Part I. Princeps Citharoedus

1. Setting the Scene: A Citharode in Naples

He made his performance debut at Naples, and, even though the theater was rocked with a sudden earthquake, he did not cease singing until he had finished the nomos that he had begun. In the same city he sang frequently over the course of several days. Even when he took a short time to refresh his voice, he could not bear to remain out of sight, but went from the baths to the theater and, while dining in the middle of the orchestra surrounded by the people, he promised in Greek that after he had had a little something to drink he would ring out something packed full of sound. He was taken moreover with the rhythmic laudations of the Alexandrians in the audience, who had thronged into Naples from a recently arrived fleet, and summoned more men from Alexandria. Not stopping at that, he selected young men of the order of knights and more than 5,000 strapping youths drawn from the plebeian class to be divided into groups and learn by heart the Alexandrian styles of applause (they called them “buzzings,” “rooftiles,” and “bricks”), and to practice them vigorously while he sang.
Suetonius Life of Nero 20.2–3
Hitherto he had sung in the privacy of home or in the gardens during the games of the Juvenalia, but he now thought little of those games, as they were too sparsely attended and too restricted in size for so great a voice. Nevertheless, since he did not dare to make a beginning at Rome, he chose Naples, because it was a Greek city. Starting out from there he might cross into Achaea, and, winning the prestigious and sacred garlands of antiquity, evoke, with still greater fame, the enthusiasm of the citizens. Thus a crowd of townspeople was brought together, with those whom the report of such an event had attracted from the neighboring towns and colonies, and those who followed Caesar to pay him honor or to provide various other services, as well as some companies of soldiers—these all filled the theater of the Neapolitans. There an event occurred, which many thought ill-omened, but which he [the performer] took to be a sign of providence and divine favor: after the people who had been in attendance exited, the theater collapsed, empty and without harming anyone. And so he composed a song of thanks to the gods, celebrating the good fortune that attended the recent downfall.
Tacitus Annals 15.33.2–34.1
In 64 CE the citizens of Naples and nearby settlements, along with some visiting Romans and an enthusiastic contingent of Alexandrian sailors who happen to be in town on shore leave, gather in the city’s theater to witness a musical spectacle. The spectacle is conceptually and visually direct: one man performing alone on the stage. It is of a type that has a long, continuous tradition behind it, going back well over 600 years to early Hellenic antiquity. The audience is in store for a show that audiences in Archaic Sparta, Periclean Athens, and Ptolemaic Alexandria before it have experienced in much the same form. Yet ancient and basic as it is, the spectacle, even without the peculiar twist that this one has, could still generate excitement in an Imperial culture jaded by novel spectacles of a far more elaborate nature.
A man walks onto the stage. He is Roman, but he is costumed in the distinctly Greek fashion that is traditional for performers such as he. Neither Tacitus nor Suetonius supply details about his outward appearance that day, but we can make some reasonable suppositions based on visual and literary representations of other men like this man, on other occasions like this one. (Performers of this sort are typically men, although, as we will soon see, the occasional woman is attested in the Hellenistic period and after.) He is dressed in a long, sumptuous robe, a chiton probably dyed a deep purple, that falls straight down over his feet, which are shod in buskins; on top of this chiton a lighter mantle, adorned with gold-embroidered patterns, covers his upper torso. [1] In all likelihood he wears a gold wreath in his hair. In his left arm he cradles upright a broad, magnificent stringed instrument, perhaps made of gleaming ivory into which precious metals and gems have been inlaid. It has a flat bottom, a voluminous resonating sound-box, and at least seven, perhaps as many as eleven or twelve animal-gut khordai ‘strings’ stretching from the bridge at the base to the rotating tuning bar, the zugon, held in place across the tall arms at the top, where they are fastened around the leather bands (kollopes) that hold them tight. The sound box narrows at each top corner into two convex horns that flare out, then taper and turn in, meeting the delicate ornamental volutes at the base of the blocky, straight arms that extend well above the player’s head. Flowing down from its rear side is a broad cloth, decorated with geometric or floral motifs, extending almost to the ground. When the citharode begins to move in time with his music, this banner-like cloth will wave hypnotically, “echoing and reinforcing the movements of the performer.” [2]
This splendid object is the kithara (κιθάρα; cithara in Latin), what Aristotle calls a tekhnikon organon, an instrument designed for use by the tekhnitês, a master technician of instrumental performance, typically a professional virtuoso. [3] This ‘concert lyre’ is to the smaller, bowl-shaped tortoise-shell lyre (khelus) played by amateur musicians and schoolboys what a concert grand piano is to an upright spinet or a technologically sophisticated electric guitar is to the simple acoustic folk guitar. [4] It is a heavy, unwieldy instrument, whose weight is supported against the chest of the singer by a decorated sling looped over his right shoulder and braced around his left wrist. [5] With the fingers of his right hand the man clutches by its handle a long, spoon-shaped device, the plêktron, which is attached to the body of the kithara by a cord. The man stands ready to strike the strings with this plectrum; his left hand is poised on the reverse side of the sound box, just above its upper edge, his fingertips pressed against those strings whose sound he will want to damp when he strikes the first notes.
The performer’s elaborate costume, his instrument, and its accoutrements are unmistakably those of a kitharôidos (κιθαρῳδός), a citharode, a singer (ᾠδός, a contracted form of ἀοιδός) to the kithara. His art, tekhnê, a unified combination of vocal and instrumental music, is called kitharôidia (κιθαρῳδία). It had long enjoyed the greatest prestige of any solo musical performance genre throughout the Greek-speaking Mediterranean and would continue to command the highest respect well into the late Empire, thanks in large part to this very performer.

2. The Emperor-Citharode and Other Pretenders

The performer’s identity, however, is what makes this occasion, which in other respects conforms to type, highly anomalous. The man with the kithara happens to be the most powerful man in the world. He is the Emperor Nero. But let us try for now not to focus too much on this fact, as difficult as that may be, and pretend that the audience in Naples is doing the same—a still more difficult proposition. Let us instead consider, as we have already done, what would have been typically citharodic about Nero’s otherwise extraordinary performance. This approach would please the emperor himself. Ever caught up in fictions and fantasies, he preferred to maintain the modest pretense that he was a citharode like any other, although, as he knew as well as anyone, modesty was a virtue as disingenuous in a citharode as in an emperor. [6] That Nero was genuinely committed to the tekhnê of kithara singing there can be no doubt, however; that he was widely thought to be at least a mediocre musician, at best a fairly decent one, is something that emerges from even the most hostile traditions, in which the main aesthetic charge brought against him—greatly muted next to the morally, politically, and sexually charged abuse his musical ambitions provoked—is that he played and sang for too great a length of time, though not necessarily badly. [7] The “Lucianic” dialogue Nero offers what seems the most objective assessment of his abilities. One character in the dialogue, Menecrates, observes that some are amazed at Nero’s phônê ‘voice’, while others laugh at it. His interlocutor, Musonius, explains that the emperor’s savvy choice of musical material and his carefully practiced performance technique distract from his natural deficiencies; he can put on a perfectly good show, or a reasonable simulacrum thereof, as long as he remains within his limits:
In fact, Menecrates, his voice (phthegma) is neither admirable nor ridiculous, for nature (phusis) has made him tolerably and moderately musical. His voice is naturally hollow and low, as his throat is constricted, and because it is his songs have a sort of buzzing sound to them. But the tones of his voice are smoothed over when he trusts not in his natural ability, but in crowd-pleasing harmonic colorings, attractively composed melodies, well-controlled singing to the kithara (χρωμάτων δὲ φιλανθρωπίᾳ καὶ μελοποιίᾳ εὐαγώγῳ μὲν δὴ καὶ κιθαρῳδίᾳ εὐσταλεῖ), and in choosing the right moment to walk, stand, and change position, and in swaying his head in time to the music; then the only disgrace is that a king should seem to strive for perfection in these matters. But if he should imitate his betters, how great is the laughter that falls over the spectators!
“Lucian” Nero 6–7 [8]
Even if some audiences could not resist laughing at his apparent overreaching, Nero was deadly, obliviously serious about winning the same acclaim his musical “betters” enjoyed; his quest for perfection in kitharôidia was no lark. Although he began his training much later in life than a professional citharode, who, typically brought up in a family of professional musicians, would have begun his vocational studies as a young boy, he likely devoted more energy to the music of the kithara than he did to anything else in his entire life. According to Suetonius Nero 20.1, at least five years before his appearance in Naples Nero had begun to study under the personal tutelage of the most highly esteemed citharode of the day (citharoedum vigentem tunc praeter alios), a Greek named Terpnus, whose very name advertises the awesome musical pleasure, terpsis, his talent produces in his listeners, and also hearkens back to the legendary founder of the medium, Terpander of Lesbos. He had honed his relatively weak singing voice through the same grueling regimen of exercises and deprivations that the professionals followed, although the routine seems more appropriate for Olympic athletes than musicians. Lying on his back, he balanced a heavy lead plate on his chest, a procedure intended to increase lung capacity and stamina of breath, and he habitually purged and maintained a strict diet—no fruit!—in the interest of vocal strength and clarity.
Shortly before his death, Nero fantasized about murdering the Senate, burning down Rome, and sailing off to Alexandria, a hotbed of citharodic culture at the time, to enjoy his life’s second act as a private citizen and a professional citharoedus. There, he reckoned in a famously pathetic line, τὸ τέχνιον ἡμᾶς διαθρέψει ‘My art, such as it is, will get me by’. [9] Although he tried his hand, intently, at all sorts of musical, dramatic, and athletic activities in the final decade of his life, kitharôidia was the vocation that first and last defined Nero’s artistic and performative aspirations. [10] This fact is better reflected in the ancient sources than in the modern scholarship on Neronian “theatricality,” which has tended to focus on the emperor qua actor or simply “performer,” reductively eliding his dramatic and citharodic endeavors, and thereby overlooking the culturally specific semiotics of the latter. [11] Indeed, Nero may not even have begun in earnest his acting career, or, more accurately, his career as a tragoedus, a histrionic singer of tragic songs (tragoedia cantata), until the lead-up to his tour of Greece, in 66 CE. [12] It is true that many in Rome, both critics and admirers, initially, at least, lacked the proper cultural frame of reference to decode those semiotics, which were informed by distinctly Hellenic concepts of music’s role in social and political life. But Nero appreciated them very well, and this nuanced appreciation had much to do with his choice to pursue kitharôidia as intently as he did. And so, even if he did eventually become more profligate with his talents, it is more appropriate to speak of Nero, as Juvenal Satire 8.198 does, as a princeps citharoedus, than it is to take Pliny the Younger’s famous tag too literally and so confine him to the status of imperator scaenicus ‘actor-emperor’ (Panegyricus 46.4). In the widest, most culturally unspecific sense, Nero was essentially an actor; but the primary role he brought before the public on the stages of Rome and Greece, his true star turn, was the role of the citharode.
Indeed, the emperor had become so deeply identified as a citharoedus in the popular imagination that in the years following his death two of the three pretenders who emerged in the Greek East claiming to be Nero were in fact citharodes, or at least men with sufficient musical skills to pretend to be citharodes. From the elitist, anti-Neronian perspective, these revenant impostors were fittingly debased specters of the hypertheatricalized regime of simulacra and simulations that Nero had brought to pass in Rome and across the Empire—if an emperor could play the citharode, then it is no surprise if a citharode should attempt to play the emperor. [13] But from a more objective viewpoint, the seemingly bizarre phenomenon of these citharodic False Neros is a straightforward attestation of the actual popular favor accorded to Nero’s own distinctive fusion of political and citharodic charisma. This particular combination must have aroused sufficiently positive enthusiasm among the general population, especially in Greece (see e.g. Dio Cassius 63.10.1), for the pretenders to emulate it in their own bids for power. Yet it is unlikely to have aroused such genuine enthusiasm had Nero been a bad citharode. Tacitus, a staunch critic of Nero’s musical activities, indirectly acknowledges this when he describes the initial success of the first False Nero as due to his “skill at the cithara and singing, which, in addition to his likeness in facial appearance to Nero, lent a greater plausibility to the deception.” [14]
Within his lifetime, Nero inspired a more prosaic group of imitators, small-time buskers who roamed through the urbs performing the emperor’s repertoire for audiences willing and unwilling. In Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.39 Philostratus describes the tactics of one such street musician, a drunken hustler really, but not a musically untalented one, who approaches Apollonius and his friends while they are staying at an inn near the gates of the city. The man, equipped with a kithara and “all the fittings (skeuê) proper for a citharode,” demands payment (misthos) for his performance of Nero’s songs (melê), and he threatens to have those who refuse to listen or to pay arrested for impiety. This cut-rate “citharode” also shows off a used kithara string, claiming that he acquired it from Nero’s very own kithara at the cost of two minae, and swearing, disingenuously to be sure, that he will sell the string only to “one of the very best (aristoi) citharodes, those who compete at Delphi.” It is more than likely that many other Neronian strings were bought and sold in Rome and throughout the Empire at large. But the princeps was not the only citharode whose discarded paraphernalia, authentic or not, were highly valued. As we will see in Section 7, the circulation of these sorts of souvenir and keepsake objects, small relics of the citharode’s celebrity aura, was but one index of the popular fascination with kitharôidia.

3. Showing Off: Citharodic Glamour and the Economics of Visual Display

3.1 How skeuê makes the citharode

The theatergoers in Naples take in the presence of the citharode and grow quiet. A powerful visual impact is made even before the music begins. The kithara alone inspires wonder and curiosity. The majority of spectators would rarely lay eyes on such an instrument outside of the occasional frame of citharodic performance. Few non-professionals would own or even come into personal contact with one, and then only the very rich. [15] The musician himself is to be looked at as much as heard; he projects the image of creative and technical mastery even before he proves it in execution. The most remarkable aspect of his spectacular self-presentation is his performance outfit, the skeuê, which recurs as the focal point in many an ancient literary account or visual depiction of kitharôidia. The skeuê is really a costume ensemble, consisting not only of the garment or garments worn by the citharode, but of various decorative and practical apparatus as well, the support strap, the plectrum and its cord, a crown, the embroidered cloth that hangs from the base of the kithara, and even the kithara itself.
The powerful effect rendered by the skeuê is vividly illustrated, and interestingly problematized, by a story related in Lucian The Uncultured Book Collector 8–11. A wealthy man from Tarentum, Evangelus, sets out to win the Pythian citharodic agôn ‘contest’ at Delphi—no small feat. Such mousikoi agônes ‘musical contests’ were the primary arena for the high-level display of kitharôidia and other solo musical forms, and the Panhellenic Pythian contest of citharodes was long among the most prestigious and competitive, from its establishment in the Archaic period well into the late Empire. Evangelus pins his slim hopes of victory at this major event not on his skill or musicality—he is in fact horribly untalented—but on the finery of his gold-plated, bejeweled kithara, a visual thauma ‘marvel’, his purple, gold-embroidered raiment (esthês), and a gold, emerald-studded laurel wreath. [16] He takes the stage, resplendent in his skeuê, “dazzling the theater in advance (of the music) and filling the spectators with the hope of experiencing something marvelous” (προεκπλήξας τὸ θέατρον καὶ θαυμαστῆς ἐλπίδος ἐμπλήσας τοὺς θεατάς, 9). This “shock and awe” is much the desired effect, but the ocular spell is broken rather than intensified by the musical performance itself, which is intolerably flawed. The audience breaks out into laughter, always a sure sign of the failure of the performance ritual, the rude signal that the musician’s temporary license to manipulate mass emotion has been irredeemably revoked. [17] The judges have a crying, humiliated Evangelus whipped for his hubristic presumption in appearing at the games. In keeping with the reductive moral logic of the story, victory goes instead to the more humbly attired, but far more talented Eumelus, an Elean, whose name indicates genuine musical skill (‘Melody Man’), not just the “promise” or “boast” of it, as is intimated by the name Evangelus. [18] Eumelus plays a plain, old wooden kithara and wears no skeuê to speak of, merely an outfit “worth barely ten drachmas,” but his impressive exhibition of tekhnê justly trumps the empty flashiness of the rich man, which a gloating Eumelus calls ἄτεχνος τρυφή ‘luxuriousness devoid of tekhnê’.
This anecdote had life long before Lucian. It appears in less fleshed-out form in the first-century BCE treatise called the Rhetorica ad Herennium (4.60), and there it seems already to have acquired folktale status. Where or when it was first told we cannot be sure, although we may be tempted to conjecture a connection to some burlesque treatment of the star citharode Nicocles (third century BCE), a Tarentine, who won a whopping six times at the Pythian agôn, as well as at practically every other citharodic agôn attached to a major Hellenistic festival, including the Great Panathenaia, the Isthmia, the Argive Hekatomboia, the Basileia at Macedonia and at Alexandria, and others. The ostentatious style of the monument celebrating these victories (IG II2 3779), which was displayed conspicuously along the Sacred Way in Athens (Pausanias 1.37.2), strongly suggests that Nicocles was a man who would not be shy about embracing the kind of splendor Lucian ascribes to Evangelus. In any case, the story is almost surely apocryphal, for the simple reason that, the glaring exception of Nero aside, an unproven musician, much less a completely untalented one such as Evangelus, could not have passed muster with the organizing officials of the contests, the agônothetai. At world-famous mousikoi agônes such as those of the Pythia, only the very best, the acknowledged stars such as Nicocles, would have been granted the coveted opportunity to compete, as the number of open slots was necessarily limited by the temporal constraints of a festival. [19] From the perspective of one less-than-stellar citharode in Neronian Rome, the street busker we encountered above, the citharode who is ranked among the best (aristoi) is also one who is fit to compete at Delphi (κιθαρῳδός … τῶν ἀρίστων τε καὶ ἀγωνιουμένων Πυθοῖ, Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.39).
By the same token, it is highly unlikely that a citharode sufficiently accomplished to win at Delphi would ever perform there, or at any contest or concert of any size, in any locale, wearing a paltry ten-drachma robe. The costly finery of an Evangelus was surely the rule for citharodic performance, not the exception. To put it more strongly, such finery was a requisite for an agonistic and concert career of any distinction. Successful citharodes, and large-scale, public musical performers in general, proleptically dressed for success; theirs was a winner’s game. Xenophon’s Socrates thus advises those who want to be perceived as talented auletes to emulate “the externals of the art” (τὰ ἔξω τῆς τέχνης), above all by flaunting “fine skeuê” (Memorabilia 1.7.2). [20] This strategy was especially apparent in the practice of wearing ornamental stephanoi, crowns or wreaths, during performance. These stephanoi simultaneously advertised their wearers’ previous agonistic victories and created the impression that they were again worthy of distinction in the present performative context, be it contest or concert. Gold and silver crowns were in fact conferred as prizes in the mousikoi agônes at some festivals, including the Great Panathenaia in Athens. These could be and surely were melted down by victors to redeem their cash value, but presumably they were in some cases worn at subsequent performances as testament to recent triumph. [21]
As the most conspicuous advertisement of the combined cultural and economic capital that the serious citharode was expected to possess—a “poor” or “humble” citharode such as Eumelus is in reality as much an oxymoron as a totally unskilled one—the vigilant maintenance of the status symbol that is the skeuê represented a necessary reinvestment of earned income. Citharodes were self-promoting impresarios, entrepreneurs who had to spend money to make money; the best became quite rich while doing so. Depictions of elaborately garbed citharodes on Archaic and Classical Attic vases attest to the antiquity of this truth. After all, who else was paying for these skeuai but the musicians themselves? The first prize at the fourth-century BCE Panathenaic citharodic agôn was a golden olive branch crown worth 1,000 drachmas plus a flat cash award of 500 silver drachmas—an enormous payday. Runners-up took home more than respectable sums as well: second prize was 1,200 drachmas cash, the third 600, the fourth 400, and the fifth 300. [22] In the relative terms of the ancient Athenian economy, the fourth-place finisher earned from his one semi-successful agonistic appearance at the Panathenaic festival an amount equal to more than one year’s wages earned by a skilled craftsman. [23] Citharodes far out-earned fellow musicians as well; winning citharists won a crown worth only 300 drachmas and a 200-drachma cash prize, while first-place winners in aulos singing, aulôidia, went home with a crown worth 300 drachmas, the same as the last-place citharode. [24] There is no good reason to believe that these prize amounts did not have scaled equivalents in the fifth and sixth centuries. [25]
This last point has been overlooked in recent histories of ancient Greek music, which tend to view the commodification of musical performance as a symptom of the hyperprofessionalization of popular music culture in late Classical Athens, the era of the so-called New Music. This view does have grounding in the ancient sources. One fourth-century BCE critic, probably Aristoxenus of Tarentum, says that the music of his time was composed in a “money-making style” (“Plutarch” On Music 12.1135c), an assessment seemingly confirmed in the anecdotal traditions surrounding financially successful star virtuosos such as the fourth-century Athenian citharist Stratonicus, who in story after story openly boasts of the riches his music has brought him. But the sources must be treated with care. We should be wary of characterizing agonistic musicians of the Archaic and earlier Classical periods as Eumeluses, noble servants of the Muse, eager only for prestige, and later fifth- and fourth-century musicians as a new generation of mercantile fortune hunters. This would be to accept uncritically the reductive claims of fourth-century elites such as Aristoxenus, who tend to mystify the whole of old-fashioned mousikê as aristocratic and economically disinterested, while framing the “crowd-pleasing” contemporary music they object to on social and aesthetic grounds as purely commercial in intent. [26]
Similarly, Stratonicus’ boldly mercantile persona must be taken in proper context. While it may represent a novel mode of self-presentation among music professionals, the economic mentalities and practicalities it so frankly acknowledges—Stratonicus unapologetically claims, for instance, that “from the Muses I have received all the Greeks as my telos [that is, a source of tax revenue], from whom I exact a wage (misthos) for their amousia ‘lack of musicality’” (Athenaeus 8.350e)—go back well before the fourth century. [27] A logic of exchange of musical pleasure for material goods is already constituent of the model of the Homeric aoidos ‘bard’, who is a dêmioergos ‘worker for the community’ on the level of a builder, doctor, or seer (Odyssey 18.383–385). [28] Archaic kitharôidia, practiced in a world of increased commercial sophistication, festal organization, and tyrannical patronage, represents a metastasis of that older logic; the dêmioergos has become a long-distance, large-scale merchant of his tekhnê. [29] Such transformation is neatly reflected in the Herodotean account of the Lesbian citharode Arion’s return journey to Corinth, where he enjoys the long-term patronage of the tyrant Periander, from Sicily and Italy, where he has earned an enormous sum of money (khrêmata megala, 1.24.1). Herodotus does not say, but the money was presumably earned from either giving public concerts, winning (and perhaps organizing) mousikoi agônes, entering the service of wealthy patrons, or some combination of these ventures, all of which would have been open to the enterprising Archaic citharode. It is no coincidence that the Herodotean narrative repeatedly (four times) focuses on Arion’s impressive skeuê after the mention of the riches he has earned on his Western tour: skeuê and monetary earnings are cognate, mutually reinforcing. [30] It is telling that the only other figure in Herodotus besides Arion of whom the phrase “all his skeuê” is used—a pleonastic phrase echoing the rich excess of the ceremonial outfit—is the Persian king, Xerxes (7.15.3), the ultimate exemplar of conspicuous wealth and luxury. [31] We will return to Arion’s costume below.
In the Greco-Roman era, when, thanks to an expanded agonistic and concert market for music, moneymaking opportunities became more frequent and more rewarding, the circular logic of the economics of visual display became ever more overheated. In his version of the Arion tale in Dialogues of the Sea Gods, Lucian has the citharode returning to his hometown of Methymna from his lucrative stint in Corinth, not to perform music, but to “make a display of his riches” (ἐπιδείξασθαι τὸν πλοῦτον, 8.2). The musical performative connotations of ἐπιδείξασθαι are unmistakable; Lucian repeats the word when Arion “shows off” his gold and silver to the sailors on board the ship to Lesbos. By having Arion make performative displays (epideixeis) of his material wealth rather than his tekhnê, which we should expect, Lucian alludes wittily, and with some exaggeration, to the thoroughgoing conflation of money, luxury, and music in the citharodic performance culture of his own time, perhaps with implicit reference to the sumptuous skeuê, which, following Herodotus, he twice mentions in his description of Arion. By the time of Lucian and Nero it was nothing less than mos ‘custom’ for an eximius citharoedus ‘star citharode’ such as the one mentioned by Juvenal, Seleucus—the name, probably the satirist’s invention, evokes the luxurious splendor of the Seleucid East—to “gleam in a golden mantle.” [32] The heightened “glam factor” informed the manufacture of the kithara as well, which was now engineered, as Lucian puts it, to be a “grand marvel for the eyes” (θαῦμα μέγα τοῖς ὁρῶσιν), replete with rare gems, woods, and metals, and even decorated with reliefs. The kithara of Evangelus, surely not a complete fabrication of Lucian’s ecphrastic imagination, features a relief of Apollo, Orpheus, and the Muses. Apuleius, writing around the time of Lucian, imagines Apollo, “radiant in purple,” playing a lyre intricately decorated with gold, ivory, and precious jewels in his contest against the aulos-playing satyr, Marsyas (Florida 3.11). It seems appropriate that Nero would gravitate to the musical medium that not only had traditionally enjoyed the most cultural prestige and celebrity, but that was also the most conspicuously lucrative.
While Eumelus’ charge of ἄτεχνος τρυφή neatly characterizes the garish excesses surrounding the uninformed cultural aspirations of ignorant nouveaux riches—the uncultured citharoedus Evangelus is explicitly portrayed as a counterpart to the wealthy yet uncultured book collector attacked by Lucian throughout his treatise—for citharodes and the majority of people in their audiences a flamboyant skeuê was hardly at odds with the “eumelic” tekhnê possessed by its wearer. Rather, the skeuê was viewed as the appropriately grand, material manifestation of that immaterial, invisible, yet nonetheless rich and powerful possession. The moralizing dichotomy drawn in Lucian’s anecdote between seeming and being is hardly applicable to kitharôidia, a “show business” in which visual and audial terpsis ‘pleasure’ are mutually reinforcing and less is never more. The more mainstream appreciation of citharodic splendor informs Apuleius’ brief account of the contest between Apollo and Marsyas in Florida 3. Apuleius inverts the assumptions about the fundamental incompatibility between style and substance that we see in Lucian. Here, it is the barbaric Marsyas who boasts that his physical ugliness, the humbleness of his art, aulos playing, and his poverty belie an “inner beauty,” whereas Apollo’s beautiful appearance, fine garments, and deluxe lyre are blandimenta nequaquam virtuti decora, sed luxuriae accommodata ‘empty delights in no way ornamenting virtue, but fit only for luxury’. The judges, the Muses and Minerva, will have none of this, and they award victory to the musically superior and, accordingly, better-dressed Apollo. In this contest, as was generally true in real life, it is the poor, unadorned musician who is defeated and humiliated. [33]
Lucian’s moralizing above all recalls Socratic/Platonic attempts to discredit the value of “sensational” demotic musical forms by way of valorizing the supposedly honest and accordingly unspectacular pursuit of philosophy. (Perhaps the Evengelus fable could be traced to some post-Platonic critic of popular music.) Indeed, the skeuê of the rhapsode, which by the later fifth century BCE closely imitated that worn by the citharode, emerges in the Platonic dialogue Ion as the (ionized) focus of Socrates’ attentions. This is unsurprising, as the Ion represents Plato’s most sustained critique of large-scale musico-poetic spectacle and the charisma of its producers, which are both iconicized by the skeuê. At the very beginning of the dialogue, Socrates tendentiously foregrounds the close association between the tekhnê and skeuê of the star rhapsode Ion: “[I envy you rhapsodes] for the fact that it is always appropriate to your tekhnê that you should adorn your body with beautiful garments and look as attractive as possible” (τὸ σῶμα κεκοσμῆσθαι ἀεὶ πρέπον ὑμῶν εἶναι τῇ τέχνῃ καὶ ὡς καλλίστοις φαίνεσθαι, 530b). Later, at 535b, Socrates evokes the image of Ion reciting an especially pathetic episode from Homer while “adorned in intricately embroidered clothing and a golden wreath” (κεκοσμημένος ἐσθῆτι ποικίλῃ καὶ χρυσοῖσι στεφάνοις; cf. 541b–c). The philosopher wants to demystify the skeuê and, by extension, the musical tekhnê it signifies by teasing out what he sees as the vanity, spiritual emptiness, and cynical demagoguery projected by both. [34] Socrates’ mistrust of musicians and their finery is surely “countercultural,” but not unique. Other critics of populist musical spectacle will seize upon the effeminate and Eastern connotations of citharodic dress. Lucian’s τρυφή insinuates both.

3.2 Citharodes on parade

Far from restricting the extravagance of the skeuê, the authorities that sponsored citharodic performance at civic festivals officially promoted its display. An inscribed decree from the minor Euboean polis of Eretria details the institution of an ἀγῶν μουσικῆς ‘contest of music’ at the city’s Artemisia festival (IG XII ix 189, c. 341/0 BCE). The roster of musicians who are to compete is fairly typical for the fourth century BCE: rhapsodes, boy aulodes (singers to the aulos), citharists, parody-singers, and citharodes. (The omission of auletes and adult aulodes from the lineup is somewhat unexpected, however.) Notably, the inscription records that competitors are expected to perform music not only at the agôn proper, but also at the festival’s cultic centerpiece, the sacrifice, while decked out in all their stage costume. It is decreed that the city requires that
τοὺς δὲ τὴν μουσικὴν ἀγωνιζομένους πάντα[ς]
ἀγωνίζεσθαι προσόδιον τεῖ θυσίει ἐν τεῖ αὐλεῖ ἔ-
[χο]ντας τὴν σκευὴν ἥμπερ ἐν τοῖ ἀγῶνι ἔχουρ[ι]
all those competing in music
compete in the prosodion ‘processional song’ for the sacrifice in the aulê [an open courtyard area],
wearing the very skeuê they wear in the agôn proper.
IG XII ix 189.13–15
The musicians’ playing of the sacrificial prosodion is surely connected to the sacrificial procession, or pompê, in which it is later stipulated they must also participate, and in which, it is entirely reasonable to assume, they are also to wear their skeuai:
μπευόντων δὲ καὶ οἱ τῆς μουσικῆς ἀγωνισταὶ πάντ-
ες, ὅπως ἂν ὡς καλίσστη ἡ πομπὴ καὶ ἡ θυσίη γίνηται.
Let all of the competitors in mousikê also take part in the pompê
so that the pompê and the sacrifice may be as splendid as possible.
IG XII ix 189.38–40
Cities financed mousikoi agônes, even modest ones such as those in Eretria, whose operating budget was capped at the lowly sum of 1,000 drachmas (IG XII ix 189.4), for a set of interrelated reasons. [35] Obviously, there is the motivation to delight the citizenry, but also to raise the profile of the important civic cult to which the agônes are attached, to advertise the city’s cultural prestige, to compete for glory and distinction with other cities hosting contests, and to foster and to demonstrate to all, both citizen and stranger, their political soundness and communal harmony, ideals that resonate especially well in the organization of an orderly musical competition. Eretria instituted the musical agôn at the Artemisia as a way of symbolically marking a new political dawn following its liberation at the hands of Athens from the Macedonian-backed strongman Cleitarchus; the final lines (44–45) of the inscription optimistically assert that the agôn will be held in the prescribed fashion “for as long as the Eretrians are free, prospering, and ruling themselves.” But mousikoi agônes served to stimulate the local economy as well, by attracting large, exuberant crowds eager to listen to and look at the visiting star musicians, even the presumably “B-list” stars who would perform at the small-time Artemisia. The festival context of most agônes was a site of intensive mercantile activity—at the Artemisia a tax-free market was conveniently in effect (lines 32–34)—and a well-attended agôn could mean a good deal of commercial revenue for the citizens of the host polis. [36] As Hermes puts it in Aristophanes Wealth 1162–1163, “It is most appropriate for Wealth to hold musical and gymnastic agônes.” As god of commerce (empolaios) and contests (enagônios), Hermes knows whereof he speaks.
The Eretrian decree implicitly invokes self-promotional and economic motives: the musical agôn is intended to add splendor to the preexisting festival (ὡς κάλλιστα ἄγωμεν), thereby enticing “as many people as possible to participate in the sacrifice” (θύω[ριν ὡς πλεῖ]στοι, 2). The pious desire to propitiate Artemis with a grand sacrifice aside, a capacity crowd at the sacrifice means higher attendance at the festival as a whole, and accordingly more money and recognition generated by it. To this end, by requiring the musical agônistai to appear “in character,” as it were, outside the agôn proper, the Eretrian magistrates contrive to infuse the sacrificial pompê with the splendor and excitement of the musical contest, thus maximally capitalizing on their thousand-drachma investment. [37] Procession and sacrifice themselves become theatricalized, staged as the scene of an informal agôn, in which the musicians compete both in displaying their prowess in playing the prosodion and, as the inscription emphatically stipulates, in displaying their best skeuê. [38] The lavish costumes of musicians, and the distinctively agonistic “roles” they signify, are temporarily repurposed by the city to serve more comprehensively its festal self-marketing.
A late parallel to the Artemisia regulations comes by way of the official rules for third-century CE mousikoi agônes held in another small community, the Egyptian town of Karanis. The rules stipulate that the κιθαριστὴς κύκλιος, the ‘cyclic citharist’ who accompanies competing choruses, must wear his skeuê “during exits (ἐξόδους)” as well, presumably, as entrances (P.Mich. 4682 ii.25–26). The papyrus text is partly illegible in this spot, but the sense seems to be that the citharist is required to wear his costume—the same one he wears for his own solo performances, perhaps—for some duration longer than the actual performance event. [39]
At the Artemisia, as at the Panathenaia and most other local festivals with thematic or chrematitic mousikoi agônes, i.e. games that award victors with prizes of cash and valuables, khrêmata, rather than wreaths, stephanoi, the notionally sole prizes at the stephanitic contests, which claimed international, “sacred” status, the winning citharodes receive athla ‘prizes’ of the highest value. [40] The first-place citharode takes home 200 drachmas, the second-place, 150, and the third-place, 100 (lines 15–20). The total expenditure on these prizes, 450 drachmas, thus represents close to half the total prize budget, and with this significant investment in citharodic culture, modest as it is in comparison with the exorbitant outlay in Athens, Eretrian authorities were clearly counting on a high yield of prestige, visibility, and profit for the city. [41] Accordingly, we should expect that the citharodes took pride of place in the extra-agonistic displays, and that their skeuai were especially grand. We may compare representations of kithara players participating in the sacrificial pompê in Athens. A richly illustrated early example is to be found on a black-figured Attic amphora by the Painter of Berlin 1686 from around 540 BCE. [42] The reverse shows four musicians, two auletes and two kithara players, providing music for the processional ceremony shown on the obverse, the leading of a sacrificial ox to the altar of Athena. All four musicians are attired in sleeveless, full-length chitons decorated with intricate patterns and designs, although the garb of the two string players—we cannot tell whether these are citharodes, citharists, or both—is arguably more luxurious than that of the auletes. It is possible that the pompê depicted on the Berlin amphora is meant to be a stylized representation of the Panathenaic procession itself, and that the musicians are not merely hired ceremonial hands or amateurs, but competitors in the festival’s musical agôn, which at this time the Peisistratid tyrants were intent on making into a Panhellenically prestigious cultural event. Similarly, the four kithara players and four auletes sculpted on the north and (probably) the south sides of the Parthenon frieze (c. 440 BCE), which most scholars believe represents an idealized Panathenaic pompê, could be agônistai at the festival, although it has also been suggested that they are non-competitive Athenian citizens. [43] In any case, the costume worn by the musicians, thick himations draped over ankle-length, sleeved chitons, distinguishes them as the most conspicuously attired participants in the sacrifical procession. [44]

