Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

The Rejection of the Aulos in Classical Greece

by James McKinnon


This article was taken from James McKinnon’s The Temple, the Church Fathers and Early Western Chant. It originally appeared in Music and Civilization: Essays in Honor of Paul Henry Lang, in 1968.

Larger Work

The Temple, the Church Fathers and Early Western Chant

Publisher & Date

Ashgate, 1984

It is a commonplace among music historians that there was a deep-seated aversion to the aulos in ancient Greece. At the root of this alleged aversion lies the identification of the instrument with Dionysos, the god of intoxication and frenzy, an outsider who came to Greece from the wilds of Phrygia. His wailing autos stands in sharp contrast to the restrained lyre or kithara of Apollo, god of reason and judgment, the quintessential Hellenic deity.

The aulos/kithara antithesis was given its first full exposition at the turn of the century by Hermann Abert in Die Lehre vom Ethos. He went so far as to claim that it underlay the origins of the ethos doctrine itself. According to Abert, the neutral-toned kithara, the instrument normally used for accompaniment in Greek musical life, was originally lacking in ethical connotation, but with the eruption of the exciting and sensuous sound of the Phrygian aulos upon sensitive Greek ears, it acquired a positive ethical association with traditional Hellenic virtues. "Thereafter," Abert concluded, "this dualism of the two types of instruments dominated the entire development of Greek art music."1

Subsequently Curt Sachs, among others, restated the "radical antitheses" between, as he phrased it, "the immaterial-detached, noble-innocent, 'Apollinian'" nature of kithara music and "the earthy-sensuous, passionate-intoxicated, 'Dionysian"' nature of aulos music.2 The duality can be traced back, says Sachs, to the very origins of Greek history, with kithara music being derived from the Cretan-Mycenaean side and aulos music from the Phoenician—Asia Minor side.

A number of more recent authors have reasserted the antithesis—among them Jacques Chailley, a scholar who differs in some respects from the German tradition.3 He shares with it the basic conception of a profound and intense opposition between the two instruments; he speaks of "the struggle of the two instruments," which was "long, and by turns cruel, sly, or sordid." What is peculiar to his position is his explanation of the opposition. He sees it as the symbol of "the pitiless struggle" between two modes of civilization, the nomadic-pastoral and the sedentary-agricultural. The lyre, made from such animal materials as a tortoise shell, the horns of a deer, and sheep gut for strings, stands for the nomadic-pastoral society, while the aulos, made from the vegetable material of a reed, stands for the sedentary-agricultural society. This bold notion has a measure of plausibility, but certainly it cannot be sustained in the face of the objection that the aulos was frequently fashioned from the bone of an animal; indeed its Latin name, tibia, means "shinbone." One can safely dismiss this explanation and focus here on the mainstream conception of a deep antithesis between the Apollinian and Dionysian principles.

Contemporary music historians might be tempted to dismiss in equally summary fashion the mainstream conception as having been the product of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German idealization of ancient Greece, a tendency brilliantly described by Eliza Marian Butler in The Tyranny of Greece over Germany.4 The Apollinian conception of Greek culture, summarized in Winkelmann's famous phrase "noble simplicity and serene greatness," reigned unopposed for nearly a century, until the discovery of the Dionysian principle by Heine and Nietzsche. Within a generation of the publication of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy (1872) the earlier monistic view was replaced by the new dualism—an "immense antagonism" between the Apollinian and the Dionysian. In turn, music historians like Abert and Sachs applied the new conception to a supposed opposition between kithara and aulos, with the results indicated above. Expedient as it might be simply to operate at the same level of intellectual fashion and ignore their views as the product of romantic imaginings, we must admit that these ideas are too much a part of our musicological heritage to receive so cavalier a treatment. On the contrary, the conventional. view that the aulos was rejected on the grounds of an Apollinian-Dionysian conflict ought to be examined in the context of the primary sources.

