poems relied on the quantity of long and short syllables, shown by a horizontal line or small "u" above the letters, to dictate the meter (Adkins 255). As this system developed, it started to become used not only for the voice, but for instruments as well. A slightly different method existed between musical notation for the voice and instrument, but both consisted of indicating notes and pitch by using letters of the alphabet above the song lyrics (Sienkewicz 1:99). In the case of Seikilos' Epitaph, this system is very prevalent. Above the ancient Greek lyrics are capitalized letters and characters, which represent notes. Some have a special indication above it describing the duration of the notes, such as a dot or horizontal line or another variation (Mathiesen 149).

While describing Seikilos' Epitaph, we must delve into the world of modes in music. A mode is simply a consecutive series of eight notes on a scale. On a piano, there are eight letters that repeat over and over again, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Depending on which letter you start on, a different overall sound is heard. If a composer wanted a rock n' roll sound, Mixolydian mode would be his choice, starting on G and going up to the next G. However, another may want an oriental sound, so the Phrygian mode would be used, E to E (Bower). In ancient Greece, music was thought to be able to control people and modes were especially powerful. Different modes were thought to correspond to different human moods. Greek philosopher, Plato, advocated banning certain modes from education; ones that encouraged stubbornness or that were too energetic ("Ancient Roman Music"). The Epitaph of Seikilos has safely been placed into the Phrygian mode, known for its healing capabilities (Borthwick 3:1510).

One of the most interesting misconceptions about the epitaph is what kind of musical piece it is: epigram or skolion? "Skolion" derives from "skolios" meaning "crooked." It is a drinking song, often sung at parties, in which each person would hold a goblet of wine and sing a song, then pass it around randomly until everyone had gone, hence the "crooked" order. While a skolion is relatively light in mood, an epigram is not. It is an inscription commemorating the dead. Essentially it is an epitaph. They would often be written in first person and were inscribed on gravestones (Adkins 256-257). In fact, Seikilos' Epitaph is an epigram, and according to Thomas J. Mathiesen, "Epigrams and skolion are similar. The confusion is not surprising" (148). While his conclusion seems obvious, the Internet has surely skewed the actual truth, leaving this misconception to be a fact in many people's minds.

The importance of music to the Greeks was monumental and yet to find a severe lack of evidence leaves many scientists stumped as to what Greek music actually sounded like. The Epitaph of Seikilos is the closest thing there is. According to Greeks, death could not interrupt their delight in music (Garland 190). And Greek musical literature has failed to tell about the sound of real man-made music. Instead, it tells us more about the abstract and unworldly music of the mind (Borthwick 3:1510).