Epitaph of Seikilos (1st Century CE) in the Just Intonation of Antiquity

02:31
Michael Levy
10/15/2012
Ancient Greek "Skolion" (Drinking Song)

Story

The "Epitaph of Seikilos" is the oldest complete piece of written music to have survived from antiquity.

Engraved on an ancient Burial Stele at Tralles, Asia Minor, this beautiful melody was discovered and published by Ramsay, 1883. Musical signs deciphered by Wessley, 1891. The stone itself, long preserved in the collection of Young at Doudja, disappeared after the burning of Smyrna (September 1923). It is now in the Copenhagen Museum, Inv. No. 14897.

This song, written in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode, is so far, the oldest complete piece of music ever found - unlike the other precious shards of ancient Greek music which have survived; this piece is unique, as it survived in its entirety:


The ancient Greek burial stele on which it was found bore the following epitaph:

"I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance".


The timeless words of the song are:



"Hoson zes, phainou 
Meden holos su lupou;
Pros oligon esti to zen
To telos ho chronos apaitei"

Translation

"While you live, shine
Don't suffer anything at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll"


A video of one of my early "live" YouTube performances of "Epitaph of Seikilos" featured in a story in "The Australian Daily Telegraph" in November 2013

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