Aristoxenus

Aristoxenus

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Aristoxenus of Tarentum
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 was a Greek Peripatetic philosopher, and a pupil of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. Most of his writings, which dealt with philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 and music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, have been lost, but one musical treatise, Elements of Harmony, survives incomplete, as well as some fragments concerning rhythm and meter.

Life


Aristoxenus was born at Tarentum
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

, and was the son of a learned musician named Spintharus (otherwise Mnesias). He learned music from his father, and having then been instructed by Lamprus of Erythrae
Lamprus of Erythrae
Lamprus of Erythrae was an ancient Grecian musician excellent of the lyre, he was born in Athens and lived in the early part of the fifth century B.C.E. A musical teacher of Sophocles in lyre playing and dance, and whilst in Mantineia, teacher of Aristoxenos...

 and Xenophilus
Xenophilus
Xenophilus of Chalcidice, was a Pythagorean philosopher and musician, who lived in the first half of the 4th century BC. Aulus Gellius relates that Xenophilus was the intimate friend and teacher of Aristoxenus, and implies that Xenophilus taught him Pythagorean doctrine...

 the Pythagorean
Pythagoreanism
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

, he finally became a pupil of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, whom he appears to have rivaled in the variety of his studies. According to the Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

, he heaped insults on Aristotle after his death, because Aristotle had designated Theophrastus
Theophrastus
Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

 as the next head
Scholarch
A scholarch is the head of a school. The term was especially used for the heads of schools of philosophy in ancient Athens, such as the Platonic Academy, whose first scholarch was Plato himself...

 of the Peripatetic school, a position which Aristoxenus himself had coveted having achieved great distinction as a pupil of Aristotle. This story is, however, contradicted by Aristocles
Aristocles of Messene
Aristocles of Messene in Sicily, a Peripatetic philosopher, who probably lived in the 1st century AD. He may have been the teacher of Alexander of Aphrodisias.According to the Suda and Eudokia, he wrote several works:...

, who asserts that he never mentioned Aristotle but with the greatest respect.

Overview of his works


His writings, said to have consisted of four hundred and fifty-three books, were in the style of Aristotle, and dealt with philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 and music. The only work of his that has come down to us is the three books of the Elements of Harmony, an incomplete musical treatise. Aristoxenus' theory had an empirical tendency; in music he held that the notes of the scale are to be judged, not as the Pythagoreans held, by mathematical ratio, but by the ear. Vitruvius
Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 in his De architectura
De architectura
' is a treatise on architecture written by the Roman architect Vitruvius and dedicated to his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus, as a guide for building projects...

paraphrases the writings of Aristoxenus on music. His ideas were responded to and developed by some later theorists such as Archestratus
Archestratus (music theorist)
Archestratus was a harmonic theorist in the Peripatetic tradition and probably lived in the early 3rd century BC. Little is known of his life and career...

, and his place in the methodological debate between rationalists and empiricists was commented upon by such writers as Ptolemais of Cyrene
Ptolemais of Cyrene
Ptolemais of Cyrene was a harmonic theorist, author of Pythagorean Principles of Music . She lived perhaps in the 3rd century BC, and "certainly not after the first century AD."-Life:...

.

The theory that the soul is a "harmony" of the four elements composing the body, and therefore mortal ("nothing at all," in the words of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

), was ascribed to Aristoxenus (fr. 118-121 Wehrli) and Dicaearchus
Dicaearchus
Dicaearchus of Messana was a Greek philosopher, cartographer, geographer, mathematician and author. Dicaearchus was Aristotle's student in the Lyceum. Very little of his work remains extant. He wrote on the history and geography of Greece, of which his most important work was his Life of Greece...

. This theory is comparable to the one offered by Simmias in Plato's Phaedo.

Elementa harmonica


In his Elements of Harmony, Aristoxenus attempted a complete and systematic exposition of music
Music of Ancient Greece
The music of ancient Greece was almost universally present in society, from marriages and funerals to religious ceremonies, theatre, folk music and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry. It thus played an integral role in the lives of ancient Greeks...

. The first book contains an explanation of the genera
Tetrachord
Traditionally, a tetrachord is a series of three intervals filling in the interval of a perfect fourth, a 4:3 frequency proportion. In modern usage a tetrachord is any four-note segment of a scale or tone row. The term tetrachord derives from ancient Greek music theory...

 of Greek music, and also of their species
Octave species
In early Greek music theory, an octave species is a sequence of incomposite intervals making up a complete octave...

