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  • Educator Tim Hansen
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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Who were the Muses?As we’ve mentioned, there is some debate still going on today as to how many muses there were and what they did, but generally scholars agree today that there were nine principle muses. But who were they? There’s a wealth of information about the Muses out on the web, but one of the most straightforward yet detailed pages is on This webpage lists the Muses by name, their discipline, and gives a thorough account of the mythology surrounding them. Furthermore there’s other great links to the history of Greek mythology, which is a wealth of fascinating stories guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing!
Texts vary slightly on this information, and I encourage you do to your own research on the topic, but the list I settled on in the end is as follows:
Calliope, the muse of philosophy and epic poetry
Erato, the muse of love poetry and the lyre
Euterpe, the muse of secular song and the aulos (an ancient Greek flute),
Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred song or hymns
Terpsichore, the muse of dance
Thalia, the muse of comedic theatre and writing
Melpomene, the muse of tragic theatre and writing
Clio, the muse of history,
Urania (or Ourania), the muse of Astronomy.

Greek MythologyThe Muses are a tiny part of the incredibly rich ancient Greek mythology. Stories from ancient Greece continue to be as entertaining and insightful as they were when they were first told thousands of years ago. These stories would have been sung in verse when they were first conceived, but here, on this great website, you can find ancient Greek stories retold for us today in written and spoken word.

What did ancient Greek music sound like?The ancient Greek world faded over two thousand years ago, and this presents some pretty obvious difficulties for us today when we try to answer the question, “what did ancient Greek music sound like?”. Luckily we have some clues: we know what instruments they used, and some nearby cultures still use techniques that scholars suspect were used by the ancient Greeks. We also are lucky enough to have some tiny scraps of written music from all those centuries ago. This great article outlines how scholars have figured out what they believe music in ancient Greece sounded like, and even includes a recording from a song thousands of years old. The song that is. Not the recording. Obviously. (Teachers: please see additional resources for more guidance on this site)
Further Reading:
•Anderson, WD. Ethos and Education in Greek Music: the evidence of poetry and philosophy (1966). Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass.
•D’angour, A. “How did ancient Greek music sound?” BBC News Business. Published 22nd October 2013. Web 26th November 2013.
•Grout, DJ. & Palisca, CV. A History of Western Music (4th ed.) (1988). Norton & Co. Inc: New York.
•Plato Republic. Trans. A.D. Lindsay (1969). Dent: London.
•Price, AW. Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle (2011). Clarendon Press: Oxford
•West, ML. Ancient Greek Music (1992). Clarendon Press: Oxford
If you elect to get one book on this list, I thoroughly recommend getting a copy of Grout and Palisca’s A History of Western Music. This book has been my go-to music bible for a decade, and I am indebted to the authors for inspiring in me a lifelong passion for music history. Their chapter on Music in Antiquity is especially interesting, and is the basis for this lesson.
In researching supplementary material for this lesson, I stumbled across a great article on the BBC website discussing what ancient Greek music sounded like.
Finally, a thanks to Elizabeth Minchin, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the Australian National University, who read over my lesson to make sure my terminology about all things ancient and Greek were correct. One of a few things I learned: the Romans wore togas; the Greeks wore tunics. Always learning!
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Lesson Creator
New York, NY
Plato believed that certain types of music were dangerous as they could corrupt society to the point of complete anarchic breakdown and historically, he’s not alone. Since Plato first expressed this belief over two thousand years ago, many political, religious and philosophical leaders have suggested that not all art or music was beneficial to society, and some kinds of art or music should be avoided or even destroyed.
12/03/2013 • 
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