Ancient Greek Percussion Instruments

1002 Words5 Pages
Ancient Greece is not particularly known for its percussion, but percussion nevertheless played a large role in the lives of Greeks. The cultures that most influenced Greek music were the Anatolian (ancient Turkey), Minoan Crete, Phoenician Cyprus, and Egyptian cultures. Especially in Egyptian tombs, percussion instruments similar to the ones depicted on Greek vase paintings have been found. The vase paintings are also the main sources which tell modern day scholars which percussion instruments were used most often and in which contexts they were used. Unlike today’s culture, percussion was not only used in music, it was used to summon the goddess of spring and in the process of making important military, governmental, or political decisions.…show more content…
Probably the most well-known god who was associated with percussion was Dionysius. He was the god of wine, merry-making, ritual madness, and fertility, and as a result, religious events were loose occasions in which socially uncontrolled behavior was common. In fact, priestesses of Dionysius were called maenads which means mad women; however, followers of Dionysius identified closely with the frame drum, krotalas, and cymbals. Another Greek deity directly associated with percussion was Persephone. Legend has it that she was kidnapped by Hades, the ruler of the underworld, and so was forced to spend half of every year with him. During this period it was said that she sat on her throne with her frame drum hanging overhead. Since Persephone was the goddess of spring, a lavish ritual was held each year for over a thousand years to recall her from the underworld. Further, percussion instruments were correlated with the oracles of Delphi and Dodona as well, the goddesses Artemis, Demeter, Cybele and Aphrodite, and the nine-fold goddess called the Muse. Since their gods played such a huge role in their lives, through these deities, percussion would have been largely present in the lives of the…show more content…
First of all, they were used as a significant part of the dancing. Dancers would play their instruments not only to keep time, but also to add to the intricacy of the dance. Religious dances in honor of Dionysius were especially popular along with elaborate dramas and dithyrambs (rhythmic verses) all of which were set to percussion music. Often extravagant processions of devotees and merrymakers in honor of their gods or goddesses would make their way through the streets of Greek cities preceded by the loud crashing of cymbals and the beat of the frame drum. In celebrations related to Persephone, though, the percussion instruments served a greater purpose than revelry and praise. The Greeks believed that to bring spring to their lands they needed to call the goddess of spring from her bondage in the underworld. Therefore, to summon her, the Greeks would use the great noise of tympanons, krotalons and kymvalons, gongs, and bullroarers. A mirror of this practice was used for individuals to allow the initiate to “experience a symbolic death and return reborn to the living. ” These percussion instruments were not only used to worship or to call forth a goddess, they were also used to stimulate the prophetic trances of the priestesses of the oracles of Delphi and Dodona. During the time of these
Open Document