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Ancient Amateur Culture of Music

Ancient Amateur Culture of Music

Amateur Culture in Ancient Music

As we read, listen and experience all issues of social sciences and most of life is discussed by referring to ancient ages, especially ancient Greece. By the way, Plato and Aristotle generally takes the leading role. They associate music, morality and social order with each other. However they do not bless professional music or musician, instead approach music in an amateur way for the sake of order and moral. This is the way how ancient amateur culture of music was understood.

Amateur Music in Ancient Greek

In ancient Greece, the purpose of musical education has never been to train musicians; on the contrary, music is purely an intellectual pursuit in their eyes.

Plato regarded music as one of the most important tools for individual development. While sports train the body, music train the spirit. [1] According to Aristotle, music is one of the prominent instruments to provide the catharsis. The individual should utilize music in order to attain the right morality, to change for the better and to educate her/himself.[2] According to Plato, musical education is more valuable than physical training because the soul precedes the body. This education focus on spirit and character. The aim is not an artistic but a moral and social one.[3]

The state is also based on the purpose such as meeting the needs of spirits. (but no states care about it 🙁 )

Thanks to music, love of order can penetrate into children. Anyone who has internalised the order through music would no longer have any problems in this regard. Then the order of rhythms would turn into social order. [4] Music, with its great importance, had of course some redlines by ancient philosophers. It was not desired in all aspects.

Music could not be left to the mercy of invisible hand. Only some particular instruments and modes were acceptable.

Amateur Music Culture in Ancient Daily Life

Additionally, music has been performed to ease the sting of routine work or for fun as an entertainment. While Plato stated that shepherds could relieve their troubles by playing syrinx (pan flute), [5] Aelian advised those who wanted to catch fish and crabs, to play aulos.[6] In ancient Greece, music was also performed in ‘symposions’ as one of the most characteristic social phenomena of the society. In these, after diner, various activities are organized for the guests to have fun. The guests would also play and sing.[7] Nowadays similar scenes are depicted in many movies and clip scenes and in lots of literary works. The feasts of amateur music in family and friends councils can still make ground in the society.


In balance, ancient ages, so-called Greek, advise to take off the blinkers and become versatile to improve ourselves as a whole of body and soul. It seems as a background of amateur culture understanding.

Even ancient dudes had put the responsibility of meeting spiritual needs on states; they are so busy (!) nowadays to care about us. Spare our life it is enough.

Indeed, we (amateurs) should focus on our personal catharsis.

We would be happy if you share with us 🙂

[1] Plato, Republic, Trans. G.M.A Grube, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1992.

[2] Aristotle, The Politics, Trans. T.A. Sinclair, New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

[3] Arslan, Ahmet, Ancient Philosophy History 2: From Sophists to Plato, Istanbul Bilgi University Press, 2008, p.412.

[4] Plato, Republic, Trans. G.M.A Grube, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1992.

[5] Plato, The Statesman (Politicus), Trans. J.B. Skemp, London: Bristol Classical Press, 2002.

[6] Aelian, On The Characteristic of Animals, Vol.2: Books:6-11, Trans. London: A.F.Scholfield, Loeb Classical Library, 1959, p.31-32.

[7] Kınacı, Mesut, Music and Musicians in Ancient Greek, Doğu Batı Journal, Issue 62, p.11-27.