First, the case for the rejection of the aulos. Perhaps the most important evidence is found in a pair of cognate statements from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics. The passage from Plato follows immediately upon Socrates's famous rejection of all modes but the Dorian and the Phrygian:

Then, said I [Socrates), we shall not need in our songs and airs instruments of many strings or [those) whose compass includes all the harmonies.

Not in my opinion, said he.

Then we shall not maintain makers of the trigonon and pectis and all other many-stringed and polyharmonic instruments.

Apparently not.

Well, will you admit to the city aulos makers and aulos players? Or is not the aulos the most "many-stringed" of instruments and do not the pan-harmonics themselves imitate it?

Clearly, he said.

You have left, said I, the lyre and the cithara. These are useful in the city, and in the fields the shepherds would have a little syrinx to pipe on.

So our argument indicates, he said.

We are not innovating, my friend, in preferring Apollo and the instruments of Apollo to Marsyas and his instruments.5

Since the passage from Aristotle's Politics is rather long, only especially relevant excerpts are given here:

Auloi must not be introduced into education, nor any other professional instrument such as the kithara. . . . Moreover the aulos is not a moralizing but rather an exciting influence, so that it ought to be used for occasions of the kind at which attendance has the effect of purification rather than instruction. And let us add that the aulos happens to possess the additional property telling against its use in education that playing it prevents the employment of speech. Hence former ages rightly rejected its use by the young and the free, although at first they had employed it. . . . But later on it came to be disapproved of as a result of actual experience, when men were more capable of judging what music conduced to virtue and what did not; and similarly also many of the old instruments were disapproved of, like the pectis and the barbitos . . . the heptagon, the trigonon and the sambuca, and all the instruments that require manual skill.

Comment on both passages is reserved for later; it suffices to point out here that Plato and Aristotle dearly propose a ban of some sort upon the aulos. The passage from Aristotle condudes with a reference to a myth that is another central element in the evidence for the conventional view:

The tale goes that Athena found an aulos and threw it away. Now it is not a bad point in the story that the goddess did this out of annoyance because of the ugly distortion of her features; but as a matter of fact it is more likely that it was because education in aulos-playing has no effect on the intelligence, whereas we attribute science and art to Athena.6

Aristotle alludes here to just one episode in the myth. Equally relevant to our subject is the famous one about the musical contest between, Apollo and Marsyas. The mythographer Apollodorus succeeded in narrating the oft-told tale with all its essential elements in a relatively brief passage:

Apollo also slew Marsyas, the son of Olympus. For Marsyas, having found the auloi which Athena had thrown away because they disfigured her face, engaged in a musical contest with Apollo. They agreed that the victor should work his will on the vanquished, and when the trial took place Apollo turned his lyre upside down in the competition and bade Marsyas do the same. But Marsyas could not. So Apollo was judged the victor and dispatched Marsyas by hanging him on a tall pine tree and stripping off his skin.7

The story differs in detail from mythographer to mythographer. Certain of these variations are relevant to the point at issue and will be cited later. For now, one need mention only the most fundamental of them: in Ovid's version Marsyas is replaced by Pan, and Marsyas's punishment is replaced by one for the sole judge of the contest who dared to vote against Apollo. The judge was Midas, who for his error grew the ears of an ass.8 This of course, is the version of the myth that is marvelously celebrated in J. S. Bach's Der Streit zwischen Phoebus and Pan (BWV 201).

