tombstone

Music Monday: Ancient Music & Thoughts

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I’ve been digging around, looking for something interesting. Back in September 2019, I posted about Billboard locking down/wiping out their online charts behind a paywall. I don’t know if this is a fluke or if they got a lot of blow-back for what they did but, the charts have reappeared (their Hot 100 era). Ok. Good. Time will tell if they stay. And, I hope they did get some blow-back. Assholes.

Seikilos Column Wiki Image One
Seikilos Column (marble stele/tombstone)
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Now that I got that off my chest, on to other stuff.

Wikipedia has a timeline of musical events (Yeah. I know. Wikipedia is hardly a bastion of truth but, seems to be a bit less haphazard with music, plants, animals, cars and finding a U.S. town.) I stumbled across the Seikilos Epitaph, a short, little marble tombstone with poetry/lyrics/text, with musical notation, written in Greek. It is unusual and unique because it is the oldest, intact musical composition in the world. It was found in Tralles, Turkey, an ancient, Hellenistic town where Aydin exists, now. The lyrics:

Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἔστι[2] τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.

hóson zêis, phaínou
mēdèn hólōs sù lupoû
pròs olígon ésti tò zên
tò télos ho khrónos apaiteî.

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands his due.

Wikipedia Inscription Image Two
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Lennart Larsen
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The dedication was partially destroyed and could read:

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[πῃ]
Seikílos Eutér[pēi]
“Seikilos to Euterpe”, possibly his wife (also the name of the Muse of Music)

OR

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[που]
Seikílos Eutér[pou]
“Seikilos, son of Euterpes”

The inscription reads:

Εἰκὼν ἤ λίθος εἰμί. τίθησί με Σεικίλος ἔνθα μνήμης ἀθανάτου σῆμα πολυχρόνιον.
eikṑn ḗ líthos eimí. títhēsí me Seikílos éntha mnḗmēs athanátou sêma polukhrónion.
“I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

The dating of the tombstone has proven elusive. The range is from the first century B.C to the first or second century A.D. based upon paleography.

Take a listen:

Here is another version, based upon the inscription being dedicated to a wife:
Song of Seikilos (Classic FM website)