Volume VIII

Aspects of Music Culture in the Land of Israel during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods: Sepphoris as a Case Study

Abstract

The Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods in the Land of Israel are defined, for the purpose of this study, from the last third of the fourth century BCE to the first half of the seventh century CE. This period is noted by significant historical and cultural changes that brought to the region a thousand years of Hellenistic culture, manifested in language, art, music, cult and thought. Yet, despite and alongside the changes, a continuum is noted, especially pertaining to the earlier Eastern or local traditions.

One of the basic assumptions of this study is that the Land of Israel during this time offers an opportunity to examine the development of music culture in a region that was inhabited by people of various ethnoi. Utilizing an innovative multidisciplinary field involving archaeology, ethnology and musicology, use is made of tools, theories and methodologies from these respective fields in an attempt to gain further information and a better understanding of the music culture in the Land of Israel. Based on the abundance of music-related artifacts found, this paper examines aspects of religious/ethnic identity of the multifaceted population, using Sepphoris — the capital city and cultural center in the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods — as a case study.

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Published online: 02.12.20
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Author: Anne Draffkorn Kilmer
Published online: 11.11.19
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The Twelfth Congress of the International Musicological Society was held at the University of California in Berkeley in 1977. A round table discussion group had been formed for the occasion on the topic “Music and Archaeology.” The participants in this group were Berkeley Professors Richard L. Crocker (Chair) and Anne D. Kilmer; other members of the group were Bathja Bayer (Jerusalem), Mantle Hood (Los Angeles), Charles Boiles (Mexico), Ellen Hickmann (Germany), Cajsa Lund (Sweden) and Liang Ming-Yueh (China). All the participants were eager to hear the views held by music historians on the values of the recovery of ancient music (including prehistoric music) and on the benefits of recreating ancient musical instruments. Those contributions, presented either in summary form or in full, were published in the reports from the Twelfth Congress.

Author: Bathja [Batya] Bayer
Published online: 11.11.19
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At the present writing, research on the Mesopotamian theory of music has already been going on for more than fifteen years. In 1960 Anne Kilmer published two lists of so-called key-numbers or coefficients for various computations — similar to today’s collections of “useful tables.” In one of these, the tablet known by the siglum CBS 10996, a section appeared that had not been known previously from similar mathematical lists; it presented pairs of numbered entities, each apposed to an entity of another class. Benno Landsberger who had suggested the publication of CBS 10996, noted that these paired entities appear singly in the lexical text U.3011 (still unpublished at that time), where they represented a paradigmatic sequence of strings. In the Key-Number Table, therefore, each pairing of strings denotes “something,” but it was not yet clear what these were (for this first presentation and discussion of CBS 10996, see Kilmer 1960: 274–275, 278, 281, 289–300). It should be mentioned, in parenthesis, that shortly before this time (1959) it had been proved that the “Babylonian notation” presented by Curt Sachs in 1923 had not been a notation at all (see here Appendix A, Excursus 1).

Author: Anne Draffkorn Kilmer
Published online: 11.11.19
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Bathja Bayer’s survey, as presented in this volume, discusses the first five Mesopotamian music theory texts that had been published by 1977, including the Hurrian hymn from Ras Shamra/Ugarit. Since that time, seven more pertinent cuneiform texts have been brought to bear on the subject, and several new interpretations of the materials have had a significant impact on our understanding of ancient Near Eastern music theory and practice.  I discussed the first five texts, as well as one other (Kilmer 1984).

Author: Dahlia Shehata
Published online: 11.11.19
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Music is an indispensable part of religious acts in most, if not all, known cultures of the ancient as well as the modern world. Musical sounds — whether created by human voice or instruments — occupy the integral function of a communication medium. As for general religious beliefs, communication through music was not restricted to human society but could also cross barriers to reach transcendental spheres. Music is a language understood by all beings, gods as well as demons and other creatures of intermediate worlds. Besides its function as a conveyer of information like regular speech, music also has a psychological value, as it is able to affect deepest moods and emotions. By using this tool in communicating with the divine, mankind increases its abilities to influence transcendental beings.

