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Fragments of ancient music have been found going back as far as the eighteenth century B.C., the most ancient ones recorded on cuneiform tablets, but there is only one complete song from antiquity known to have survived: the Seikilos epitaph. It was discovered carved on a marble column-shaped stele in Tralleis, near Ephesus, Turkey, in 1883, and is now in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. Dating to the first or second century A.D., the stele announces its function clearly in the inscription. “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.”
It’s the song that ensured the stele would truly be an everlasting memorial because he didn’t just have the lyrics engraved, but rather also included the melody in ancient Greek musical notation. The lyrical message is your basic carpe diem. These are the lyrics in transliterated Greek and in an English translation:
Hoson zes, phainou
Meden holos su lupou;
Pros oligon esti to zen
To telos ho chronos apaitei
While you live, shine
Have no grief at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll
Chilling! And yet, vaguely familiar. How many voices sang, fingers played, ears heard in its day? The mind reels at the scope of music on mankind's past.
I wonder if it is to late to claim royalties for the last 3500 years