Hear The Oldest Surviving Song

The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest compete surviving song discovered to date.  It comes from marble memorial pilla (stele) found in Tralleis, near Ephesus. and dating to the 1st or 2nd cenutry AD. This means that it captures words and music from the vicinity of the earliest Christian communities.

The text is not Christian, but records the following lyric in Greek:

Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
Hoson zēs phainou
While you live, shine
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
mēden holōs sy lypou
have no grief at all
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
pros oligon esti to zēn
life exists only for a short while
τὸ τέλος ὁ xρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.
to telos ho chronos apaitei.
and time demands its toll.

And here’s how the music, recorded in an ancient notation, sounded:

YouTube Preview Image

The History Blog has quite a bit more, including a vocal performance, so check thou it out.

How long does a music tradition last, and how far does it spread? Is it possible that we’re hearing a faint echo of how the psalms were performed?


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