3.3 Technicolor dreamcoat

But the skeuê does more than distinguish its wearer as a high-value star showman. It works a more sublime sort of theatrical magic as well. We should avoid equating agonistic and concert kitharôidia in any strong sense with drama, either theatrical or cultic-ritual. To borrow a useful analytical category from modern-day performance theory, citharodic performance was a “nonmatrixed” event; that is, it was not “subtended by matrices of fictional time, place, and character.” [45] Although a citharode could histrionically occupy any number of fictional roles in the course of bringing to musical life the partly mimetic, partly diegetic poetic texts he typically sang, the citharode’s identity qua citharode was at no point entirely submerged in such role-playing, as an actor’s identity (ideally) would have been; audience members never forgot they were being entertained by a virtuoso kitharôidos in the here-and-now. [46] But kitharôidos was itself a part to be played; the citharode not only performed music and poetry, he performed the traditional, generic musical persona of the kitharôidos, a role ideally graced with the aura of the supernatural, the sacred, even the (Apollonian) divine. [47] The skeuê vividly marks the ritualized assumption of this larger-than-life persona in the moment of performance, symbolically mediating the transformation of the performer’s identity from ordinary musician to extraordinary kitharôidos. Like the modern-day superhero who must change into costume in order to assume his powers, when the citharode put on his skeuê he became “another man,” the musical magician capable of wonders. Or, to invoke what is perhaps a closer parallel, we may compare the ritual garments of the Siberian shaman, whose donning, as Mircea Eliade argues, marks the mystical moment of transition when the shaman “transcends profane space and prepares to enter into contact with the spiritual world.” [48]
The transfiguring force of the citharode’s costume should be traced back to the colorfully decorated “sacral dress” worn by his distant ancestors, the lyre players of Late Minoan and Mycenaean palatial culture, whose musico-hieratic role in cultic ritual is strongly suggested by the extant iconography, although it is by no means exactly comprehensible. In some cases, notably the outsized bard depicted on a wall painting from the Throne Room at Pylos (c. 1300 BCE), who wears a full-length, horizontally striped robe and holds a swan-necked lyre, elaborately accoutered musicians may represent semi-divine musical heroes or even the epiphanic forms of gods, perhaps of Apollo himself. [49] During the Dark Age, the elaborate skeuê, along with the heptatonic instruments that the Minoan-Mycenaean musicians seem to have cultivated, may have fallen out of use. In Geometric art musicians are generally depicted without clothing. This could merely be representational convention, but it is notable that in Homeric epic no mention at all is made of the mode of dress of phorminx-playing bards.
In what is likely the earliest image of an agonistic citharode, on a late-eighth– or early-seventh–century BCE stamnos from the northern Aegean island of Lemnos (Athens, National Museum 1927), the citharode wears a thigh-length garment that is exquisitely decorated and clearly a forerunner to later Archaic full-length costumes. [50] The wearing of skeuê was perhaps “rediscovered” only in the late eighth and early seventh century BCE, with the emergence of the solo citharodic tradition, above all on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos and surrounding territories, and later throughout Ionian Greece. This emergence coincides with the so-called Orientalizing period, and it is possible that the Lesbian citharodes were inspired by Near Eastern musical technology they encountered in Lydia to develop the heptachord kithara, which was itself a sort of rediscovery of the “lost” Bronze Age seven-stringed instrument. [51] Similarly, the early citharodes of Eastern Greece could have adapted the sumptuous ceremonial dress of Oriental musicians in the designs of their skeuê. The “sacral dress” of the Minoan-Mycenaean musicians is likely to have been already derived from Near Eastern apparel. [52] The associations of the citharodic skeuê with the exotic glamour of the East no doubt contributed to its powers of charm and fascination. As we will see in Part IV.10, the designation of the concert kithara as “Asiatic” that begins to appear in literature of the fifth century BCE reflects a wider tendency of citharodes to fashion their performative self-presentation with romanticized touches of the Orient.
The supernatural aura of the skeuê probably dissipated over time, even as citharodic costume became ever more luxuriously elaborate, but in the Archaic and earlier Classical periods the skeuê was no doubt thought to possess real talismanic powers. In his account of Arion’s performance on board a ship traveling from Italy to Corinth, Herodotus places repeated emphasis on the role of the skeuê in the wondrous proceedings. [53] We are told that Arion makes sure to appear before the sailors, who plan to rob and murder him, with his kithara and ἐν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ “in all his skeuê” (1.24.4; cf. 1.24.5; Lucian Dialogues of the Sea Gods 8.2). Plutarch, who also relates this detail in his version of the tale, calls the skeuê an enagônios kosmos ‘adornment for the contests’ (Banquet of the Seven Sages 18.161c). Even under the dire circumstances of this impromptu concert, the citharode, ever the competitive showman, dons his iconic costume, the symbol of his success and wealth; it is as if the performance would be illegitimate without it. But implicit here too is the sense that the skeuê is worn for supernatural protection, that it induces an altered state in which the wondrous is possible. [54] Arion leaps into the sea “with all his skeuê” (σὺν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ, 1.24.5), where he is rescued by dolphins and miraculously brought safely to Corinth, still wearing his skeuê, of course (1.24.6). When the sailors later show up in Corinth, Arion appears before them once again in costume, looking just as he did on the ship, shocking them into confessing their crime. Herodotus figures this second “performance” as a kind of divine epiphany (epiphanênai, 1.24.7); specifically, Arion in the fullness of his citharodic persona resembles none other than Apollo kitharôidos. Although Herodotus does not make it explicit, one assumes that Arion will subsequently recover the money stolen from him by the sailors. At the denouement of Arion’s amazing life-and-death adventure, then, the mystical and mercantile dimensions of his citharodic persona converge upon the image of his skeuê.

4. Apollonian Assimilations and Orphic Icons

Indeed, every citharode may be perceived as a spectacular representation, mimêsis, of the god Apollo, although that popular perception must have become considerably “secularized” by the time of Nero and Lucian. That is, audiences recognized still a notional assimilation between god and mortal, but not the epiphanic implications of the citharode’s appearance. [55] The second-century CE literary historian Proclus, putting forth the theory that the genre of citharodic song called the nomos was derived from the choral song called the paean, records a bit of lore from Delphi that stands as a local aition of the performance of kitharôidia there:
Χρυσόθεμις ὁ Κρὴς πρῶτος στολῇ χρησάμενος ἐκπρεπεῖ καὶ κιθάραν ἀναλαβὼν εἰς μίμησιν τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος μόνος ᾖσε νόμον, εὐδοκιμήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ διαμένει ὁ τρόπος τοῦ ἀγωνίσματος·
Chrysothemis the Cretan, wearing conspicuous raiment and taking up the kithara in reenactment (mimêsis) of Apollo, was the first man to sing by himself a nomos; and since he won acclaim, this style of competitive performance persists to this day.
Proclus Chrestomathia ap. Photius Bibliotheca 320b1–4
Crucial to the performative mimêsis of Apollo enacted prototypically by the legendary citharode Chrysothemis, reputedly the first winner at the Pythian citharodic agôn (Pausanias 10.7.2), is the στολὴ ἐκπρεπής ‘conspicuous raiment’, which historical competitors in the contest long continued to wear. [56] The logic of myth and ritual in the matter of the skeuê is uroboric: mortal citharodes dress up as their patron god Apollo, who in turn is costumed as a mortal citharode. The Pythian section of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo thus opens with an iconic image of Apollo making his way to Delphi accoutered as a concert citharode, “playing on the hollow phorminx, wearing divine, perfumed garments” (182–184). Archaic and early Classical Attic vase paintings of citharodic scenes seem deliberately to invite confusion between divine model and mortal reenactor. We will examine this visual “feedback loop” between the two at greater length in Part IV.
Apollo kitharôidos, sometimes alone, sometimes leading the chorus of the Muses or in the company of other Olympian gods, would be familiar to all who had seen the many images of the god in that aspect on Greek pottery, votive objects, and in statuary. This iconic image had become well known in Rome as well. Some of the spectators in Naples may have been holding Roman coins, issued under Nero himself, with images of Apollo in full citharodic habitus on the reverse. [57] A magnificent statue of Apollo in full citharodic costume supposedly created by the fourth-century BCE sculptor Scopas of Paros stood in the cella of the Augustan temple of Apollo on the Palatine for all to see. [58] Wealthy Romans had since the Republican period been appropriating Greek statues of Apollo citharoedus for display in their private villas, as the bronze Apollo found at the so-called Casa del Citarista in Pompeii indicates. [59] Tacitus in fact has Nero making rhetorical appeal to the familiarity of such model images by way of justifying his own musical vocation: citharodic songs were “sacred to Apollo,” argues the princeps, and “this outstanding and prescient divinity was represented in the ornatus ‘fine attire’ of a citharoedus not only in Greek cities but in Roman temples” (Annals 14.14.1).
The sight of the citharode may also have evoked the mythic charge of Orpheus or Amphion, proto-citharodic culture heroes, one imposing order and control on the chaos of the natural world, nearly transcending the irrevocable power of death itself, the other sounding into harmonic motion the inert stones that would form the walls of the Theban polis. These divine and mythical models and paradigms remained very much “in play” in the living culture of Imperial kitharôidia. An elaborately garbed, youthful citharode performing before an appreciative audience is depicted on a second- or third-century CE applique medallion from the Rhone valley. Above him an inscription reads NICA APOLLO ‘Be victorious, Apollo’. The figure depicted is most likely a mortal citharode who is being accorded the most fulsome praise by the spectators at the performance; that is, they identify him with the patron god of his art. [60] A roughly contemporary epigram from the Latin Anthology (103 Kay = 114R) compares the awesome talent of a performing citharode, “skilled in making songs with his Apolline plectrum” (1), to the preternatural musical feats of Amphion and Orpheus. The epigram is one of a series in the Anthology dedicated to populist spectacles—other poems treat pantomime and tight-rope walking—and this context suggests that, despite the poet’s high literary tone, the vision of the citharode as a latter-day Orpheus or Amphion was not simply a socially detached ecphrastic topos, but an actual reflection of popular mentality. [61] At least one real-life citharode of the Empire was named Amphion (CIL 6, 10124b).
Such encomiastic assimilation of real to mythical citharode had a long pre-Roman history. A striking example has been preserved on an artifact of citharodic culture that predates the medallion by well over 600 years. A black-figured oinochoe from Athens shows a figure in full citharodic garb mounting a bêma, the platform reserved for competitors at musical games. An inscription framing the image reads khaire Orpheus ‘Hail, Orpheus’. [62] Perhaps the inscription straightforwardly indicates that the musician is meant to be the Orpheus, imagined here, uniquely in Greek art and poetry, in an explicitly agonistic context. [63] Alternatively, it has been suggested that the musician is a real-life citharode, whose greeting to the legendary singer is recorded in the inscription. [64] Another interpretation of the image would be to integrate these two readings. The figure is meant to be a real citharode; the inscription, however, represents not his voice, but that of a fan in the festival audience, who lauds him as an “Orpheus” incarnate. [65] Secondarily, the inscription prompts or “scripts” the praise uttered by anyone looking at the depicted musician and, as was the ancient habit, reading aloud the inscribed greeting. The reception of the image thereby reenacts the mythicizing acclaim that met the live performance. The oinochoe represents a variant of the interactive dynamic that informs the kalos-inscription, whereby those who view a figure depicted on a vase and read the kalos-inscription naming him are made to participate in the celebration of the figure’s fame and beauty. Such inscriptions do in fact accompany several depictions of bêma-mounted citharodes on Attic vases of the fifth century BCE. [66]

5. Commemorating Citharodes

Statues of mortal citharodes, living and dead, were commonly erected in their home cities and at important centers of kitharôidia. A statue of the semi-legendary citharode Eunomus, a Pythian victor, was erected by his fellow citizens in Epizephyrian Locri (Strabo 6.1.9). The sixth-century BCE tyrant Polycrates of Samos dedicated a statue of a beautiful young citharode in the Samian temple of Hera (Apuleius Florida 15.6–10). Two dedications dated to around 500 BCE, one from a citharode named Ophsios, the other from an Alkibios, have been found on the Akropolis. We know nothing about either, but we may assume that both were recent victors at the Panathenaia and had the considerable wealth to advertise their success—the dedications were probably inscribed on pedestals supporting bronze statues of the citharodes. [67] A character in Athenaeus 1.19b notes that, while one cannot find a statue of Pindar in that poet’s native Thebes, there is the famous statue of Cleon son of Pytheas, called an aoidos ‘singer’ in the funerary verse inscription that celebrates both the “heaven-reaching fame” of the victorious musician and his “glorification of the Theban fatherland” (= anon. FGE 113, 1532-1535). Pliny Natural History 34.59 clarifies that this Cleon was a citharode, and attributes the statue, which was spared by Alexander when he razed Thebes, to the reputed fifth-century sculptor Pythagoras of Rhegium. [68] Alexander honored his friend, the citharode Aristonicus, with a bronze statue at Delphi (Plutarch On the Fortune of Alexander 334e–f). A statue of the third-century BCE Nicocles of Tarentum, “most famous of all citharodes,” was displayed in Athens, where he had made his home (Pausanias 1.37.2; the inscription is preserved: IG II2 3779).
Verres plundered a famous statue of a citharista from the city of Aspendus in Pamphylia (Cicero Verrine Orations 2.1.53), which he had installed at his own villa. Another statue of a citharist, Archelaus, was erected by the Milesians (Athenaeus 1.19b). The citharode Anaxenor, a favorite of Mark Antony, was honored by his native city, Magnesia on the Maeander, with a painted image in the agora showing him dressed in purple and with a bronze statue in the theater, to which was attached an honorific inscription from Homer, a rendering of Odyssey 9.3–4, in which the “godlike voice” of Demodocus is praised by Odysseus (Strabo 14.1.41, who records that the artisan accidentally omitted a letter from the grammatical termination of αὐδή ‘voice’ in the second line of the inscribed quotation, thus bringing charges of ignorance upon the people of Magnesia). In the second century CE, the city council of Argos decreed the erection of a statue in honor of M. Ulpius Heliodorus, originally of Thessalonike, who was, according to the inscribed statue base, the most theretofore agonistically successful citharode. [69] Heliodorus’ record was shattered by a citharode of the Severan period, the Pergamene native C. Antonius Septimius Poplius, who was honored with a victory statue in Smyrna, where he had received citizenship. The base of the monument survives, recording his exhaustive résumé of victories (IGR IV 1432, beginning, “The first and only citharode of the age to win the following agônes”).
Monuments such as these constituted an off-stage (and in some cases post-mortem) extension of the high-stakes competition for prestige and recognition conducted by the living citharodes they represent, as well as the cities that hosted them. [70] Dio Cassius 63.8.4–5 says that Nero forced an aged citharode, Pammenes, whose celebrity had been at its peak during the reign of Nero’s uncle, Gaius, to compete against him during his agonistic tour of Greece, so that “having beaten him, he could have his statues mutilated” (αὐτοῦ τοὺς ἀνδριάντας κράτησας αἰκίσηται; cf. Suetonius Nero 24), and presumably replaced with his own. Such damnatio memoriae is not otherwise attested, but the story, even if apocryphal, dramatizes the kind of strategic manipulation of cultural memory that was involved in the erection of citharodic statuary. It is worth noting, however, that Nero’s entry into the agonistic musical culture of Greece was in some respects bizarrely conflated with Roman military-political theater, in which the punitive destruction or mutilation of opponents’ images was exceedingly common. As Dio has it, the emperor staged his entire tour of the Achaean circuit of agônes as a military campaign (63.8.4), and celebrated a triumph on his return to Rome, during which he exhibited his “subjugated foe,” the citharode Diodorus (63.20.3–4). Dio compares Nero’s main citharodic competitors on the tour, Terpnus, Diodorus, and Pammenes, to the Macedonian potentates Philip, Perseus, and Antiochus, describing their defeat at the hands of the emperor in military metaphors (63.8.4–5) that probably echo the Neronian rhetoric.

6. Erotic Audition

Beyond any divine and heroic resonances potentially evoked by his stage persona, the citharode, decked out in his stunning concert regalia, exudes a worldly sexual charisma—a powerful amalgam of visual glamour, the projection of technical wizardry, and the promise of overwhelming sensual mastery—which foreshadows that of the modern instrumental virtuoso, concert tenor, or pop star. Standing on the bêma, with the eyes of thousands of festival-goers fixed on him, he is an object of wonder and desire, the larger-than-life embodiment of popular acclaim, of wealth and success, of awesome artistic accomplishment. [71] It seems safe to say that no other type of musical or verbal performer in Greek or Roman antiquity, neither virtuoso auletes nor actors nor the theater-filling itinerant rhetors of the First or Second Sophistic, had exerted such consistently powerful sway over the mass libidinal imagination. And it is easy to imagine why, on this level alone, a monumental narcissist such as Nero would be drawn above all other performance media to the practice of kitharôidia.
The audition of citharodic music was from its very beginnings acknowledged as a fundamentally erotic experience. Thus during Hermes’ primal display of lyre playing in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, which is imagined at once as a foundational lyric performance, looking forward to the restricted use of the khelus-lyre in the aristocratic symposium and the schoolroom, and a public, proto-professional citharodic event, the heart, thumos, of the audience of one, Apollo, is overcome by γλυκὺς ἵμερος ‘sweet desire’ (422) and ἔρος ἀμήχανος ‘irresistible longing’ (434). For his part, the performer is determined to make both lyre and voice utterly seductive. The Hymn to Hermes describes Hermes’ music making as eratos ‘lovely’ three times within six lines (421, 423, 426). The very invention of the lyre is precipitated in the Hymn by a mock-erotic encounter marked by the playful tone that distinguishes the poem as a whole. As the newborn Hermes first exits his mother’s cave, his gaze is drawn (ἀθρήσας, 29) to the (female) tortoise “prancing along on her feet” (σαῦλα ποσὶν βαίνουσα, 28). He flirtatiously calls the dainty animal ‘lovely in form’, φυὴν ἐρόεσσα, and a ‘companion of the feast’, a δαιτὸς ἑταίρη (31; cf. 478). The latter epithet proleptically envisions the tortoise as the convivial instrument it will eventually become; at the same time, however, it figures the tortoise, and the lyre, as that sexually seductive (and often musically skilled) habitué of the symposium, the hetaira ‘courtesan’.

6.1 Seductions of the lyre

More commonly, however, the Archaic and Classical khelus-lyre is associated with attractive boys. The bella figura cut by the well-bred, lyre-playing youth looms large in the early Greek pederastic imagination. [72] But, in Athens at least, this distinctly lyric sex appeal was appreciated primarily by a small, refined group of sympotic elites, who were aroused above all by the demure bearing, modesty, and self-restraint displayed by the privileged students of the kitharistês ‘lyre teacher’. The lyre functioned almost as an incidental signifier, or a convenient focalizer, of these and related aesthetic, ethical, and even political dispositions, which were ultimately the real turn-ons. [73] The mid-fifth-century sophist Damon, an early exponent of systematized theory linking music and êthos ‘character’, says that a boy should “display not only his masculinity (andreia) and self-restraint (sophrosunê) while singing and playing the lyre, but also his sense of justice (dikaiosunê)” (D-K B 4)—a moral/ethical prescription with hard-to-miss erotic undertones. These are more audible in a passage from Aristophanes’ Clouds, in which Better Argument, a caricature of an unreconstructed lyric pederast, relates a sexually charged memory of the “good old days,” when naked boys walked in orderly fashion (εὐτάκτως, 964) to the kitharistês to learn by heart simple, traditional songs sung “in the harmonia ‘mode’ which their fathers had handed down,” all the while ingenuously “keeping their thighs spread open” (966–968). Lyre playing put virtue on seductive display.
The visual culture of the symposium makes the case more explicitly. On Attic vases young lyre players attract attention, but they almost always play hard to get, assiduously resisting the advances of their would-be lovers. In some cases boys even use their lyres to fend off aggressive predators, whether divinities (Eros and Eos) or older, bearded gentlemen, idealized reflections of the desiring symposiasts who gaze at the image. This fetchingly defensive gesture nicely iconicizes how the lyre of the “good boy” both piques desire and notionally guarantees its frustration, a dialectic theoretically at the heart of homoerotic courtship in Classical Athens. Another scene type involves a would-be erastês ‘lover’ offering the gift of a lyre to a properly demure young man. The gesture represents at once a generous act of pedagogy—the lyre perfectly emblematizes the cultural capital that is elite education, paideia—as well as a blatant ploy to outfit the boy with just the prop that will most sexually excite the older man. [74]
The erotic investment in the lyre made by Athenian sympotic elites exhibits a marked fetish character in an Attic skolion, or drinking song (PMG 900): “Would that I might become a beautiful ivory lyre and beautiful boys might carry me to the Dionysian chorus” (εἴθε λύρα καλὴ γενοίμην ἐλεφαντίνη | καί με καλοὶ παῖδες φέροιεν Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν). In light of the fact that Dionysian choruses, above all the dramatic and dithyrambic choruses featured at Athenian festivals dedicated to the god, were typically accompanied by the aulos rather than the lyre (or the kithara), the closing tag Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν must be slyly intended. Perhaps it is meant as a lightly polemical swipe at the demotic culture of the polis. [75] The unexpected image of the lyre, that fixture of the exclusive domain of elite society, “invading” the popular ranks of civic mousikê and there challenging the supremacy of the aulos, the instrument that had, by the later fifth century BCE, come to be fundamentally associated with the democratic musico-cultural apparatus, could well have brought a smile to the lips of politically and culturally separatist aristocrats. However, given that the skolion may date to the late Archaic or early Classical period, before the aulos and the lyre had become ideologically polarized in the way they would become in the later fifth century, a less political interpretation is safer. [76] The “Dionysian chorus” is likely the very sympotic group to which the singer of the skolion belongs. [77] Similarly, Anacreon sings of seeing a handsome youth, Simalus, “holding a beautiful pêktis in the chorus” (ἐν χορῷ πηκτίδ’ ἔχοντα καλήν, PMG 386). The pêktis, a type of harp, had no place in choral performance, but it was, according to Pindar fr. 125 S-M, a feature of the Lydian banquet; Anacreon’s chorus is the Lydianizing sympotic group, which was the original audience for his songs. [78] The symposiast’s wish is thus not only to be transformed into a beautiful boy’s precious lyre, but also to be carried to the place where such fine things, beautiful lyres and beautiful boys, are most appreciated, the symposium. This reading of the skolion as a self-referential in-joke is supported by its “capping” couplet, PMG 901, which offers a heterosexual reply to the declaration of homoerotic desire that is PMG 900. The singer wishes that he were a golden ornament and that “a beautiful woman would wear me—one who had made pure her mind (καθαρὸν θεμένη νόον).” The woman evoked here is the hetaira, who will wear her gold jewelry to the symposium. The ironical closing tag καθαρὸν θεμένη νόον is timed to correspond to the metrically equivalent Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν of PMG 900, which, like PMG 901, is mildly salacious in tone, even suggesting a slight intimation of “corruption.” [79] The denizens of the liberated Dionysian symposium dream of fulfilling their sexual fantasies by having a youthful lyre player join their “chorus.” [80]
But the skolion expresses the truth of a larger process of musical socialization: the elite boys who today are training on the lyre in the schoolroom of the kitharistês will tomorrow take their place in the ranks of the symposium. The two zones are, after all, socioculturally contiguous, the former a prelude of sorts to the latter. In a well-known schoolroom scene on a red-figured cup by Douris (Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz F 2285), we thus see two students’ lyres hanging on the wall alongside two drinking cups, which are clearly intended as “symbols of the symposion at which such musical apprenticeship is directed.” [81]

6.2 ‘Amazing passion’: Misgolas and company

The seductive young lyre player remained a recognizable erotic icon after the fifth century. Demosthenes, for instance, was able to insinuate that his opponent Aeschines had been aroused by the sight of a youthful Alexander singing to the lyre at a Macedonian symposium (Aeschines Against Timarchus 168–169). [82] In the same speech we find strong evidence too that the aristocratic romance of the lyre could extend to the world of professional kitharôidia as well. Aeschines speaks of one wealthy and cultivated (καλὸς κἀγαθός), middle-aged Athenian named Misgolas, beyond reproach in every respect except for his “amazing passion” (δαιμονίως ἐσπουδακώς) for good-looking younger men, which translated into a particular predilection for “certain citharodes or citharists,” with whom “he was accustomed always to surround himself” (ἀεί τινας ἔχειν εἰωθὼς περὶ αὑτὸν κιθαρῳδοὺς ἢ κιθαριστάς). [83] Aeschines predictably colors Misgolas’ associations as scandalous or ridiculous, reserving “citharodes or citharists” for the end of the sentence, as if to maximize either the shock value or the absurdity of the company kept by the man. But his rhetoric is predictably disingenuous. Although many of the fourth-century BCE Athenian elite kept their distance from popular musicians as a point of moral principle or, more commonly, as a way of maintaining social distinction, Misgolas was surely not alone in his attraction to citharodes. Indeed, the ἤ ‘or’ in that closing phrase may carry its full disjunctive force, signifying a slight hedge on Aeschines’ part: “citharodes, or rather citharists.” That is, it may be one thing for a man of his stature to surround himself with citharodes, but Misgolas’ enthusiasms are really déclassé—he pursues kithara players, whose status and prestige are considerably lower than those of the celebrated citharodes. Yet Misgolas did somehow distinguish himself among the Athenian dêmos as a discriminating lover of citharodes, and he is ridiculed as such in Middle Comedy plays by Alexis (fr. 3 K-A) and Antiphanes (fr. 27 K-A). In the former, a young man assures his mother that the predatory Misgolas has no sexual interest in him, since he is not a κιθαρῳδός. [84] In the latter, The Fisherwoman, the titular character imagines that a fish called the κίθαρος, a turbot, would be irresistible to Misgolas, since its name evokes the κιθαρῳδοί he so fervently desires:
ἀλλὰ κίθαρος οὑτοσί,
ὃν ἂν ἴδῃ τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἀφέξεται.
καὶ μὴν ἀληθῶς τοῖς κιθαρῳδοῖς ὡς σφόδρα
ἅπασιν οὗτος ἐπιπεφυκὼς λανθάνει.
But this turbot (kitharos) here, if
Misgolas sees him, he won’t be able to keep his hands off.
I tell you, it’s really amazing, how with all the kitharôidoi,
he sneaks his way in really close to them!
Antiphanes The Fisherwoman fr. 27 K-A [85]
Both Aeschines and Antiphanes leave us to wonder how exactly Misgolas “got in” with kitharôidoi, and what form their association assumed. The charge implied by both authors is that Misgolas was a kind of stage-door Johnny, forming relationships with professional string musicians, presumably younger, good-looking ones—he does not seem to have cared for auletes—and discreetly angling to sleep with them, perhaps by lavishing gifts, money, lodging, and flattery. [86] (The attempts at discretion obviously failed, given the seemingly compulsive nature of his attraction; he makes a play for all the citharodes according to Antiphanes.) Did he sleep with them? Probably in some instances, but, although Misgolas was a notorious client of prostitutes, we need not think that as a rule the musicians in question pursued a part-time prostitution racket loosely connected to their daytime musical activity, as if they were sympotic hetairai, who mingled musical and sexual services. The citharode’s income and the prestige of his tekhnê would by and large have kept him out of the straits of male prostitution. Perhaps Misgolas was content to experience close-up the eroticized glamour of popular citharodes rather than to pursue full-fledged sexual affairs with them, as the comic poets insinuated.
According to an anecdote originally told by Antigonus of Carystus (writing c. 240 BCE), the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas took a more direct approach with the citharode he fancied than did the subtle Misgolas:
Ἀντιγόνου τοῦ βασιλέως ἐρώμενος ἦν Ἀριστοκλῆς ὁ κιθαρῳδὸς, περὶ οὗ Ἀντίγονος ὁ Καρύστιος ἐν τῷ Ζήνωνος βίῳ γράφει οὕτως· Ἀντίγονος ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐπεκώμαζε τῷ Ζήνωνι. καί ποτε καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέραν ἐλθὼν ἔκ τινος πότου καὶ ἀναπηδήσας πρὸς τὸν Ζήνωνα ἔπεισεν αὐτὸν συγκωμάσαι αὐτῷ πρὸς Ἀριστοκλέα τὸν κιθαρῳδὸν, οὗ σφόδρα ἤρα ὁ βασιλεύς.
Aristocles the citharode was the erômenos ‘beloved’ of King Antigonus, about whom Antigonus of Carystus writes in his Life of Zeno the following: “King Antigonus used to go out on kômoi ‘drunken revels’ with Zeno. Coming once at dawn from some drinking, he hurried to Zeno’s and convinced him to go along on a kômos to Aristocles the citharode, whom the king passionately desired.”
Antigonus of Carystus ap. Athenaeus 8.603e [87]
The full story behind this comastic paraclausithyron must remain uncertain. Athenaeus calls Aristocles, a star performer of the earlier third century, the king’s erômenos, which would indicate that the two were involved in a reciprocal romantic/sexual relationship, and presumably a high-profile one, as both erastês and erômenos were celebrities. [88] The anecdote could be read to imply that both men, along with the Stoic philosopher Zeno, were fellow travelers in an elite artistic-intellectual social circuit, which might support this view. [89] But even if they did move through the same social circles in Athens, Antigonus of Carystus, the original source, in fact says only that the king passionately desired the citharode, which could mean merely than that the king was a smitten fan of Aristocles. His early-morning kômos could thus have been nothing more than an overly enthusiastic and spontaneous expression of one-way desire. But in either case the anecdote confirms that the desires of Misgolas were hardly obscure. Antigonus’ attraction to Aristocles indeed finds a telling echo in anecdotal accounts about another Hellenistic king, Ptolemy Philadelphus of Alexandria, a political rival of Antigonus, whose storied interest in the female citharode Glauce will be discussed below. In both cases the romantic pursuit of citharode by king represents an eroticized expression of a traditional theme: the attraction of royal or tyrannical power to citharodic celebrity.
In an epigram in the Palatine Anthology (5.99) we hear a Hellenistic music fan expressing what we may suppose were the sort of “obscene” passions nourished by a Misgolas or Antigonus, and archly euphemized by Aeschines and Antiphanes: “I wanted, citharode, to stand by you as you played, and bang your bottom [string] and loosen your middle [string]” (ἤθελον, ὦ κιθαρῳδέ, παραστάς, ὡς κιθαρίζεις, | τὴν ὑπάτην κροῦσαι, τήν τε μέσην χαλάσαι). The musico-sexual punning in the epigram’s second verse goes back to Old Comedy (cf. e.g. Pherecrates Cheiron fr. 155 K-A), and here, as there, it is rather difficult to appreciate the joke. Simon Goldhill summarizes the problems: “[The joke] obviously gives musical terms a sexual double entendre, but what exactly is to be made of hupatên and mesên? Krouein is common enough for ‘bang’ (‘strike the strings of an instrument’/‘have sex’), and chalazein, according to Henderson, means ‘to loosen by inserting the penis’ as well as ‘to loosen the strings of an instrument.’” [90] The lusting spectator who wants to get his hands on the citharode is certainly a man, as the masculine participle παραστάς indicates. The citharode could be a woman. Some support for this reading may come from the Pherecrates fragment, in which Mousikê, personified as a woman, complains of her strings/genitals being violated, “loosened.” But as Goldhill points out, “‘penetration’ and ‘banging’ are gender-free in object choice.” So if the citharode is a woman, we could imagine that she is one of the alluring “pop stars” who are sent mash notes from male fans elsewhere in the Palatine Anthology (5.222; 16.277, 278). But it is just as likely that the citharode is a younger man objectified by an older, would-be lover such as Misgolas.
The verb παρίστημι ‘to stand by, near’, from which the intransitive second aorist παραστάς is formed, comes freighted with male homosexual overtones by way of the ritualized pederastic culture of ancient Crete, in which the younger erômenos was referred to as a παρασταθείς ‘the one posted beside’ an older partner (Strabo 10.4.21). One scholar has suggested that a boy shown walking alongside a lyre-holding bard in a Geometric bronze sculpture from eighth-century BCE Crete, now at the Getty Museum, may be not only a helper or apprentice, but just such a parastatheis to the older musician. [91] The homoerotic relationship between between master citharode and student seems to have been a theme in the representation of citharodic culture, although one surely not always reflective of real practice. One tradition makes Cepion, a mathêtês ‘student’ of the Lesbian citharode Terpander, into the master’s erômenos as well (Pollux Onomasticon 4.65). Another reflex of the theme is to be found, perhaps not coincidentally, in the musical history of Crete: a Cretan citharode, Ametor of Eleutherna, the progenitor of a line of kitharôidoi called the Ametoridai, was apparently, according to a local Eleuthernan tradition, the first to compose “erotic songs” for the kithara (Athenaeus 14.638b; Hesychius s.v. Ἀμητορίδας; the name, however, does sound suspiciously like a play on the Latin word for ‘lover’, amator). Of course, the sexually aggressive fan in the Hellenistic epigram makes for an antitypical parastatheis, but such unexpected inversion could be part of the poem’s salacious wit.