Another key element in the case for the conventional view is the fascinating anecdote of Alcibiades's rejection of the aulos. It is best told in the rather lengthy version of Plutarch:

At school, he usually paid due heed to his teachers, but he refused to play the aulos, holding it to be an ignoble and illiberal thing. The use of the plectrum and the lyre, he argued, wrought no havoc with the bearing and appearance which were becoming to a gentleman; but let a man go to blowing on an aulos, and even his own kinsmen could scarcely recognize his features. Moreover, the lyre blended its tones with the voice or song of its master, whereas the aulos dosed and barricaded the mouth, robbing its master both of voice and speech. "Auloi, then," said he, "for the sons of Thebes; they know not how to converse. But we Athenians, as our fathers say, have Athene for foundress and Apollo for patron, one of whom cast the aulos away in disgust, and the other flayed the presumptuous aulos‑player." Thus, half in jest and half in earnest, Alcibiades emancipated himself from this discipline….9

The final element in the case for the conventional view concerns the part played by Pythagoras. There are two sources from late antiquity that refer to his preference for the lyre over the aulos. They may strike the reader as having a somewhat different flavor from the previous passages. The Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus (d. A.D. 325) said in his biography of Pythagoras that "he used the lyre, but maintained that the sound of the aulos was ostentatious and suited to festivals, but in no wise suited to a free man."10 Again the roughly contemporary music theorist Aristides Quintilianus tells us that Pythagoras likewise advised his students who had heard the sound of the aulos to cleanse themselves as if stained in spirit and to chase away the irrational desires' the soul with melodies of good omen played on the lyre. For the former instrument serves to rule the active part of the soul while the latter is dear and pleasing to the management of the logical part.11

The documents cited above comprise the principal evidence upon which modern scholars base their idea of a profound antithesis between the Apollinian lyre or kithara and the Dionysian autos. The case against it is of a somewhat different nature, for it does not consist in a similar series of extended passages but rather of many shorter references. One must first establish a chronological perspective on the issue and analyze the relevant texts.

As for the matter of chronological perspective, the conventional view maintains that the antithesis goes back to the very origins of the Greek people; after-all, if the antithesis is so deep-rooted, so elemental, it cannot be an ephemeral thing. However, the evidence cited above is chronologically very restricted; with the exception of the references to Pythagoras, it is all confined to the Classical period of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Also it is confined regionally to Athens. There have been attempts to present earlier evidence, but at best it would cover a period antedating other sources by only a century or so. The two references to Pythagoras are a case in point. Music historians tend to accept them quite literally as authentic Pythagorean sayings.12 One could, for the sake of argument, acquiesce in this conclusion, which distorts only minimally the chronological perspective suggested here. But surely a more plausible view is that these references, which postdate the lifetime of Pythagoras by nearly a millennium, are a manifestation of Neopythagorean thinking. They therefore combine echoes of the Classical Athenian notion of the "free man" with Neopythagorean preoccupation with the purity of the soul.

There are two other possibly relevant sources that do predate the time of Plato and Aristotle. One is a fragment by Pratinas of Philus, who was active in Athens around 500 B.C. It asserts that "Song's queen Muse hath made; the aulos, he must dance second as becometh a servant."13 Helmut Huchzermeyer interprets this to mean that Pratinas "is altogether averse to the noisy music of the aulos."14 This, however, is an unwarranted inference, and one must agree with Warren Anderson, who argues that "Pratinas was presumably not condemning the instrument itself' but rather "felt outraged by virtuoso displays on the aulos at the expense of the text."15 The second source is a poetic reference by Critias to Anacreon, an Ionian lyric poet active in Athens toward the end of the sixth century. Critias, a Sophist and early associate of Socrates, describes Anacreon as "an antagonist of the aulos and a friend of the barbiton."16 Huchzermeyer takes Critias at his word and cites Anacreon as the only Ionian poet who preferred strings to the aulos and the man who "embodied in his person the kitharodic reaction against aulos music.”17 Although this is a defensible interpretation, one must consider the possibility that Cridas's remarks are anachronistic.

