Music & Ritual: Bridging Material & Living Cultures

Publications of the ICTM Study Group on Music Archaeology, Vol. 1

Paestum: Ritual Music in Honour of the Dead

Daniela Castaldo

Several pieces of evidence found in the necropolises of Poseidonia-Paestum enable scholars to point out some elements regarding music of ancient peoples inhabiting the Campania region. The frescoes decorating some of the wealthiest tombs allude to the religious beliefs, the culture and the lifestyles of the elites leading Paestum until the 273 BC, when it became a Latin colony. The symposion scene portrayed in the Diver’s tomb (480-470 BC) shows a strong influence from the Greek world: here music, especially that played on the barbiton-lyre and auloi, is one of the pleasures connected with the occasion, together with drink and love. Other themes are portrayed in the Lucanian tomb, dated from the end of the 5th century: one can find musical elements, for example, in the funeral games organized to honour the deceased. Several boxing matches took place in the presence of an aulos-player wearing the phorbeia, who is synchronised rhythmically with the movement of the boxers. In some other cases the boxing scene with the musician perhaps alludes to a sort of popular theatrical performance. In the presentations of prothesis, the showing of the deceased, the aulos music probably rhythmically mimicked the gestures of women crying over the deceased, and otherwise accompanied the funeral lamentations.

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