6.3 The promiscuous appeal of the citharode

Citharodic charisma was far more promiscuous than the exclusive allure of the schoolboy or adolescent with his tortoise-shell lyre, and, as a publicly available commodity, it had a range of appreciators well beyond aristocratic connoisseurs. The citharode was a truly egalitarian sex symbol, transcending barriers of class, age, and gender. The demographics of citharodic audiences in pre-Roman Greece could have varied greatly depending on the era or the context of the performance (Panhellenic or local festival, or a civic concert), but the testimonia suggest a consistently wide social composite of spectators. Significant inference is to be drawn from a curious passage in Plato’s Laws (658a–d). The Athenian Stranger proposes a hypothetical agôn at which performers of all kinds would be invited to compete in “giving pleasure (terpsis) to the spectators.” The Stranger expects that a rhapsode, citharode, tragedian, comedian, and puppeteer would enter the contest; he then predicts to what segments of the audience each would most appeal. The rhapsode, reciting the Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod, would appeal to conservative older men such as the Stranger and his interlocutors; small children would enjoy the puppet show most; comedy would hold the older boys; tragedy would attract “educated women, young men, and perhaps the majority of all people” (αἵ τε πεπαιδευμέναι τῶν γυναικῶν καὶ τὰ νέα μειράκια καὶ σχεδὸν ἴσως τὸ πλῆθος πάντων). But Plato assigns kitharôidia no predominant type of consumer. [92] Though tragedy is posited as the ultimately inclusive medium, which was no doubt the case in fifth- and fourth-century Athens, the aporia concerning kitharôidia is remarkable: Plato seems unwilling or unable to define absolutely its “niche” market constituency and so passes over it entirely.
Anecdotal accounts suggest that citharodic performance could mobilize the entire population of a city like few other events. A recital given by the fourth-century BCE Aristonicus of Olynthus drew together the combined populations of the cities of the Bosporus region, all eager to hear the great virtuoso (Polyaenus Strategems 5.44.1). This recital played a critical role in the strategy of the Rhodian general Memnon, an early patron of the citharode—Aristonicus would later go on to serve Philip and Alexander—to capture the region. Wanting to gauge the size of the forces he would encounter when he invaded, Memnon reckoned that the most accurate way to take a census of the populace was to put on a citharodic show, an occasion so irresistible that everyone in the region would be sure to come. Polyaenus records another strategic ruse involving kitharôidia, in which the Macedonian dynast Antigonus I (“The One-Eyed”) seized control of the citadel of Acrocorinth while the Corinthians were assembled to hear a star citharode, Amoebus, who was hired to perform at the wedding of Antigonus’ son to Nicaea. [93]
This power to seduce mass populations, which in both of these cases involves momentous political implications, seems proper to citharodic celebrity. Such power is presumed by the fourth-century BCE mythographer Palaephatus in his interpretation of the myth of Amphion’s foundation of Thebes:
περὶ Ζήθου καὶ Ἀμφίονος ἱστοροῦσιν ἄλλοι τε καὶ Ἡσίοδος ὅτι κιθάρᾳ τὸ τεῖχος τῆς Θήβης ἐτείχισαν. δοκοῦσι δὲ ἔνιοι κιθαρίζειν <μὲν> αὐτοὺς, τοὺς δὲ λίθους αὐτομάτως ἀναβαίνειν ἐπὶ τὸ τεῖχος. τὸ δὲ ἀληθὲς ἔχει ὧδε· κιθαρῳδοὶ οὗτοι ἄριστοι ἐγένοντο καὶ ἐπεδείκνυντο μισθῷ. ἀργύριον δὲ οὐκ εἶχον οἱ τότε ἄνθρωποι. ἐκέλευον οὖν οἱ περὶ τὸν Ἀμφίονα, εἴ τις βούλοιτο ἀκούειν αὐτῶν, ἐρχόμενος ἐργάζεσθαι ἐπὶ τὸ τεῖχος· οὐ μέντοι οἱ λίθοι εἵποντο ἀκροώμενοι. εὐλόγως οὖν ἔλεγον οἱ ἄνθρωποι ὅτι λύρᾳ τὸ τεῖχος ἐτειχίσθη.
Hesiod (= fr. 182 M-W) and others say of Zethus and Amphion that they built the walls of Thebes with the kithara. Some people take this to mean that they played the kithara and that the stones spontaneously rose up into the walls. But the truth is as follows: these two were outstanding citharodes and they used to put on concerts in return for money. But people back then did not use money. So those in Amphion’s circle told anyone who wanted to hear them to come and work on the walls. It was not that the stones listened and followed along, but people say with some reason that the walls were built with the lyre.
Palaephatus On Unbelievable Tales 41
The rationalizing approach to mythical exegesis taken by Palaephatus typically results in silliness, and it does here as well. [94] Nevertheless, his claim to uncovering the “truth” beneath the myth has a certain merit, at least in terms of the socioeconomic reality of contemporary kitharôidia. Palaephatus imagines Amphion and Zethus to have been like the celebrated star citharodes of his own day (κιθαρῳδοὶ οὗτοι ἄριστοι), who gave lucrative and well-attended concerts (epideixeis). [95] So popular were these stars that Palaephatus can posit as a rational alternative to the mystical scenario of the myth what might appear to us to be an equally “unbelievable” scenario: eager fans would commit to hard labor in exchange for the pleasure of hearing the citharodes perform. But as a metaphor, this explanation is not so far from the historical situation: star citharodes could move mass populations of cities to part with their time and money in exchange for the pleasure of their music. And, in a sense, both the myth and Palaephatus’ attempted demystification of it suggest, through their respective metaphors, the rationally inexplicable influence exerted by the citharode over the body politic.
Dio Chrysostom Oration 19.2–4 is a vivid first-person account of the orator’s own attraction to the star power of the citharode. He recounts how, while he was visiting Cyzicus, the entire civic population, 3,000 plus strong, turned out en masse for a performance by an unnamed star, “the best of the citharodes of the day” (ὁ ἄριστος τῶν νῦν κιθαρῳδῶν), who was reputedly even better than Arion. Dio says that a σπουδὴ ἀμήχανος ‘irresistible urge’ gripped the people of Cyzicus to hear this sensation. He himself was happily carried along with the crowd, which he figures as the mesmerized herd of fawns and calves that followed Orpheus’ music. [96] What Dio calls the σπουδή, the enthusiastic tenor, surrounding citharodic performance, appears to be socially unmarked. [97] The pleasure produced by the citharode is all consuming.
As such, it is quite likely that even in Classical Greece women as well as men enjoyed citharodic spectacles. The literary sources are vague on this point, as they are on the notoriously vexed question of whether women attended dramatic performances, but nothing in them speaks against it, and the presence of women, or at least some women, seems to be implied in most descriptions of citharodic performances. We are fortunate, however, to have two vase paintings that would seem to indicate that women attended mousikoi agônes in fifth-century Athens. [98] On an Attic calyx krater from c. 430 BCE, a bearded citharode, wearing a wreath, mounts the bêma with his kithara. [99] Two winged Victories, Nikai, are on hand to mark symbolically his victory in the contest; one of them brings two metal libation bowls, phialai, representing the musician’s cash prize. Flanking the bêma on one side is a bearded man, probably a judge, and on the other a seated woman, who stares intently (and perhaps longingly) at the successful competitor. A roughly contemporary oinochoe in Rome shows two female spectators gazing at a victorious musician who ascends the bêma with kithara in hand. One of the two carries phialai, the other sits on a hydria. [100]
The inclusion of the women in these victory scenes—both are probably set against the backdrop of the Panathenaia festival, which featured the most prestigious citharodic agôn of the Classical period—serves a symbolic and affective function, focalizing the desirability projected by the successful citharode and marking the field of erotic energy crackling around him. [101] Pindar aims for a similar effect in Pythian 9.97–99, imagining a recent victor as an object of the admiring looks of women and girls, who fantasize about having this talented athlete as son-in-law or husband: “As you were much victorious in the seasonal rites of Pallas, the maidens, each and every one, watched you in silence, praying that you, Telesicrates, might be their dearest husband, and their mothers prayed that you might be their son.” [102] But the rhetorical dimension of the painted images need not keep us from taking them as evidence for the social reality that women in Classical Athens did have the opportunity to witness citharodic performance first hand.
Subtle reflections of the citharode’s potent sex appeal are detectable in literary treatments of mythical proto-citharodes as well. At Euripides Ion 897–906 Creusa berates Apollo, the absentee father of her son, Ion, angrily accusing the god of “making a racket on the kithara (κιθάρᾳ κλάζεις), singing paeans,” while she and Ion suffer. This dark evocation of Apollo kitharôidos contrasts significantly with the earlier description of the god as an impossibly dashing citharode, “singing to the tune of the seven-stringed kithara … gleaming with gold in his hair,” with which Creusa prefaces the account of her rape by him (881–888). Euripides is drawing in part on the idealized Archaic and Classical representations of Apollo kitharôidos in painting and statuary, but this glamorously aloof Apollo evokes too the desirability and sexual confidence of the flesh-and-blood star citharode. [103]
So might the two famous Thracian lyre singers of myth, Orpheus and Thamyris. The murderous hostility of the Thracian women toward Orpheus was in some accounts explained as frustrated sexual desire. After he had lost Eurydice in Hades, Orpheus committed himself to homosexuality (e.g. Phanocles fr. 1 Powell), but, as Ovid Metamorphoses 10.81–82 has it, “Nevertheless, the desire possessed many women to join with the singer, and many who were rejected felt aggrieved” (multas tamen ardor habebat | iungere se vati, multae doluere repulsae; cf. 11.1–9 for the murder scene). The other side of the scorned women’s furor is the consuming fascination of the Thracian men with the lyric music of Orpheus (which in another version of the myth is what angered the women in the first place; cf. Pausanias 9.30.3). Scenes of their spellbound audition are portrayed in Attic vase painting from around 460 to 420 BCE. [104] Perhaps these scenes were inspired by a now-lost drama or dithyramb; perhaps too by citharodic accounts of Orpheus’ life and death, which might further have provided the narrative coordinates for the dramatic and dithyrambic treatments. One dramatic influence on the iconography was surely Aeschylus’ Bassarids (or Bassarai), produced around 466–459 BCE, which treated the life and death of Orpheus. [105] The paintings and their poetic source or sources could have allegorized, or been seen to allegorize, the intense enthusiasm for contemporary kitharôidia felt by contemporary Athenians. Taken together with the abundant scenes of Orpheus’ murder, the allegory would be gendered along predictable ideological lines. Men submit peacefully and sociably to citharodic pleasures, while women, characteristically overmastered by their emotions, give way to sexual excess and impulsive violence, directed perversely at the citharode who is the object of their desire. (That is, if the account of their ambivalence we find in Ovid goes back this far.) [106] Alternately, the scenes of a youthful, distinctly Greek-looking Orpheus singing to the tortoise-shell lyre before the rapt Thracians, which appear exclusively on wine-mixing vessels, could have been intended to idealize mythically not civic kitharôidia, but the social and aesthetic harmony produced by lyric music within the private confines of the symposium. [107]
The myth of Thamyris related in Homer Iliad 2.594–600, in which the itinerant Thracian lyre singer challenges the Muses to a song contest, foregrounds his hubristic confidence in his musical abilities. Although it goes unmentioned in the Homeric account, later tellings emphasize Thamyris’ physical beauty and sexual assertiveness as well. Zenobius 4.27 knows Thamyris as a practicing kitharôidos (ἀσκήσας κιθαρῳδίαν) who “surpassed all in beauty.” (Good looks ran in the family: his grandmother was the exceedingly beautiful Philonis and his grandfather was Apollo [Hesiod fr. 64.15–16].) This handsome Thamyris stipulates that if he should defeat the Muses in the agôn, he is to be permitted to have intercourse with each of them. This version of the contest seems to go back at least to the fifth century BCE, when several dramatic and dithyrambic treatments of the myth, including Sophocles’ Thamyras, were produced. Asclepiades of Tragilus (fourth century BCE), probably in his compilation of tragic myths, Tragôidoumena, provides an account, presumably drawn from one or more of the earlier treatments of Thamyris, that is largely similar in its details to that in Zenobius (FGrH 12 F 10). [108] It seems reasonable to assume that the heady combination of musical arrogance and sexual prowess (or vice versa) that characterized the Classical Thamyris was meant to evoke the disposition of the day’s star agonistic citharodes, or at least their popular perception. [109] We may note that in some later-fifth-century vase paintings from Athens Thamyris is portrayed in the attire of a contemporary citharode or citharist, holding a kithara. [110] The iconography of this period also shows that real-life agonistic string players in turn visually emulated the strangely glamorous Thamyris (or perhaps Orpheus). On several vases from the second half of the fifth century, citharodic or citharistic competitors, generally younger ones, are depicted holding the so-called Thracian or Thamyris kithara, an instrument otherwise handled in art by the mythical Thracian lyre singers, that combines features of the concert kithara, the Eastern Greek barbitos and the old-fashioned phorminx to create a vaguely exotic and archaized visual profile. [111] Its curved arms are sometimes ribbed with small protuberances, giving them the appearance (at least) of horns; the effect is a very stylized naturalism or primitivism—Thracian chic. [112]
The hybrid semiotics of the instrument well suit the dramatic liminality of Thamyris kitharôidos, a charismatic figure intriguingly poised between Thrace and Greece, mythic past and the contemporary culture of agonistic music. The fashionableness of the Thracian kithara may have been owed to its use on the tragic stage. Sophocles is said to have played the part of Thamyris himself, singing and playing the kithara (Life of Sophocles 24). Such borrowing from stage costume would constitute a significant development in the increased theatralization of kitharôidia in fifth-century Athens.

7. Juvenal on Citharodic Fandom in Rome

In post-Neronian Imperial Rome women had become open and avid consumers of kitharôidia. The satirist Juvenal, writing in the generation after Nero’s death, suggests the extent to which the star citharodes of the Empire could inspire sexual fantasy, even obsession in their fans, including women of the most elite social rank:
si gaudet cantu, nullius fibula durat
vocem vendentis praetoribus. organa semper
in manibus, densi radiant testudine tota
sardonyches, crispo numerantur pectine chordae
quo tener Hedymeles operas dedit: hunc tenet, hoc se
solatur gratoque indulget basia plectro.
quaedam de numero Lamiarum ac nominis Appi
et farre et vino Ianum Vestamque rogabat,
an Capitolinam deberet Pollio quercum
sperare et fidibus promittere. quid faceret plus
aegrotante viro, medicis quid tristibus erga
filiolum? stetit ante aram nec turpe putavit
pro cithara velare caput dictataque verba
pertulit, ut mos est, et aperta palluit agna.
If your wife enjoys music, the genital clasp (fibula) of no one who sells his voice to the praetors will stay fast. Musical instruments are always in her hands; her thick sardonyx rings sparkle all over the tortoise-shell; the strings resound at the quivering quill, with which the tender Hedymeles performed his works; this she grasps, with this she consoles herself, and she lavishes kisses upon the beloved plectrum. A certain lady of the tally of the Lamiae, with the name of Appius, kept asking of Janus and Vesta, with offerings of grain and wine, whether Pollio could hope to win the crown of oak leaves at the Capitoline contests and promise victory to his lyre. What more could she have done if her husband had been sick, or if the doctors had been pessimistic about her dear little son? She stood there before the altar, thinking it no disgrace to veil her head for the sake of a cithara. She recited the prescribed words in the proper form, and blanched when the lamb was opened up.
Juvenal Satire 6.379–392 [113]
There can be no doubt that these two matronae are figments of Juvenal’s misogynistic imagination, but, satirical distortions aside, the intense emotional attachments of fan to citharodic star that are limned in this passage must have had some basis in reality. The cult of kitharôidia transcended class lines, but Juvenal, ever on the hunt for outrage, predictably fixates on the scandalous interpenetration of the worlds of high society and popular music. This is surely not only a satirical theme, although it is that; Juvenal draws in some measure from real-life examples. There is no reason to doubt, for instance, the gossip that the wife of Emperor Pertinax (ruled 192–193 CE), Flavia Titiana, conducted an open affair—the emperor himself approved—with a citharode (Historia Augusta, Life of Pertinax 13.8), or to think that she was the first high-status Roman wife to do so. As both reality and cultural cliché, such affairs speak to the charisma of the celebrity citharode in post-Neronian Rome.
Juvenal depicts the seduction as a two-way street: citharodes capture the erotic imagination of noblewomen, who in turn work their predatory wiles on citharodes, who are viewed as passive-aggressive sex symbols. On the one hand, there is the commodified voice of the professional citharode—he “sells his voice” (vocem vendentis) to the praetors, the magistrates in charge of organizing festival contests—which assimilates him to the prostitute who makes public sale of his or her body. Juvenal similarly paints Nero as a musical prostitute in Satire 8.25–26: while performing in the Greek contests, the princeps “enjoyed putting himself on public display (prostitui) with his wretched voice for foreign audiences.” (Juvenal has in mind here Nero’s performances as a tragic actor-singer, tragoedus, as much as his citharodic endeavors; Nero competed in both singing to the kithara and acting on his Grecian tour, and it was the latter pursuit that was more commonly associated by the Romans with prostitution.) On the other hand, the metal fibula that binds the citharode’s genitals to prevent erections and thereby protect his celibacy marks him as one chastely devoted to his art. Infibulation, or genital binding, typically associated with athletes, was also practiced by agonistic citharodes as part of their training regimen. [114] Such athletic endurance—note the verb durare in line 379, with the fibula as the personified subject—makes the musician all the more attractive to his admirers, who themselves are ready to forsake all duty and honor to indulge their adulterous, socially transgressive passions. [115] Thus the second of Juvenal’s matronae perverts ancient rites and the sanctity of hearth and home to assure the victory of her favorite, Pollio. The cult of kitharôidia has become this woman’s religion; Pollio’s cithara effectively becomes the object of worship and devotion (391), a touch that perhaps alludes to the cult of Nero’s “divine voice,” to which Roman nobles of a previous era were expected to make sacrifices (Tacitus Annals 16.22.1; Dio Cassius 62.26.3). [116]
The first woman pines for her own heartthrob, the enticingly named Hedymeles, whose limbs (melê), we should presume, may look or taste as sweet (hêdu) as his melodies (also melê) sound. Juvenal underlines this sexually suggestive Greek punning, which goes back as far as Old Comedy, with his Latin epithet for Hedymeles, tener. [117] The name is clearly the satirist’s invention, a vulgar variation on the speaking stage names that were assumed by or given to some real-life musicians by way of advertising their talent, e.g. Terpnus, ‘Pleasurer’, who was Nero’s kithara teacher. Juvenal may even have in mind the speaking name Hedea (‘Sweetie’), which belonged to a girl who won first prize in a children’s citharodic contest at the Athenian Sebasteia in the first half of the first century CE. [118]
Perhaps we are to imagine Hedymeles specifically as a boy citharode; tener could in fact suggest that he is as young as he is lissome. Contests for boy citharists, although not for boy citharodes, are epigraphically attested in Athens as early as the fourth century BCE. [119] The apparent lack of formal competitions for pre-adult citharodes at this early period is worth noting. While boys were thought capable of displaying their instrumental skill on the kithara at major festival occasions, the virtuosic and physically demanding combination of singing and playing that is competitive kitharôidia was reserved for adult men. There were probably ideological considerations at work in this distinction as well. That is, kitharôidia was not deemed child’s play. It topped the hierarchy of the solo musical performance genres, and more than any other it was traditionally thought to have the greatest sociopolitical import. [120] Mature citharodes were therefore the rule. But by the early first century CE this had changed. Boys and, at least in the remarkable case of Hedea, girls, were winning acclaim as competitive citharodes on the ever-expanding cosmopolitan Greco-Roman festival circuit, where the old proprieties had been largely abandoned and novelty, hybridization, and specialization were common. [121] An inscription from Iasos records the victories of a native son of that city, Phanias, in children’s kitharôidia at the Ephesian Great Artemisia, the Claudeia on Cos, the Herakleia in Iasos, the Sebasta in Miletus, and other hieroi agônes ‘sacred contests’ (I.Iasos 1.110). A boy citharode’s victory in 127 CE at the Isthmian Kaisareia is also commemorated by an inscribed dedication. [122] The evidence indicates that professionalized adolescent citharodes and contests for them were quite familiar by Juvenal’s time.
It is more likely, however, that the satirist has in mind a young man, probably a meirakion in his late teens or a neos in his early twenties, who has not yet grown in (or has shaved off) his beard, and has grown his hair long, in imitation of eternally ephebic Apollo kitharôidos. [123] The generic name Hedymeles serves to malign this type of musician as an effeminate yet sexually compelling ‘Greekling’, a cinaedus whose attractions nevertheless threaten the virtue of Roman womanhood. [124] Juvenal is in fact activating, with the added zeal of the Roman moralizer who sees sexual deviance and debilitating, usually Greek luxuriousness in every sensual pleasure, a critical topos that Greek comic poets and cultural conservatives themselves had deployed as early as the later fifth century BCE: the negative characterization of popular music and musicians, not least star citharodes, as prettified and unmanly, “soft” (malthakos, Plato Symposium 179d), if still highly sexed (Thamyris’ sexual challenge to the Muses recalls this latter stereotype). [125] In Rome, a society far more anxious about the threat posed to traditional norms of masculinity by musical performance than was Classical Greece, Nero was wholly vulnerable to the charge of effeminacy because of his full-fledged musical pursuits. By extension, he exposed all Romans to an ideological embarrassment on this score, at least in the view of his traditionally minded critics.
This theme emerges consistently in the biographical traditions hostile to Nero, finding its most emphatic expression in Dio Cassius 62.6.4–5. Dio has Boudicca, the Icenian queen who galvanizes revolt against Nero’s forces in Britain, channel the sentiment of the sort of old-line, traditionalist Roman elite she so conveniently resembles, when she says of him, “He has the name of a man, but in reality he is a woman; a sign of this is that he sings and plays the kithara and prettily adorns himself” (ὄνομα μὲν <γὰρ> ἀνδρὸς ἔχει, ἔργῳ δὲ γυνή ἐστι· σημεῖον δέ, ᾄδει καὶ κιθαρίζει καὶ καλλωπίζεται). The citharodic emperor is thus shamefully “othered” by one who is twice over an “other” herself. The self-adornment (kallôpizetai) must refer to the grand citharodic skeuê that Dio takes pains to highlight—with barely concealed disgust—in his descriptions of Nero citharoedus (61.20.1, 62.18.1). [126] But a wider program of cosmetic prettification associated with the self-presentation of certain citharodes is also evoked here; Boudicca is casting Nero as a kind of Hedymeles. Dio notes with contempt that during his musical tour of Greece Nero wore his hair long, yet kept his face smoothly shaven, a mannered “look” no doubt intended to emulate Apollo’s beauty, but one that came off as intolerably inappropriate on “an emperor, an Augustus” (63.9.1). [127]
Juvenal, however, gives no sense that Pollio—the good Roman name belongs to a real musician—is such a one. This top competitor at Domitian’s prestigious Capitoline Games is clearly a more seasoned citharode than the younger Hedymeles. For Martial, Pollio is a marquee name of kitharôidia in late-first-century CE Rome (4.61.9). His music made him wealthy enough to acquire an impressive country estate (3.20.18). Pollio appears again in Juvenal Satire 7.176–177, this time commanding enormous fees as music teacher to the “sons of the swells” (lautorum pueros). These references all suggest an older, experienced man, at the peak of his technical mastery and fairly well integrated into respectable Roman society. Appropriately, Juvenal’s Appian woman expresses her devotion to Pollio—was he her son’s lyre teacher?—in a desperately serious, “adult” (and, notably, a very Roman) manner. The desire gripping the fan of Hedymeles has by contrast a more immature and blatantly sexualized cast. [128]
This well-appointed woman entertains at home on her own instrument, a testudo, the amateur tortoise-shell lyre, playing it with the “beloved plectrum” that belongs to Hedymeles. [129] This borrowed device functions as a kind of fetish object taking the place of the absent citharode; she holds it as she would her favorite, covering it with kisses and pathetically seeking emotional fulfillment in it (hoc se solatur). At Satire 6.68–70 aristocratic ladies similarly caress the props and costumes of their favorite actors, who are sorely missed during the long interval between the theatrical performances of the Plebeian and Megalensian Games. It is difficult too to resist a comparison to a modern-day rock-and-roll cliché: the guitar hero’s tossing out to the adoring crowd his used guitar picks, which are eagerly claimed by fans as talismanic souvenirs of his musico-sexual aura. In our passage, however, what is left implicit but must be understood as the subtext to the woman’s fixation on the plectrum is its phallic shape—apparent in much of the Greek iconography—and its typical material of manufacture, bone or horn. [130] The crude pun on organa—the woman fondles ‘musical instruments’ and ‘male genitals’—obviously strengthens the implication.

8. Women in kitharôidia?

8.1 Maria from Pharia

The first couplet of an epigram from the Palatine Anthology, attributed to an early Byzantine poet, Paul the Silentiary, presents a case of plêktron fetishism similar to that we see in Juvenal, but with the genders turned round:
πλῆκτρον ἔχει φόρμιγγος, ἔχει καὶ πλῆκτρον ἔρωτος κρούει δ’ ἀμφοτέροις καὶ φρένα καὶ κιθάρην.
τλήμονες, οἷς ἄγναμπτον ἔχει νόον· ᾧ δ’ ἐπινεύσει, ἄλλος ὅδ’ Ἀγχίσης, ἄλλος Ἄδωνις ὅδε.
εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις, ὦ ξεῖνε, καὶ ἀμφιβόητον ἀκοῦσαι οὔνομα καὶ πάτρην, ἐκ Φαρίης Μαρίη.
She holds the plêktron of the phorminx and she holds the plêktron of desire: she strikes with both [plectra] the heart and the kithara. Unhappy are those to whom her heart is unyielding. But the man to whom she shows her favor, that man is another Anchises, that man is another Adonis. And if you wish, friend, to hear her acclaimed name and her homeland: she is Maria from Pharia.
Palatine Anthology 16.278
In the final line of the poem we learn that the player of the phorminx/kithara, who is represented in a painting viewed by the poet, is a woman by the name of Maria, a native of Alexandria, which is identified by the substantive epithet Pharia (by way of metonymy with its well-known cult of Isis Pharia). [131] The speaker’s obsessive gaze is fixed on Maria’s plêktron, which inspires a typically epigrammatic jeu des mots: the real plêktron with which she strikes (krouein) the strings, the notional plêktron ‘goad, sting’ that strikes the heart and incites desire. But there is likely a bawdier subtext to this mildly salacious wordplay: the speaker is aroused by the phallic shape of the device, the “erotic plectrum,” expertly wielded by the hand of this titillating musician. In an epigram devoted to Ariadne, a kithara player, by Paul’s contemporary Agathias, the plectrum is similarly foregrounded in the first verse, here again the focus of the erotic gaze (Palatine Anthology 5.222). [132]
‘Maria from Pharia’ (ἐκ Φαρίης Μαρίη) has the catchy ring of a stage name, one that is, as Paul puts it, ἀμφιβόητον ‘acclaimed far and wide’. As early as the Hellenistic period, and certainly after, organological terminology becomes frustratingly imprecise, so we cannot know whether Paul has her playing the square-bottomed concert kithara of the professional citharode or the round-bottomed, smaller type of kithara called the phorminx, which is generally an instrument used by women, both free and those working in the sex and entertainment trade. [133] Perhaps this player is a hetaira, as the erotic dynamic in which Paul implicates her would immediately suggest, rather than a publicly performing citharode, although the lemma, for what it is worth, does indicate that Maria from Pharia is a kitharôidos. [134]
Another epigram by Paul the Silentiary finds the poem’s speaker smitten with a female musician portrayed in a painting (16.277). The lemma calls this woman, probably Maria, although she goes unnamed here, a kitharistris, which is an unmarked designation. It could mean either ‘female player of the kithara’ or ‘female player of the lyre or phorminx’. In the poem itself she sings to the lura, which is itself a generic designation for the khelus-lyre, phorminx, and kithara. (Similarly, the verb kitharizein can potentially denote the playing of any of these instruments.) Again, it is impossible to make precise sense of the various terms that are used, but it could well be that this Maria, or at least the type of Hellenistic or Imperial entertainer she represents, is an unusual, yet not singular, example of a female citharodic “pop star,” as renowned for her sex appeal as for her musical talent. [135] Maria’s home city of Alexandria, famous for its citharodes and its wildly enthusiastic citharodic fan culture (Dio Chrysostom 32.59–67), was as good an environment as any for this rare breed to flourish.
Simon Goldhill has recently argued that, with the exception of the clearly exceptional Hedea, we should be extremely skeptical about the very existence of female citharodes at any time or place in the ancient world; when a woman is called a kitharôidos, the word is stricto sensu misused, out of carelessness, or because the semantics of the word have in some speech communities become generalized or degraded, or in some deliberate spirit of humor or hyperbole. From this point of view, female “kitharôidoi” are likely to be prostitutes, hetairai, and/or small-time, private musical entertainers, women more properly called kitharistriai, who do not even necessarily play the concert kithara employed by the bona fide citharode. [136] Now, there do seem to be examples in which kitharôidos falls short of its established meaning when applied to women. Goldhill may be correct in dismissing outright two so-called citharodes, although even in the cases of these women questions of status and activity remain: a freed slave named Demetria, who appears in an Athenian manumission inscription from around 330 BCE (Δημετρ[ ] κιθαρῳδο, IG II2 1557.63), and Satyra, a woman of servile status, yet seemingly literate, in mid- to late-third-century BCE Alexandria (P.Cair.Zen. I 59087.17). [137] It is impossible to know in what exact capacity and context either woman performed music. It is possible that Satyra provided music only for convivial occasions—her name could suggest that she is something of a “party girl”—but perhaps she played the kithara at religious festivals as well. In a letter sent to Zenon, the administrator of the estate of her benefactor (and sometime companion?) Apollonius, finance minister to Ptolemy II Philadelphus, himself the admirer of Glauce kitharôidos (P.Cair.Zen. I 59028), she urges the delivery of provisions, perhaps a linen chiton like the one mentioned in another letter to Zenon (P.Cair.Zen. I 59087.17), to arrive in time for a festival of Demeter. [138] It is notable that Zenon’s own patronage of a freeborn young man trained in κιθαρῳδική τέχνη, a student at a school in Philadelphia presided over by Zenon, is also papyrologically attested (P.Lond. VII 2017, c. 240 BCE). The youth in question, Heracleotes, writes a memorandum to Zenon and his colleague Nestor repeatedly asking for the restitution of an ὄργανον ‘instrument’, presumably a kithara, that had been bequeathed to him by his deceased teacher Demeas, or for the money to purchase an instrument of equivalent worth (105 drachmas) and quality. Heracleotes requires the instrument so that he might practice for upcoming festival agônes instituted by King Ptolemy II, the Basileia, in which he hopes to make a good showing and win a top prize. [139] What would motivate Zenon to support and outfit this budding agonistic citharode? Perhaps Heracleotes represented a financial investment for Zenon that would pay dividends in the form of cash prizes won at agônes—Zenon would take a cut of the citharode’s winnings. [140] Perhaps too some similar “business” arrangement existed between Satyra and Apollonius.
The case of Demetria is still more mysterious: why would a female slave in late Classical Athens merit the designation kitharôidos? Does it speak to some extraordinary musical talent or ambition she possessed, and that perhaps played a part in her emancipation—a kitharistria with the ability and drive to perform as a citharode? Or is it (mis)applied in a deliberately aggrandizing sense at the instigation of either the manumitter or Demetria herself?
Goldhill’s skepticism is a needed corrective to the exaggerated claim, made by one otherwise judicious student of Hellenistic performance culture, that there is “no dearth of women in the music profession with the highest status of all, that of the kitharode.” [141] But while there is no doubt a dearth of female citharodes relative to males, to assume a total lack seems equally erroneous. It must be the case that women rarely, if ever, played in the same leagues as big-name male citharodes, competing against them at the most prestigious mousikoi agônes, but what evidence we do have entitles us to conjecture that at least a few female citharodes, while perhaps never rising above the level of the “novelty act,” were known to appear in public concerts and perhaps even some agônes from the Hellenistic period on. At the very least we can be fairly confident that, as early as the third century BCE, professional female musical entertainers and, to some degree, amateur female musicians as well, were freely adopting traits of citharodic “style,” if not performing in public as citharodes in the traditional sense.