There exists, then, a scattering of uncertain references to antagonism toward the aulos from the century preceding the time of Socrates and Plato. Each of them is open to serious question, but even if all were authentic, they would have only a relatively minor effect on the chronological limitations suggested here. On the other hand, a massive body of evidence points to the honorable status of the aulos in Greek musical life during the centuries preceding the Classical period.18 In Homer, it is true, the aulos plays a subsidiary role and the lyrelike phorminx has pride of place, but by the time of Altman (fl. 654-611 B.C.) the aulos was firmly established in Sparta as the principal accompaniment instrument of choral lyrics. Among the Ionian poets the aulos occupied a similar position, and it was only on Lesbos that strings seem to have been preferred. One notes that there is no question of opposition here, but simply that strings were cited more frequently than the aulos in Lesbian verses, and further that the strings generally mentioned are the pektis and barbiton, both excluded later on by Aristotle along with the aulos.19 But the lyric poet whose references have the most relevance to our subject is the Boeotian Pindar; no less than six times does he cite aulos and lyre or phorminx together, as when he alluded to the brave soldiers of Aegina, "celebrated on the phorminx and in, the harmony of the many-voiced aulos."20

In fifth-century Athenian drama, as is well known, the aulos occupied a position of nearly exclusive usage. And not only was it used; it was also occasionally referred to with fondness by the great dramatists of the rime. To Sophocles it was "sweet" and "pleasant-sounding,"21 and to Euripides it was "blended with light laughter."22 With Aristophanes the situation is somewhat more complex. In general it can be said that he fails to convey to us any evidence of serious antagonism toward the aulos in the Athens of his time. This constitutes something of an argumentum ex silentio against the conventional view because Aristophanes otherwise has so much to say about music. Surely if Athenians had been all that aware of an antithesis between kithara and aulos, there would have been some allusion to it in the scene in the Frogs where Dionysos weighs the respective musical merits of Aeschylus and Euripides. The only reference to the aulos in Aristophanes that can be construed as at all negative is of an entirely different nature. In the Acharnians, a Boeotian, who speaks in dialect and seems meant to be something of a bumpkin, mentions his compatriot aulos players.23 We are reminded, of course, of Alcibiades, who exclaimed, "Auloi, then, for the sons of Thebes."

To summarize, there is little trace of antagonism toward the autos or of opposition between it and the kithara up to the time of Plato and Aristotle. Before discussing their views, the historical context must be made complete by a brief survey of the following centuries. Aside from the two references to Phythagoras given above and repetitions of the Athena-Apollo-Marsyas myth, later authors are similarly silent on the subject. This is particularly significant when one considers the character of a gossip-inclined historical work like the Musica of Pseudo-Plutarch. He mentions the aulos again and again but not once with reference to a Greek rejection of it. The situation with Athenaeus, the author of the massive Deipnosophists, is only slightly different. There are two rambling passages in his lengthy work that cite the aulos on virtually every page.24 It is fair to say that he looks on music with consistent favor or at least with benign curiosity. Moreover, the aulos figures as one of the most prominent specific objects of his praise. Nonetheless, there are a few references that might be construed out of context as supporting the conventional view. For instance, he cites Athena's discarding of the aulos and in a nearby citation Pratinas's injunction that it not get out of hand in exercising its accompaniment function 25 One had best consider this an echo of Classical Athens, keeping in mind Athenaeus's tendency to quote each and every reference he can muster. Moreover, he has Telestes immediately step into the breach with a spirited defense of the aulos.

On a related point, Athenaeus discusses the harmoniae and their ethical character.26 What is noteworthy from our point of view is that while he and other writers of late antiquity show some consistency in the ethical qualities they attribute to the two principal harmoniae, the Dorian and the Phrygian, they show no such consistency in associating the kithara with the former and the aulos with the latter, and thus no consistency in assigning ethical character to the two instruments. For instance, Lucian speaks of Harmonides as a performer who wishes to display on his autos the "enthusiasm of the Phrygian and the restraint of the Dorian";27 and Apuleius tells of Antigenidas, who performed on his aulos the "religious Phrygian and the warlike Dorian.28

To summarize the situation in the later centuries: aside from the troubling Pythagorean references, one detects no general awareness of an antithesis between kithara and aulos but, at most, an occasional echo of the Classical period's rejection of the aulos.

