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Music in Ancient Sparta: instruments, song, archaeology, and image

Lloyd, J. (2019) Music in Ancient Sparta: instruments, song, archaeology, and image. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00088938


By gathering a broad range of sources (literary, epigraphic, archaeological, iconographic, and organological), this study provides the first extended critique of what we know about Spartan music. The chronological focus of the thesis is the sixth to fourth centuries BCE, showing how previously overlooked evidence reveals that the musical culture of Sparta remained in a fluid state of change, reflection, and development, both during and after its fabled heyday in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. I suggest that the unique elements of Spartan music (primarily its conservative and homeostatic nature) are either not overly unique or not entirely believable. That being said, aspects of Spartan musical performance do indeed appear to be distinctly local, such as the hereditary role of military aulos-players, but this obscures the point that music is a reflection of the culture in which it is created, and that as a tool to foster social cohesion and moral and political understanding, music played much the same role in Sparta as it did in other states. What is unique about Spartan music is the extent to which it was believed to be different. A number of specific contributions to our understanding of ancient music and Spartan society are made: the Sparta auloi fragments belong to at least two different pairs of pipes; Simonides, rather than a poet tied to regent Pausanias, made a substantial contribution to Spartan politeia and paideia more broadly; Laconian material culture points to a vibrant performative environment. I also highlight the success of Sparta’s progressive Roman musical culture from the 1st C. BCE - 3rd C. CE, and its tensions with deliberate archaising ‘traditions’. In sum, this thesis argues that Spartan music needs to be re-conceived. Like the Spartan government, despite pleas for its stability and unchanging nature, Spartan engagement with music was constantly being reconsidered and reinvented, at home and abroad.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Rutherford, I.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Humanities
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Classics
ID Code:88938


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