8.2 Glauce: An Orpheus in Alexandria?

Consider Glauce. Alexandria again provides the backdrop for this strong citharodic contender, whose musical and erotic charms remained the stuff of legend long after her death. Aelian and Plutarch, who explicitly call Glauce a kitharôidos, preserve an anecdotal tradition, seemingly inspired by the myths of Orpheus, that has various animals, a dog, a ram, or a goose, falling in love with her. [142] Uncertainty, however, surrounds Glauce, just as it does Maria. Is her citharodic identity a late, fictional elaboration of her status as a musical hetaira in the Ptolemaic court, where she gained some notice as a composer of auletic party tunes? [143] Aelian On the Nature of Animals 8.11 makes Ptolemy II Philadelphus a rival to a ram for the love of Glauce, which implies her status as high-class hetaira. And contemporary Hellenistic writers do not call her a citharode, but rather mention her in contexts that suggest she composed music for the aulos. [144] But why would Glauce be recast as a citharode during the Second Sophistic? Even Goldhill, who is skeptical of the historical reality of Glauce’s citharodic career, admits that, at least by the time of Plutarch and Aelian, “female citharodes were a recognizable item.” [145]
The best approach to the varied testimonia is an inclusive one. That is, could not all three roles assigned to Glauce, hetaira, aulete, and publicly acclaimed citharode, accord with different aspects of her historical career, or at the least describe the generic profile of a successful female musician of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods? [146] Certainly, performances by female musicians in large-scale public settings are attested for Ptolemaic Alexandria, above all by Theocritus Idyll 15, in which an Argive woman, a πολύιδρις ἀοιδός ‘skilled singer’ (97), performs at a festival of Adonis, a cultic occasion that is essentially a secular concert sponsored by the royal court. In general, in the popular musical culture of the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods attitudes toward women’s performance were relaxed; women were presented with opportunities to appear in public as recitalists and even agonistic performers that were not readily available to them in the Classical period. [147]
As the case of young Hedea demonstrates, even the highly traditional, adult male realm of kitharôidia opened up to female musicians. Honorary inscriptions from second-century BCE Iasos—the home of the citharodic boy wonder Phanis—and first-century BCE Delphi commemorate public performances by Kleino, daughter of Evander, and by Polygnota of Thebes, daughter of Socrates, respectively. [148] These women (or girls) were not citharodes, or at least did not appear as such on these occasions; they were female harpists who made music to choral accompaniment, khoropsaltriai, a class of musical performer that is not attested before the Hellenistic period. The civic honors accorded to both women as well as the inclusion of their fathers’ names on the monuments would indicate that, like Hedea, they were members of respectable, well-established families of professional traveling entertainers. [149]
But female musicians such as Glauce and Maria could well have straddled the worlds of the splendid royal symposium, at which they entertained the rich and powerful, and the agôn or, more likely, the theatrical concert, at which they entertained the masses. [150] Indeed, acclaim in one context could have made them more desirable in the other, and vice versa. [151] The history of kitharôidia is in fact filled with prominent names, Arion of Methymna and Timotheus of Miletus, for example, who made successful careers out of moving between private service to wealthy patrons and the lucrative public arena of festival competition and mass entertainment. (These two citharodes resemble Glauce in another respect as well: both composed for the aulos, specifically the aulodic dithyramb, as well as the kithara.) Further, Aeschines, Juvenal, and the other sources discussed above imply that at least some male citharodes were courted by wealthy admirers and entered into sexual liaisons with them. It is tempting to write off the mock-Orphic storyline about different animals, a ram, dog, or goose, falling for Glauce kitharôidos, and even competing with her royal suitor, as one of the tall tales told of the celebrity courtesans of the Hellenistic period. But perhaps there is some more cultural depth to it. Could we read it as an allegorical reflex of the demotic favor that Glauce (or a female musician such as Glauce) won in Alexandria thanks to public concertizing?
A related zoomorphic motif appears in Dio Chrysostom 32.63–66. The orator, speaking to an Alexandrian audience, relates a humorous version of the Orpheus myth, which he claims he has heard from “a Phrygian, a kinsman of Aesop,” who had himself once visited Alexandria. According to the Phrygian’s tale the animals that followed Orpheus, most numerous among them birds and sheep (64), were changed by the gods into the “tribe of the Macedonians,” who later settled in Alexandria (65). These origins explain why the Alexandrian dêmos is so mad about kitharôidia. Further, the Phrygian contends that Alexandrian citharodes are specifically descended from the “shameless and curious breed” of dogs inspired by Orpheus to learn to play the kithara. As such, the citharodic music in that city retains a “canine” quality (66). The Phrygian and his folk tale are surely inventions of Dio, but the similarities, superficial as they may be, between the tale and the anecdotal tradition surrounding Glauce are remarkable. Informing both could be some literary satire and/or popular stereotype characterizing the “wild” Alexandrian music fans as animals. [152]
There are two further cases in which we perhaps catch a fleeting glimpse of women moving, like Glauce, between the activities of the courtesan or party entertainer and a more publicly recognized role as kitharôidos. First, in one of the epistolary fictions of the second-century CE writer Alciphron (Letters 3.33), a wife berates her aged husband for falling in love with a “woman kitharôidos” (ἐρᾷς κιθαρῳδοῦ γυναικός) and pathetically squandering his hard-earned fortune on her. Later in the letter, however, the wife calls this woman a ἱππόπορνος ‘common street-walker’ and then a hetaira. Which is it? Does the wife use kitharôidos carelessly, merely to indicate that the woman, either a prostitute or a higher-status hetaira, makes music as part of her trade? Or does she mean it sarcastically, by way of saying that this low-class prostitute, at best a common kitharistria, is anything but a citharode? Both of these options are appealing, but the possibility remains that the husband-stealer is a likely some-time hetaira who also performs in some recognizable capacity as a citharode. That is, the wife alone does not choose the word kitharôidos; it is a tag already attached to the other woman—by the husband, at least. The addition of gunê would thus not only “indicate how unusual it is to use the term κιθαρῳδός of a woman.” [153] It would also have the effect of throwing “scare quotes” around kitharôidos, undercutting its customary semantics of prestige (compare condescending expressions in English such as “woman doctor”). The subtle cattiness seems entirely in keeping with the stylized mimetic verisimilitude of the Letters.
The second woman in question more closely resembles Glauce. She is Panthea of Smyrna, mistress of the Emperor Verus in Antioch (c. 165 BCE), who is described in Lucian’s encomiastic dialogue devoted to her, Imagines, as one who sings beautifully, μάλιστα πρὸς τὴν κιθάραν ‘most of all to the kithara’ (13). Leisured women and girls of the Imperial era, as we will see, did practice singing to the kithara at home. But Panthea, called an amica vulgaris ‘common girlfriend’ in the Historia Augusta (Verus 7.10), was a hetaira rather than a daughter of the aristocracy. Lucian does not explicitly call Panthea a kitharôidos, but his extensive praise of her skill on the kithara, a word Lucian emphatically repeats three times, marks her as such. [154] She is compared favorably to the star citharodes of myth, Orpheus and Amphion; she is an expert at maintaining perfect rhythm and harmony, “her kithara a full partner in the song, her plêktron keeping pace with her tongue” (14). The length of the encomiastic description, and its detailed assessment of her tekhnê— the perfect parity between voice and instrument is a motif in the praise of citharodes, as we will see in Section 15 below—suggest that for Panthea kitharôidia was not merely “something that an accomplished hetaira might do for her man,” but rather something more like a profession, and one that she exhibited to audiences in Antioch beyond Verus and his circle. [155] Panthea’s career might in some respects anticipate that of another upwardly mobile Eastern Greek “working girl,” Theodora, who parlayed her charms as hetaira and popular pantomime performer into a marriage to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (ruled 527–565 CE). [156]

8.3 Painted women, and a citharode in Boscoreale

Speculation about female citharodes is made additionally difficult by the fact that real (not mythical or divine) women playing or singing to kitharai in either public or private are essentially absent from the iconographical record of Archaic and Classical Greece, and the case is not much different in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. [157] Several exceptions come by way of Roman wall painting, which nevertheless present their own interpretive problems. For example, in a painting from Herculaneum (first century CE, now in the British Museum), a fully clothed, wreathed woman plays a concert kithara while sitting nestled against the chest of a partially nude, similarly wreathed young man, who seems to guide her right arm lightly over the strings of the instrument. An older woman stands across from the couple, observing them. [158] What is going on here? As with so many wall paintings, the otherworldly scenario is strangely ambiguous. Does the erotic tenor of the image suggest that the woman with the kithara is meant to be a hetaira? Horace Odes 3.9.9 describes his beloved Thracian hetaira as citharae sciens. But the standing female spectator makes this reading difficult. Is the kithara player instead a wife or daughter participating in some kind of stylized music lesson, or making music “together” with her husband or admirer? [159] Achilles Tatius provides literary testimony that some aristocratic women were, by at least the second century CE, playing the kithara, even staging mini-concerts, in the privacy of their homes. In Leucippe and Cleitophon 2.1 the novelist describes a well-born girl, the titular Leucippe, singing to the kithara for Cleitophon, who is in love with her. [160] Notably, one of the pieces she performs is a musical setting of a brief passage from the Iliad; such Homeric settings are well-attested citharodic practice, going back to the earliest citharodes (“Plutarch” On Music 3.1132b–c).
Text and image conspire to suggest that something of the technical ambition and glamour of professional kitharôidia had seeped into the amateur realm of women’s music making under the Empire, as it had into the performative style of hetairai. [161] The plectrum wielded by Juvenal’s lyre-playing matrona is another sign of this seepage, and one that suggests its erotic charge. But again, although the evidence points to both well-born and “working” women’s cultivation of kitharôidia in private contexts, we might want to keep an open mind to the possibility of cultural traffic occasionally flowing in the other direction, women’s publicization of their citharodic pursuits. The widely attested phenomenon of stage-struck Imperial Roman elites’ public dabbling in scenic entertainments is certainly relevant to this question. [162]
An intriguing funerary inscription from Imperial Rome commemorates Auxesis, a citharoeda (the only place this Latin word appears) and the optima coniunx ‘best wife’ of one Gaius Cornelius Neritus (CIL VI 10125). Her musical activity is tantalizingly uncertain. In what context did she perform as citharoeda? Was she a former slave who provided string music at private events? (A bit odd, perhaps, for the proud husband to monumentalize this episode in her life.) Or did her own domestic cultivation of the kithara prompt the husband to give her the title? A third possibility exists as well, that citharoeda has its literal force, suggesting Auxesis pursued a more formal citharodic career, as either slave or free woman, professionally entertaining public audiences.
Still more intriguing is another fresco, from Room H of the villa of Publius Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that shows a seated woman holding a large, impressively gilded kithara of a gracile, elongated shape (Plate 5). This instrument type, which came into fashion in the late Classical and early Hellenistic periods and continued to be used in Imperial Rome, was probably played more regularly by amateur enthusiasts and women than by male professional citharodes. [163] The woman is elegantly attired in a white himation above a long, purple chiton; she wears gold earrings, a gold headband, and bracelets. A similarly attired, younger girl looks out from behind the chair. The woman is not actively playing the instrument, but rather tuning it; she is preparing to play. Her right hand is bent over the instrument’s crossbar, altering the tension of the strings by turning their pegs. This is a conventional iconographical schema going back to Archaic vase-painting—the kithara or lyre player reaching up to the crossbar with right hand to tune, while keeping the left hand against the strings, presumably to test their pitch as tension is drawn or released. [164] The woman does not seem to hold a plêktron. Although right-hand plucking was not standard playing technique on the kithara, contemporary wall paintings, such as the one from Herculaneum just discussed, do show seated female musicians who pluck kitharai with two hands, in the manner of a harp player, and the Boscoreale painter may have followed this convention. [165] The woman’s left hand is potentially in position to pluck the strings from above and behind the soundbox. But perhaps the painter has simply omitted or obscured her plectrum—it could be lodged in her right palm, something occasionally implicit in Greek depictions of tuning. We should note too that this kithara has only five strings, which is itself most likely the result of a casual approach to organological detail rather than a deliberate representational choice. [166]
The painting has been dated to the later Republican period (c. 40–30 BCE), but there is good reason to believe that it is closely based on Hellenistic portrait models. The identity of the woman and her relation to the other figures depicted on the Boscoreale murals has been contested since the excavation of the villa in 1900. Of the many and diverse interpretations that have been offered—cultic, mythical, allegorical—two appealing prospects stand out. [167] First, it has been thought that she represents one of the hetairai kept by the Macedonian ruler Antigonus II Gonatas, who is accordingly depicted on the opposite wall. Antigonus’ keen erotic interest in a well-known male citharode, at least, is anecdotally attested. [168] If this reading is correct, the musician in the painting could represent a Maria or a Glauce, her instrument and garb equally suited for a royal symposium or a public appearance, and Fannius and the guests at his villa—Room H was probably devoted to convivial gatherings—could thus, like Paul the Silentiary gazing enviously at his painting, notionally compete for her “favor.” [169]
According to a more recent interpretation she is Berenice II, wife of the Alexandrian king Ptolemy III, son of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (that lover of Glauce kitharôidos), and the girl standing behind her chair is her daughter, Berenice III. [170] The scholar who formulated this theory speculates that Queen Berenice holds the kithara as a symbolic token of her homeland, Cyrene, which had a distinguished cult of Apollo. There is every reason to believe that cult statues of Apollo kitharôidos had long been displayed in Cyrene, as in other Greek cities, but, even so, this makes for a rather tenuous explanation of the kithara in the original Alexandrian images that would have been copied by the Boscoreale painter. [171] If we are indeed looking at Berenice in this image, something grander than mere geographical allusion is likely to be implied by her kithara. This “king of instruments,” the supreme symbol of ordering harmony, has been drafted into the semiotic arsenal of Hellenistic royal power, and along with it the spectacular allure of the citharode. The intimacy between power politics and citharodic charisma has a long history—Nero, performing in Naples, not far from the villa of Fannius, enacts its reductio ad absurdum—but what would set apart the iconographical program behind the Boscoreale painting is gender. It is the queen, not the king, who is imagined as the glamorous citharode. Yet this figuration may not be merely rhetorical, but grounded too in the realities of a contemporary musical culture in which real women were in one form or another involving themselves in the practice of kitharôidia.
A significant connection of a Ptolemaic woman from the preceding generation to kitharôidia is attested in a fragmentarily preserved epigram of Posidippus (AB 37) that “records the dedication to Arsinoe Philadelphus [wife of Ptolemy II, mother-in-law of Berenice II] by her temple-keeper … of a lyre brought ashore by ‘Arion’s dolphin’.” [172] Peter Bing has observed that the epigram not only alludes to the charming story of Arion’s dolphin ride to Cape Taenarum, but that it further serves as “modern counterpart” to what became the charter myth of the Lesbian musical tradition, the story that has Orpheus’ lyre, along with his head, washing up on the shores of Lesbos (cf. Phanocles fr. 1 Powell), usually at Antissa, the city of Terpander, or, in an alternate tradition preserved in Ovid Metamorphoses 11.50, at Arion’s native Methymna. [173] The Ptolemies are now, Posidippus is affirming, the undisputed inheritors not only of a prestigious Lesbian lyric and poetic legacy, but of a specifically citharodic legacy going back, via Lesbos and Arion, to the mortal source of lyric song, Orpheus himself. As Bing puts it, “The Lesbian lyre has been passed on; today its home is Egypt.” [174] Indeed, when Posidippus was writing, third-century Alexandria was fast becoming the premier site for professional kitharôidia, and it would remain so through the time of Nero. The Basileia festival instituted by Ptolemy II featured a citharodic agôn that attracted international stars such as Nicocles of Tarentum (IG II2 3779). But again, the specific role accorded to Queen Arsinoe in the reception of the Arionic lyre, and in the broader reception of cultural prestige it emblematizes, is noteworthy, and might well reflect a practical interest in string culture at the Ptolemaic court that went beyond mere patronage. [175]

9. Going Professional

9.1 Musica occulta

We return to Naples. A nervous tension pervades the theater, felt both by the spectators and the performer, who has sung previously only on private occasions to smaller, select groups. Today is Nero’s long-awaited public debut. Most citharodes, even the very experienced, suffer pre-performance jitters; a successful reception by each audience they encounter means everything to them. [176] For the Stoic philosopher Epictetus (mid-first to second century CE), the citharode serves as a paradigmatic example of a performer for whom the pressure to please the crowd creates enormous stress: “When he is alone, a citharode sings without anxiety, but when he enters the theater, even if has an excellent voice (λίαν εὔφωνος) and plays the kithara well, he is anxious, for he wishes not only to sing well, but also to win acclaim (εὐδοκιμῆσαι), something which is not in his own power” (Arrian Dissertations of Epictetus 2.13.1–3). Suda s.v. Ἱππαρχίων ἄφωνος and Zenobius 2.35 explain that the proverbial expression Hipparkhiôn aphônos ‘Hipparchion without a voice’ derives from an anecdote about a celebrated citharode, Hipparchion, who was struck dumb with stage fright during the penteteric agôn in Syrian Helioupolis.
But the show must go on. As Nero had several times before said to his close friends and confidants, “There is no respect for hidden music” (occultae musicae nullum esse respectum, Suetonius Nero 20.1). The proverb was a Greek one—Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 13.31.3 calls it verbum illud e Graecia vetus ‘that old saying from Greece’—and by quoting it (in Greek, presumably), the emperor sought to legitimate the controversial publication of his musical enthusiasms by appealing to Greek cultural precedent. As with all of Nero’s Hellenic appropriations, however, there is more to his adoption of this rather banal-seeming motto than meets the eye. First, the saying as it is delivered in Suetonius differs slightly yet significantly from the Greek version given in Lucian Harmonides 1 (οὐδὲν γὰρ ὄφελος ἀπορρήτου, φασί, καὶ ἀφανοῦς τῆς μουσικῆς ‘They say there is no use for secret and unseen music’) and a Latin version given by Aulus Gellius (musicam, quae sit abscondita, eam esse nulli rei ‘Music that has been concealed is worthless’). Nero has reworded the saying to reflect specifically his own craving for respect and regard (respectus) as a musician, and perhaps too his unspoken anxieties about losing respect by bringing his music to the public.
As a well-informed philhellene, he must have recognized that a great deal of respect had in fact been accorded to “hidden music” in Greek antiquity. I refer to the amateur mousikê practiced in the socially restricted institutions of the schoolroom and the symposium, which was valorized by elites for the very reason that it was the exclusive possession of the sociocultural aristocracy, notionally “hidden” from the scrutiny of the public. We do not know the provenance of the Greek proverb behind Nero’s expression, but it is significant that Lucian puts his version in the mouth of a proudly professional musician, who is, like Nero, eager for popular acclaim. It is notable too how the imagery of secrecy and concealment that runs through its various permutations (ἀπόρρητος, ἀφανής, occulta, abscondita) negatively figures privately practiced music as something arcane, esoteric, belonging even to the world of the religious mysteries (cf. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1111a10), and so forbidden—ἀπόρρητος can mean both ‘secret’ and ‘forbidden’—to all but the initiated few. Could the proverb have begun life as a popular musician’s critique of the aristocratic valorization of amateur music-making, implying that it, unlike the public, “democratic” activity of the professional, benefits neither members of a general audience, who take pleasure in music, nor the performer himself, who enjoys the audience’s acclaim? [177] Be that as it may, Nero’s strategic deployment of the expression reflects his acute awareness of the tensions between public and private, professional and amateur musical performance involved in the Greek cultural traditions he emulated as well as in the Roman social mores he inherited. In this section and the next we will examine some ways in which Nero negotiated these tensions during his citharodic “coming out.”

9.2 Liminal Naples

Some thought had been put into the choice of Naples as the site for the emperor’s debut. Naples (Neapolis) was a thoroughly Hellenic polis at the upper reaches of a region, Magna Graecia, where, unlike in Rome, kitharôidia had long been cultivated and appreciated. Arion of Methymna legendarily promoted the art in this area around the end of the seventh century BCE (Herodotus 1.24; Ovid Fasti 2.93–94). Citharodes from Hellenic Italy and Sicily are well represented at festival contests throughout Greece from as early as the sixth century BCE; we have one first-century BCE prize inscription (IG IX 2.534) from the Eleutheria at Larisa recording the victory of a Neapolitan citharode. Naples likely had been holding musical contests from an early point, probably in connection with its ancient festival devoted to the Siren Parthenope, the divine patroness of the city. In 2 BCE the grand festival of the Sebasta (full name: Italica Romaea Sebasta Isolympia), modeled upon the penteteric “sacred” festivals of Greece, was instituted in the city at the initiative of the Roman Senate and the Neapolitans in honor of Augustus, who had restored the city after it was damaged by earthquake and fire; mousikoi agônes were added to the roster of athletic contests soon after his death, probably in 18 CE. [178] These were likely held in an odeion, a roofed music hall, which had been constructed, like the famous Odeion in Athens, right alongside the theater. [179] By Nero’s time the citharodic agôn at the Sebasta had attained the rank of a world-class, prestige event, attracting major talent from Greece (cf. Strabo 5.4.7). The honorary inscription in Argos for the early second-century CE star citharode M. Ulpius Heliodorus of Thessalonike prominently records his two victories in Naples alongside victories at the most prominent interstate and regional festival agônes in Greece (IG IV 591).
Although every citharode is first and foremost an agônistês, a competitive professional, neither Suetonius nor Tacitus provide indications that Nero is a competitor in an agôn, as he would be in Greece two years later, and indeed the details of their accounts speak against this notion. [180] It is tempting to speculate that Nero would have been especially drawn to the opportunity to make his debut at the Augustan agônes: the symbiosis of traditional Greek musical culture and Roman imperial power represented by this institution would make it an auspicious and symbolically appropriate launching point for his peculiar career. [181] But we should imagine, rather, that this is a non-competitive public concert recital, a format that seems to have become increasingly common during and after the Hellenistic period, when celebrated citharodes saw the recital as an auxiliary opportunity to meet the public demand for their music and to supplement incomes earned in the more traditional venue of the agônes, most of which, like those of the Sebasta, for example, were chrematitic rather than purely stephanitic. [182]
But for Nero the recital format, as well as the choice of Naples, suggests a transitional strategy, designed to mediate a rite of passage from amateurism to competitive professionalism, to the career-making stages at the festival agônes in Greece, where star citharodes such as Terpnus competed before mass crowds for glory, fame, and fortune (Tacitus Annals 15.33.2). The culturally liminal space occupied by Naples is crucial to the mediation of this passage. Naples was indeed quasi Graeca urbs, as Tacitus calls it, but one comfortingly close to Rome; it was a place where, as Statius puts it, “Roman honos ‘dignity’ and Greek licentia mix together” (Silvae 3.5.94). It offered the convenient prospect of a Hellenic polis qua theme park for many vacationing Roman elites of the late Republic and early Empire, who regularly went there to don Greek garments and play out for a brief time Grecian fantasies before returning safely to their civic identities and duties in Rome. [183] For Nero, however, the experience in Naples inaugurated a permanent vacation from the demands of Roman civilitas, a “Greek holiday” that did not cease upon his return to Rome, where he would make his first formal agonistic entrée as citharoedus several months later at the second Neronia of 65 CE. Naples would again offer itself to Nero as performative gateway between the Roman and the Greek world. It is possible that he participated in the citharodic agôn at the Sebasta in 66 as a first stop on his agonistic tour of Greece. [184] We are told that Naples was the first stop on his triumphant return from that tour, as it had sentimental value “because he had first debuted his art there” (quod in ea primum artem protulerat, Suetonius Nero 25.1). Dio Cassius 63.26.1–2 indicates that when Nero was informed of the revolt of Vindex, he was in Naples, attending to his voice, his songs, and his kithara playing. Perhaps another concert series there was in the offing.
Suetonius includes a significant detail in his account that further underlines the liminality of the first Naples appearance. In the days after the initial performance, when, encouraged by his success, Nero put on encore concerts, he had arranged for banquets to be laid out in the orchestra of the theater, where he would dine while the populus sat in the seats above him looking on. When he had finished eating, he would stand up and announce to the crowd—in Greek—his intention “to ring out something packed full [of sound]” (aliquid suffer[t]i tinniturum) for them after he had some wine (20.2). [185] With this put-on informality in this contrived convivial setting, it is as if Nero were attempting for the time being to underplay, with the narcissistic grotesquerie that characterized all his cultural endeavors, his professional ambitions by playing the role of an amateur lyre player, spontaneously singing for his peers over his cups. That is, Nero effects a “theatrical” casting of the theater—the open site of professional, public citharodic spectacle—as the symposium, which was in Classical Greek tradition the closed site of intimate, conventionally amateur lyric performance, what Nero himself calls musica occulta. (The literary and visual evidence suggest that symposiasts or their hired entertainers in Archaic and Classical Greece, at least in Athens, did not regularly play the kithara, as they did the smaller, more manageable lyre and barbitos.) [186] This travesty of a public as a private, a popular as an elite musical institution, draws its symbolic force from the deep ethical, political, and socioeconomic distinctions, going back to the fifth century BCE, between the demotic theater and the aristocratic symposium, even as, in typically Neronian fashion, it confounds and perverts those distinctions.
The fusion of kitharôidia and symposium does find precedent in the courts of the Greek tyrants and monarchs who enticed star citharodes and citharists to provide entertainment at their private banquets, thereby conspicuously appropriating what would normally be a public cultural commodity for their personal consumption. Nero himself had, immediately upon assuming the principate, night after night summoned the great Terpnus to sing for him after dinner, while he sat close by (Suetonius Nero 20.1). [187]
It was this close study of Terpnus, Suetonius suggests, that led Nero, unlike Greek potentates before him, to move from being patron to performer, to begin his own formal training in kitharôidia. Even before his debut in Naples, the emperor had allowed his professional musical ambitions to be publicized abroad. He made appearances in full citharodic skeuê before select audiences, including the elite corps of knights called the Augustiani, at his Juvenalian Games, inaugurated in 59 BCE and held in consecutive years thereafter (Tacitus Annals 14.14–15; Dio Cassius 61.19–20), but these were exclusive, relatively small-scale events (Annals 15.33.1). [188] Otherwise, Nero confined himself to the liminal role of a “convivial citharode.” Suetonius Nero 22.3 reports the following practice adopted by Nero:
The cities in which musici agones were accustomed to be held had made it a rule to send all the crowns for citharoedi to him. [189] These he received so graciously that, not only did he grant an immediate audience to the envoys who brought them, but even invited them to his private table (familiaribus epulis). When he was asked by some of them to sing after dinner and received effusive applause, he declared that the Greeks were the only ones who knew how to listen [to music] and that they alone were worthy of his talents.
Note how the blurring of lines between the public culture of the agônes and the enclosed world of the drinking party, would-be professionalism and amateur enthusiasm, Greek and Roman, prefigures, with some inversion, the semiotics of the Neapolitan performance event. There the public theater takes on the trappings of an “intimate” convivium/symposium; at Rome the emperor’s private feast (familiaribus epulis) becomes a quasi-theater in which he safely, invisibly plays at making a spectacle of himself, singing to an audience of appreciative Greeks—representatives by extension of the mass agonistic audience of their polis, which has already awarded him the prize of victory.

9.3 Roman performance anxieties

Nero’s long delay in bringing his “hidden music” before the public at large has been explained as a consequence of his awareness of others’ and his own internalization of aristocratic Roman prejudices against public performance and professional performers in general. The private or domestic cultivation of music or dramatics was largely unobjectionable, but an appearance in a public entertainment was a transgression against ancestral mores, a compromise of the integrity and good standing, the dignitas, of the well-born citizen. [190] As writers both ancient and modern observe, however, the strong proscription against public performance could engender a dialectic of shame and titillation, acting as both curb and incentive for “decadent” aristocrats such as Nero bent on scenic adventure. [191] Tacitus Annals 14.15.1 believes that Nero’s personal sense of shame initially kept him out of the publicum theatrum, but that over time, aroused by his own evulgatus pudor ‘public exposure’ and psychologically liberated by the death of his controlling mother (Annals 14.13–14), his shame eroded and he became more bold in making appearances on the promiscae scaenae, the “promiscuous,” public stages of the city (Annals 15.33.1; cf. 14.14.2: a younger Nero drove his chariot in a concealed area of the Vatican valley, haud promisco spectaculo ‘with the spectacle closed to a general audience’).
That Nero’s performative debut was as a citharode, however, a relative novelty in Rome in his time, deserves special consideration when we assess the contemporary reception of his stage career. Though few would have been Roman citizens to begin with, there is no evidence that citharoedi were officially subject to social and legal infamia, as were actors and mimes, as well as prostitutes, with whom actors and mimes were elided in the Roman cultural imagination. [192] Although many in Rome, mass and elite, are likely to have conceptually and aesthetically assimilated the citharode to more familiar scaenici, the actor and singer (histrio and tragoedus), the fact that citharodes did not completely submerge their identities in mimetic play was probably a factor in a moral calculus differentiating them from actors. Acting by definition aimed at total illusion and deception, the manipulation of perception and reality, yet however much the citharode assumed mimetic postures while singing and playing his songs, audiences, even inexperienced ones, never lost sight of the grandiose persona of the virtuoso musician, possessed of an Apollonian gravitas, commanding the stage.
For a certain class of Roman cultural conservatives, however, the public display of kitharôidia was just as egregiously immoral as acting; it was a foedum studium ‘debased pursuit’, as Tacitus Annals 14.14.1 puts it, that would disgrace anyone who undertook it, especially the emperor. Thus the stern praetorian tribune Subrius Flavus, a member of the anti-Neronian conspiracy of 65 BCE, equates the disgrace (dedecus) of the emperor’s kithara singing with that of the tragic singing once performed by the conspiracy’s leader, Gaius Calpurnius Piso; both men, he suggests, have forfeited their right to lead, indeed to live, as a result of their respective scenic engagements. [193] For Juvenal, the citharoedus princeps had so lowered standards of social decorum that the spectacle of a nobleman playing in one of the lowest of entertainments, the mime, was now res haut mira ‘a sight hardly surprising’ (8.198–199); the satirist goes so far as to figure the citharode as a prostitute (6.380 and 8.25–26). According to the hard-line conservative reaction to Nero’s institution of the Neronia, even listening as a connoisseur (perite) to the fractos sonos et dulcedinem vocum ‘effeminate strains and sweet voices’ of agonistic musicians fatally compromises the political fitness of the Roman citizen (Tacitus Annals 14.20.5). [194]
However, among others more liberally inclined to appreciate the Hellenic performing arts, some of whom, like the sometime-tragoedus Piso, themselves cultivated lyre playing (though probably never full-blown public kitharôidia), it was surely accorded a respect commensurate to that which it enjoyed in Hellenic culture, at least in the abstract. [195] Nero’s attempt to legitimate his professional ambitions by appealing to the statues of Apollo kitharôidos that stood both in Greek cities and in Roman temples (Tacitus Annals 14.14.1), thereby assimilating them to a prestigious (and Augustan-ratified) musico-symbolic continuity between the two cultures, may be read as a rhetorical ploy designed to appease just these philhellenic connoisseurs. Seneca’s early attempt in the Apocolocyntosis to valorize Nero’s lyric enthusiasms by having a cithara-playing Apollo announce to the Fates that Nero would be his “equal in song and voice” (nec cantu nec uoce minor, 4.1) may have been intended to make an analogous impression on this discerning audience as well. But the success of such transparent propagandizing was surely limited, for the combination of the emperor’s seemingly feckless abdication of political responsibility with his embarrassingly open turn to music professionalism offended not only conservative Romans, but even more open-minded elites, those, like Piso, well versed in the protocols of Greek lyric culture, who themselves dabbled in trying on public musical personae, if less visibly and so less transgressively than the emperor. [196]
Traditional Roman severity did no doubt play a part in shaping Nero’s “performance anxiety,” but there is something psychologically and culturally reductive about applying to him the shame/titillation dynamic—a bashful yet overstimulated Nero tests the waters of tolerance little by little in his increasingly brazen quest to flaunt corrupt Greek manners. In some instances there is clearly an element of wishful thinking to it, an ideologically satisfying affirmation of the inveterate power of strict Roman mores to censure even Nero’s cravenly Greekish perversity. Such framing of Nero’s public kitharôidia within a tension between Greek id and repressive Roman superego informs one interpretation of the motive for Nero’s command that the Roman general Corbulo, an axiom of ancestral virtus—Nero calls him pater ‘father’, an appropriately Oedipal touch—be slain immediately upon his arrival in Corinthian Cenchreae, where the emperor, preparing for his agonistic tour of Greece, had summoned him. “Some say,” reports Dio Cassius 63.17.5, that Nero, who was about to appear as a citharode, could not bear to be seen by the military man while he was wearing his citharodic costume (the long, straight chiton, or ὀρθοστάδιον), and so had Corbulo killed before he could witness the embarrassment. This conflicted Nero simultaneously wants to show off for and yet must still keep his music “hidden” from the judgmental paternal eye of Corbulo. For Tacitus, by contrast, Nero’s initial inability to perform was a symptom of his mother complex (Annals 14.13.3–14.14.1). Only after the murder of Agrippina in 59 did he feel psychically unencumbered to indulge omnis libidines ‘all his desires’, musical and otherwise. In reality, however, Nero’s dedication to kitharôidia was hardly, for him, an irrational, guilty pleasure or a seductive taboo, the illicit thrill of defying societal prohibition—acting or dancing would have better satisfied the craving for self-debasement. We might argue instead that it represents a far more thoroughly considered and seriously studied aspect of his complex engagement with Greek culture than the almost uniformly hostile ancient sources acknowledge. As such, we might better explain his reticence in making his public (and professional) debut against the deeper background of Greek ideology concerning musical performance rather than as a conditioned response to Roman moralism alone. [197]