What precisely was the character of that rejection? Since it had its most explicit expression in Plato's and Aristotle's exclusion of the instrument from their ideal states, an examination of the question ought to begin with this. The first point to establish is the context of the exclusion. We can keep matters in perspective if we recall that Plato and Aristotle are philosophers describing utopian societies, not active political figures seriously advocating that the autos be banned from contemporary Athens. Indeed the context is still more narrow, for they do not propose a general ban on the autos in their ideal states, but only in education. Aristotle, especially, is quite explicit on this point, excluding the autos and all modes but the Dorian from education while allowing them in other areas of society. "It is dear that we should employ all the modes," he writes, "but use only the most ethical ones for education." He goes on to cite some of the beneficent uses of exciting music for adults—in the dithyramb, the tragedy, and "sacred melodies" (ieroi meloi)—all accompanied by autos; 'such music has the effect of purgation and of harmless pleasure. At the same time he notes in Plato's Republic the inconsistency of Socrates, who, while excluding the aulos, admits the Phrygian mode into education along with the Dorian, whereas "the Phrygian mode has the same effect among harmonies as the aulos among instruments."

On this distinction between Aristotle and Plato, Warren Anderson makes the important point that, while in Aristotle's view education is meant for youth alone, in Plato's view it extends to the entire life of a citizen.29 One might argue, then, that his ban on the autos was absolute. However, it defies historical good sense to claim that Plato's one brief remark in the Republic should be applied with inexorable logic to his views throughout his life. Indeed he supplies explicit evidence against such an interpretation when later, in the Laws, he provides for judges at aulos-playing contests.30

Another point of contrast with Plato is Aristotle's more pragmatic and tolerant approach. This is of some relevance because we are seeking to define general Athenian attitudes more than those of an individual. That Plato's views should be taken as somewhat eccentrically intolerant is warranted by his proposed legislation against the changing of rules in children's games.31

Whatever the extent of Plato's and Aristotle's proposed ban on the aulos, the reasons underlying it are another 'matter. Was it primarily that they felt that a deep ethical antithesis existed between the aulos and string instruments? This, it must be said, is the aspect of the conventional view that finds the least support in the sources. Plato does indeed exclude the aulos while retaining the lyre and the kithara, but he also allows the syrinx "to shepherds in the fields" and excludes the trigonon, the pectis, and "other many-stringed instruments." Aristotle destroys the antithesis completely when he excludes not only a host of string instruments such as the pectic, barbiton, trigonon, heptagon, and sambuca, but also the kithara itself. This is perhaps the crucial point: he retains Apollo's lyre and excludes Apollo's kithara! Why? He tells us simply enough that "the aulos must not be admitted into education nor any other professional (technikos) instrument like the kithara." And again, at the end of the list of string instruments given above, he adds "and all those requiring manual skill." Thus he excludes instruments that require professional skill—indeed, virtually all instruments.

Plato implies similar motivation in his strictures. He excludes "many-stringed and polyharmonic instruments" and goes on to cite the aulos as the "most 'many-stringed' of instruments," in fact, the one that the polyharmonic instruments imitate. The context of his remarks is a discussion of modal ethos. Plato objects to instruments that have the capacity to play all the modes without retuning and mix the modes within a single composition. Professional virtuosos were doing this in the new music of the late fifth century, both on the versatile aulos and on the string instruments of the time, to which strings were being added in an effort to keep pace with the aulos. The kithara had evidently undergone this sort of development by the time of Aristotle. Such instruments, then, were out of place in the musical education of well-born Athenian youth.

