Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ancient Roman Music by Jill Mattson

The priorities of the Roman civilization were not the same as the Greeks. The Romans were practical people. They were farmers and warriors - not lovers of art as the Greeks were. Their first temples were to Mars, the War God. Music was never a part of education for the young.

They had a desire for colossal effects as we see in the Roman games. Seneca says that in Nero's time the chorus was larger than the spectators. At the games there were also flanks of trumpeters and flutists, much like today's sports games with the band sitting on the bleachers.

One can understand the role of music in the Roman society by observing the Roman victory parades for warriors. Trumpeters and singers chanted triumphal songs. Members of the Senate and Magistrates followed. Animals (usually oxen) for sacrifice, with garlands in their horns and accompanying priests, plodded behind. The musicians and flute players followed this group to assist with the sacrifice.

Wagons with spoils from the captives were included. Tribute from foreign countries followed next. The captives' kings, leaders and their wives were chained and followed, awaiting their death. Musicians dressed as satyrs, crowned in gold, danced and added cruel jesting. Mimics, men dressed as women, made fun of the captors with gestures and insults.

People in the parade spread perfume on the crowd. Four white horses or sometimes elephants pulled a flamboyant chariot carrying the general. He dressed in purple, wore a garland on his head and his face was painted orange. His friends and family followed, dressed in white. A slave, carrying a richly gemmed crown, followed the general; it was his duty to admonish the general by whispering in his ear that he was only a man.

This was followed by the entire army wearing laurels and sporting captured booty. The army sang and praised the general; sometimes they sang course and vulgar jokes aimed at their general. Buildings along the route were decorated. Banquets awaited the spectators. When they arrived at the Temple of Jupiter, the captives and oxen were killed, entertaining of the crowd. After the parade musicians escorted the general home, still singing his praises.

Rome was cruel even in her rejoicing. This coarse use of music included loud trumpets, a vile musical pantomime encouraging the crowd to jeer at captors before their death, sacrificial music for the killing of animals and opposing warriors. The rude songs of the army illustrated how music was used to glorify victory, power and brutality.

The primary use of music in Rome was to instill courage and fortitude in battle. Brass instruments such as the tuba, buccina and some double pipes were among their battle instruments.
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1 comment:

  1. I love venturing into ancient musical customs! They use music for targeted purposes, least of which is entertainment. I have spent my life studying the impact of music on our body, mind and spirit! Fascinating! I have some free samples at the bottom of my home page on my
    Sweet music to you! Jill