10. Popular Music and its (Greek) Discontents

As a close reader of Hellenic musical traditions, Nero was surely aware of a distinctly Greek tradition of elite bias, going back to the later Classical period, not against kitharôidia per se, but against the “vulgarity” of its star performers, and indeed music celebrities of every stripe, which would have problematized his own desire to emulate those very performers. [198] This bias first emerged as a reaction to the rise of the hyperprofessionalized “star system” that drove popular musical culture in democratic Athens, although it continued to inform upper-class Greek attitudes toward musicians long after that historical moment. Certain educated aristocrats resented the celebrity and influence of virtuoso tekhnitai of indiscriminate social and ethnic background, who were, in collusion with their unrestrained demotic audiences, responsible for precipitating a crisis of the traditional spiritual and civic values of public mousikê, in particular the venerated, Apollonian medium of kitharôidia—or so went the elitist narrative, which is most furiously plotted in Plato’s account of what he calls theatrokratia in Laws 698a–701b. By this account, the “aristokratia in music” (701a) that held sway in Athens down until the Persian Wars weakened as the fifth century drew on and the polis became increasingly democratized; the power of the uneducated mass of theater spectators in determining the value of and so ultimately affecting the form of competitive musical events accordingly grew, as did popular musicians’ interest in meeting (and shaping) the tastes of this lowest common denominator. [199] For Plato’s Socrates, the agonistic kitharistikê and kitharôidia of his day—as practiced by opportunistic professionals such as the citharode Meles, the father of the populist composer of “new dithyramb,” Cinesias, a bête noire of the musically conservative elite (and singled out by Socrates for criticism, Gorgias 501e)—are thus no better than tragedy and dithyramb, those Dionysian genres fundamentally identified with the ignoble Athenian democracy. Like these, they aim solely at producing sensual pleasure (hêdonê) rather than goodness in the okhlos ‘mob’ of spectators; they are nothing more than forms of kolokeia ‘pandering’ (Gorgias 501e–502c).
Later writers such as Aristotle in turn endorse a politicized, class-based segregation of the experience of the “vulgar” agonistic musician (a banausos, literally ‘manual laborer’), who plays in the public spaces of music halls and theaters for the common hêdonê of the “low audience made up of banausoi, hired workers (thêtai), and the like,” from music used for education, amateur recreation, and relaxation, i.e. sympotic or paideutic lyric, played at home or in the schoolroom by the “free and educated” (ἐλεύθερος καὶ πεπαιδευμένος). The kithara, a tekhnikon organon, has no place in proper paideia, and virtuoso posturing (τὰ θαυμάσια καὶ περιττὰ τῶν ἔργων ‘marvelous and excessively elaborate devices’), at home in the agônes, brings dishonor to the discreet gentleman mousikos. The days before and immediately after the Persian Wars, when aristocrats in Athens and Sparta would attempt to display their aretê ‘excellence’ in public performance, playing instruments alongside trained professionals, were now unimaginable. The noble form, the kalokagathia, of the aristocrat was now seen to be at odds with the entertainer’s gross, “banausic” body, deformed as it was through his attempts to satisfy the gaze of the equally debased masses. [200] Indeed, even the hallowed image of Apollo kitharôidos, once the supreme symbol of aristocratic excellence and mastery, became ideologically problematic for Greek elites of the later fifth and fourth centuries BCE who sought to distance their own lyric culture from the professionalized milieu of kitharôidia; the god’s kithara and elaborate skeuê now carried undesirable socioeconomic connotations. An amateur’s lyre and a simple himation were more in order. [201]
Aristotle’s student, Aristoxenus of Tarentum, refers to the music performed in the theaters of his time as πάνδημος μουσική, which we may take to mean something along the lines of ‘music belonging to the dêmos as a whole, meeting public taste indiscriminately’, but which also implies “prostituted music” (fr. 124 Wehrli by way of Athenaeus 14.632a–b). [202] Recalling Aristotle’s strict partitioning of public and private musical practice, Aristoxenus idealizes a group of embattled elites who cling to the symposium and its old-fashioned musical protocols as a last defense against this pandemic music of the theatra, which he claims have been “utterly barbarized” (ἐκβεβαρβάρωται). The popular musician is thus, by implication, socially, ethnically, and sexually “othered” in the strongest possible terms, as barbarian and prostitute. This is an extremely reactionary view, far from the admiration and respect shown by mass and elite alike to career musicians, especially citharodes, in early Greece—paradigmatic is Odysseus’ high praise of the professional aoidos Demodocus in Odyssey 8.437–438—and it is unlikely to have been held in anything like this absolutist form by Aristoxenus’ peers, and probably not even always by Aristoxenus himself. But it does reflect, in distorted form, a more pervasive and less ideologically motivated stereotyping of citharodes (not to mention auletes and other music professionals) as soft, effeminate, vaguely immoral, given over to excessive luxury, notionally, if not actually, “foreign.”
Traces of these attitudes are to be found throughout Old and New Attic comedy—indeed, comic discourse must have been enormously influential in shaping popular perceptions of the citharode. Such stereotyping, along with reflexive suspicions of their wealth and cosmopolitan lifestyle, worked to stigmatize career musicians, making them to some extent outsiders and deviants in their own communities—a status their itineracy and the “eastern” flair of their skeuê only invited—even as their extraordinary talents and glamorous personae won them fame, prestige, the devotion of a wide fan base, and the intimate patronage of kings and tyrants. [203] In his fragmentary comedy Kitharistês, Menander dramatizes, and complicates, prevalent Athenian notions about the otherness of music professionals. The rich, world-traveling, and presumably famous citharist Phanias—he has spent considerable time making money in the Greek East—is criticized by another character, probably his upper-class neighbor, for “making a life study of luxurious excess” (εἰς τρυφήν τε παυδεύεσθ’ ἀεί, fr. 5.2 Körte)—this despite the fact that, outside of his rather exotic career, Phanias seems to be a rather sober, conventional Athenian citizen, a member of the Attic deme Euonymon (and not of the tribe of Euonymeans in faraway, decadent Ephesus, as the conservative neighbor first thinks, 96–98). [204] Nine Middle and New comedies entitled Kitharôidos are attested. [205] Though fragments are lacking, it is a fair guess that these plays similarly capitalized on the ambivalent fascination with the star citharode in fourth- and third-century BCE Athens, dramatizing stereotypes both positive and negative. [206] We will examine further the ambivalent representation of citharodes in Old Comedy in Part IV.
For the majority of higher-status Greeks of the later-Classical through Imperial periods an idealization of traditional, aristocratic musical paideia, the musica occulta of schoolroom and symposium, and a concomitant wariness toward the popular music culture could have coexisted alongside a demotic fascination with “vulgar” musical celebrities (although the idea of actually training to become an agonistic musician was in either case well beyond the pale, socially unimaginable). For instance, Dio Chrysostom—an oratorical “pop star” in his own right—is able to condemn snobbishly the theater audiences of Alexandria for their slavish devotion to supposedly unmusical, “canine” citharodic stars, and to remind them of the moral and aesthetic superiority of the bygone arkhaia mousikê (32.61–62), while in another speech professing his own admiration for modern-day citharodes who whip crowds into frenzy (19.1–4). We might see this Greek ideological ambivalence, rather than a monolithic case of Roman “performance anxiety,” being negotiated in Nero’s schizoid play with sympotic and professional musical identities in Naples, before a largely Greek audience, or in his theatrical after-dinner performances before the Greek emissaries at his Roman court.
Dio Cassius 62.21.2–3 reports an anecdote that, even if apocryphal or, as it certainly is, exaggerated, reflects Nero’s insistence on maintaining a fictive amateur status, even when his musical practice had long since crossed the publicly acknowledged line into the realm of the professional musician. It foregrounds the critical issue of remuneration in status differentiation, an issue that is as much Greek as Roman. [207] After his return to Rome from the triumphant tour of Greece, the emperor is approached by a wealthy Lydian named Larcius, who offers him one million sesterces to give a citharodic concert. Nero rebuffs the Lydian’s miscalculated flattery, as “he disdained doing anything for pay (misthos).” Larcius is allowed to live, but only after he pays the million sesterces to Nero’s freedman Tigellinus as restitution for the dishonor. Nero goes on to give (gratis) citharodic and tragodic performances in the city. On the one hand, this little drama plays as critique, giving the lie to Nero’s claims to amateur status, and suggesting that his de facto professionalism, even if not explicitly remunerated, is in line with the crass avarice that mars his principate. On the other, it could be read (the Tigellinus sequel aside), and was perhaps originally circulated to serve, as a demonstrative vindication of Nero’s commitment to amateurism, from a distinctly aristocratic Greek vantage point. Larcius is, notably, a Lydian. [208] The (exploitable) accident of his ethnicity evokes a bit of musical lore recorded in Herodotus 1.155.4. The historian indicates that the Lydians, traditionally thought to be the inventors of coinage, early on conflated music making and commercial professionalism, to negative effect; Croesus had encouraged Cyrus to render the once-manly Lydians soft and compliant by having them teach their sons “to play the kithara, pluck the harp, and kapêleuein ‘practice retail trade’.” The aetiology of musical show business is thus conveniently displaced onto the morally suspect ethnic other. Nero’s refusal of the fee—offered by the Lydian, for whom such transactions are “natural”—speaks to his desire to keep his own kitharôidia out of this corrupting sphere of monetary exchange, even as he rewards favorites such as the citharode Menecrates with enormous misthos (Suetonius Nero 30.2), or, more insidiously, if the account is true, as he pays Roman nobles to disgrace themselves on the public stage as mimes and actors (Tacitus Annals 14.14.4). [209]
Contempt for musical professionalism worked its way too into the Hellenistic and Imperial discourse on kingly paideia, which has specific relevance to Nero’s experience. Aristotle Politics 8.1339b8 supplies the grounding precedent: “In poetry Zeus does not himself sing and play the kithara.” Thus the anecdotal traditions about a young Alexander’s (that tutee of Aristotle) being given free rein by his kitharistês, since strict lyre lessons benefitted one who planned to play the kithara as his tekhnê, not one who would be king (Aelian Historical Miscellanies 3.32), or, alternately, being chastised by his father Philip ὅτι δεξιῶς τε καὶ ἐμμελῶς ἐκιθάρισεν ‘because he played the lyre too skillfully and tunefully’; according to Philip, it was “shameful for the noble-born man to make a show of himself among the rabble for the purpose of winning acclaim” (Nicephorus Gregoras Roman History 1.454). Nicephorus is late, but the story is ancient. Plutarch Life of Pericles 1.5–6 has Philip reproach Alexander when he comes upon his son playing the lyre ἐπιτερπῶς … καὶ τεχνικῶς ‘too charmingly and skillfully’, “Are you not ashamed to pluck the lyre so well?” (Plutarch uses the verb ψάλλειν ‘to pluck’, which typically denotes harp playing; its force here is probably less technical than ethical, underlining the inappropriate excess of Alexander’s lyre playing by assimilating it to the harp, which was not as a rule played by aristocratic male amateurs in Greece.) Kings, Philip reminds his son, are fitter to be auditors and spectators of agônistai. [210] Philip himself is implicated in a series of anecdotes in which he too earnestly debates a professional harpist (psaltês) on a technical matter, only to have the harpist remind him that, as king, the matter is well beneath his dignity (Plutarch Moralia 67f, 179b, 334c–d, 634d). Similarly, the citharist Stratonicus of Athens cuts short a debate with King Ptolemy over kitharistikê, admonishing him that “It is one thing to hold the skêptron ‘scepter’,” and leaving him to fill in the rhyming phrase, “another to hold the plêktron” (Athenaeus 8.350c).
In these (apocryphal) stories it is the subaltern musician who must remind the king of music’s proper place in the social hierarchy—a good reflection of how reflexively ingrained the ideological distinction between professionalism and noble amateurism had become. Just as Nero surely appreciated that in Greek myth and history political power and the kithara had long kept company—Alexander himself was, as his father legendarily advised, an adept spectator and auditor, and a dedicated patron of professional musicians, above all the famous citharode Aristonicus (On the Fortune of Alexander 334d–335a)—and that citharodic music had long served as a traditional symbolic resource for the articulation of political power and organization, so must he also have realized that his flamboyantly performative conflation of skêptron and plêktron, remunerated or not, was extraordinarily transgressive, an utter confounding of proper social and symbolic order and identity, in terms not only of Roman attitudes, but of elite Greek musico-political thought as well. [211]

11. Nero Citharoedus in Rome

11.1 Neronia

In 60 CE Nero took a significant step toward making his honorary agonistic victories abroad a reality at home. In the most demonstratively Hellenizing act of his principate to date, he instituted for the first time in Rome athletic and musical agônes modeled after the major quinquennial games of Greece. [212] These Neronia featured of course a contest in kitharôidia, which was the city’s first formal venue for professional citharodic performance, and, we may suppose, was the primary raison d’être for the festival itself—it would provide a legitimating “Greco-Roman” stage for the emperor’s tekhnê. However, although Nero was honorarily awarded the first prize in the contest by the unanimous verdict of the judges, a body of ex-consuls whom he had appointed, he did not perform, choosing instead to sit among the senators and follow the proceedings as a spectator. [213] His Roman debut would take place several years later, at the second Neronia, not long after the dry run in Naples. Suetonius and Tacitus offer variant accounts of the circumstances of the debut. [214] Suetonius Nero 21 says that Nero, “considering it of great importance to sing in Rome” as well as in Naples, held the Neronia in the summer of 64, before its appointed date in 65. (Nero would reschedule the sacred contests during his grand tour of Greece as well, a sacrilegious disregard for tradition that betrays the self-serving agenda behind his grandiose philhellenism.) At the games, the vulgus clamored for the emperor’s “divine voice,” but he initially demurred, promising he would sing for those who wished to hear him in hortis, presumably in the same private gardens where he had performed at the Juvenalia—again, an awkward attempt at a compromise between the amateur and the professional, private and public. Then, in what looks like a prearranged ruse, the praetorian guard added to the entreaties. At this he acquiesced; sine mora ‘without delay’ he had his name registered as a contestant, and, in a characteristically overdone gesture of “fairness,” cast his lot along with the others’ into the urn that randomly determined the order of performances. [215] Nero entered the theater with a grand retinue, his kithara carried by the praetorian prefects, and performed at great length a piece called the Niobe. After his own performance, however, Nero deferred the awarding of the citharodic prize, and the other contests, until the next year, ut saepius canendi occasio esset ‘that there might be further occasions for singing’.
Tacitus Annals 16.4 says nothing about this advance performance, and indeed it is hard to square with his account, which has the second Neronia taking place as scheduled and strongly implies that Nero had not previously made any sort of public appearance as citharode in Rome. Tacitus emphasizes the emperor’s definitive crossing of the line between the private and public spheres, although on this occasion too there is a simulated informality to the debut that suggests still a deliberate negotiation of amateur and professional musical personae. Tacitus reports that the emperor at first seemed willing only to recite a carmen from the stage, without musical accompaniment. Nero had presented such poetic recitations in the theater on previous occasions, although not in competition. [216] But recitation was not enough; he was rallied by the crowd to perform competitively as a citharode. The vulgus loudly demanded ut omnia studia sua publicaret ‘that he make public display of all of his talents’ (Tacitus reports the crowd’s exact words). Not surprisingly, conservative forces in the Senate had tried to forestall Nero’s public performance by preemptively awarding him the crown of victory in kitharôidia, as had happened at the first Neronia, “in order that the unseemliness of his participation in the games might be veiled over” (ut ludicra deformitas velaretur). [217] But on this occasion, Nero, no doubt buoyed by his successful run in Naples—rejecting the preemptive offer of the prize by boasting he was now aequum adversum aemulo ‘equal to his rivals’—would not accommodate senatorial austerity. His musica would no longer remain occulta in Rome, performed only in the private setting of the Juvenalian Games, a venue too restricted for “so great a voice” (tantae voci, Annals 15.33.1). The emperor would have his official “coming out” as a Greek-style agonistic citharoedus in the heart of the urbs. [218] Tacitus indicates that Nero played this long-deferred role as if born to it: as he sings, he follows all the rules of the contest, as a seasoned competitor would; then, while awaiting the verdict of the judges on bended knee, ficto pavore ‘with pretended anxiety’, he salutes the audience with his hand, an admirably dramatic touch that is met with appropriately dramatic, and musical, rounds of applause: “And the common people of the city, who were accustomed to encourage the gestures even of actors, began to resound with measured rounds of rhythmic applause. You would think they were pleased, and perhaps they were pleased, in their lack of concern for public disgrace.” [219]
Despite Tacitus’ reflexive cynicism—all is pretense, dissimulation, etc.—the mass audience viewing the Neronia probably was quite pleased, and uncynically so, with the emperor’s performance; the insistent demands to witness it certainly seem genuine enough. [220] Indeed, the historian feels compelled to underplay the positive reaction of the urban plebs by reminding us that this crowd is accustomed to celebrate with similar enthusiasm every gesture of the actors, histriones. The passing remark carries a double critical charge: first, that the favor of the rabble comes cheap and indiscriminately; and second, that Nero, despite his claims to the Hellenic prestige of kitharôidia, is essentially a common histrio, merely play acting at being a citharode—a theme that recurs elsewhere in the anti-Neronian discourse—and so deserving of this worthless acclaim. [221] But Tacitus hits incidentally on a social reality. The Greek culture of kitharôidia had before Nero’s principate made few solid inroads at Rome; although the professional citharode had long thrilled Greek audiences, to the majority of Roman citizens his presence was marginal and his charisma foreign. Nero’s comment to the Greek emissaries at his table, that “the Greeks were the only ones who knew how to listen [to music] and that they alone were worthy of his talents” (solos scire audire Graecos solosque se et studiis suis dignos, Suetonius Nero 22.3), sounds like an idle boast by way of cheap flattery, but if, as it seems, Nero means that in his time only Greeks were true connoisseurs of citharodic music, it stands as a more or less accurate assessment. A passage of Tacitus suggests that at the first Neronia the plebs showed little enthusiasm for the musical contests (which prominently featured citharodes), since their beloved pantomimes were barred from the official program (Annals 14.21.4). Five years later, the plebs presumably had enjoyed more exposure to the music of the citharode thanks to Nero’s support of it, but it is likely that many Romans still perceived the impressively costumed citharode, so iconically himself in the Greek cultural imagination, through their own cultural frame of reference as another kind of histrio. The “histrionic” style of citharodic performance in Nero’s time (on which more below) would have only prompted this tendency—Nero’s bended knee and deferential salute were probably stock-in-trade gestures for his agonistic rivals as well. Even the “pretended anxiety” that Tacitus implies was a characteristically Neronian affectation could have been proper to the routine self-presentation of citharodes as they awaited judgment. [222]

11.2 New music: The cithara and the urbs

It is worth dwelling a little on the novelty involved in the public institution of kitharôidia in Rome, and by extension the relative unconventionality—his position as emperor aside—of Nero’s own citharodic practice there. Despite the (significant) lack of clear evidence for them, concert recitals by itinerant citharodes in late Republican and early Imperial Rome were probably not unheard of, and ad hoc citharodic contests may have been irregularly held. Citharodes might, for instance, have participated in the musical games offered to inaugurate Pompey’s theater in 55 BCE (Dio Cassius 39.38.1; Plutarch Pompey 52.4), which would later host the contests of the Neronia (Pliny Natural History 37.19). But Rome was hardly the center of citharodic culture it would become under Nero and later emperors. Before Nero, the popular musical culture of Rome was monopolized by dancers, pantomimes, actors, tibicines (players of the tibiae, the Roman equivalent of the Greek reed pipes, the auloi), and singers. [223] One star, the virtuoso singer and tibicen Tigellius Hermogenes, a Sardinian by birth, earned massive adulation, as well as plenty of invidia, among plebs and nobles alike; his wealth and fame brought him into close company with luminaries such as Cicero, Caesar, Cleopatra, and Augustus. [224] Another celebrity singer, Apelles, enjoyed a close, if at times volatile, relationship with Caligula, who nurtured his own dreams of appearing in public as a cantor atque saltator ‘singer and dancer’. [225] No citharode is on record as having reached anywhere near this pinnacle of popular success or having gained such coveted entrée into elite social and political circles until the Neronian principate, when suddenly Terpnus was installed at the young emperor’s side, and, later, another citharodic confidant of Nero, Menecrates, was given property and a residence equal to that of men who had celebrated triumphs (Suetonius Life of Nero 20.2). Menecrates returned the favor to Nero: in early 66 CE he arranged a victory celebration in the Circus after Nero had won in a citharodic agôn, probably against Menecrates himself. (It is unclear on what occasion or pretext this agôn was held.) Dio Cassius 63.3.1 calls Menecrates Nero’s didaskalos ‘teacher’ in his report of these events, although Suetonius assigns that role to Terpnus. In any case, these two citharodes, along with a third, Diodorus, apparently formed a sort of clique around Nero, acting as his mentors and (compliantly “lesser”) competitors in Rome and Greece (Dio 63.8.4). [226] Even at the beginning of Nero’s reign, however, kitharôidia did not immediately become a popular sensation. Recall Tacitus’ droll implication that the plebs passed over the citharodes for the pantomimes. The prospect of the emperor’s own involvement at the second Neronia of 65 CE seems to have been the factor that truly galvanized widespread interest in the medium.
This is not to say that Greek stringed instruments, lyres, kitharai, and harps, were unfamiliar to Romans before Nero. They were familiar, especially to the philhellenic aristocracy, some of whom, following the example set by the educated Greek elite, themselves took up the instruments as amateur players. [227] Images of lyres or kitharai leave their mark, typically as accoutrements of Apollo, on Republican coinage as early as the second century BCE. [228] The leading men who minted these coins were on one level simply appropriating a common motif in the Greek numismatic iconography surrounding Apollo, but they must also have appreciated the fundamental ideals of sociopolitical harmony and cultural prestige that were symbolized specifically by the stringed instruments. [229] Augustus’ conspicuous deployment of statues of Apollo citharoedus in the building program of the Palatine shows that he did as well. Nevertheless, both the material and literary record suggests that Republican and Augustan Romans had limited first-hand experience of professional citharodes. Prose writers and poets of the time occasionally refer to amateur lyre playing, but never to contemporary citharodes or public citharodic performances. The citharodes or citharode-analogues who do appear in their pages (Apollo, Calliope, Orpheus, Arion, et al.) are distinctly “literary” figures, drawn from Greek myth and (legendary) history; and, although Roman authors could be sensitive to the nuanced cultural and political meanings of kitharôidia in its traditional Greek contexts, there is little sense that their attention to these figures involves an indirect engagement with the real-life practice and place of kitharôidia in the experience of their own city, as is almost inevitably the case with Greek writers and poets, living as they did surrounded by a vibrant living culture of string music, professional and amateur. [230]
A story told in Varro On Agriculture 3.13.2–3 expresses the literary, mythicized distance at which Late Republican elites held kitharôidia. During a Thracian-themed banquet at his game-preserve, the wealthy orator Quintus Hortensius “ordered ‘Orpheus’ to be called out. When he appeared in his stola and with his cithara, and was commanded to sing, he blew a horn (bucina),” at which “a crowd of stags, boars, and other animals” was released among the banqueters. This stylized tableau of citharodic myth could not be further from the “real thing.” Indeed, the very sound of the cithara is represented by the Roman horn; we may assume that Hortensius’ “Orpheus” is an actor rather than an actual citharode.
It is only when we come to Neronian and Flavian literature that we see indications, clear ones, of sustained Roman interest in real-world citharodic music, and not only in Nero’s, although there can be little doubt that it was his efforts as performer, as well as promoter, of the art that cemented the popularity of citharoedi among Romans of the most diverse classes and backgrounds. [231] With his personal patronage of citharodes such as Terpnus and Menecrates, however, and his establishment of the Neronian agônes, Nero provided the financial incentives, institutional infrastructure, and even the political-ideological climate to make Rome into a world-class destination for star citharodes, as the Peisistratids had done for Athens and the Ptolemies had done for Alexandria. Terpnus was likely imported by Nero from Alexandria. In Rome he conceivably served not only as the emperor’s personal entertainer and trainer, but also as a self-interested advocate for the formal integration of his tekhnê into the city’s lucrative regime of spectacles. [232] It is indeed possible that in his engagement of Terpnus Nero was consciously following a semi-historical “script,” the well-known story of Terpander’s musico-political intervention in Archaic Sparta. Terpander, like his partial namesake Terpnus the most famous citharode of his day, was summoned by the Spartan authorities from his home in Lesbos to a socially troubled Sparta, where he undertook the first katastasis ‘establishment’ of music, founding (and winning) the first citharodic agôn at the Carneia festival. [233] Of course, as performer, Nero himself “played the role” of Terpander as much as did Terpnus.
The earliest indication that citharoedi—Nero aside—had taken their place in the popular musical culture of Rome comes by way of a scene in the Satyricon, which was probably written by Petronius during Nero’s reign. In the baths, the wealthy freedman Trimalchio drunkenly “tears apart (lacerare) the cantica of Menecrates” (73.3). This Menecrates is almost certainly the same Menecrates kitharôidos favored by Nero—a Neronian dating for the Satyricon is indeed based in part on the strong probability of this identification. These cantica were not old-time classics, but popular “hits” of the day. The scene registers the new enthusiasm in Rome for the citharodic music of Menecrates, and presumably other citharodes as well, while at the same time staging a critique, in the novel’s playful manner, of the perceived cultural debasement involved in its Roman reception. Trimalchio, the embodiment of Imperial excess and vulgarity, who otherwise claims he enjoys only the low-brow entertainments of acrobats and horn players (cornices, 53), mutilates beyond recognition these products of the “high” Greek citharodic tradition, as earlier (59), among the kitschy dramatizers of epic, the Homeristae, his ridiculous exegeses of Homer made a travesty of epic myth and performance. It is tempting to see as well in Trimalchio’s drunken, solipsistic singing a gross parody, aesthetic and political, of Nero’s own citharodic aspirations.
By the time of Juvenal and Martial, citharodes had become icons of the pervasively Hellenized post-Neronian cultural landscape of Rome, now a Graeca urbs, as the self-exiled Roman speaker of Juvenal 3.63 has it, and as competitive a center of kitharôidia as any actual Greek polis. Domitian’s Capitoline Games included a citharodic agôn (Juvenal 6.388–389), which was held in the newly constructed, Greek-style odeum in the Campus Martius (Suetonius Domitian 5), an impressive structure later restored during Trajans’s rule (Dio Cassius 69.4.1). Hadrian counted among his intimates the Cretan citharode and composer Mesomedes. [234] Although his state pay (salarium), no doubt quite considerable, was supposedly reduced after Hadrian’s death by Antoninus Pius (Historia Augusta , Life of Antoninus 7.7), Caracalla would later erect a cenotaph for Mesomedes, because he, the emperor, “was learning kitharôidia” (Dio Cassius 77.13.7). Hadrian also may have made a practice of kitharôidia, if that is what is meant by the phrase psallendi et cantandi scientia in Historia Augusta , Life of Hadrian 14.9. Domitian’s Capitoline agôn at Rome came to be ranked prominently among the major Greek agônes in the circuit of the professional citharode. On a monument from Smyrna, the two Roman victories of the winningest citharode of the Severan period, C. Antonius Septimius Poplius, are listed at the top of an impressive catalogue of successes at the most prestigious sites across the Empire, only after those at the Smyrnean Olympia and Hadriania. [235]
Entertainers as wealthy and adored as any actor, singer, dancer, or tibicen, citharodes became targets of moralizing satire and the poets’ own invidious critique. We have already looked at Juvenal’s take on the sexualized cult of celebrity surrounding stars such as Pollio and “Hedymeles.” Martial 5.56.9–10 cynically advises a father to steer his son away from rhetoric and poetry and toward the “money-making métiers” (pecuniosae artes) of the citharoedus or the choraules, a Greek-style tibicen who specialized in providing music for choruses, including reworked excerpts from Athenian tragedies. The citharode had become the match of the long-admired tibicen. [236] In another epigram, Martial, biding his time in Imola, asserts facetiously, but with genuinely rueful envy nonetheless, that he would return to Rome only when he had become a citharoedus (3.4.7–8); living there as a poeta, he enjoyed considerably less love and money than did these stars of the musical stage, one of whom, Pollio, amassed a fortune that is mentioned by Martial in another epigram from Book 3 (3.20.18; cf. Juvenal 7.176–177). [237]
The money to be made by citharodes in Rome was no satirical exaggeration. Menecrates, we saw, became wildly rich thanks to Nero’s largesse; even the thrifty and conservative Vespasian (Suetonius Vespasian 16.1, 19.2; Tacitus Annals 3.55), whose personal interest in kitharôidia seems to have been minimal—he supposedly once either walked out of the theater or fell asleep while Nero was singing in Greece—read the winds of popular enthusiasm and awarded the hefty sum of 200,000 sesterces each to Terpnus and Diodorus for performing at the games to celebrate the dedication of the restored Augustan Theater of Marcellus. [238] A tragoedus also performed at the games for a fee of 400,000 sesterces. [239] But the citharodes’ paydays were still enormous; to put the amount in perspective, a Roman legionary made only 900 sesterces per annum. That these famously close associates of Nero continued to thrive professionally and win imperial patronage in Rome well after the end of his disastrous reign, and despite the corrective stance taken toward Neronian excesses by Vespasian, indicates just how irrevocably Nero had embedded kitharôidia in Roman cultural and political life, and how effectively he secured the star status of its leading virtuosos in the eyes of Roman citizens.
But if Vespasian realized that the public dispensation of citharodic music was now a necessary part of Imperial cultural politics, as a Neronian legacy it was nevertheless tainted by association. It is possible that, as in the visual realm, where statues of Nero were re-carved in the likeness of the new emperor, so in the musical realm Vespasian at once inherited, yet also essayed a creative damnatio memoriae of his predecessor’s groundbreaking patronage of citharodic diplays. [240] Indeed, Vespasian’s renovation of the Theater of Marcellus and his presentation of musical events there for the first time read as blatant attempts to erase Neronian influence from recent cultural memory. Nero had used the Theater of Pompey for his own public performances, including those of the Neronia; the Theater of Marcellus, however, does not seem to have been a focal point of Neronian musical culture. Its innocence in this respect, as well as its association with nostalgized Augustan culture—parts of the Ludi Saeculares were presented there (CIL VI 32323.157)—no doubt made it an appealing venue at which to inaugurate a new era of Roman performance politics. [241] The musical events also seem to have been similarly framed. Suetonius writes, “For the games, Vespasian had revived the old musical entertainments as well” (ludis … vetera quoque acroamata revocaverat). This does not mean that for the first time since the death of Nero citharodes and tragic singers gave performances in Rome; we hear, for instance, that Vitellius presented a citharodic spectacle in 69 BCE (Suetonius Vitellius 11.2). It is more probable that this musical “revival” was a purely rhetorical construct of Vespasianic propaganda. The performance genres with which Nero was most closely identified would thus have been purged of Neronian associations and re-presented as vetera acroamata ‘ancient musical entertainments’ under the exclusive auspices of Vespasian (a man of “archaic dress and diet,” according to Tacitus Annals 3.55). [242] As with the restoration of the theater, Vespasian is generating new cultural capital by remaking the past on his own terms; he has appropriated Nero’s citharodes, and cast them in a new—that is, old—light. [243] We can be sure that on this occasion Terpnus and Diodorus did not perform (“revive”) the music of their old patron. Perhaps in the spirit of these vetera acroamata they played an archaizing program of uncontroversial, old-time citharodic classics. [244]
By contrast, Vitellius, eager to capitalize on the popularly mandated citharodic politics of the Neronian principate to shore up his own rule, publicly sanctioned the revival of the Neroniana cantica at a citharodic performance he had arranged early in his short reign to commemorate Nero’s death: “He openly urged the citharode, who was entertaining the crowd at the feast, to ‘perform something too from the master’s work’, and, when the citharode began to sing the songs of Nero, he was the first to jump up and applaud.” [245] Vitellius here reprises his role as Nero’s model fan, one he had savvily played when he was supervisor of the certamen ‘contest’ (presumably the citharodic one) at the second Neronia of 65 CE. While Nero was leaving the theater, (seemingly) reluctant to join in the contest, Vitellius interceded directly, as an “envoy of an insistent populus,” to persuade him to return and perform on stage (Suetonius Vitellius 4).