This antithesis between vulgar professional and genteel amateur is altogether more authentic than any antithesis between aulos and lyre as such. It lies at the very heart of the Classical conception of "liberal" education: skills which tradesmen and technicians exercise to earn a living are merely tolerated, as opposed to those prized intellectual pursuits whereby the "free man" improves himself. Indeed this is the central point of Aristotle's doctrine of education as presented in Book VIII of the Politics and provides the context of his views on music.

Once it is established that antiprofessionalism is the primary motive behind Plato's and Aristotle's position concerning the aulos, there remains a chance to accept various elements of the conventional view as secondary motives. Plato does, after all, conclude the above-quoted passage with the afterthought that "we are not innovating . . . in preferring Apollo and the instruments of Apollo to Marsyas and his instruments." And Aristotle doses with a similar reference when he invokes the same legend and goes so far as to say that the aulos contributes nothing to intelligence (dianoia) whereas science (episteme) is an attribute of Athena. Now it can be said that there is a suggestion of the Apollinian—Dionysian antithesis in these references. On the one hand, Athena and Apollo are easily identified as copatrons of both Athens and reason, while, on the other, Marsyas, the Phrygian satyr, is a devotee of Dionysos. It would be wrong, however, to take Plato and Aristotle further than they themselves went and to attribute to them anything like a profound aversion to the orgiastic aulos of Dionysos. We have already seen that Aristotle acknowledged the usefulness of orgiastic music.32 Plato's attitude is more complex, perhaps ambivalent, or even contradictory. While it is clear that he prized reason above all else, it cannot be said that he rejected religious frenzy outright. "Divine madness" is his general term for such manifestations, which he describes with apparent approval in the Phaedrus.33 A passage of special relevance appears in the Symposium, where Alciabiades in a eulogy of Socrates compares him to Marsyas. He exclaims that Socrates had in his speech the same marvelous effect as had Marsyas in the aulos tunes of divine origin with which he charmed mortals.34 In short, to claim that either Aristotle or Plato rejected the aulos because of its association with religious frenzy is at best a caricature of their authentic views. To claim, on the other hand, that they betrayed an occasional trace of uneasiness over this kind of association is at least an arguable position.

Now to turn to a direct consideration of the Athena-Apollo-Marsyas myth. Its various versions offer many indications that the Greeks failed to read into it the sort of antithesis in question here. Consider the roles taken in it by the deities involved. Athena throws away the aulos in this particular myth because it distorts her appearance, and yet she is frequently associated with the aulos in others. She gave an aulos as a present at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia;35 she actually invented it, according to Pindar;36 and, according to Corinna, she taught none other than Apollo to play it.37 Telestes takes an interesting approach to the subject in denying outright that Athena discarded the aulos; she was a virgin, he argues, and therefore had no reason to worry about her appearance.38 To add a final note of contradiction on Athena, Diodorus Siculus cites Marsyas as her closest associate and adds, still more surprisingly, that he was admired for his intelligence and chastity.39 Regarding the musical aspects of the contest between Apollo and Marsyas, the more commonly expressed view among the ancients is that Marsyas was superior! And how did Apollo win then? By trickery. We observe, for example, in the version of Diodorus given above that Apollo played his lyre upside down, a feat that could hardly be matched by Marsyas with his aulos. Here is what the goddess Hera has to say to Apollo's mother, Leto, on the subject:

You make me laugh, Leto. Who could admire one that Marsyas would have beaten at music and skinned alive with his own hands, if the Muses had chosen to judge fairly? But as it was, he was tricked and wrongly lost the vote, poor fellow, and had to die.40

The anecdote about Alcibiades similarly fails to support the sort of ethical antithesis set forth in the conventional view. Although one finds a clearly expressed preference for the lyre over the aulos, perhaps the most unambiguous in the literature, the motives fail to match. Central again is the context of education, and accordingly the aulos is seen to be "illiberal" (aneleutheron); the translation nicely captures the proper connotation when it declares the instrument to be unbecoming to the bearing and appearance of a "gentleman" (eleutheros). The whole issue is described as a light rather than a profound one: "Thus, half in jest and half in earnest Alcibiades emancipated himself from this discipline." Finally, there is the nasty remark about the countrified Theban mentioned above: "Auloi, then, for the sons of Thebes: they know not how to converse." If one is to summarize the unifying motive of Alcibiades, it is snobbery, not ethos.

