Music in Ancient Greece

Music in Ancient Greece:
  • Epitaph of Seikilos
  • First Hymn to Apollo, from the city of Delphi
  • Second Hymn to Apollo, from Delphi
  • Tchaikovsky, Romeo & Juliet Overture-Fantasy (what you might have expected Greek music to sound like?)
  • An excellent book on Greek culture: "The Greek Way" by Edith Hamilton
  • Chorus from Euripides's Orestes
  • Re-creations of Roman Music
  • The "Yaman" Raag from Indian Classical music
  • "The Bacchae" by Euripides
  • The "Bacchanale" from the opera Samson & Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens

Where to purchase these examples

"Ethos" vs. its opposite

George Washington: upright, tall and proud. Versus Snidely Whiplash: crooked, scheming, and suspicious.


Orpheus was the figure in Greek Mythology personifying the power of music. Orpheus especially embodied music's power of ethos--moral improvement by activation of virtue in the soul. In this painting from around 1900, by John Macallan Swan (1847-1910) depicts the most extreme form of Orpheus's power: his playing and singing was said to charm animals and even to make trees sensible to music. A poetic exageration, for sure--but the Greeks were extreme, stark, in their conceptions.


William-Adolphe Bouguereau's 1862 painting "The Remorse of Orestes" (or "Orestes Pursued by the Furies") depicts the torment Orestes felt after killing his mother Clytemnestra out of revenge--she had murdered his father Agamemnon.

The Vienna Papyrus G 2315, containing an excerpt from Euripides's Orestes, with musical notation.