11.3 Playing to the plebs

To sum up: the fact that the star citharode becomes a standby of post-Neronian Roman culture should not blind us to Nero’s pioneering contributions toward that development. As patron and performer, he was the prime instigator of a process of cultural, musical, even political and ideological translation, a kind of mass-market paideia—making the Hellenic language of kitharôidia legible and lovable to Romans. This process of enculturation is made audibly and performatively manifest in a detail of Tacitus’ account of Nero’s reception at the second Neronia: after his performance, the crowd personabat certis modis plausuque composito ‘began to resound with measured rounds of rhythmic applause’ (Annals 16.4.4). These plaudits significantly echo the enthusiastic response of the audience, a mix of Campanian locals, members of Nero’s claque from Rome, and Alexandrians from a nearby fleet, to the concert in Naples. Suetonius Nero 20.3 singles out the positive reaction of the latter group. The presence of this sizable contingent of Alexandrians in Naples is a lucky coincidence for Nero—suspiciously lucky perhaps—since the inhabitants of Alexandria, as we already have several times observed, are known to be great connoisseurs of music, not least of kitharôidia. [246] Alcides, an Alexandrian mousikos who is among the symposiasts in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistae, claims that at citharodic performances in his city “even the lowest-class (eutelestatos) and illiterate (analphabêtos) layman is accustomed to criticize mistakes in striking notes as soon as they occur” (4.176e).
It was before these discerning spectators that Nero daydreamed of making a living from his citharodic τέχνιον. Their presence at and approval for his public debut would go some way toward legitimating the emperor’s endeavors in the Greek art of kithara singing. That approval would have been audibly, musically expressed in waves of rhythmically marked applause distinguished, like song, across different genera. Suetonius mentions three types, whose names reflect the method of clapping or the sound produced by the clappers’ hands: “buzzings,” “roof-tiles,” and “bricks.” Suetonius seems to indicate that these various modulatae laudationes ‘musical approbations’ came not only at the end of the performance, but were interspersed throughout Nero’s singing (cantanti), perhaps at customary pauses in the junctures between the sections of his song. The effect of this is remarkable indeed: the enthusiasts in the audience themselves become active participants in the performance—“actors in the audience,” as Shadi Bartsch would put it—imprinting their own rhythmic soundmaking on the sonic texture of the musical event as it unfolds. [247]
Clappers might even have engaged in a kind of meta-occasional musical agôn among themselves, arranged as they were into factions. “Captivated” by the manual performance of the Alexandrians—Suetonius’ captus cannily implies the subjugation of the imperator to its affective power, perhaps alluding to Horace’s Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit (Epistles 2.1.156)—Nero organized his own Roman claque, the Augustiani, who had been charged with leading the acclaim for his musical efforts since the first Juvenalian performance of 59 (Tacitus Annals 14.15.4; Dio Cassius 61.20.3–4), into factiones, each of which would learn one of the Alexandrian genera of applause. Suetonius includes the significant information that the equestrian corps of the Augustiani was augmented by 5,000 young men recruited from the plebs, as well as by Alexandrian citizens who were expressly summoned, Suetonius implies, to teach their native cheerleading techniques to the Romans. The issue of these lessons, transmitted via the exemplarily combined plebeian and elite ranks of the Augustiani, can surely be heard in the “measured rounds of rhythmic applause” that met Nero’s Roman debut at the second Neronia (although Tacitus does not name the Augustiani explicitly, he does note at Annals 16.5.1 that soldiers stationed in the seats forced reluctant spectators to maintain the incessant clamor despite their fatigue and “unpracticed hands”). [248] Colorfully partisan theater claques and factions had long existed in Rome—especially around the pantomime troupes—and so had stylized expressions of acclamatio (cf. Ovid Art of Love 1.113), but Nero seems to have been intent on Hellenizing Roman spectatorship, recreating in the urbs the vigorous citharodic fan culture of the Alexandrian polis at the levels of sound and spectacle. [249] The rhythmically synchronized crowd at the Neronia is actively implicated in the realization of the emperor’s philhellenic fantasy: a dynamic, musical bond of sorts forged between princeps and populus, performer and audience. [250]

12. “Bad” Citharodes, Tough Crowds

Audiences could signal displeasure with citharodic performance through a far less “collaborative” variety of sonic participation. An anecdote concerning Timotheus of Miletus tells how the citharode was hissed at by Athenian audiences who were baffled by his novel style (Plutarch Whether an Old Man Should Engage in Public Affairs 23.795d). [251] The Alexandrian concertgoers described by Alcides surely voiced their criticisms of technical faults as readily (and loudly) as they offered their plaudits to virtuoso accomplishments (Athenaeus 4.176e). There are suggestions too of more violent reactions from displeased crowds, but these merit skepticism. In an anecdote recorded by the third-century BCE humorist Lynceus of Samos (ap. Athenaeus 6.245d), a parasite, Corydus, comments drolly to his fellow dinner guest, a citharode named Polyctor, who has bitten into a stone mixed in with his lentil soup, “You poor man, even your soup pelts you.” Machon, the Alexandrian humorist, has κιθαρῳδός τις, ὡς ἔοικε σφόδρα κακός ‘a certain citharode, a really bad one as it seems’ joking wryly that at his next performance he will amass more than enough stones to build a house (fr. II Gow, also by way of Athenaeus 6.245d; Gow conjectures that the citharode is again Polyctor). A point is in order here: infamously “bad” professional citharodes are above all creatures of comic fantasy and witty anecdote. While there were winners and losers in the agônes, and technical and performance skills naturally varied from performer to performer and performance to performance, the competitive structure of the citharodic field as a whole would have prevented truly subpar musicians from achieving any sort of sustained career, just as the modern-day business of Classical music would not permit the existence of an objectively unskilled concert pianist. As was indicated in the discussion of Lucian’s hapless citharode Evangelus, it is unlikely that anyone, even Nero, would have been able to take the stage at an agôn even once, unless he possessed the considerably demanding prerequisite talents and skills.
“Badness” was thus situational, relational, and above all, a conveniently reductive term of occasional invective or deprecating fun. Neophyte citharodes could have had rough going at times, especially against more experienced competitors, and been called “bad.” Even star virtuosos could flub notes, commit a gaffe, or otherwise fail to meet the exacting standards of merciless audiences such as the ones in Alexandria. Fans of one citharode would surely be quick to disparage those cheered by others, regardless of their actual abilities or achievements. [252] Musicians themselves could mobilize harsh attacks against their rivals, as is well evidenced, albeit in stylized, semi-fictional form, in the abundant anecdotal tradition devoted to the withering comments made by the fourth-century citharist Stratonicus of Athens on the abilities of his professional contemporaries. [253] With few exceptions, every musician he comes across he dismisses as incompetent, untalented, “bad.” An exemplary story: “After Stratonicus was victorious over his rivals in Sicyon, he dedicated in the Asclepieion a trophy with the inscription: ‘Stratonicus, from the spoils of those who play the kithara badly’” (νικήσας δ’ ἐν Σικυῶνι τοὺς ἀνταγωνιστὰς ἀνέθηκεν εἰς τὸ Ἀσκληπιεῖον τρόπαιον ἐπιγράψας· Στρατόνικος ἀπὸ τῶν κακῶς κιθαριζόντων, Athenaeus 8.351f). The kind of all-or-nothing critical displays of which Stratonicus was a past master were strategic to the musician’s self-marketing, the rhetorical performance of his professionalism—he is the star, others are most certainly not—but as such should in no way be taken as communicating objectively valid assessments of musical skill.
A performer’s appearance or physique could draw invective that shaded easily into aspersions on his skill. A citharode who was disparaged by audiences for his large size was comically “praised” by Diogenes the Cynic for singing to the kithara instead of turning to brigandage (Diogenes Laertius 6.47). Stratonicus said “riddlingly” of the Rhodian citharode Propis, who was “big in size, but bad (kakos) in tekhnê and inferior to [the great size of] his body,” that he was οὐδεὶς κακὸς μέγας ἰχθύς, meaning “first of all, that he is οὐδείς ‘a nobody’; secondly, that he is κακός ‘bad’; and, in addition, that he is μέγας ‘big’, and ἰχθύς ‘a fish’, on account of his having no voice (aphônia).” [254] Timotheus’ red hair may have similarly been exploited as a mark against or stain upon his musical skill. In Pherecrates Cheiron fr. 155.24 K-A, Music disparages him as Μιλήσιός τις Πυρρίας ‘a certain Pyrrhias from Miletus’; Pyrrhias, or “Red,” was a nickname commonly reserved for slaves. [255]
Stylistically innovative or idiosyncratic citharodes such as Timotheus, although not objectively poor musicians, stirred such intense animosity in some listeners that accusations that they were simply “bad” were inevitable; these accusations could in turn inform comic representations, or vice versa. Thus the innovative fifth-century BCE citharode Phrynis of Mytilene was derided in Old Comedy as γύννις καὶ ψυχρός ‘effeminate and frigid [i.e. flat, unimpressive]’ (scholia to Aristophanes Clouds 971b). But if he left some cold, he excited many others—he was victorious at the Panathenaia of 446 BCE. In Pherecrates’ comedy of 420 BCE, Wild Men (fr. 6 K-A), one character asks another, “Who was the worst citharode ever born?” (κιθαρῳδὸς τίς κάκιστος ἐγένετο;). The reply: Meles son of Peisius. Meles is also ridiculed by Socrates in Plato Gorgias 502a as one who “pained” (aniân) his audiences, so defying, pathetically, the essential “pleasure principle” of the medium. But for Plato and Pherecrates, the fact that Meles was the father of the objectionably modern dithyrambist Cinesias, who was routinely abused by the comedians and by Plato himself (Gorgias 501e), is surely what has (retroactively) made him “bad.” [256] In any case, stoning, as the humorous tone of the anecdotes suggests, was more fiction than fact. In reality, neither were audiences so aggressively disposed nor citharodes so aesthetically “bad” or morally offensive as to allow for more than impassioned, noisy criticism of a disagreeable performance. Fabricated or exaggerated too are reports such as Lucian’s mention of whip-bearers at the Pythian games, whose job it was to scourge “bad” citharodes to the point of drawing blood (The Uncultured Book Collector 9), or the stories of Spartan ephors forcibly cutting the strings from the kitharai of Timotheus and other innovators. [257] A mid-fourth-century Paestan bell krater by Asteas (Salerno, Museo Archeologico Provinciale Pc 1812) shows what seems to be a violent confrontation, perhaps based on a scene from Eupolis’ comedy Demes, between a citharode labeled Phrynis and a fiery, white-haired old man labeled Pyronides, who attempts to seize either the recalcitrant citharode or his instrument. [258] Pyronides holds a staff; perhaps he is meant to be acting in the capacity of a judge. Full-blown assaults such as these, by either outraged judges or scandalized spectators, belong above all to the realm of comic or anecdotal fantasy.
Judges did penalize musicians for disobeying the rules of the agôn, which no doubt were taken very seriously (Plato Laws 700c; “Plutarch” On Music 37.1144f). We will see below that a strict sense of propriety and conservatism attended the performance of the contest pieces, nomoinomos means, in its non-musical sense, ‘law’ or ‘regulation’, a coincidence not lost on ancient audiences—by citharodes and other solo agonists. Tacitus Annals 16.4.3 records that Nero compulsively observed the rules (leges) whenever he performed. While we never hear exactly what sort of penalties could be levied, presumably they would involve disqualification, demotion in ranking, or perhaps monetary fines rather than actual physical punishment. It is conceivable that minor infractions committed during performance might have prompted judges to issue “mild corrections,” perhaps with their staffs or wands, but these would have been a far cry from the savage floggings occasionally administered at athletic agônes by the rod- and whip-bearing officials, whom Nero made a great show of fearing at Olympia (Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.7.10). Although kitharôidia could be an intensely physical experience, the vigorously corporeal atmosphere of the athletic games nonetheless essentially differed from that of the mousikoi agônes. [259]

13. Factional Dramas

Citharodic agônes involved competition not only between the agônistai, but among the audience members, who formed fan factions—devoted hordes of what Xenophon Memorabilia 1.7, speaking of auletic fan culture, calls ἐπαινέται ‘praisers’—and actively played favorites. Nero used his authority to organize ersatz factiones on the Alexandrian model, which were nothing more than cooperative claques whose energies were “harmonized” for the narcissistic purpose of amplifying his glory alone. The genuinely felt enthusiasms (σπουδαί) of authentic factions, however, would have been far less harmonious and far more volatile. The cultural history of the public audition of kitharôidia in Greece and Rome is difficult to write with any precision, but, as with dramatic audiences, it is safe to say that listening and spectating behaviors were as much socially and politically as aesthetically determined and oriented. [260] Relevant accounts suggest that, before an agôn, fans might engage in aggressive politicking meant to sway the verdict of the judges for a favorite, and, after the contest, partisans could erupt into violent conflict. Dio Chrysostom 32.59–60 berates the stasis-prone Alexandrians for acting like reveling bacchants and satyrs in their inappropriate craze for Apollonian kitharôidia, or even worse, like combatants: “If you merely hear a kithara string, as if you had heard the war trumpet (salpinx), you are no longer able to keep the peace. It isn’t the Spartans you are emulating, is it? They say that in the old days the Spartans made war to the aulos, but you make war to the accompaniment of the kithara.” The comparison with Sparta, which recurs elsewhere in the speech (67, 69), is loaded. It was to a strife-ridden Sparta that Terpander legendarily brought social harmony with his kitharôidia; by contrast, the Alexandrians, overstimulated by their wild devotion to star citharodes, enact a parody of the legend, perverting the cosmic, ordering mandate of the kithara with their unruliness.
The interlocutors of Plutarch’s Dialogue on Love flee the city of Thespiae, “as if from a hostile land,” for the peace and safety of the countryside around Mt. Helicon, “close by the Muses,” while a “troublous agôn of citharodes, fraught with factional machinations and (rival) enthusiasms” (ἀργαλέον ἀγῶνα κιθαρῳδῶν, ἐντεύξεσι καὶ σπουδαῖς προειλημμένον) is being held at the city’s Erotideia festival (749c). In that charged partisan environment, the narrator relates, Thespiae and, ironically, its festival of Eros, were no place for harmonious philosophical discussions, least of all about Love, or for communing with the Muses. (Thespiae also hosted a Mouseia, the city’s main venue for mousikoi agônes, which was closely connected to the Erotideia; the two festivals were combined at least once during the Imperial period.) [261] Plutarch seems intent on constructing a scenario that dramatizes the Platonic valorization of philosophical dialogue as the “greatest mousikê” above and against the mundane popular music, dêmôdês mousikê, heard in the civic agônes (Phaedo 61a), but the roiling partisanship from which his characters retreat was no doubt a common feature of the actual festival contests in Thespiae and in other cities as well. We might detect too a class- or status-based discomfort implicit in the scene of the citharodic agôn. Plutarch’s sociocultural elites are only too eager to leave to the partisans the music and its attendant commotion, in which they seem to have no interest. We are reminded of Aristoxenus’ “barbarized” theaters and Aristotle’s distinction between the “free and educated” and the vulgar audience of the agônes.
Aelian Historical Miscellanies 3.43 records a relevant anecdote set in the Italian city of Sybaris; the events it relates are meant to take place slightly before 510 BCE, when Sybaris was conquered by neighboring Croton. While a citharode was singing in the local agôn devoted to Hera, “the Sybarites fell into rioting on his account, taking up weapons against each other” (στασιασάντων ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τῶν Συβαριτῶν καὶ τὰ ὅπλα λαβόντων ἐπ’ ἀλλήλους). The fearful citharode caught in the middle took refuge at the altar of the goddess, still in his costume, but “some” (οἱ δέ) of the Sybarites, presumably members of an opposing faction, nevertheless murdered him in cold blood. As divine vengeance for the perverted sacrifice of this “therapôn of the Muses,” the city as a whole was destroyed by the Crotonites. The Sybarites, with disastrous consequences, had failed to heed the wisdom contained in the warning given by the singer Phemius to Odysseus: “There will be upon you hereafter grief, if you slay me, an aoidos, who sings for gods and humans.” [262] Aelian’s anecdote takes its place in a series of lurid tales that treat the downfall of wealthy Sybaris through its hubristic decadence. [263] Again, as with Dio’s Alexandria, Sparta is the implicit comparandum: whereas Terpander’s kitharôidia produced tears of joy and political reconciliation among the troubled Spartan populace (Diodorus Siculus 8.28 ap . Tzetzes Chiliades 385–392), in Sybaris, a city at the opposite end of the politico-ethical spectrum from Sparta, kitharôidia is a destructively hedonistic exercise; it divides the self-indulgent, excessive citizens, promoting rather than preventing stasis, and precipitates impiety and the ruin of the polis. But, moralizing agendas and narrative exaggerations aside, the anecdote must draw on real-life incidents in which fans’ exuberance, abetted by festival license, spilled out from the theater into the city to become full-blown civic disturbance. It is possible that performers could have been caught up too in the rivalrous disorder, although they would surely not have been murdered, much less at altars. [264]

14. Theatrokratia, Fantasy and Reality

According to Plato’s narrative of the rise of theatrokratia, the boisterousness of Greek theater audiences was a later Classical phenomenon (Laws 700a–701b). In times past, the Archaic and early Classical period, when, “under the old laws (nomoi), the dêmos was master of nothing” (Laws 700a), audiences, mass and elite alike, would listen to musical performances in silence, “not daring to judge by thorobos ‘clamor’” (700d), and let qualified judges evaluate their worth. Performers were above pandering to audiences and maintained instead the aesthetic and ethical standards of purity they knew the elite authorities valued. In time, however (i.e. from around the middle of the fifth century BCE), the okhlos ‘mob’ increasingly felt at liberty (eleutheria) to make its own opinions known through “hissing” (surinx, literally ‘panpipe’), “unmusical shouting” (amousoi boai), and applause (krotoi)—a cacophony that matched the amousos paranomia ‘unmusical lawlessness’ of the professional musicians on stage (700d). The authority of judges was undermined by the crowd’s assertiveness. In Sicily and Italy, theatrokratia had advanced so far that in Plato’s time judges were completely absent; the spectators alone decided the winners in musical contests through applause (659b).
This schematic vision of an orderly Golden Age overtaken by a period of noisy, populist degeneracy influenced the thinking of generations of musical conservatives after Plato, but it is nevertheless of questionable historical value, conditioned as it is by the resentment of fourth-century elites toward their own public musical culture, a development that was discussed above. This idealization of “classical music” should be construed on the whole as false nostalgia, the impossible desire to silence assertive contemporary crowds displaced onto the past. Plato’s evocation in Laws 700c of the “ordering rod” (rhabdos kosmousê) that was used to keep “children, their attendants, and the common okhlos” quietly under control may well be make-believe or at least greatly exaggerated, but, historical or not, it betrays his nostalgic fantasy of the innocent musical past. Old-time audiences could be loud and unruly; ideological prohibition alone could not (or, from Plato’s retrospective point of view, cannot) restrain their ruckus. [265]
Despite his extremely tendentious rhetoric, however, Plato is no doubt right to note that a stylistic change in the reception of agonistic music had been in the works, at least in Athens, since around the middle of the fifth century, and one that did reflect to some extent a “democratization” of the listening experience under Pericles. The aesthetically and ethically restrained receptive disposition of elites gave way increasingly to the more sensational reactions of the demotic audience, reactions that were emotionally keyed to the musicians’ more visually and musically sensational performances. [266] In Athenian musical iconography of the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, when agonistic music, above all kitharôidia, was still felt to be the spiritual possession of aristocratic connoisseurs, we see auditors fixed in poses of deep concentration, in a sense demonstratively “performing” their intense engagement with the music they are hearing. An excellent example is the well-born young man depicted on the reverse of an amphora by the Brygos Painter (Plate 2). Leaning on his staff, forehead pressed to palm, the elegant youth seems wholly enraptured by the music of the citharode, who sings on the other side, yet nonetheless he remains supremely self-controlled. Similarly, seated judges or spectators are consistently shown listening intently to citharodes without audience distraction. [267] Images such as these are no doubt idealized; the uniformly aristocratic auditors and judges are socially decontextualized, isolated in their aesthetic reverie or critical assessment. The okhlos never breaks into the tightly controlled frame. Unfortunately, we lack corresponding images of auditors at mousikoi agônes from later periods, so instructive contrast is impossible, but the attitude of these represented listeners and the context of their audition, idealized as it may be, does suggest that a more general tone of repose was set at the early agônes than at those of Plato’s day and after. It may be too that judges felt less pressured by clamorous crowds (or particularly vociferous factions) in delivering their verdicts.
Yet the case for contrast should not be overstated. Judges of late- and post-Classical musical contests were not the ineffectual pushovers, easily swayed by thorobos, who are caricatured by Plato (Laws 659a). Nero’s show of deference to the judges (Tacitus Annals 16.4.2) at the second Neronia, contrived as it was, is one indication that they still exercised autonomy, or at least were believed to, even if their verdicts were more often than not in sympathy with the majority opinion, as they most certainly were in Nero’s case. [268] By the same token, Hellenistic and Imperial audience response was more complex than the idiotic sound and fury Plato’s pessimistic vision would suggest. The theatrocratic crowd could display both emotive extroversion and aesthetic discrimination; in music-mad Alexandria, “even the most low-class and uneducated layman” expertly criticizes technical mistakes made by the citharode (Athenaeus 4.176e). Indeed, putting to one side the warping effects of factionalism, which could be considerable (recall Plutarch’s mention of the aggressive campaigns waged by partisans to influence the judging at the Erotideia), what judges recognized as worthy or unworthy was more often than not what the masses did as well. [269] Lucian, in a text written in the second century CE but set in the fourth century BCE, and implicitly in Athens, takes it for granted that the majority of spectators at agônes “will always follow those who are better able to judge” (πάντως ἀκολουθήσουσι τοῖς ἄμεινον κρῖναι δυναμένοις, Harmonides 2). Beneath Lucian’s elitist “spin,” whereby the “vulgar” (βάναυσοι) masses, “ignorant of true quality” (ἀγνοοῦσι τὰ βελτίω), reflexively fall in line with the educated tastes of their betters, the “leading men” (οἱ προὔχοντες), we detect the outlines of an actually existing, class-transcendent consensus between judges and audience. In order to be successful, citharodes, both before and under the regime of theatrokratia, must have been compelled to court both judges and the okhlos, in all its demographic complexity. According to Epictetus, the agonistic citharode is always apprehensive when he performs in public, because “he not only wishes to sing well, but also to win popular acclaim” (Arrian Dissertations of Epictetus 2.13). Although Epictetus belongs to the second century CE, his characterization of the psychology of competitive citharodes as a dual drive to satisfy objective criteria of musical skill and to please the masses no doubt has a diachronic validity, even if the latter tendency took on increasingly extravagant expressions after the fifth century BCE.
For our Roman sources, Nero’s obsessive attention to the acclamation of the vulgus in Naples and then in Rome is symptomatic of his moral and political corruption; the bizarre spectacle of the imperator simultaneously orchestrating and submitting to a tyranny of theatrokratia perfectly emblematizes the Neronian principate in all its excessive, perverse theatricality. Conceivably, Tacitus has Plato’s topsy-turvy evocation of theatrokratia in mind as he describes the “public disgrace” that was Nero’s Roman debut at the second Neronia (Annals 16.4–5). The scene plays as Platonic nightmare, with manipulation and debasement all around: the noisy rabble compels the faux-submissive citharode to sing, who in turn compels the audience to applaud. The “ordering rod” of Plato’s Golden Age, which once kept the crowd docile and silent, has been replaced with thuggish soldiers who beat spectators “wearied with unpracticed hands” into keeping up the incessant clamor at top volume. But in his careful solicitation of audible favor, Nero was in a sense simply following the logic of professional musical practice. Applause and acclamation must always have been valued by agonistic performers to one degree or another; they confirmed and communicated mass recognition and fame, which would have been primary goals of every professional musician. And unless we presume some radical disparity between audience response and the verdict of the judges, applause signaled the promise of gain, it was the sound of an imminent prize or fee, which was obviously also a primary goal of professionals, even those of the old school. When the citharist Stratonicus plays a concert recital (epideixis) in Rhodes at which no one applauds, he caustically asks how he can expect the Rhodians to make a “contribution” (eranos) when they refuse to give “that which costs nothing” (Athenaeus 8.350b). [270] Controlled applause was good for business; a wholly silent crowd was not.
Post-Platonic sources tend to obscure the value of applause to the professional musician. In Athenaeus 14.631f–632a, to support the tendentious claim that “in the old days popularity with the masses (okhloi) was a sign of bad music (kakomousia),” the following anecdote is mustered: “When a certain aulete once received loud applause, Asopodorus of Phlius, who was waiting offstage, said, ‘What’s this? Clearly something really bad must have happened!’ For otherwise the aulete could not have been so popular with the crowd.” Of course, the idea that applause would be or ever was unappreciated by an agônistês is pure fantasy. More realistic is the claim of the titular character in Lucian’s Harmonides, a young, ambitious aulete, that he would never have studied aulos playing at all were it not for the popular recognition (ἡ δόξα ἡ παρὰ τῶν πολλῶν) it promised. To which his teacher, Timotheus, advises him to play to the judges, not the crowd: “At the agônes the mass of spectators know how to clap at times and to hiss, but the judging is done by seven or five or however many” (2). While the advice to impress the judges is sound, the advice to ignore the audience response sounds far less authentic. Indeed, the historical Timotheus of Thebes was a huge star of the fourth century BCE. As Lucian mentions, he accompanied sensationalistic dithyrambs composed by his still more famous namesake, Timotheus of Miletus, to great acclaim in Athens. As such, he is an ironically hypocritical mouthpiece for the anti-populist ideology propounded in the Harmonides. In terms of the socioeconomic logic of professional music making, Harmonides’ fascination with celebrity and his concern for audience approval ring truer than the elitist sentiments contrived for Timotheus. [271]

15. Twin Delight: Aesthetics and Techniques of Kitharôidia

In Naples the music is about to begin. Nero raises the plêktron and strikes the strings, sounding out the first notes of a melody that will serve as prelude to his song proper. The notes become increasingly clear and of a volume sufficient to be heard alongside his voice as it begins to fill the theater.
The balanced integration of the vocal and instrumental or manual components of kitharôidia was a critical aesthetic criterion of the performance, which was perceived to be a near-equal symbiosis of two tekhnai, singing and kithara playing. Since it delivered the poetic logos and carried the main melody, the voice would always possess some degree of symbolic authority over the kithara, but the ancient sources suggest that the ideal relationship between the two was one of complementarity rather than mere accompaniment. [272] This combined mastery of skills no doubt contributed to the greater prestige and higher prize amounts enjoyed by citharodes relative to practitioners in other agonistic media such as rhapsôidia, solo aulos-playing (aulêtikê), solo kithara-playing (kitharistikê or, often, psilê kitharisis or psilokitharistikê ‘bare kithara-playing’), and aulôidia ‘singing to the aulos’, all of which involved the display of only one primary skill on the part of the performer. For Quintilian, singing to the kithara is the perfect expression of the mind’s “swift and nimble” (agilis ac velox) natural ability to pay simultaneous attention to several different subjects:
An vero citharoedi non simul et memoriae et sono vocis et plurimis flexibus serviunt, cum interim alios nervos dextra percurrunt, alios laeva trahunt continent praebent, ne pes quidem otiosus certam legem temporum servat—et haec pariter omnia?
Do not citharodes simultaneously exert their memory and attend to the tone of their voice and its numerous melodic turns, while with the right hand they run over certain strings and with the left they pull, damp, and release others? Not even the foot is idle, but it keeps strict count of the rhythm. And all this happens at the same time.
Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 1.12.3
Quintilian’s citharode is thus the consummate musical “multitasker,” effortlessly orchestrating the demands of song and strings: text, melody, rhythm, vocal production, and complex instrumental technique. The preeminent difficulty of kitharôidia is attested in the anecdotal and proverbial traditions of Greece and Rome as well. Cicero cites a saying, common among Greek musicians, that those who cannot succeed as citharodes become aulodes (Pro Murena 13.29). A scholiast to Aristophanes Birds 858 tells of one fifth-century BCE musician, Chaeris, who began his career as a κιθαρῳδὸς ψυχρός ‘frigid citharode’, but later became an aulêtês. This may be an attempt to account for the existence of two later-fifth-century musicians named Chaeris, one a citharode, the other an aulete, but the common assumption that aulos playing is less challenging than kitharôidia in any case informs the scholiast’s comment. [273] (According to “Aristotle” Problems 19.9 and 49, it was thought that singing to the lyre was generally a more difficult proposition than singing to the aulos, because the fuller sound of the reeds, itself akin to the human voice, disguised the singer’s errors, while the thinner-sounding strings left the voice exposed.)
A citharist named Nicostratus wittily acknowledges the preeminence of the citharode—and the inferiority of his own instrumental tekhnê—when he belittles the talents of Laodocus, a citharode, with the neat chiasm that the citharode was “small in a great tekhnê, but he himself was great in a small one [i.e. kitharistikê]” (Aelian Historical Miscellanies 4.2). [274] Even the worth of non-musical tekhnai could be magnified when measured against the objectively impressive yardstick of kitharôidia. In Diphilus’ comedy Synoris (fr. 75 K-A), a self-important parasite, proud of his so-called tekhnê, asks, “Don’t you know that the parasite is ranked (κρίνεται) first after the kitharode?” (Diphilus plays on the expression μετὰ Λέσβιον ᾠδόν ‘After the Lesbian Singer’, proverbially applied to those who must take second place behind an undisputed master, but originally referring to the Spartan custom whereby prestigious Lesbian citharodes were given the privilege of singing first at the Carneian agôn.) [275]
In a Latin epigram titled “On a Citharode” included in the Latin Anthology (102 Kay = 113R), an anonymous poet foregrounds the audience’s wonder at a virtuoso citharode’s marvelously seamless harmonization of voice and kithara. The citharode takes the stage,
that he might please the ears of the vulgus. He stands there, supremely capable in both his manual execution and his voice; his hands harmonize with his tongue, united with it in equal expression. For he deploys both with equivalent expertise in balanced proportion and mingles his hands as allies with the art of his mouth in such a way that it is a matter of doubt to you, captivated by the twin delight, whether it is his voice singing or the lyre sounding by itself.” [276]
The perfect fusion of instrument and voice inspires a kind of delightful aporia in its perception, a sensation echoed for the reader in the poem’s juxtaposed and interlaced order of words describing those functions. [277] This delight is neatly expressed by another late writer, the early Byzantine Aristaenetus, who describes the reaction of an enthusiastic fan to an outstanding citharode’s performance: “Bravo for the voice, bravo for the lyre! How very harmoniously the two sound together in unison! And how attuned is the tongue to the striking of the strings!” (ε γε τῆς φωνῆς, ε γε τῆς λύρας. ὡς ἄμφω μουσικώτατα συνηχεῖ, καὶ πρόσχορδος ἡ γλῶττα τοῖς κρούμασι, Greek Epistles 2.5.1–2). [278]
As this last passage indicates, the vocal melody was typically sung in note-for-note unison with the struck kithara strings. The term πρόσχορδος, as in Aristaenetus’ phrase, πρόσχορδος ἡ γλῶττα τοῖς κρούμασι, designates this procedure. [279] But citharodes could play too secondary melodic and rhythmic figures on the kithara, as color counterpoint to the primary melody and rhythm of the vocal line. Plato Laws812d–e describes such figures as examples of ἑτεροφωνία ‘the combination of different notes’ and ποικιλία ‘ornamentation’, specifically,
when the strings sound different tunes (melê) from those of the composer’s melody, or when performers combine close intervals [on the strings] with wide ones [with the voice], slow with fast notes, high pitch with low (whether at concords or the octave), and similarly when they fit all manner of rhythmic ornamentations (poikilmata) to the notes of the lyre. [280]
Although Plato disapproves of these elaborate effects—as a staunch musical conservative he advocates instead the traditional, homophonic mode of lyre playing, πρόσχορδα τὰ φθέγματα τοῖς φθέγμασι—his vivid polemic indicates that by the fourth century BCE, and thus certainly by Nero’s time, they were standbys of every competitive citharode’s technical repertoire, deployed, judiciously or not, as virtuoso color contrast to delivery all’unisono. [281]
Purely instrumental playing also had an important place in citharodic performance. There was the introductory instrumental prelude, which I discuss in detail in Part II.1. Solo kithara music also filled in the time between sung verses. In early kitharôidia it seems to have been common practice to give the strings a rhythmic strum with the plêktron at every verse end. Aristophanes thus has Euripides parody the choral songs of Aeschylus, which, Euripides claims, are stylistically indebted to Archaic citharodic music, by exclaiming to-phlatto-thratto-phlatto-thratt after each sung line, a mimetic vocalization of a stereotypical strumming pattern (Frogs 1284–1295). [282] The joke here is not only on Aeschylus; it is also on the old-style kitharôidia that Aeschylus emulated, which must have sounded tonally and rhythmically monotonous to the more sophisticated ears of many in the audience of Frogs, who had become attuned to the adventurous stylings of later-fifth-century citharodes such as Phrynis of Mytilene and Timotheus of Miletus, both experimenters with polychord kitharai, instruments with more than the traditional seven strings. We will have more to say about these musicians later. It is enough for now to note the good probability that among their innovations was the elaboration of instrumental interludes, a facet of the wider programmatic tendency within the music of the later Classical period to liberate musical sonority from the formal constraints of the poetic text, melos from logos. [283]
Contemporary testimony for this comes by way of the comic poet Pherecrates, who, like his rival Aristophanes, stages criticism of such innovation. Pherecrates has Mousikê, personified as a sexually violated woman, complain that her worst offender, Timotheus, “stripped and undid me with his twelve strings, when he found me somewhere walking by myself” (κἂν ἐντύχῃ πού μοι βαδιζούσῃ μόνῃ, | ἀπέδυσε κἀνέλυσε χορδαῖς δώδεκα, Cheiron fr. 155.30–31 K-A). ‘Walking by myself’ would seem to mean music without voice. Although it is impossible to know precisely what musical effects lie behind the sexual innuendo of ἀπέδυσε κἀνέλυσε ‘stripped and undid’—the double entendres in this passage are notoriously difficult to interpret—Mousikê must mean that Timotheus, with the rich sonic palette of his “twelve strings,” has introduced new levels of complexity, melodic and rhythmic, to the solo instrumental portions of his compositions, a complexity that was viewed by his conservative critics as scandalous. [284] At the minimum, it is certain that neither Timotheus nor his progressive rivals and successors, including Nero, maintained the old verse-strum-verse-strum pattern described by Aristophanes, preferring rather to craft more intricate lyric filigree when not singing.
The critical importance of vocal technique should not be underestimated. Citharodes had not only to make their often-lengthy texts consistently intelligible; they had to sustain the aesthetic integrity of the tones, melodies, and rhythms in which they sang them. [285] Citharodic song demanded impressive range from its singers; one of the oldest and most famous nomoi, the Orthios, was so called because of its characteristically high pitch. [286] As instrumental technique become more complex with the New Music, so must their singing have kept pace, becoming ever more virtuosic, and, as the text of Timotheus’ nomos Persians suggests, mimetically dynamic. “Lucian” Nero 7 vividly describes the immense strain that was put on breath and voice by the intense physical demands of citharodic performance. We saw that the focus of Nero’s rigorous training was his voice, whose “small and indistinct” quality supposedly left an early audience at the Juvenalia laughing and crying at the same time (Dio Cassius 61.20.2; cf. Suetonius Nero 20.1). In “Lucian” Nero 6 his voice is “naturally hollow and low” and “produces a sort of buzzing sound” (βομβεῖ πως), the result of his constricted throat. Citharodes thus practiced under the tutelage of phônaskoi ‘vocal trainers’, who were skilled in improving such physical and technical deficiencies. It is likely, I think, that Terpnus and Menecrates served Nero in this capacity.
The premium placed upon the work of these professionals is attested in two Imperial inscriptions, both of which honor the phônaskos alongside the victories of the citharodes they celebrate. In one of them, which details the winning career of C. Antonius Septimius Poplius, the intimately guiding role of his phônaskos, P. Aelius Agathemerus, receives extended mention. Himself a “citharode victorious in the sacred games and a distinguished composer (melopoios),” the trainer is said to have “been like a father” to the younger citharode (IGR IV 1432). [287] In the other case, training was an actual family affair; the citharode’s own brother was his phônaskos (IG IV 591). The term phônaskos is late, but vocal coaches, like athletic trainers—and the sustained production of the solo voice through a full citharodic performance was nothing if not an athletic endeavor—surely plied their trade as far back as the Archaic period. It is probable that the bearded man on the reverse of a black-figured amphora by the Berlin Painter is meant to be the trainer rather than a judge of the younger citharode who sings on the obverse side (New York 56.171.38, c. 490 BCE). [288] The man holds aloft a forked wand with his left hand and points emphatically with the thumb and forefinger of his right, a gesture seemingly meant to communicate either praise or criticism of the technique of the citharode.

