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date: 17 January 2021


  • Andrew Barker


‘Let me not live without music’, sings a chorus of greybeards in *Euripides (HF676). Expressions such as ‘without music’, ‘chorusless’, ‘lyreless’ evoked the dreary bitterness of war, the *Erinyes' curse, or death, ‘without wedding song, lyreless, chorusless, death at the end’ (Soph.OC1221–3). Poetic pictures of unblemished happiness are correspondingly resonant with music; and in every sort of revel and celebration, Greeks of all social classes sang, danced (see dancing), and played instruments, besides listening to professional performances. Music was credited with divine origins and mysterious powers, and was the pivot of relations between mortals and gods. It was central to public religious observance, and to such semi-religious occasions as weddings, funerals, and harvests. At the great panhellenic *festivals (see panhellenism) and their many local counterparts, choruses and vocal and instrumental soloists competed no less than athletes for prizes and glory (cf. Pind.

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