5. Literary Sources


IV.891-911: And soon they saw a fair island, Anthemoessa, where the clear-voiced Sirens, daughters of Achelous, used to beguile with their sweet songs whoever cast anchor there, and they destroy him. /(vv. 895-6) Them lovely Terpsichore, one of the Muses, bare, united with Achelous/; and once they tended Demeter's noble daughter still unwed, and sang to her in chorus; and at that time they were fashioned in part like birds and in part like maidens to behold. And ever on the watch from their place of prospect with its fair haven, often from many had they taken away their sweet return, consuming them with the waste desire; and suddenly to the heroes, too, they sent forth from their lips a lily-like voice (opa leirion). And they were already about to cast from the ship the hawesers to the shore, had not Thracian Orpheus, son of Oeagrus, stringing in his hands his Bistonian lyre (phorminx), rung forth the hasty snatch of a rippling melody so that their ears might be filled with the sound of his twanging; and the lyre (phorminx) overcame the maidens' voice. And the west wind and the sounding wave rushing astern bore the ship on; and the Sirens kept uttering their ceaseless song. (Translation: Seaton 1980)


V.49: This wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the gods provided the marriage-feast, and Demeter, becoming enamoured of Iasion, presented him with the fruit of the corn, Hermes gave a lyre (lyra), Athena the renowed necklace and a robe and a flute (auloi), and Electra the sacred rites of the Great Mother of the Gods, as she is called, together with cymbals (kymbala) and kettledrums (tympana) and the instruments of her ritual; and Apollo played upon the lyre (kitharisai) and the Muses upon their flutes (aulesai), and the rest of the gods spoke them fair and gave the pair their aid in the celebration of the wedding. After this Cadmus, they say, in accordance with the oracle he had received, founded Thebes in Boeotia, while Iasion married CybelÍ and beget Corybas. And after Iasion had been removed into the circle of the gods, Dardanus and CybelÍ and Corybas conveyed to Asia the sacred rites of the Mother of the Gods and removed with them to Phrygia. Thereupon CybelÍ, joining herself to the first Olympus, begat AlcÍ and called the goddess CybelÍ after herself; and Corybas gave the name of Corybantes to all who, in celebrating the rites of his mother, acted like men possessed, and married ThebÍ, the daughter of Cilix. In like manner he also transferred the flute (auloi) from Samothrace to Phrygia and to Lyrnessus the lyre (lyra) which Hermes gave and which at a later time Achilles took for himself when he sacked that city. (Translation: Oldfather 1970)


VI.60: Moreover the Lacedaemonians are like the Egyptians, in that their heralds and flute-players (auletai) and cooks inherit the craft from their fathers, a flute-player's son (auletes) being a flute-player, and a cook's son a cook, and a herald's son a herald (auletes te auleteo ginetai kai mageiros mageirou kai keryx kerykos), no others usurp their places, making themselves heralds by loudness of voice; they ply their craft by right of birth. (Translation: Godley 1971)


HOMER (Hom.)

Iliad (Il.)
II.594-600: There were the men of Pteleos and Helos, and of Dorion, where the Muses met Thamyris the Thracian and put a stop to his singing, even as he was going /(v. 596) from the home of Oechalian Eurytus in Oechalia./ For he has boasted that he would be victoroius even if the Muses themselves, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus, were singing. In their fury they struck him blind: /(vv. 599-600) they took away his divine gift of song (aoiden thespesien aphelonto), and made him forget his kitharist's skill (eklelathon kitharistyn)/. (Translation: Barker 1984)
II.688-691: For he lay in idleness among the ships, the swift-fooded, goodly Achilles, in wrath because of the fair-haired girl BriseÔs, whom he had taken out of Lyrnessus after sore toil, when he wasted Lyrnessus and the walls of Thebe. (Translation: Murray 1976)
IX.186-189: [...] they (sc.: Myrmidons) found him beguiling his heart with the clear-sounding phorminx. It was beautiful and skilfully decorated, and the crossbar on it was silver: Achilles had chosen it from the spoils when he sacked the city of EŽtion. (Translation: Barker 1984)
XVI.152-154: And in the side-traces he set the godley Pedasus that on a time Achilles had brought away, when he took the city of EŽtion. (Translation: Murray 1976)
XIX.54-59: But when all the Achaeans were gathered together, Achilles, swift of foot, arose among them and said: "Son of Atres, was this then the better for us twain, for thee and for me, what time with grief ar heart /(v. 58) we raged in soul-devouring strife for the sake of a girl?/ Would that amid the ships Artemis had slain her with an arrow on the day when I took her from out the spoil after I had laid waste Lyrnessus!" (Translation: Murray 1976)
XXIII.826-829: Then the son of Peleus set forth a mass of rough-cast iron, which of old the mighty strength of EŽtion was wont to hurl; but him had swift-footed goodly Achilles slain, and bare this away on his ships with his other possessions. (Translation: Murray 1976)
Odyssey (Od.)
VIII.223-229: [Odysseus said:] "Yet with men of former days I will not seek to vie, with Heracles or with Eurytus of Oechalia, who strove even with the immortals in archery. Wherefore great Eurytus died soon, nor did old age come upon him in his halls, for Apollo waxed wroth and slew him, because he had challenged him to a contest with the bow." (Translation: Murray 1976-1980)


X.7.2-3: The oldest contest and the one for which they first offered prizes, was, according to tradition, the singing of a hymn to the god. The man who sang and won the prize was Chrysothemis of Crete, whose father Carmanor is said to have cleansed Apollo. After Chrysothemis, says tradition, Philammon won with a song, and after him his son Thamyris. But they say that Orpheus, a proud man and conceited about his mysteries, and Musaeus, who copied Orpheus in everything, refused, it is said, to submit to the competition in musical skill (mousike). (Translation: Jones 1954)


Pythian (Pyth.) 3, 86-92: But a life free from reverses was the fate neither of PÍleus, son of Aeacus, nor of god-like Cadmus. Yet we learn that they attained /(v. 89) the highest happiness of all mortal men, in that they heard the Muses of the golden snood singing on mount PÍlion, and in seven-gated Thebes, what time Cadmus took to wife Harmonia, with those full-orbed eyes; and when Peleus wedded Thetys, the famous daughter of wise NÍreus. (Translation: Sandys 1978)


De musica (Mus.) 1145e-1146a: Thus to show that music is of value in many situations, his poem describes Achilles digesting his anger with the help of music which he has learned from the wise Cheiron: "They found him beguiling his heart with the clear-sounding phorminx. It was beautiful and skilfully decorated, and the crossbar on it was silver: he had chosen it from the spoils when he sacked the city of EŽtion. With it he was giving delight to his heart, and singing the famous deeds of men."
"Notice," Homer is saying, "how music should be used, since it was suitable for Achilles, son of the most upright Peleus, to sing of the glories of men and the deeds of demigods." [f] Homer as also shown us the occasion which accords with its use, revealing it as a valuable and pleasant exercise for a man not actively occupied. Achilles was a man of war and action, but he was taking no part in the perils of war because of his anger with Agamemnon: hence Homer thought it suitable for the hero to sharpen his spirit with the noblest songs, so that he should be prepared to go out into battle, as he was soon to do; and this is plainly what he was doing as he recounted deeds of long ago.
‘That is what the ancient music was like, [1146a] and what it was useful for. Thus we hear of Heracles, Achilles, and many others making use of music, and their teacher, according to tradition, was the wise Cheiron, who gave instruction not only in music but in justice and in medicine as well. (Translation: Barker 1984)

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