Ancient Greek Music

No one really knows what music of Ancient Greek sounded like because none of it was ever recorded.

But it is known that music was a huge part of the life of Ancient Greeks.

Music was used at festivals, weddings, for working, celebrating, death and all kinds of other reasons.

Ancient Greek Music


There were two scales that the Greeks used int heir music and the scales were called modes.

The scales were used to make music and they would be used with numbers and strings so that the musicians could make different tones when they played.


The arts were popular in Ancient Greek and included dance, music, art, poetry and drama.

Many people would be involved in the arts and sometimes musicians would gather with dancers and poets and would paly music while other people recited poems or did dances.

Most of the music was played on a lyre but there would be different musical instruments that were used as well.

Importance of Music

Music was such an important part of the Greek culture and it was used for celebrations and for other rituals.

People would gather for weddings and play music and during funerals, there would always be music.  It was important for musicians to be available anytime that the wealthy people had feasts at their homes.

Musicians could make money by playing music for temples, for the wealthy and for the government.  Musicians made money by bringing their instruments and helping with worship and other festivals.


The Pythagoreans were people that were good at philosophy and math.

Most of these people would live on the island of Samos and they were an important part of music.

They would use math in their music, and they would use their numbers to make up different songs.

The Pythagoreans helped people to see that numbers were part of harmony and that music has different octaves.  They found that most sounds would work well if it was related to numbers.

They also discovered that music could be different tones and pitches and it was based on how the numbers were seen on the instrument.

The Pythagoreans found that notes were created by sound waves and vibrations and that when a note was higher, it was another octave.

They found they could make it higher when they went to a fourth or fifth on the instrument and this would cause the music to be higher pitched.

The Pythagoreans knew that numbers worked well to help people understand music and they saw themselves as music experts, even creating different musical scales with their numbers.

Greek Philosopher


Music was used as a big form of entertainment and there were many people that would gather together to play instruments.

Some of the instruments included a lyre, flute, drums and more.  Many times, the people would gather together, and they would play music while other people danced.

During festivals and banquets, musicians would get together and play music.

During these festivals, people would come together to drink and to have parties to celebrate holy days and the gods.


As we said above, the lyre was a very important instrument.

Other instruments that were often used were pipes, flutes, drums, bells, tambourines, cymbals, harps and castanets.

The instruments were made out of iron and wood and some of them had leather straps to carry them.

The harp is considered to be the oldest instrument in Ancient Greek, and it was usually played by a group of people called the Druids.

The lyre was the most important instrument of the time and it was used when people would come together and tell Homeric tales and when they wanted to talk about philosophy.

A double reed instrument called a ardos was popular at banquets and festivals but was even more popular during the Olympic games.

Ancient Greek Instruments

Facts About Ancient Greek Music:

  • The Kithara was an Ancient Greek lyre.
  • The earliest known organ was called the Hydraulis.
  • Musicians would rest instruments on their shoulder and use a sling made of leather ot hold it to their body.
  • Strings of the instruments were muscles of different kinds of animals.
  • We know what we do about Ancient Greek music because poets and writers wrote about them.
  • Some hymns were found that were written to the gods but none of them had music written on them. One famous one was called “Hymn to Apollo.”
  • Mount Parnassus was the place where the temple of the god of Apollo lived and was considered the most sacred place in Ancient Greece. This was a big place of music and dance.


What Did You Learn?

  1. Was music important in Ancient Greek times?  Yes!  Music was considered very important in Ancient Greek times and was used for entertainment, banquets, celebrations, religion and other purposes.
  2. Why do we not know exactly what Ancient Greek music sounded like? We don’t know what Ancient Greek music sounded like because it was never written down.
  3. Who used math to make music? The Pythagoreans thought that math and music went together perfectly.
  4. How do we know what we do about Ancient Greek music if it wasn’t written down? We know about music because the poets and writers of Ancient Greek wrote about it.
  5. What were some instruments of Ancient Greece? Some of the instruments of Ancient Greece were lyres, harps, drums, cymbals, flutes and more.