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Collection Highlights

Statuette of a harp player

Statuette of a harp player
© BA Antiquities Museum/E. Omar

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0322

Inv.Inventory
 (Greco-Roman Museum) P.10824

where to find


showcase 18

Statuette of a harp player

Category:
Sculpture in the round, figurines / statuettes, human / gods and goddesses figurines
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Roman Period (31 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance:
Upper Egypt, Fayoum
Material(s):
Man made material, pottery (terracotta)
Height:
12.4 cm
Hall:
Greco-Roman Antiquities, showcase 18


Description

Terracotta figurine of a girl playing the harp.

Music

Music was very important to the ancient Greeks; to state that someone was unmusical meant that that person did not understand or appreciate arts. The Greeks considered music a link to the gods, as well as a branch of the highest forms of human thought, such as philosophy and mathematics.
They told myths in which their gods and goddesses created the first music and musical instrument. They also believed that music had the power to communicate with the gods. Folk songs and traditional music were part of everyday life. People sang at weddings, harvest celebrations, and other occasions. Greek theatrical presentations were accompanied by songs held by the choir. Dithyrambus dances, accompanied by drama songs narrating the myth of the god Dionysos, represent an important religious ritual in the cult of this god. Singing was also a part of women's daily life, as they sang while performing their domestic tasks. To the Romans, music was less important, but had numerous roles in Roman life.

The Greeks knew many kinds of instruments, but most Greek musicians relied on two main instruments, the aulos which was a reed instrument similar to the modern oboe, and the lyre which was a wooden frame with strings stretched across it. The strings were of the same length, but each had a different thickness and tightness, so that each made a different tone when plucked. The harp and the Kithara were the larger types of the lyre that produced a greater variety of sounds. Brass, horns, handheld drums, cymbals, and wooden clappers were rarely used.

Only few fragments of written music from Greece and Rome survived, and little is known about how this music sounded. The heritage of the Greek music blended in the Roman world and influenced the music of the early Christian church.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • "Music and Musical Instruments". In Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, edited by Carroll Moulton. Vol. III. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1998.
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