In drawing conclusions here, one may recognize some claims that can be accepted with a fair degree of confidence—for example, that the Hellenic animus against the aulos is not perennial but, rather, confined almost exclusively to the Athens of the Classical period. Again it seems clear enough that the principal reason for the phenomenon was the antiprofessional bias in the Athenian educational ideals. Contributory to it were the disdain of Athenian "free men" for mercenary activity of any sort, a disapproval of the rapid musical development of the time, and a touch of prejudice against the contemporary virtuosos who hailed from rural Boeotian. Still, one does detect a measure of unease in Classical Athens concerning the orgiastic associations of the aulos, even if not an unequivocal disapproval. It is difficult to measure this element precisely—it seems more to lurk below the surface than to be expressed—but it can at least be said that the conventional view greatly exaggerates it.

To engage for the moment in somewhat less guarded speculation, let it be said that music historians must be disabused of any notion that the Athenian rejection of the aulos, particularly in the form it takes with Plato, amounts to anything like a positive, noble statement on behalf of the perennial Apollinian principle in music. For all its artistry of expression, it is a negative and essentially antimusical position. We must associate it with Plato's own strictures against poetry, with the Neoplatonic Augustine's scorn for practicing musicians,41 with the twelfth-century humanist John of Salisbury's criticism of polyphony,42 with the classical scholar Johann August Ernesti's disapproval of Bach, and, yes, to at least some extent with the artistic control exercised by twentieth-century totalitarian regimes.43

As for Nietzsche's "immense antagonism" between the Apollinian and the Dionysian, whatever its merits per se, enough has been said to demonstrate the invalidity of its application by German musicologists to an antithesis between kithara and aulos.44 We English-speaking music historians, incidentally, would do well to note an analogous Victorian influence on our thinking.45 In particular, Benjamin Jowett's much-read translations tend to give Plato's remarks on subjects like the aulos and ritual frenzy more the tone of nineteenth-century religiosity than Athenian musical conservatism.46

It is not my intent here to deny totally a role in this subject to the historical imagination. Once the simplistic application of the Apollinian–Dionysian antithesis is set aside, there remains room for more plausible dualistic conceptions. It is interesting to note that Sachs came to reject the Apollo–Dionysos antithesis and proposed instead an antithesis between ethos and pathos, from which stems a tendency in Western art to oscillate between classic and romantic poles.47 And Walter Wiora has recognized the emergence of an Apollinian ideal in Classical Greece alongside the existence of a more primitive artistic vitality. He denies, however, that the Greeks looked upon the two as absolute opposites; rather, they cultivated both in an undogmatic manner.48 It is not for us here either to accept or to reject such speculations. While expressing admiration for them, we have undertaken the more pedestrian task of indicating that they are applied at peril to a subject as specific as the Greek attitude toward the aulos.


1. Leipzig, 1899: repr. ed. (Tutzing, 1968), 64-65.

2. Die Musik der Antike, Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, ed. Ernst Bucken, I (Potsdam, 1928): 25.

3. La Musique grecque antique (Paris, 5979), 9-12.

4. (Cambridge, 5935); 2nd ed. (Boston, 1958).

5. Republic, 399c—e; trans. Paul Shorty in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (New York, 1963), 644. All translations quoted here will be altered in one respect: terms for musical instruments will be given in transliteration as opposed to such common misleading renderings as flute for aulos and harp for kithara.

6. Politics, 1341a-b; sans. Harris Rackham, Aristotle: Politics, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1932), 667-69.