16. Picking and Plucking

Extensive reconstructions of the manual method of lyre and kithara playing have already been undertaken by several scholars. [289] I leave discussion of most of the technical details to them, but I feel obliged to register a few essential points of disagreement that have to do with the use of the plêktron and the fingers in sounding the strings of the kithara, and how both are deployed in relation to singing. I begin with the procedure of damping strings with the left hand, from “behind” the instrument. In the passage from the Institutio Oratoria quoted above, Quintilian seems to be describing a technique of kithara playing that involves pulling and pressing against, and thereby damping, selected strings with the fingers of the left hand, while striking open strings with the plêktron held in the right (“with the right hand they run over certain strings and with the left they pull, damp, and release others”). [290] West provides a helpful discussion of the damping technique, although I think he errs in arguing that citharodes would only have damped certain strings when they strummed all seven strings with the plectrum, to deaden the sound of unwanted notes. Quintilian’s percurrunt ‘run over’ may well indicate strumming, and strumming multiple strings at once to sound a desired chordal cluster—called sunkrousis at Ptolemy Harmonics 2.12—is a technique that is both textually and iconographically attested. Yet there seems to be no reason that citharodes could not as well strike an individual string with the plectrum while damping nearby strings to prevent them from sounding in case they were accidentally struck or sympathetically set to vibrate. Such left-hand presets would clearly facilitate an efficient right-hand technique. [291] A string would only be released and opened when the melody next called for it; to translate literally Quintilian’s terms, the player “presents” (praebere) it for striking when he no longer need “restrain” (continere) it. The struck note would then be cut off by finger pressure to the string to make way for the next note to sound on an open string, making for a cleanly articulated melodic line. [292] In this way, the left hand would be busy indeed, constantly pulling—more on that below—pressing, and releasing in nuanced response to both strumming and single-string picking.
West’s views on damping and strumming build on a set of other assertions: that the fingers of the left hand, when not damping strummed strings, plucked out the single notes of the melody line in accord with the voice; that the plectrum was not used to strike strings individually; and, accordingly, that the citharode never sang when he used his plectrum, since the plectrum was used only to strum out high-volume, percussive, cadential clusters of the type described by Aristophanes as to-phlatto-thratto-phlatto-thratt. The citharode would thus sing only when he plucked single notes/strings with the left hand, never when he plied the plectrum. [293] Considering simply the acoustical environment of public performance on a stringed instrument, however, it seems unlikely that a citharode would deprive himself of the regular use of the plectrum in playing single-note melodies. Notes struck with the plectrum would be brighter, crisper, and project further than those plucked with the finger, surely appealing qualities for a performer who played before (often noisy) audiences of thousands. The force of the plectrum stroke could easily be modulated to match the volume of the singing voice, now soft, now loud.
What about the ancient evidence? At a glance, the sixth- and fifth-century iconography of kitharôidia would seem to support West’s reconstruction. Most Archaic and Classical artists depict close-mouthed citharodes in the act of sweeping the plectrum across the strings, or, as in the case of the citharode of the Berlin Painter in the Metropolitan Museum, a smaller number show them singing after having just completed what seems to have been a vigorous sweep. Greek vase paintings are not photorealistic documents, however, and we should be wary of building detailed theories about technical practices around them. There can be little doubt that these poses and gestures became conventional because the energy and dynamism they conveyed were aesthetically appealing to both artists and consumers. For what it is worth, however, we should note that a few painters do depict citharodes and lyre players vocalizing while applying the plectrum directly to the strings; a few more show players who seem to strike individual strings, not strum, although these players do not simultaneously sing. Again, it would be unwise to treat these images as entirely reliable photographic evidence for the practices they (seem to) represent, but they must possess some minimal value in reflecting the realia of string playing. [294]
A vivid yet problematic example of the former type is provided by the Brygos Painter, who shows a citharode striking the middle string with the plectrum, while damping the surrounding strings with the fingertips of his left hand—he is not plucking—and tossing his head back in song, all at once (Plate 1). What complicates a straightforward reading of the image, however, is that the citharode is striking the string beneath the bridge, where it would not resonate properly against the soundboard to produce a full tone. This iconographical oddity was explained by Otto Gombosi as illustrating a special technique whereby the kithara player inserts the plectrum beneath the bridge and presses it against a plucked string to raise its pitch, a theory which has been generally discredited. [295] Others propose that the painter has merely captured the moment in which the player brings the plectrum back into position to make another outward sweep. [296] But the string is clearly shown bending with the pressure applied by the plectrum. Despite this deliberate touch, has the artist simply demonstrated a lack of precision in another respect, his positioning of the plectrum? Vase painters rarely misrepresent the fundamental mechanics of stringed instruments and playing technique, but perhaps this is just such a rare case. (It is worth noting that the large, chunky bridge on the Brygos citharode’s instrument is placed considerably higher on the soundboard than is usual.) [297] Analogous “errors” in plectrum placement may be found elsewhere. [298]
Early Greek verbal descriptions of lyric performance are still less precise in these matters, but the text that offers the most detailed account of string playing, the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, contains reasonably explicit testimony that discrete notes were sounded with the plectrum. By way of instrumental prelude to his song, Hermes “tried out [his new lyre] with the plectrum part by part” (πλήκτρῳ ἐπειρήτιζε κατὰ μέρος, 53), which must mean that the god struck each string with the plectrum, one after the other. That is, Hermes plays a melody across the seven strings of the lyre; possibly he strums it out, but that seems unlikely. [299] Admittedly, the Hymn does not say which method, single-string picking or plucking, Hermes employs with his singing, although we should note that the text makes no mention of the latter method. At the opposite end of the temporal spectrum, however, Lucian describes a citharode’s “plêktron keeping pace with her tongue” (Imagines 14); a singer to the barbitos in a poem of the Anacreontea, emulating an agonistic citharode, announces that he will sing while “striking a clear melody with an ivory plêktron” (60a.1–7); and the late antique epistolographer Aristaenetus offers a vivid evocation of a citharode’s voice and plectrum-struck strings sounding in unison: πρόσχορδος ἡ γλῶττα τοῖς κρούμασι ‘the tongue is attuned to the strings’.
Pre-Roman literary evidence for the role of plucking in kithara playing is slim. The left hand plucked strings while the right tuned them, and plucking was deployed as occasional timbral contrast to picking, especially in virtuoso solo kithara music (kitharistikê), where such effects would offer welcome relief to sonic monotony. However, we cannot be nearly so confident that it was the constant counterpart to the plectrum, and the primary partner to vocal melody in kitharôidia. The unmarked word for both lyre and kithara playing is κιθαρίζειν, a denominative verb that says nothing about the physical means of producing sound on the instrument. The verb κρούειν ‘to strike’, however, is used to denote specifically the striking of a string with the plectrum. [300] The second-century CE lexicographer Pollux classifies the lyre, kithara, and barbitos as ὄργανα τὰ κρουόμενα ‘instruments that are struck with a plectrum’ (Onomasticon 4.9). The verb that means ‘to pluck’, ψάλλειν, is used in musical contexts in an unmarked sense to describe the playing of some variety of harp (generic name: psaltêrion), an instrument whose strings were usually plucked directly with the fingers of both hands rather than with a plectrum (Aristoxenus fr. 99 Wehrli). Herodotus explicitly distinguishes κιθαρίζειν from ψάλλειν, the former meaning ‘to play the kithara’, the latter ‘to pluck the harp’ (1.155.4). [301] The few times ψάλλειν is applied to the lyre in earlier Greek literature, it is ambiguously, even negatively marked. Its use to describe lyre playing in Ion fr. 32.3 West must be looked at askance, given the contemptuous tone of the line; so too in Aristophanes Knights 522 (if lyre or barbitos playing is indeed at issue, and not harp playing). Plato Lysis 209b, an account of a young man’s unsupervised lyre playing, contrasts it with κρούειν, with the likely implication that the latter is good technique, the former undisciplined fooling around. Compare the proverb, “It’s as easy as plucking a string!” (ῥᾷον ἤ τις ἂν χορδὴν ψήλειε, Aelius Aristides 26.31). In no case could the verb easily be taken to describe normative lyric practice. [302] One reason for this could be that, since the harp, in Classical Athens at least, was played—plucked—primarily by women, there was a tendency to keep the word ψάλλειν out of the serious technical lexicon of lyre and kithara playing, which were largely, although not exclusively, masculine pursuits. [303]
The invention of one common type of harp, the pêktis, was accordingly attributed to Sappho, although male Archaic poets mentioned it as well (Athenaeus 14.635a). Beyond their identification with women, harps preserved the ethnic and ethical character of their Asiatic provenance, which made them still more distinct from kitharai in the sociomusical imagination of the Classical period. For Aristoxenus, harps were ἔκφυλα ὄργανα ‘alien instruments’ (fr. 97 Wehrli ap . Athenaeus 4.177f). The very connotations of Eastern luxury, habrosunê, surrounding them (e.g. Anacreon PMG 373, ἁβρῶς ἐρόεσσαν | ψάλλω πηκτίδα ‘I strum luxuriously on my lovely harp’), which appealed to sybaritic elites of the Archaic period, contributed to their alienation from mainstream lyric culture of the Classical period. This “otherness” too may have been semantically policed through the strict marking of ψάλλειν. But even so, if left-hand pizzicato was the systematic practice it has been made out to be by West and others, we should expect to find for it some other, less problematic terminology in fifth-century literature.
Visual evidence for left-hand plucking has been sought in fifth-century vase paintings with somewhat better luck, but here again interpretive certainty is elusive. Those who are predisposed to see plucking will of course see plucking, but to a less biased eye things are not so clear-cut. In most images of kithara players the left hand is depicted in a position not easily taken to represent plucking; the thumb and fingers of the left hand, or the fingertips, are held flush against the strings, in better position for damping than plucking. [304] Other images, mainly produced after 475 BCE or so, portray players of various stringed instruments whose thumb and fingers, held crooked, or, with wrist rotated outward, splayed laterally against the strings, more readily suggest plucking action. [305] But such digital contortions are perhaps better taken as the artists’ “realistic” attempts to capture the dexterous busywork of left-hand damping and releasing. By comparison, renderings of harp players’ hands more clearly evince defined plucking traits: hands arched, thumb and fingertips slightly curled round the strings. [306] Occasionally, a lyre or kithara player is carefully shown pulling a string between thumb and index finger. [307] The clearest example is visible on a red-figured fragment (Florence 128): two youths are performing (practicing?) the maneuver in a schoolroom. [308] Plucking is but one interpretation, however. Even West wonders “whether [the player] is not retracting it [the string] from the plectrum’s path (Quintilian’s trahunt), rather than plucking it.” [309] The connection West draws between Quintilian’s trahere ‘pull’ and the gesture recorded in the vase paintings seems entirely valid. If Quintilian had wished to refer to left-hand plucking, the verb carpere would have been the obvious choice; trahere would be unparalleled in this sense. [310] Accordingly, we should understand trahere and continere, ‘pulling’ and ‘damping’, to refer not to sequential but to parallel modes of ensuring that strings do not sound when the plectrum is applied to the instrument.
We must look to other Latin texts of the Augustan and later Imperial periods for explicit references to lyric pizzicato. Although there are quite a few, their evidentiary value for the thesis that citharodes traditionally sang and plucked is problematic. Vergil, Ovid and the elegists, Persius, Statius, and other authors have amateur players of the lyre as well as citharodes using fingers or thumb to “strike” or to “test” the strings (but never, it is worth noting, to “pluck” them). The use of the thumb in particular is a commonplace in these poetic descriptions of string playing, e.g. the “tongued thumb” (linguato … pollice) of a citharode in Latin Anthology 103.3 Kay. [311] This recurrent emphasis on the digital manipulation of strings may reflect not a technique traditional to Greek lyric and citharodic culture, but rather a distinctly Roman approach to lyre playing that encouraged the use of both hands, not only the left, to pluck notes, as if the lyre were a harp. It is important to keep in mind that when the Romans were first exposed to Greek string music it was harps and female harpists, psalteria and psaltriae, rather than lyres or citharae, that fascinated them. Livy 39.6.8 speaks of the novelty surrounding imported psaltriae and sambucistriae, players of the sambuca, a type of arched harp that came to popularity in the Hellenistic period, at Greek-style convivia in the early second century BCE. Juvenal 3.63–64 counts the chordae obliquae ‘slanted strings’ of the sambuca, along with players of the tibiae (i.e. auloi), among the very first wave of corrupting Eastern exotica to have washed up in Rome. [312] As in Greece, in the early Republic both foreign prostitutes and the wives and daughters of elite citizens cultivated the harp, as did, it seems, some boys and men, although conservatives such as Scipio Aemilianus were scandalized by the thought of freeborn boys and girls going to school to learn the harp “among effeminates” (inter cinaedos). [313]
The lyre and kithara were eventually taken up too by elite Roman amateurs, but the plucking technique appropriate to the harp seems to have carried over to these normally “struck instruments.” Roman wall paintings dating to the late Republic suggest that, while the plectrum was certainly known and used, players of lyres and kitharai, especially women, often dispensed with it and plucked two-handed, as if they were harpists. [314] Thus the Latin verb psallere possesses an unmarkedness that Greek ψάλλειν generally does not: it can denote either the playing of the harp (e.g. Horace Odes 4.13.7; Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 19.9.3) or the lyre (Caesius Bassus fr. 1 Courtney ap. Priscian 2.527). [315] Harp-style plucking of the lyre is implicit in Ovid Amores 2.4.27: a girl habili percurrit pollice chordas ‘runs over the strings with her skillful thumb’. The verb percurrere better suits the action of right-hand playing than left-hand plucking, as we see in Quintilian’s alios nervos dextra percurrunt. Unless the girl is a harpist rather than a lyre player, which seems unlikely, she is strumming her lyre strings with her right thumb, without a plectrum. The hypallage in expressions such as “ivory fingers” (Propertius 2.1.9) and “ivory thumb” (Statius Silvae 5.5.31)—the Latin poetic plectrum is usually ivory (e.g. Vergil Aeneid 6.647, pectine … eburno)—also suggests that the right-hand fingers have taken the place of the plectrum. [316]
Other texts, however, while focusing on the player’s application of thumb or fingers to strings, nevertheless imply or describe the alternating use of plectrum and left-hand thumb or fingers that West and others posit as standard procedure. [317] Most of these are best read as poetic idealizations of singing to the lyre or kithara in which a distinctly Roman preference for finger plucking is foregrounded—a culturally specific conflation of harpist and singer-to-the-lyre. We may note too the significant lack of corresponding descriptions by Greek authors of the Empire, who tend rather to put the focus on the plectrum. [318]
At the same time, however, it should not be denied that Greek citharodes had, well before the time these writers were working, broadly integrated pizzicato techniques into their performances, and that this practical development may have been promoted into the Latin literary topos of finger-struck kithara strings. The most explicit ancient testimony for coordinated left-hand plucking/singing and right-hand plectrum strumming is the ecphrasis in Apuleius Florida 15 of an Archaic statue in the Samian Heraion of a kithara-playing youth, whose “left hand, fingers spread apart, sets the strings going (nervos molitur), while his right hand, with the gesture of one playing a stringed instrument (psallentis), moves the plectrum (pulsabulum) toward the kithara, as if prepared to strike, when the voice has rested in the song” (15.9). Leaving aside the small red flags raised by psallere, which evokes the plucking of the harp, yet is unexpectedly applied to the citharode’s picking hand, and the singular oddity of the word pulsabulum, which is textually problematic to boot, the description seems a sufficiently clear account of citharodic performance. [319] But its synchronic descriptive value is not necessarily diachronically valid. There is every possibility that Apuleius is subjectively projecting a practice that he had himself witnessed contemporary citharodes performing onto the Archaic sculptural image—it dates to the time of the sixth-century BCE Samian tyrant Polycrates—whose left hand, as in so many vase paintings, may represent only string damping. (Note the lack of specificity in the verb molitur.) And even at that, the passage does not serve to indicate whether pizzicato playing was routine method or occasional effect in Apuleius’ own time.
Telling is a bare-bones anecdote recorded in “Plutarch” Sayings of the Spartans 233f about a foreign musician, a psaltês ‘harpist’, who was fined by the Spartans “because he played the kithara with his fingers” (ὅτι δακτύλοις κιθαρίζει). Apocryphal or not, the anecdote works on the assumption that plucking the kithara was not a traditional technique. In Sparta, a center of old-school lyric culture (cf. Alcman PMG 41), it seemed especially transgressive. In light of other stories like this one, the musician in question is almost certainly supposed to be a citharode, a competitor at the famously conservative musical agôn attached to the Carneia festival, where, we should note, there was no contest for harpists. He is catachrestically tagged a “harpist” because of his harp-like plucking technique, which has offended the judges. The Spartans, legendary “saviors” of arkhaia mousikê from decadent novelty (Athenaeus 14.628b), are said to have similarly punished at the Carneia other innovative citharodes of the later fifth century BCE, but for polukhordia, the addition of supernumerary strings to the heptachord kithara. [320] The anecdotal variant preserved in Sayings of the Spartans could reflect the fact that pizzicato was, like polukhordia, at least in the Classical period a novel innovation practiced mainly by progressive virtuosos, who were intent on pursuing all sorts of musical poikilia, the elaborate complexity of texture, melody, and timbre that characterized the aesthetic program of the Athenian New Music. Latin authors suggest that in post-Classical and Imperial kitharôidia plucking had become more commonplace, but even then it likely remained a means of producing special effects meant to accent the established core practice of striking (individual and multiple) strings with the plectrum. [321]
As I suggested above, solo kithara players, whose music relied on colorful sound effects, were likely the earliest dedicated experimenters with pizzicato, well anticipating, and presumably influencing, the New Music citharodes with their innovations. Juba II, first-century BCE king of Mauretania and author of the Theatrical History, a valuable repository of organological exotica and arcana, says that a sixth-century BCE citharist, Epigonus of Sicyon, “being a musician of the greatest skill, plucked by hand, without a plectrum” (μουσικώτατος ὢν κατὰ χεῖρα δίχα πλήκτρου ἔψαλλε, fr. 84). Unfortunately, Athenaeus, who reports Juba’s testimony (4.183d), does not indicate what instrument Epigonus plucked. Epigonus was also the inventor of a zither-like, polychord instrument, the epigoneion, which was most certainly plucked with both hands—Athenaeus calls it a psaltêrion. [322] Perhaps it was only this instrument that Epigonus plucked without a plectrum, but the distinction Juba accords to his plucking implies that it was the traditionally plectrum-struck kithara as well. Epigonus is elsewhere credited with pioneering a style of playing the kithara called enaulos kitharisis, an emulation of the timbral and harmonic color of the auloi that probably featured pizzicati and harmonics (Menaechmus FGrH 131 F 5 = Athenaeus 14.637f–638a). [323] We hear too of a special type of kithara called either the Puthikon or the daktulikon (Pollux Onomasticon 4.66). The first name suggests that it was used by virtuoso citharists to perform the Puthikos nomos, the famed contest piece essayed by competitors at the Delphian agôn in kitharistikê (introduced in 558 BCE according to Pausanias 10.7.7), which recounted through purely musical mimesis Apollo’s slaughter of the Pythian serpent. The different sections of the piece called for all sorts of extraordinary techniques to portray sonically the narrative details. [324] Strabo 9.3.10 says that one section was known as daktuloi, which he takes to refer to dactylic rhythms (another section is called iamboi), but perhaps it should be taken literally as “fingers,” a reference to the string plucking, with either left hand or both hands, that characterized the episode. (The corresponding auletic Puthikos nomos, it is worth noting, did not have this section.) The alternate name for the Puthikon kithara, the daktulikon, could derive from the suitability of this customized instrument for pizzicato playing.
The commentator on Cicero Verrine Orations 2.1.53 known as “Asconius” offers interesting testimony for citharistic plucking technique, but it is wrapped up in some misdirected comments about kitharôidia made apropos of a well-known expression, omnia intus canere ‘to sing everything inside’, which was proverbially applied to someone who does something in his own interest (cf. Cicero Against Rullus 2.26). According to Cicero, it was originally said of the appearance of a famous statue of an anonymous citharista in the Pamphylian city of Aspendos. Verres removed this statue while he was quaestor in Asia and hid it away in his house at Rome (in intimis suis aedibus), a misappropriation of public property—a monumental symbol of Aspendian civic mousikê—for private pleasure, which, Cicero implies, crassly outdid the statue’s own proverbial self-centeredness. Cicero does not describe the statue, but “Asconius” explains how the expression referred, by way of the technical jargon of kitharôidia, to a specific sort of playing style exhibited by the sculpted musician:
When citharistae sing (canunt), they make use of both hands. The right hand uses the plectrum, and that is “to sing outside” (foris canere); the left hand plucks (carpit) the strings with the fingers, and that is “to sing inside.” However, it is difficult to do what the Aspendian citharist was doing: not using singing voice and both hands, but managing everything (omnia), that is, the entire musical piece, “inside” and only with the left hand.
“Asconius” on Cicero Verrine Orations 2.1.53
These comments should not inspire too much confidence, for they are premised upon a fundamental confusion of citharodes and citharists; the latter do not sing. Cicero, however, surely knows the difference between citharistae and citharoedi. [325] His choice of the former designation for the Aspendian statue must reflect the way the Aspendians themselves viewed their famous statue, as a mute κιθαριστής rather than a singing κιθαρῳδός, and how it became conventionally known abroad. A distinction made between inside and outside singing, and their attendant manual techniques, would certainly not be one observed by citharists. Such a distinction probably represents nothing more than a creative inference drawn from a literalizing interpretation of the phrase intus canere, which in turn became the basis for the reconstruction of the Aspendian’s stunt. A one-handed display of virtuosity is entirely imaginable; it would be in line with the gimmicks deployed by citharistic showmen, and no doubt some citharodes as well.
But it is likely that omnia intus canere originally had no technical or citharodic connotations at all, but was merely a clever way of expressing the performative affect of the citharist—especially an inanimate one—who, unlike the citharode, figuratively “sings entirely on the inside.” It could be too that something in the manner of the sculptural representation of the Aspendos citharista, some strong visual indication of soulful introversion, of “feeling,” made the expression particularly apposite. [326] Alternately, it is possible that the sculptor merely posed the musician in such a way that he seemed not to play his instrument at all; that is, he did not appear to be producing any audible instrumental or vocal music. The Aspendian citharist and his intus canere were subject to other interpretations, neither more nor less convincing than that of “Asconius.” [327]

17. The Performative Body: Marching and Mimesis

It is evident from both literary and visual sources that the body of the citharode, already theatricalized in its elaborate costume, was in its spectacular gesture and movement as integral to his performance as his musical expression. Phillis of Delos, a Hellenistic writer on music history, claims that the early (arkhaioi) citharodes—Phillis presumably has in mind those of the Archaic and earlier Classical eras—executed few expressive “movements of the face” (κινήσεις ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου); the somatic component of their performances consisted more in “movements of the feet, ἐμβατήριοι καὶ χορευτικαί ‘march and dance steps’.” [329] A number of sixth- and fifth-century BCE Attic vases that depict citharodes in performance tend to support his claim, the most famous of which is the Berlin Painter’s citharode, who steps forward with knees bent, perhaps dancing in some decorously stylized fashion, while he plays and sings, back held straight and head tipped back in song, his garments slightly billowing out behind him. Equally vivid is an earlier depiction of a citharodic performance on a red-figured eye cup of c. 520 BCE by Psiax (Plate 7a), in which the painter has captured perfectly a citharode in the middle of a march-like dance step. One of the dandyish admirers by his side is shown gaily imitating this elegant footwork; the rhythm is infectious. [330] Both this image and the testimony of Phillis recall the dynamic pose of Apollo Mousagêtês that is captured near the beginning of the Pythian section of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo:
αὐτὰρ ὁ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων ἐγκιθαρίζει
καλὰ καὶ ὕψι βιβάς· αἴγλη δέ μιν ἀμφιφαείνει
μαρμαρυγαί τε ποδῶν καὶ ἐυκλώστοιο χιτῶνος.
Phoebus Apollo plays the kithara, stepping high and handsomely, and a radiance shines about him, even the gleaming of his feet and well-spun chiton.
Homeric Hymn to Apollo 201–203
Later in the Hymn, Apollo similarly accompanies the performance of the first paeanic chorus at Delphi καλὰ καὶ ὕψι βιβάς ‘stepping high and handsomely’ (516). In both cases, Apollo’s orchestic high stepping is a function of his role as lyric accompanist (the kitharistês) to a dancing chorus, not strictly as a solo kitharôidos, although that break-out role seems already incipient here. [331] What this might suggest is that the “march and dance steps” attributed by Phillis to the arkhaioi citharodes were vestigial traces of their own evolutionary origins as accompanists to choral processional and dance. [332] In performing his Persians, a nomos of the later fifth century BCE, Timotheus of Miletus might have paid homage to this “ancient” alla marcia style, and obliquely acknowledged the choral origins of his own medium, as he sang of, and very likely physically imitated, the chorus of Greeks singing and dancing a paean to celebrate their victory at Salamis: ἐπεκτύπεον ποδῶν ὑψικρότοις χορείαις ‘They beat the ground with the high-stomping dance movements of their feet’ (199–201). [333] In this moment, the citharode reverts to his primordial role of kitharistês, high-stepping alongside an imaginary chorus.
For Timotheus and the citharodes who came after him, however, the old style was not the default setting, as it were, but one of many possible physical mannerisms and mimetic modes. The theatricality of musicians’ self-display in general became increasingly pronounced with the popularization of the New Music of the later fifth and fourth centuries BCE. The linguistic and sonorous intensities of its texts and scores, brimming with melodramatic effect and affect, invited ever more mimetically sensational bodily expressions. This period witnessed the full-blown “emergence of the actor in music,” to use a well-known phrase of Nietzsche from The Case of Wagner (section 11). Nietzsche was both horrified and fascinated by the tendency in the musical culture of his time toward the dramatic bombast of Wagner and the virtuoso performative histrionics of Liszt, which he viewed as undermining the proper ethical authenticity and social and moral authority of music. [334]
Athenian cultural conservatives were likewise profoundly disturbed by the histrionic turn in the performance practice of the New Music, and it is in their critiques of its theatrics that we not only hear echoes of the sonic experimentation of the New Music, but also catch oblique visualizations of the moving bodies of its producers. Aristophanes has Dicaeopolis, the hero of his Acharnians, mock the citharode Chaeris for the way in which he “stooped sideways (παρέκυψε) onto the stage to play the Orthios nomos (ὄρθιον)” at the Panathenaia (16). While the joke here may be on an accidentally comic lapse in posture once committed by Chaeris during a performance, it is as likely that his “stooping” is indicative of a deliberate program of somatic histrionics, which seems ridiculous to the conservative sensibilities of audience members such as Dicaeopolis (and Aristophanes). Chaeris’ intentional stoop defies the iconic image of the Archaic and early Classical performing citharode, who always stands and moves with erect carriage and with head held high. “Bad posture,” as the mannered pose seems to its critics, offends against traditional musical decorum as well, as the word play between παρέκυψε and ὄρθιον indicates: a stooping citharode is no match for the demands of the old-fashioned Orthios nomos, whose name indicates not only its high-pitched melodies (cf. scholia ad Acharnians 16a), but also suggests the need to stand straight and upright (orthios) while singing it. [335]
In a passage from Plato’s Republic, Socrates provides a vivid depiction of the over-the-top mimeticism of a typically phaulos ‘vulgar’ exemplar of the contemporary popular music:
οὐδὲν ἑαυτοῦ ἀνάξιον οἰήσεται εἶναι, ὥστε πάντα ἐπιχειρήσει μιμεῖσθαι σπουδῇ τε καὶ ἐναντίον πολλῶν, καὶ ἃ νυνδὴ ἐλέγομεν, βροντάς τε καὶ ψόφους ἀνέμων τε καὶ χαλαζῶν καὶ ἀξόνων τε καὶ τροχιλιῶν, καὶ σαλπίγγων καὶ αὐλῶν καὶ συρίγγων καὶ πάντων ὀργάνων φωνάς, καὶ ἔτι κυνῶν καὶ προβάτων καὶ ὀρνέων φθόγγους· καὶ ἔσται δὴ ἡ τούτου λέξις ἅπασα διὰ μιμήσεως φωναῖς τε καὶ σχήμασιν.
He will think nothing unworthy of him, so that he will make great efforts, before large audiences, to imitate (mimeisthai) everything, including the things which we have just mentioned—thunderclaps, and the noises of winds and hailstorms and axles and pulleys, and the voices of trumpets and auloi and pan pipes and instruments of every kind, and even the sounds of dogs and sheep and birds; and his diction will consist entirely of imitation (mimêsis) by vocalisms and gestures.
Plato Republic 397a–b [336]
Plato has Socrates link in his critique the musician’s heavily mimetic score and “diction,” i.e. the text, to his physically mimetic skhêmata ‘gestures’ (or even ‘postures’); the musico-poetic and somatic elements of this phantasmagoric performance are thus complementary. Plato seems to have in mind here primarily virtuoso citharodes rather than auletes, as it would make little sense to say that auletes imitate the sound of the aulos. [337] But it was probably the auletes, both as agonistic soloists and dithyrambic choral accompanists, who took the lead in introducing novel bodily skhêmata into musical performance. To the old guard this trend represented a debasement of the ethical and somatic propriety of traditional mousikê, appealing to an audience of the lowest common denominator. [338] The comments of Aristotle are typical:
ὁ γὰρ θεατὴς φορτικὸς ὢν μεταβάλλειν εἴωθε τὴν μουσικήν, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς τεχνίτας τοὺς πρὸς αὐτὸν μελετῶντας αὐτούς τε ποιούς τινας ποιεῖ καὶ τὰ σώματα διὰ τὰς κινήσεις.
The listener, being a low-class man (phortikos), tends to alter (metaballein, with a play on metabolê ‘harmonic modulation’) the music, so that he makes the musical professionals (tekhnitai) who play for him become like himself in character and in respect to their bodies, through the movements (kinêseis) that they make.
Aristotle Politics 8.1341b15–19
The context of this passage strongly suggests that Aristotle is referring primarily to auletes, but citharodes are tekhnitai as well, and may be a secondary target of his critique. Pausanias 9.12.4, surely channeling an older, perhaps Peripatetic anti-populist source, says that Pronomus, a famous Theban aulete of the fifth century, whose playing was “most seductive to the masses” (ἐπαγωγότατα ἐς τοὺς πολλούς), “afforded an excess (perissôs) of pleasure (terpsis) to the theaters by means of his facial expression and the movement of his entire body” (λέγεται δὲ ὡς καὶ τοῦ προσώπου τῷ σχήματι καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ παντὸς κινήσει σώματος περισσῶς δή τι ἔτερπε τὰ θέατρα). [339] Looking beyond the critical frame of these comments, we gain objective insight into the intimate dynamic between music and body in performance. The corporeal hyperkinesis of the aulete “embodies” the sonic lability of the New Music, which was (in)famous for its modulations (metabolai) from one harmonia ‘mode’ to another. Pronomus actually designed a pair of auloi that would allow him to modulate harmoniai in the same composition without changing instruments (Pausanias 9.12.4, Athenaeus 14.631e; citharodes would later achieve similar effects by adding strings to the kithara). [340] At the same time, the moving body of the musician produces its own powerful terpsis, so powerful, Pausanias’ source suggests, that it threatens, in its visual “excess,” to transcend its supplemental role and overwhelm the primary pleasure of musical audition. If this theatralization of musical experience worried reactionaries, it was nevertheless, as Pausanius puts it, “most seductive to the masses” in the theaters.
We may suspect that in the wider context of his remarks Phillis of Delos was concerned to draw an invidious comparison between the relatively restrained movement of the old-time citharodes and the gestural excess of his performing contemporaries in the Hellenistic period. [341] His observation that old-time citharodes did not allow many facial movements is loaded; it suggests that a younger generation of citharodes did indulge these, as did auletes such as Pronomus, whose “facial skhêma,” singled out by Pausanius, must have been renowned. Given that the auloi and the strap that held them in place, the phorbeia, already occupied the player’s mouth, lips, and cheeks (for a memorable image of this see Dio Chrysostom 78.32), we should probably assume that his eyes, brows, and forehead carried the expressive burden; citharodes were freer to register emotion and character on their faces. [342] We saw that by Plato’s time citharodic music and performance were both mimetically charged affairs. Besides the passage from Persians just discussed, the textual fragments of Timotheus’ nomoi certainly suggest any number of opportunities for robust, full-body gesticulation. An anecdote about Timotheus’ first performance of the Nauplios, a piece that probably found its way into the repertoire of Nero centuries later (Suetonius Nero 39.3), indicates that the piece featured a tour-de-force tonal simulation of a sea storm (Hegesander Memoirs ap . Athenaeus 8.338a = FGH IV 416). It is easy to imagine that the dramatic effect of the music was visually enhanced through bodily synchronisms; recall that the “winds and hailstorms” mentioned by Plato came with mimetic skhêmata. The main narrative section of Persians, with its heaving descriptions of the sea battle at Salamis and its various laments of suffering barbarians, their bodies grotesquely abused and violated, clearly offered wide scope for extraordinary musical and bodily mimesis. [343] In light of Phillis’ remarks on facial kinêsis, it is notable that the text of Persians repeatedly isolates images of the dying barbarians’ faces and mouths, sucking in seawater and gnashing teeth (64–70, 85), spitting up teeth (91–93), contorting to sputter imprecations in pidgin Greek (146–149). Timotheus certainly scripted mimetically active “roles” for the auletes who accompanied the dithyrambic choruses for which he composed. In his Scylla (PMG 793–794), the eponymous monster was apparently portrayed by the aulete with an extraordinary degree of histrionic physicality, which scandalized the conservatives in the audience. Aristotle Poetics 26.1461b30–32 compares tragic actors who overdo their gestures to “the vulgar (phauloi) auletes who drag around the koruphaios ‘chorus leader’ if they are playing (the) Scylla.” [344]
As citharode, Timotheus himself impersonated the eponymous monster of his Cyclops, a nomos (PMG 781). The inherent irony of this “casting,” the notionally Apollonian citharode imitating the lawless, uncultured Polyphemus, inspired a dithyrambic parody by Philoxenus, in which the Cyclops was depicted incongruously singing to the kithara (PMG 815–827). [345]
The performance of the citharodic nomos is unlikely to have become less gestural and histrionic in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods, but rather more so. Indeed, Nero’s other great artistic pursuit, tragôidia ‘tragic acting plus solo singing’, was probably not so far from kitharôidia in its performative techniques and modes of self-presentation. As nomoi such as Persians suggest, tragic and citharodic mousikê had become increasingly assimilated since the later fifth century BCE. Nero is said to have himself composed a citharodic Oresteia and an Antigone; he performed an Attis or Bacchae at the Roman Juvenalia in 59 BCE. [346] Tragic costume significantly left its mark on citharodic skeuê. Dio Cassius 63.22.4 says that as citharoedus Nero wore the high platform shoes called kothurnoi that were favored by tragic actors. This would seem to be a post-Classical innovation, as citharodes depicted on Attic vases of the fifth century either go barefoot or are shod in low slippers. A variant of a late Aesopic logos has a thieving fox finding a tragic mask among the skeuê not of an actor (hupokritês), as other versions have it, but a citharode (Perry 27). We should not imagine a masked Nero citharoedus, but the interchangeability of citharode and actor in the Aesopic tradition reflects a more general conflation of the two tekhnai.