Author: Uri Gabbay
Published online: 11.11.19
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The balaĝ instrument played an important part in ancient Mesopotamian religion, but its identification has been disputed for many years. There is some evidence that the balaĝ was a stringed instrument and other evidence that it was a drum. Anne Kilmer tried to integrate the evidence by hypothesizing that originally it was a stringed instrument whose sound box could have been used as a drummable resonator as well, and that eventually its name became associated with the percussion instrument alone (Kilmer 1995: 465). Other scholars understood the term balaĝ as a general word for musical instruments (Hartmann 1960: 57) or for stringed instruments (Krispijn 1990: 6–7; 2002: 468). Similarly to Kilmer, my understanding is that the textual and iconographical evidence demonstrate that originally the balaĝ was a stringed instrument, and that with time the term began to include a drum as well. However, I believe that this process did not occur because of the use of the resonator also as a drum, but rather due to the cultic environment and circumstances in which the balaĝ instrument was played.

Author: Sam Mirelman
Published online: 11.11.19
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Concerning musical instruments, we are fortunate to have many terms, many visual representations and a handful of material remains from ancient Mesopotamia. However, a precise identification or matching between text and image (or material source) has remained elusive. The one clear exception is the lilissu, which can safely be identified as a kettledrum in the Seleucid period, due to the presence of text and image on the same physical object (Rashid 1984: 140). A further methodological problem lies in the fact that names of instruments change over time. However, although the identity of an instrument might change, it usually retains familial characteristics with its predecessor of the same name. For example, Anglo-Saxon hearpe, from which the word “harp” is derived, originally denoted a Teutonic lyre (De Vale 2008: V: 1). In the following, it is argued that, at least originally, Sumerian á-lá or Akkadian alû referred to a giant, double-membraned, cylindrical, struck drum (as opposed to a friction drum), as depicted on several third-millennium-BCE iconographic sources. The giant drum that is depicted on the Gudea and Urnamma Stelae (Rashid 1984: 70–73, Ill. 51–55) has been identified as the ala-drum by Galpin. Although I agree with Galpin, his reasoning was based on weak evidence, largely the descriptions of the instrument’s sound as “thunder” (Galpin 1937: 6–7). Galpin’s view has been followed by Sachs 1940: 74ff.; Hartmann 1960: 79–82; Spycket 1972: 179–180; Marcuse 1975: 131; Picken 1975: 103; Shehata 2006: 369; Gabbay 2007: 59 and Ziegler 2007: 74. The purpose of this article is to confirm this identification with a more detailed consideration of the sources, to show that the ala-instrument is, along with the lilissu, one of the few securely identifiable instruments in ancient Mesopotamia. Secondly, an attempt will be made to examine the instrument in its cultic role. My methodology is philological, iconographic and ethnographic. Examples of drum-making from various parts of the world are relevant, although no direct link is claimed. The giant cylindrical drum has died out in contemporary Iraq; thus comparisons with other musical cultures from around the world must be made. In making such comparisons, no historical links are implied.

Author: Annie Caubet
Published online: 11.11.19
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The Levantine kingdom of Ugarit, destroyed by the Sea Peoples ca. 1185, provides a wide range of evidence for the reconstruction of musical practice during the Late Bronze Age, at the time of New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Kassite Babylonia and the Amorite kingdoms of Syria and Palestine. Cultural associations with the eastern Mediterranean world may also be derived from it. Dated to the last centuries of the second millennium BCE, the evidence from Ugarit casts some light upon the poorly known history of ancient Near Eastern music in the span of time between third-millennium Sumer and the world of the Bible in the first millennium. The temptation to look for continuity or rupture over such a long period and across such a large geographic space, while difficult to resist, is open to frustration.

Author: Ora Brison
Published online: 11.11.19
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This essay focuses the role of Anatolian music in erotic and sexual contexts — especially of its function in mythological seduction scenes. In these scenes, music is employed as a means of enhancing erotic seduction. A number of cultic, sexual iconographic representations associated with musical instruments and performers of music will also be discussed.