7. Apollodorus t. 4. 2; 11211S. James Frazer, Apollodorus: The Library, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1921), 2: 29-31.

8. Metamorphoses, II:144-93.

9. Alcibiades, 2: 4-5; trans. Bernadotte Perrin, Plutarch's Lives, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1916), 4: 7-9. See also Autos Gellius, Nocte atticae, 15, 17.

10. De vita pythagorica liber, [25] 111; ed. Michael von Albrecht (Zurich, 1963), 116.

11. De musica libri tres, 2: 19; ed. Reginald Pepys Winnington-Ingram (Leipzig, 1963), 91.

12. For example, Helmut Huchzenneyer, Aulos arid Kithara in der griechischen Musik bis zum Ausgang der klassischen Zeit (Emsdetten, 1931), 52-53; Annemarie J. Neubecker, Die Bewertung der Musik bei Stoikern und Epikureern (Berlin, 1956), 77.

13. Fragment I, ed. and trans. John Maxwell Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1959), 3: 51.

14. Huchzermeyer, 54.

15. "Pratinus of Philus," The New Grove 15: 203.

16. Hermann Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsocratiker, 6th ed., ed. Walther Kranz (Zurich, 1951), 2: 376.

17. Huchzermeyer, 42.

18. The references are set forth with admirable thoroughness in Huchzenneyer.

19. On Lesbos, see Huchzenneyer, 40-42.

20. Isthmian, 5: 27; see also Nemean, 9: 8; Pythian, 10: 39; Olympian, 10: 94; Olympian, 7: 12; Olympia, 3: 8-9.

21. Ajax, 1202, and The Woman of Trachis, 640.

22. Bacchanals, 380.

23. Acharnians, 86o-66.

24. Deipnosophists, 4: 174-15; 14: 616-39.

25. Deipnosophists, 14: 616-17.

26. Deipnosophists, 14: 624-26.

27. Harmonides, 1.

28. Florida, I: 4.

29. Ethos and Education inGreek Musc (Cambridge, Mass., 1966), 137-38.

30. Laws, 764c-e.

31. Laws, 797b.

32. In support of this point, see Jeanne Croissant, Aristote et les mysteres (Liege, 1932), repr. ed. (New York, 1979).

33. Phaedrus, 244d—e; see Ivan M. Linforth, "Telestic Madness in Plato, Phaedrus 244de," University of California Publications in Classical Philology, 13/6(1946): 163-72.

34. Symposium, 215b—c.

35. Diodorus Siculus, 5: 49, I.

36. Phythian, 12: 19-24; see also Diodorus, 3: 58, 2.

37. See Ps.-Plutarch 14; indeed, in the same passage Soterichus maintains that Apollo himself invented the aulos.

38. Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, 14: 617.

39. Diodorus, 3; 58, 3.

40. Lucian, Dialogues of she Gods, t8 (i6); tans. M. D. Macleod, Lucian, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1969), 7: 327; see also Diodorus, 3: 58, 2-6. The one version that clearly gives the musical victory to Apollo is that of the Roman poet Ovid. Metamorphoses, II: 165-74.

41. De musica, I: 4.

42. Polycraticus, I: 6.

43. In citing this relationship it is not necessary to go so far as to ally oneself completely with the bitter anti-Platonic revisionists of the twentieth century such as Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), 5rh ed. (Princeton, NJ., 1966).

44. On this aspect of the subject, see Martin Vogel, Apollinisch and Dionysisch (Regensburg, 1966).

45. See Richard Jenkyns, The Victorian and Ancient Greece (Cambridge, Mass., 1980).

46. Compare, for example, Jowett on Republic, 399a—e, Laws, 669d-70, and Laws, 700a—b, with more recent translations.

47. The Commonwealth of Art (New York, 1946), 199-206.

48. The Four Ages of Music, trans. M. D. Herter Norton (New York, 1965), 74-75.

This item 9135 digitally provided courtesy of