; this is followed by some general definitions of terms, particularly those of sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

, interval
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

, and system
Musical system of ancient greece
This article concerns itself with the music theoretical and mathematical tone system of ancient Greece. For a discussion of the cultural aspects and history of ancient Greek music, see Music of ancient Greece....

. In the second book Aristoxenus divides music into seven parts, which he takes to be: the genera, intervals, sounds, systems, tones or modes, mutations, and melopoeia. The remainder of the work is taken up with a discussion of the many parts of music according to the order which he had himself prescribed.

Aristoxenus rejected the opinion of the Pythagoreans
Pythagoreanism
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

 that arithmetic rules were the ultimate judge of intervals and that in every system there must be found a mathematical coincidence before such a system can be said to be harmonic. In his second book he asserted that "by the hearing we judge of the magnitude of an interval, and by the understanding we consider its many powers." And further he wrote, "that the nature of melody is best discovered by the perception of sense, and is retained by memory; and that there is no other way of arriving at the knowledge of music;" and though, he wrote, "others affirm that it is by the study of instruments that we attain this knowledge;" this, he wrote, is talking wildly, "for just as it is not necessary for him who writes an Iambic to attend to the arithmetical proportions of the feet of which it is composed, so it is not necessary for him who writes a Phrygian song to attend to the ratios of the sounds proper thereto."

Thus the nature of Aristoxenus' scales and genera deviated sharply from his predecessors. Aristoxenus introduced a radically different model for creating scales. Instead of using discrete ratios to place intervals, he used continuously variable quantities. Hence the structuring of his tetrachords and the resulting scales have other qualities of consonance.

On rhythmics and metrics


Part of the second book of a work on rhythmics and metrics, Elementa rhythmica, is preserved in medieval manuscript tradition.

Aristoxenus was also the author of a work On the Primary Duration (chronos).

A five-column fragment of a treatise on meter (P. Oxy. 9
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 9
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 9 is a fragment of the "Ruthmica Stoicheia" of Aristoxenus of Tarentum, written in Greek. It was discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 in Oxyrhynchus. The fragment is dated to the third century. It is housed at Trinity College, Dublin. The text was published by Grenfell and...

/2687) was published in Grenfell
Bernard Pyne Grenfell
Bernard Pyne Grenfell was an English scientist and Egyptologist and a member of The Queen's College, Oxford.With his friend and colleague, Arthur Surridge Hunt, he took part in the archaeological dig of Oxyrhynchus and discovered many ancient manuscripts known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, including...

 and Hunt's Oxyrhynchus Papyri
Oxyrhynchus Papyri
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a very numerous group of manuscripts discovered by archaeologists including Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt . The manuscripts date from the 1st to the 6th century AD. They include thousands of Greek and...

, vol. 1 (1898) and is probably by Aristoxenus.

Other works


The edition of Wehrli presents the surviving evidence for works with the following titles (not including several fragments of uncertain origin):
  • Life of Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρου βίος): fr. 11 Wehrli
  • On Pythagoras and his pupils (Περὶ Πυθαγόρου καὶ τῶν γνωρίμων αὐτοῦ): fr. 14 Wehrli
  • On the Pythagorean life (Περὶ τοῦ Πυθαγορικοῦ βίου): fr. 31 Wehrli
  • Pythagorean maxims or Pythagorean negations (Πυθαγορικαὶ ἀποφάσεις): fr. 34 Wehrli
  • Educational customs or Rules of education (Παιδευτικοὶ νόμοι): fr. 42-43 Wehrli
  • Political laws (Πολιτικοὶ νόμοι): fr. 44-45 Wehrli
  • Mantinean character (Μαντινέων ἔθη): fr. 45, I, lines 1-9 Wehrli
  • Praise of Mantineans (Μαντινέων ἐγκώμιον): fr. 45, I, lines 10-12 Wehrli
  • Life of Archytas
    Archytas
    Archytas was an Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and strategist. He was a scientist of the Pythagorean school and famous for being the reputed founder of mathematical mechanics, as well as a good friend of Plato....

