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Ancient stele of Seikilos and oldest surviving musical composition in world

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Ancient stele of Seikilos
Ancient stele of Seikilos | Photo: Nationalmuseets fotograf / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Ancient stele funded by Seikilos, discovered at Aydın, near Ephesus, in the west of Turkey. The object is an extremely unique find, as it has the oldest musical composition in the world. The artifact is dated between 2nd BCE and 2nd century CE.

The text of the song along with the melody is carved in stone in Greek.

hóson zêis, phaínou
mēdèn hólōs sù lupoû
pròs olígon ésti tò zên
tò télos ho khrónos apaiteî.

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due

Below is the reconstruction of the performance:

There is also an inscription on the tombstone: Eikōn hē líthos eimí. Títhēsí me Seíkilos éntha mnēmēs athanátou sēma polychrónion, which translates to “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance”. The last words are: Seikílos Eutér[pēi], so “Seikilos to Euterpe”, which may suggest that the song was directed to a deceased lover or wife.

Currently, the object is located in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

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