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New music and its myths: Athenaeus' reading of the Aulos revolution (Deipnosophistae 14.616e–617f)

  • Pauline A. Leven (a1)

Abstract

Scholarship on the late fifth-century BC New Music Revolution has mostly relied on the evidence provided by Athenaeus, the pseudo-Plutarch De musica and a few other late sources. To this date, however, very little has been done to understand Athenaeus' own role in shaping our understanding of the musical culture of that period. This article argues that the historical context provided by Athenaeus in the section of the Deipnosophistae that cites passages of Melanippides, Telestes and Pratinas on the mythology of the aulos (14.616e–617f) is not a credible reflection of the contemporary aesthetics and strategies of the authors and their works. Athenaeus is both following the structure of Aristotle's discussion of the topic of the aulos in Politics 8.1341a-1342b and accepting the élite ideological position given there. Athenaeus' text thus does not provide evidence for the historical context in which late fifth-century authors were composing, but rather constitutes an attempt to illustrate Aristotle's argument with poetic examples from late fifth-century poets.

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