Author: John Curtis Franklin
Published online: 11.11.19
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Mycenaean Greeks migrated to Cyprus at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Did they bring with them a tradition of oral heroic poetry, cognate to that which eventually culminated in Homer and his colleagues in the eighth and seventh centuries? Cyprus seems as likely an environment for its survival and evolution as the Aeolic-Ionic world. Recent postcolonial scholarship has stressed the rapid “hybridity” of Cypriot material culture in the Iron Age; immigrants included Minoan and probably Anatolian groups, and naturally the Eteocypriot and Levantine contributions must not be underestimated (Sherratt 1992; Knapp 2008). Mycenaean cultural features did however endure and evolve within this receptive matrix: literacy, chariot warfare, sanctuaries with temenoi or altar-court plans and kings with religious duties who bore the ancient title of wanax (e.g., Snodgrass 1988). Furthermore, the scale and staying power of the island’s “Hellenic” element is clear enough from the situation in the early Archaic period, when documents become available in quantity. By then, the Cypriot dialect of Greek, already attested at an early stage near eleventh-century Paphos (the famous Opheltas obelos), was widely spoken. Of the ten kings named in the Esarhaddon prism-inscription of 673/2 BCE, three have transparently Greek names; the same is probably true of others, although the syllabic writing system hinders precise identification. Even the kings of Classical Amathus, apparently the island’s stronghold of Eteocypriot culture, bore Greek names (Gjerstad 1948: 430, 475 n. 5).

Author: Michael Lesley
Published online: 11.11.19
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This essay began simply as an attempt to identify the enigmatic instruments in Nebuchadnezzar’s orchestra. Along the way it became apparent that the study of these instruments was firmly attached to certain entrenched assumptions of biblical interpretation. While these assumptions await future investigation, my hope here is primarily to help the reader hear Nebuchadnezzar’s orchestra as its first audience did.

Author: Mariella De Simone
Published online: 11.11.19
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Over the past sixty or so years, there has been an increasing awareness of archaic Athens’ receptivity to the Eastern lifestyle and culture. The insistence of scholars on reading the earlier evidence about orientalia through the lens of fifth-century anti-Persian obsessions has been overcome, to a great extent, by the recent investigation of the αβpoσυvη — the luxurious style of life (and clothing) “consciously taken over from the East and embraced by a segment of the population to differentiate themselves and assert their pre-eminence” (Kurke 1992: 98). The elites of archaic Athens felt that they belonged to the vast Ionian world — the Solonian Iaovia, which included East Ionia, Attica and Euboea (Mazzarino 1989: 72–78, 227) — and borrowed from the Ionians, who were heavily influenced by their Lydian neighbors, sumptuous garments and other attributes indicating status. As Thucydides notes: “The elder men of the nobility…only recently stopped wearing linen chitons and binding their hair up in a bun with the insertion of golden crickets” (1.6.3; trans. by Kurke 1992: 95). Linen chitons and golden crickets were part of a luxurious Eastern clothing adopted by noblemen to distinguish and define themselves; but after the Persian Wars the negative judgment of αβpoσυvη became commonplace, and such luxurious items were identified as markers of effeminacy (Lombardo 1983; Kurke 1992). The dominant ideology of the Athenian polis evolved from aristocratic to democratic; the Orient, contrasted with the isonomic Spartan model, was connoted with stereotypes of cowardice and effeminacy (Miller 1997: 243–258), and the Athenian elite choose to discredit the Eastern luxuriance by connecting it with despotism and tyrannical ambition — a connection that, in turn, “influenced the modern scholarly association of αβpoσυvη with political vβpi~” (Kurke 1992: 103).

Author: Mira Waner
Published online: 11.11.19
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The Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods in the Land of Israel are defined, for the purpose of this study, from the last third of the fourth century BCE to the first half of the seventh century CE. This period is noted by significant historical and cultural changes that brought to the region a thousand years of Hellenistic culture, manifested in language, art, music, cult and thought. Yet, despite and alongside the changes, a continuum is noted, especially pertaining to the earlier Eastern or local traditions.