    (Ἀρχύτα βίος): fr. 47-50 Wehrli
  • Life of Socrates
    Socrates
    Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

    (Σωκράτους βίος): fr. 54 Wehrli
  • Life of Plato (Πλάτωνος βίος): fr. 64 Wehrli
  • On tonoi (Περὶ τόνων): a brief quotation in Porphyry
    Porphyry (philosopher)
    Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

    's commentary on Ptolemy's Harmonics, p. 78 Düring (not edited by Wehrli)
  • On music (Περὶ μουσικῆς): fr. 80, 82, 89 Wehrli
  • On listening to music or Lecture course on music (Μουσικὴ ἀκρόασις): fr. 90 Wehrli
  • On Praxidamas (Πραξιδαμάντεια): fr. 91 Wehrli
  • On melodic composition or On music in lyric poetry (Περὶ μελοποιίας): fr. 93 Wehrli
  • On musical instruments (Περὶ ὀργάνων): fr. 94-95, 102 Wehrli
  • On auloi
    Aulos
    An aulos or tibia was an ancient Greek wind instrument, depicted often in art and also attested by archaeology.An aulete was the musician who performed on an aulos...

    (Περὶ αὐλῶν): fr. 96 Wehrli
  • On auletes (Περὶ αὐλητῶν): fr. 100 Wehrli
  • On the boring of auloi (Περὶ αὐλῶν τρήσεως): fr. 101 Wehrli
  • On choruses (Περὶ χορῶν): fr. 103 Wehrli
  • On tragic dancing (Περὶ τραγικῆς ὀρχήσεως): fr. 104-106 Wehrli
  • Comparisons of dances (Συγκρίσεις): fr. 109 Wehrli
  • On tragic poets (Περὶ τραγῳδοποιῶν): fr. 113 Wehrli
  • Life of Telestes (Τελέστου βίος): fr. 117 Wehrli (according to whom this Telestes is the dithyramb
    Dithyramb
    The dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility; the term was also used as an epithet of the god: Plato, in The Laws, while discussing various kinds of music mentions "the birth of Dionysos, called, I think, the dithyramb." Plato also...

    ic poet)
  • Miscellaneous table talk or Sympotic
    Symposium
    In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

     miscellany
    (Σύμμικτα συμποτικά): fr. 124 Wehrli
  • Notes or Memorabilia (Ὑπομνήματα), Historical notes (Ἱστορικὰ ὑπομνήματα), Brief notes (Κατὰ βραχὺ ὑπομνήματα), Miscellaneous notes (Σύμμικτα ὑπομνήματα), Random jottings (Τὰ σποράδην): fr. 128-132, 139 Wehrli

Editions and translations

  • Barker, Andrew (1989). Greek Musical Writings, vol. 2: Harmonic and Acoustic Theory (Cambridge), pp. 119–89, English translation with introduction and notes, ISBN 0521616972
  • Macran, Henry Stewart (1902). The Harmonics of Aristoxenus (Oxford), Greek text with English translation and notes (archive.org, Google Books)
  • Marquard, Paul (1868). Die harmonischen Fragmente des Aristoxenus (Berlin), Greek text with German translation and commentary (archive.org, Google Books)
  • Pearson, Lionel (1990). Aristoxenus: Elementa rhythmica. The fragment of Book II and the additional evidence for Aristoxenean rhythmic theory (Oxford ), Greek texts with introduction, translation, and commentary, ISBN 0198140517
  • Wehrli, Fritz (1967). Die Schule des Aristoteles, vol. 2: Aristoxenos, 2nd. ed. (Basel/Stuttgart), Greek text (excluding the harmonic fragments, rhythmic fragments, On the Primary Duration, and On tonoi: see p. 28) with commentary in German
  • Westphal, Rudolf
    Rudolf Westphal
    Rudolf Westphal , German classical scholar, was born at Obernkirchen in Schaumburg.He studied at Marburg and Tübingen, and was professor at Breslau and Moscow...

     (1883-1893). Aristoxenus von Tarent: Melik und Rhythmik des classischen Hellenenthums, 2 vols. (Leipzig) (vol. 1, vol. 2)
  • Westphal, Rudolf
    Rudolf Westphal
    Rudolf Westphal , German classical scholar, was born at Obernkirchen in Schaumburg.He studied at Marburg and Tübingen, and was professor at Breslau and Moscow...

    (1861). Die Fragmente und die Lehrsätze der griechischen Rythmiker (Leipzig), pp. 26–41, Greek text of Elementa rhythmica and On the Primary Duration (Google Books)

External links