One of the basic assumptions of this study is that the Land of Israel during this time offers an opportunity to examine the development of music culture in a region that was inhabited by people of various ethnoi. Utilizing an innovative multidisciplinary field involving archaeology, ethnology and musicology, use is made of tools, theories and methodologies from these respective fields in an attempt to gain further information and a better understanding of the music culture in the Land of Israel. Based on the abundance of music-related artifacts found, this paper examines aspects of religious/ethnic identity of the multifaceted population, using Sepphoris — the capital city and cultural center in the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods — as a case study.

Author: Antonietta Provenza
Published online: 11.11.19
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The psychagogic efficacy of music, namely its power to act on the soul in such a way as to influence characters and behaviors, and even health, is based in ancient Greek thought on a likeness between soul and musical harmony. This idea involves also a “harmonious” order distinguishing human physis as being a part of the world order (kosmos), as it is possible to notice at least since the time of the pre-Socratics. From many of the surviving fragments of their works we learn of the shift of the term harmonia (Bonaventura-Meyer 1932; Lippman 1963; Lambropoulou 1995–1996; Franklin 2002) from material aspects of human life to the kosmos. A strong bridge between the pre-Socratic harmonia and musical healing is built by Aristotle in his Politics (1340b7–19), where he states that “the modes and rhythms of music have an affinity (συγγένεια) [with the soul], as well as a natural sweetness. This explains why many thinkers connect the soul with harmony — some saying that it is a harmony, and others that it possesses the attribute of harmony” (trans. by Barker 1995). Beginning from such an affinity, Aristotle deals with the use of music in the education of young people, that is, with its role in the making of the Greek man, and also with the therapeutic — and in no way ethic — effects of the aulos on people performing rites, including enthusiastic music. These people, affected by ἔλεος ‘pity’ and φόβος ‘fear’ at an exceedingly high degree, seemed, after the rites were carried out, as if they underwent ἰατρεία ‘medical therapy’ and κάθαρσις ‘purification’, since the music performed with the aulos and the κίνησις ‘movement’ induced by it healed excessive emotions.

Author: Roberto Melini
Published online: 11.11.19
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In the Roman period, the communities inhabiting the land dominated by the threatening Mount Vesuvius (Fig. 1) still regarded the Greek heritage as their own. It was in fact on the island of Pithekoussai (now Ischia, near Naples) that the first Greeks landed in the beginning of the eighth century BCE. They had sailed across the Mediterranean Sea in quest for new lands to settle, bringing with them a cultural heritage that included a pantheon and music. The sonorous horizon of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the villas of Stabiae and Oplontis, built some centuries later are the fruits of a melting pot in which the Greek tradition had fused with the themes and the customs of the Italic and Etruscan communities. In the year 79 CE the volcano erupted, sealing the Vesuvian area along with its rich culture under layers of ash and lava.

Author: Yossi Maurey
Published online: 11.11.19
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The French musicologist Jacques Chailley devoted his professional career to the revival of medieval music and ancient theater and to the study of Greek music. Of his numerous publications, a book he originally penned in French in 1961 stands out for its powerful and sweeping title: 40,000 Years of Music. Yet, as is famously known, the book devotes only several paragraphs to the first 39,000 years of music, dedicating some 200 pages to music of the last millennium (Chailley 1975; Taruskin 2006: xxi). Chailley was neither the first nor the last musicologist to treat ancient music as part of a general music-history survey. Especially prominent in the 1950s and 1960s, the call to broaden the horizons of music history to include non-Western and ancient musics was met with eagerness by those who believed that until Western music was seen in the setting of universal history, its special position would not be understood properly (Wiora 1965: 9). To be fair, however, Chailley had good reasons to be as concise as he and others had been in treating ancient music. When Gustave Reese published his Music in the Middle Ages in 1940, the oldest example of musical notation available to scholars dated from 800 BCE; it employed cuneiform characters and was judged to be “definitely undecipherable” (Reese 1940: 6).