18. The Athletic Citharode

In the “Lucianic” dialogue Nero there is an extended assessment of Nero’s performance style, which stands, in fact, as our most detailed account of the normative aesthetic and practical protocols of citharodic performance, at least in the Imperial period. It indicates how significant a contribution dramatically timed physical movement and the spectacular deployment of the body made to the performer’s success. One of the interlocutors, Musonius, explains that Nero offset the weakness of his voice not only by skillful kithara-playing, but also by knowing “the right moment (kairos) to walk, stand, change position, and to match the swaying of his head to the melodies (melê)” (καιρὸς βαδίσαι καὶ στῆναι καὶ μεταστῆναι καὶ τὸ νεῦμα ἐξομοιῶσαι τοῖς μέλεσιν, 6). No dance steps per se here, but what Musonius describes amounts to a fairly sophisticated choreographed “routine” synched to the rhythmic and melodic contours of the music. [347] Nero invites derision from the audience, however, “if he should imitate his betters” (εἰ δὲ μιμοῖτο τοὺς κρείττονας, 7), not so much by emulating their musical pyrotechnics, but when he overestimates his histrionic prowess by attempting to strike and hold one of the more challenging poses of which the virtuosos are capable. An exemplary misstep is described:
νεύει μὲν γὰρ τοῦ μετρίου πλέον ξυνάγων τὸ πνεῦμα, ἐπ’ ἄκρων δὲ διίσταται τῶν ποδῶν ἀνακλώμενος ὥσπερ οἱ ἐπὶ τοῦ τροχοῦ. φύσει δ’ ἐρυθρὸς ὢν ἐρευθεῖ μᾶλλον, ἐμπιπραμένου αὐτῷ τοῦ προσώπου· τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ὀλίγον, καὶ οὐκ ἀποχρῶν που δή.
Drawing in his breath, he sways his head more than is appropriate, and stands, feet apart, on tiptoe, with his body arched back, like men on a trokhos ‘wheel of torture’. Although his natural complexion is ruddy, he reddens still more as his face burns up; his breath becomes short and not at all sufficient.
“Lucian” Nero 7
The writer presents us with an image of Nero being tortured, figuratively and literally; given that the emperor’s sadistic cruelty is elsewhere discussed at length (8–9), it has probably been chosen for its ironic value. But the sort of hyperextended, balletic pose that Nero is made to strike no doubt carried real mimetic significance vis-à-vis an actual text that was being sung by the citharodes of the day, if not by Nero himself.
This image suggests too the extent to which the dramatic posturing expected of citharodes could augment the already great physical challenge of executing flawless musical expression both on the kithara and in the vocal component of the song. In this way, kitharôidia was truly as much an athletic event as a musical display. It was an all-consuming physical labor like that experienced by agonistic sportsmen, testing to the limit the performer’s mental acuity and physical endurance. The athleticism of the citharodes may in part have motivated the recurring image of Heracles kitharôidos that we see on later-sixth-century Attic vessels (see Plate 6); in his stunning mastery of severe physical labors, Heracles could stand as both paradigmatic athlete-warrior and paradigmatic citharode. [348] Analogously, the citharode shown exerting himself on the eye-cup of Psiax mentioned above is visually echoed on the reverse of the cup by a powerful warrior shown falling on one knee, seemingly overcome by the extremes of battle (Plates 7a and b). The harsh training regimen of diet and exercise undertaken by Nero seems entirely justified in light of the athletic demands of performance. Some citharodes, such as the infibulated Hedymeles of Juvenal 6.379–380, practiced, or at least made a show of practicing, sexual abstinence. Aelian On the Nature of Animals 6.1 relates that the famous Hellenistic citharode Amoebus, who reputedly was paid a whole talent to play a concert in Athens (Athenaeus 14.623d), refrained from sexual intercourse with his wife “during the entire period of time leading up to his competition in an agôn” (παρὰ πάντα τὸν χρόνον, παρ’ ὃν ἀγωνιούμενος). [349] The anecdote clearly resembles stories about the celibacy of famous athletes. Another telling of it in Historical Miscellanies 3.30 is notably adjacent to an account of the abstinence practiced by one Iccus, an Olympic pentathlete. [350] True or not, what the Amoebus anecdote reflects is the conflation in the cultural imagination between agonistic athlete and musician, both of whom are able to exhibit almost superhuman physical and mental discipline. The conspicuous detail that Amoebus’ wife was hôraiotatê ‘utterly gorgeous’ only emphasizes the enormity of his self-control, while also hinting at the sexual glamour that is the flip side of this star’s vaunted celibacy.
John Herington has estimated that a Timothean nomos would have taken between 35 and 40 minutes to perform. [351] It is indeed difficult to overestimate the grueling demands put upon the citharode’s vocal purity, manual dexterity, rhythmical evenness, psychological concentration, and corporal stamina during this long and intense interval, with all its bravura turns of bodily exertion, such as the one that so tortured Nero. The sheer weight of the kithara, which citharodes are occasionally depicted showily hefting upwards in the vase paintings (Plates 1 and 10), must by itself have caused enormous strain, even with the assistance of the support strap. Yet the citharode was expected to maintain perfect composure throughout the performance. Roman sources indicate that both audience and judges evaluated competitive citharodes not only on their musical execution, but also on their ability to project an aesthetically pleasing image of bodily self-control. The performance of a consummately untalented citharode sketched in Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.60 is marred as much by the “exceedingly graceless movement of his body” as his harsh voice (vocem mittat acerbissimam cum turpissimo corporis motu). Tacitus provides rather specific indications of what constituted the graceful somatic comportment demanded of citharodes in his description of Nero’s first appearance at his eponymous games in Rome; again, we get a visceral sense of the grueling physical requirements of agonistic performance: “He enters the theater, obeying all the rules of the cithara [i.e. the citharodic contest]: that he not sit down when tired, that he only wipe off perspiration with the garb that he wore for his outfit, and that he not allow the audience to see any unseemly discharge from his mouth or nostrils” (ingreditur theatrum, cunctis citharae legibus obtemperans, ne fessus resideret, ne sudorem nisi ea, quam indutui gerebat, veste deterget, ut nulla oris aut narium excrementa viserent, Annals 16.4.3). [352] Apparently, citharodes were not permitted to make use of a handkerchief while they performed, as it was not officially part of the skeuê (here called the indutus). For those performing outdoors, in Mediterranean heat and in full concert attire, perspiration control must have been a serious issue, one that the rules of the agôn did not make any easier to handle.
Here we should note the emphasis on the integrity of the citharode’s head and face, which are privileged objects of attention in the remarks of Phillis and “Lucian” as well. In late Archaic and early Classical vase paintings, the faces of performing citharodes tend to show ecstatic yet decorously controlled expressions, with the head tilted back and the mouth open in song. The Berlin Painter’s citharode provides an excellent example, as does the Brygos Painter’s (Plate 1). So iconic was this “sublime” skhêma that, as the anecdotal tradition reported, the reputed founder of agonistic kitharôidia, Terpander, actually met his death frozen in it: while performing at the Carneia festival, Terpander, “singing and with mouth agape in song” (ᾄδοντος καὶ κεχηνότος πρὸς τὴν ᾠδήν), choked on a fig hurled by someone in the audience—presumably not a hostile gesture meant to show displeasure, as produce tossing sometimes is, but the misguided attempt of the audience member to reciprocate symbolically his pleasure in Terpander’s “sweet song.” [353] The controlled, artful presentation of head and face was presumably all the more critical after the Classical period, when, as we saw, the dramatic play of facial expressions became an increasingly integral effect of citharodic performance. After the mimeticizing turn of the New Music, citharodes would have allowed themselves to put on a variety of stylized faces, even outlandish ones, but with that freedom came the need for still greater discipline and measure. Overdone gestures made a bad impression, as “Lucian” illustrates with Nero’s inappropriate head swaying; even in the intensely histrionic citharodic culture of the Empire, there was a limit (to metrion) that could be easily overstepped, taking the performer from the sublime to the ridiculous or the grotesque.

19. Neronian Citharodic Politics

Let us return to the more fundamental question of the peculiar logic of Nero’s desire to pursue, specifically, a citharodic career. It will not suffice to discount that desire as but one more expression of Nero’s excessive popularitas, his pathological rage for universal recognition (Suetonius Nero 53). It was that in part, but other, more established performance arts would have offered surer means of satisfying his narcissism, in Rome at least—acting, of course, or singing and dancing, which an earlier self-obsessed exhibitionist, Caligula, had planned to practice professionally (Suetonius Caligula 54). Nero eventually tried his hand at all of these, but kitharôidia was his self-professed τέχνιον from beginning to end. Rather, we should understand Nero’s practice of kitharôidia as a multivalent expression of his complex relationship to Greek culture. [354] On the one hand, it was driven by an immature, make-believe version of philhellenism, as was his early interest in chariot racing (Tacitus Annals 14.14); his dream was to dazzle discerning festival audiences in Greece, like the star virtuosos he idolized, a dream he realized in typically over-the-top fashion by undertaking his tour of the Achaean agônes. On the other hand, it was born of a more profound understanding of the political resonances of the art in Greek history and myth, its intimate relations to power and social order, which Nero was intent to exploit in the making of his own principate. Not surprisingly, any such musico-political sophistication is occluded or distorted by the ancient sources, for whom Nero’s citharodic endeavors represented at best a tyrant’s aberrant whim, at worst a lunatic perversion of his status and his office. Modern scholarship has generally followed these sources without due criticism. [355] While it would be misguided to rationalize too deeply the obviously mixed motives that led Nero to stages in Naples and beyond, the cultural political tradition of kitharôidia nevertheless provides a valid lens through which to detect some method to his apparent musical madness. That tradition offered the young emperor, as both patron and performer, an eclectic range of mythical and historical role models to emulate and scenarios to recreate as he formulated his personal vision of a “citharodic politics.” Neronian citharodic politics were, of course, self-serving—the augmentation of “real” imperial power by the cultural star power of the citharode—but also, I would argue, genuinely communal in intent, an attempt, unintentionally ironic as it might have been, to bring Rome and the Empire to order through the ancient Apollonian-Orphic-Amphionic potential of kitharôidia to effect social harmony and good government.
As to the latter design, Nero’s summoning of Terpnus to Rome was, as argued in Section 11.2, a conscious reenactment of the mythico-historical scenario of Terpander’s summons to Sparta, where he ended civic discord with his nomoi. More obviously, an essential component of Nero’s political self-fashioning was his identification with Apollo kitharôidos, the divine exemplar of musical ideals both aesthetic and sociopolitical, and the deity whom a mortal citharode such as Timotheus could implore to bring peace, prosperity, and eunomia to the city in which he performed his nomoi (Persians 237–240). [356] Seneca promotes this identification, with its full freight of political, even cosmological connotations, as early as the Apocolocyntosis, his satire of Claudius, probably composed around 54 BCE, in which Apollo sings to the cithara of the coming of Nero while the Fates, figured as Muses—Lachesis wears a wreath of “Pierian laurel”—spin out the Golden Age that will be his principate:
The sisters were amazed at their material. The common wool was changed to a precious metal; a Golden Age spun down on the beautiful thread. There was no end to it … Phoebus was present and, assisting with his singing and delighting in the times to come, now joyously moved his plectrum, now joyously handed them their wool. He kept them focused on his singing and distracted them from their toil. And while they praised highly their brother’s cithara and his songs (carmina), their hands spun more than usual and their work, praised [by Apollo], transcended human destinies. “Take nothing away, Fates,” said Phoebus. “Let him surpass the temporal limits of mortal life, he who is like me in looks and like me in grace, and inferior to me in neither song nor voice. He will offer an age of happiness to the weary and he will break the silence of the laws (legumque silentium rumpit) … Such a Caesar is at hand, such a Nero will Rome now behold. His radiant face gleams with a gentle brightness and his comely neck with flowing hair.
Seneca Apocolocyntosis 4.1 [357]
Seneca has the god himself do the panegyric heavy lifting. Apollo both prophesies and ratifies the new world order that will come to pass under Nero, while anointing him to be his earthly semblant, his uncanny equal in physical aspect and “song and voice,” that is, in kitharôidia. Appropriately, these ordinances take the form of carmina sung to the cithara. Apollo thus sets a practical model for Nero’s praiseworthy performance of citharodic song even as he cosmically grounds and divinely authorizes it. The phrase legum silentium rumpit ‘he will break the silence of the laws’ refers primarily to the fact that Claudius “had seriously encroached on normal legal activities,” a situation that Nero promised to rectify. [358] But in the word leges ‘laws’ we may hear too an allusion to the common Greek play on the meanings of nomos as ‘law’ and as the main genre of song performed by citharodes. The politico-legal and the musical are thus implicitly conflated. As princeps, Nero will give new “voice” to the laws; as citharoedus, he will more literally give voice to nomoi in Rome, where previously they have been “silent,” i.e. not heard and appreciated. It is likely, I think, that Seneca initially suggested the prestigious Hellenic cultural precedents in which his young charge could clothe his naked yearning for the concert stage in legitimacy, social responsibility, and even sublimity.
It must be significant too that the poet of the Praise of Piso, a panegyric of the charismatic, philhellenic anti-Neronian conspirator Gaius Calpurnius Piso, is at pains to emphasize the Apollonian mandate behind Piso’s own accomplished, yet amateur lyre playing:
sive chelyn digitis et eburno verbere pulsas,
dulcis Apollinea sequitur testudine cantus,
et te credibile est Phoebo didicisse magistro.
Or, if you strike the lyre (chelys) with fingers and ivory plectrum, a sweet song follows on the Apollonian lyre (testudo), and one would believe that you learned [lyric music] with Phoebus as your teacher.
Praise of Piso 166–168
The praise is bold: Apollo himself was Piso’s magister (168); his lyre is Apollo’s (167; cf. 171). It is likely also tendentious. This figuring of Piso as Rome’s premier Apollonian lyre player would seem to be a deliberate challenge to his rival Nero’s own outsized claims to identification with Apollo kitharôidos. The poet also compares Piso’s (privately, modestly practiced) lyric enthusiasms to those of Achilles, who, secluded in his tent, sang to his lyre in between battles (Iliad 9.184–191). The implication is that Piso knows how to balance the martial and the musical, while Nero, singing in public to the cithara, does not.
As further subtext to the Piso-Achilles identification, we might read a swipe at Nero’s own attempts to rehabilitate Paris as a model epic hero. Such rehabilitation may have had a rhetorical purpose specifically concerned with the emperor’s own kitharôidia. In the Iliad, Paris is notoriously hedonistic, indolent, and given too much to music making. His brother Hector warns him that his kitharis ‘lyre playing’ will not assist him in battle (3.54). Probably as early as the Classical period, the lyre of Paris had become a symbol of effeminate and immoral musical culture, the ideological other to Achilles’ manly, virtuous lyre. [359] In Nero’s epic Troica, however, Paris appears as the fortissimus ‘bravest’ of the Trojans, who “defeated everyone in an agonistic competition at Troy (in Troiae agonali certamine), even Hector himself” (Servius ad Vergil Aeneid 5.370). Nero was likely following the account presented in the Alexander of Euripides, in which Paris returns unrecognized to Troy 20 years after Priam had him exposed. As the Hypothesis to that play relates, he returns just as the agônes that Hecuba had established in his honor two decades before are being celebrated. Participating incognito in his own agônes, Paris is the victor in the racing and pentathlon competitions (and probably boxing as well), and thus angers the aristocratic Deiphobus, who threatens to kill him. (According to Servius, Nero chose the more melodramatic option of making Hector the violently aggrieved sore loser; in Euripides fr. 62a.11–12 it is Hector who attempts to calm a hot-headed Deiphobus.)
Nero’s attraction to Paris was surely multifaceted. [360] But two parallels stand out: one, Paris was a lyre player; two, he competed successfully at his own agônes, as Nero did at the Neronia in 65 BCE. It is probable that Nero both recited excerpts from the Troica at this festival—perhaps even the part dedicated to Paris—and made his Roman debut as a citharode (Tacitus Annals 16.4, with Dio Cassius 62.29.1). Did these two exemplary aspects of Paris’ vita overlap in the Troica? Although Paris does not seem to have participated in mousikoi agônes in the Greek tradition, nor does Servius make any explicit reference to it, could Nero have made Paris into an exemplary citharodic agônistês? Nero was probably not the first to do so. Tourists to Troy in the time of Alexander the Great, and probably still in Nero’s day, were given the opportunity to view the lura of Paris (Plutarch On the Fortune of Alexander 331d, Life of Alexander 15.9), a fact that suggests that the lyric persona of this problematically glamorous hero had assumed a star quality that transcended Hector’s brief, derogatory mention of his kitharis in the Iliad, as well as the later defamation of it by culturally conservative elites. [361]

20. Augustan Antecedents

As a new princeps, Nero had claimed that he would follow the example of Augustus in his rule (Suetonius Nero 10.1). Accordingly, his emulation of Apollo kitharôidos found an intermediary model in Augustan Kulturpolitik. Recall his claims that cantus Apolloni sacros ‘[citharodic] songs were sacred to Apollo’ and that statues of citharodic Apollo adstare non modo Graecis in urbibus sed Romana apud templa ‘stood not only in Greek cities but also in Roman temples’ (Tacitus Annals 14.14.1). The rhetoric of this latter claim is savvier than Tacitus acknowledges. Nero legitimates his musical practice by appealing to the grounding role of Apollo kitharôidos in the organization of the Greek polis as well as in the symbolic repertoire of Hellenizing cult in Rome (in both cases a role made materially manifest as statuary, which is how a majority of Romans would be most familiar with the culture of kitharôidia). The Romanum templum Nero must surely have had foremost in mind was the Augustan temple of Apollo Palatinus, dedicated in 28 BCE, in whose cella was installed the impressive statue of Apollo citharoedus attributed to Scopas, an image that stood at the heart of the Augustan building program as a conspicuous monument to the divinely favored political stability and consonance supporting the ascendant imperial order. [362] Propertius had likely interpreted this statue as a symbol of the peaceful harmony that Rome would enjoy thanks to Octavian’s victory at Actium and the definitive conclusion of civil war: bella satis cecini: citharam iam poscit Apollo | victor ‘Enough have I sung of wars; now victorious Apollo demands the cithara’ (4.6.69–70). [363]
But there was another statue of Apollo, this one holding the lyre, in the portico before the temple, its maker unknown. It is possible that this Apollo bore some physical resemblance to Augustus. [364] This is highly speculative territory, but it is worth exploring a little more, for if Augustus had—at the purely symbolic level, of course—conspicuously identified himself with the musical Apollo, he would have provided a richly significant exemplar with which Nero would have in turn strongly identified, in all his characteristic excess. [365] The statue is described by Propertius in the same poem in which he describes the Scopas statue in the cella: hic equidem Phoebo visus mihi pulchrior ipso | marmoreus tacita carmen hiare lyra (“And there [in the temple’s portico] I saw one who seemed to me more beautiful even than Phoebus himself, a marble figure with parted lips as if singing to his silent lyre,” 2.31.5–6). [366] The ecphrasis is enigmatic. Is Propertius merely expressing the rhetorical conceit that this splendid artifice is even more beautiful than the real thing? Or is the implication that this is Octavian represented in the guise of musical Apollo, and as such, Apollo is made even more beautiful than usual? A scholiast to Horace Epistles 1.3.17 says that in the Palatine library Octavian “had erected an effigy of himself in the garb and stature of Apollo” (sibi posuerat effigiem habitu ac statura Apollinis). Could this be the same statue that Propertius sees now in the portico? Or is the latter modeled on the library statue? We cannot be sure what connection, if any, existed between them. [367] In any case, the Horatian scholiast indicates that Octavian did in fact promote the visual identification of himself with Apollo within the privileged space of the Palatine; further, the word habitus might suggest that this was Apollo wearing some version of his familiar citharodic raiment.
We do not hear whether Nero ever had a statue of himself as citharode erected publicly in Rome, although Suetonius Nero 24 suggests that he probably did so in Greece. After his return from Greece in 67 BCE, it was said that Nero placed in his bedchambers (in cubiculis) the crowns he had won as well as statues of himself in citharoedicus habitus—monuments of victory he had presumably collected during his winning tour (Suetonius Nero 25.2). Given Nero’s eagerness by the middle of the 60s to publicize his citharodic persona, it is curious that he kept these statues stored away as personal souvenirs in private rooms, out of the public gaze he habitually courted. It is true that such intimate hoarding of self-congratulatory images seems to express neatly the pathological self-obsession we associate with Nero, but perhaps too neatly—the story could be nothing more than a gossipy comment on his narcissism.
Yet Suetonius claims that Nero had coins struck with the likeness of these statues, which, if true, would mean that Nero had devised a way to disseminate his winning citharodic image further and more effectively than if he had simply displayed the statues in the urbs. We do not, however, have any Roman coins bearing the explicit image of Nero citharoedus. Suetonius might have mistaken Nero for Apollo citharoedus, who does appear on a number of Neronian coin types between 62 and 65 BCE. Of course, such confusion was no doubt the effect intended by the design of coins such as those showing on the obverse Nero wearing a radiate crown, evoking Apollo the Sun god, and Apollo citharoedus on the reverse, an arrangement which easily invites the assimilation of the two figures. [368] Hellenic coinage of the time immediately following Nero’s liberation of Greece in 66 more directly conflates Nero and Apollo citharoedus. For instance, the city of Nicopolis in Epirus, which was founded by Augustus to commemorate his Actian victory of 31 BCE (Dio Cassius 51.1.3) and refounded by Nero as Nerononicopolis, minted coins showing “Nero Apollo the Ktistês ‘Founder’” playing the kithara. [369] As the caption indicates, the Greek citizens of Nicopolis possessed the cultural heritage to appreciate and indeed the semiotic savoir-faire to articulate verbally and visually the ideological bridge between Nero’s musical and political interventions in Achaea. That nuanced appreciation is signaled as well by the reverse images of the two preserved examples of these coins. One shows Nike, in commemoration of the emperor’s citharodic victories in Greece (and an allusion to the name of the city); the other shows Eleutheria ‘Freedom’, in commemoration of the liberation of Greece. These coins neatly condense the expansive ideological underpinnings of Nero’s citharodizing in Greece: his victorious kitharôidia brings with it an Apollonian mandate to restore a “foundational” order and prosperity to the liberated cities of Imperial Greece, in particular to the refounded city of Nicopolis itself. [370]
A curious piece of anecdotal testimony preserved in Suetonius Nero 12.3–4 also suggests Nero’s conscious emulation of a “lyric Augustus.” When Nero was honorarily awarded the crown of victory in kitharôidia at the first Neronia in 60 BCE, he ordered it to be carried off to a statue of Augustus (ferrique ad Augusti statuam iussit). Suetonius does not say what statue of Augustus this is, but the one in the portico may be our best candidate. [371] It would certainly be the one most likely to be adorned with a citharodic crown, however incongruent such a crown may have been with the statue’s original symbolic ethos. If so, we may further speculate on the significance of Nero’s gesture. First, it plays as political theater, a conspicuous bid to legitimate his own controversial investment in the popular music culture of Greece by linking it to the “white marble,” classicizing Hellenism of the Augustan past and the more sober program of cultural politics in which that Hellenism played a critical role, one so well embodied in the image of Augustus as a restrained Apollo—the epitome of all that is cultured, moderate, harmonious—holding not the professional’s kithara, but the noble amateur’s lyre, and a gracefully silent one at that. [372] Indeed, Propertius seems determined to overdetermine the obvious fact that the statue is mute: the lyra is tacita, the player’s lips are parted (hiare), but the carmen has not yet begun. The music here is entirely potential, symbolically pure, undefiled by the base facts of sound and performance.
By contrast, Propertius in the same poem writes that the statue of Apollo citharoedus within the temple, the one supposedly sculpted by Scopas, “in his long vestment sounds out his songs” (in longa carmina ueste sonat, 2.31.16). In these differing representations as interpreted by Propertius we may detect a reflex of long-standing ideological distinctions made by Greek elites between the string music of professional citharodes, who play the kithara in public, and cultured amateurs, who play the lura in private (Nero’s musica occulta). It is acceptable that Apollo still be represented in the traditional manner of a performing citharode, but a musically figured “Augustan Apollo” should be shown only in his “lyric” aspect, and in a heavily abstracted, symbolic style at that.
At the same time, in light of his stormy history of familial psychodrama, it is difficult to resist interpreting Nero’s seemingly deferential coronation of Augustus as a gesture of profound Oedipal ambivalence. Is Nero the filial son seeking to win the approval of Augustus the pater durus ‘strict father’ for his own musical ambitions? Or is he provocatively flaunting his Greek “decadence” before him? Or, and this may be the most likely scenario, is he passive-aggressively remaking the lyric Augustus in his own image, literalizing, and so vulgarizing, making a travesty of, his purely symbolic musicality, casting him in the model role of the real-world competitive citharode he himself aspires to be? [373]

21. Evolving Models of Patronage

Augustus offered no model patronage of kitharôidia. As we have seen, it is Nero who deserves the credit for introducing the medium on a mass scale to Rome. Nero does take his place, however, in a long line of autocratic Greek patrons of kitharôidia. Since the early Archaic period, tyrants and leading men had sought to “possess” the illustrious medium in order to bolster their own cultural prestige and that of the cities under their control, as well as to foster order and docility among their citizens. The earliest and most famous tyrannical cultivator of kitharôidia was Periander of Corinth, whose patronage of Arion of Methymna, both “a citharode second to none of the citharodes in his day,” and a composer of dithyrambs (Herodotus 1.23), was the stuff of legend. Herodotus seems to imply that Arion served as a public organizer of musical culture in Corinth, as Terpander had in Sparta; in other narrative traditions Arion is figured as a highly remunerated private entertainer to the tyrant. In the words of Lucian, “Periander enjoyed Arion and often sent for him to perform on account of his tekhnê, and Arion became a rich man thanks to the tyrant” (ἔχαιρεν αὐτῷ καὶ πολλάκις μετεπέμπετο αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῇ τέχνῃ, ὁ δὲ πλουτήσας παρὰ τοῦ τυράννου, Dialogues of the Sea Gods 5.2). One scholar has argued that Nero may have “tried to reinvent publicly a significant part of his private life in the image” of Periander, a deeply ambivalent figure, renowned as a wise and cultured leader as well as a violent, amoral transgressor of law and custom. [374] The Corinthian tyrant may have thus presented to Nero a special model of citharodic patronage. Nero privately enjoyed the music of Terpnus at dinner (Suetonius Nero 20.1), while also encouraging the public performance of kitharôidia in the city by favorites such as Menecrates, on whom he lavished riches (Nero 30.2). As a performing musician, however, Nero would have identified with Arion, who remained a byword for virtuoso kitharôidia well into the late Empire (e.g. Julian Oration 3.111). [375]
The Hellenistic age offered models of more intimate, indeed eroticized, relationships between royal powers and star citharodes; the gap between patron and celebrity musician, which Nero would radically close, was beginning to narrow. As we saw in Section 6.2, the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas romantically pursued the citharode Aristocles (Athenaeus 8.603e). We looked too at the possible ties between the female musician Glauce and Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Alexandria, whose wife, Arsinoe Philadelphus, is celebrated in Posidippus AB 37 as a patron of the ancient Lesbian citharodic tradition—essentially a new Periander. And Berenice II, if that is her likeness in Boscoreale, cannily appropriated the visual glamour of the citharode to enrich her own royal persona.
During the late Classical and Hellenistic periods, citharodes themselves became more adept at negotiating volatile, shifting interstate politics, and at marketing their services, musical and otherwise, to rulers established and aspirant who understood the benefits of strategically deploying their star power. [376] The trendsetter in this was Aristonicus, an Olynthian citharode, whose career was distinguished by a remarkable series of high-level patronal engagements and exploits; he was a kind of Zelig of fourth-century geopolitics. When we first hear of Aristonicus he is working in the service of the Rhodian mercenary general Memnon in 353 BCE, using his talent and celebrity to gather critical tactical information for his patron (cf. Section 6.3):
Memnon decided to make war on Leucon, the tyrant of the Bosporus. He wanted to assess the size of Leucon’s forces and the population of the country, so he sent Archibiades of Byzantium on a trireme as his ambassador to Leucon, on the pretense of arranging a friendly alliance with him. And with him he sent the Olynthian citharode Aristonicus, the most celebrated of all the citharodes at that time among the Greeks, in order that wherever they landed on their journey, when the citharode put on a public concert (epideixis) and the inhabitants excitedly crowded to the theaters to hear him, the size of the population would become perfectly clear to the ambassador.
Polyaenus Strategems 5.44.1
There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the story; Memnon is cleverly following in a tradition of capitalizing on citharodic charisma. But the idea of a citharode’s serving officially as the international goodwill ambassador of a powerful man, or indeed as his “secret agent,” is unheard of before Aristonicus. The next we hear of Aristonicus, he is playing alongside the famous aulete Dorion at the public festivities in Macedon celebrating Philip’s victory at Chaeroneia in 338 BCE (Theopompus FGrH 115 F 236 = Athenaeus 10.435b); he has traded up for a new and more powerful patron. That Aristonicus hailed from Olynthus, a city that Philip had razed ten years earlier, indicates the way that lucrative musico-political alliances transcended ethnic loyalties in this cosmopolitan age of commodified celebrity. Most strikingly, we last find the citharode out on campaign with Alexander in Asia in 328, where he is killed fighting for his life as a soldier in a battle at Zaraspia, having unwisely moved too far from his true vocation in music. As Arrian Anabasis 4.16.6–7 puts it, Aristonicus died “not as you would expect of a citharode” (οὐ κατὰ κιθαρῳδόν), but as a “noble warrior” (ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός). Alexander later honored him with a statue erected at Delphi that portrayed the citharode holding both a spear and kithara (Plutarch On the Fortune of Alexander 2.334f)—a fitting tribute to this ambitious social and musical operator, whose career was so long intertwined with those of great military men.
While his career may have been particularly illustrious, Aristonicus’ exploits were not unique. Antigonus I, following the example of his Macedonian predecessors, employed the greatest citharode of his day, Amoebus, whose performance at a wedding in Corinth served to distract the citizens while Antigonus seized control of their city (Polyaenus Strategems 4.6.1). From the second century BCE we have fascinating epigraphical evidence of a citharode named Menecles serving quite literally as a musical ambassador from Teos to the Cretan cities of Knossos and Priansos. Menecles, accompanied by one Herodotus, who does not seem to have been a musician, visited Crete with the intention of requesting Cretan recognition of the asulia ‘inviolability’ of Teos. [377] In honorary decrees set up in Teos, the magistrates and citizens of Knossos and Priansos praised Menecles’ public performance μετὰ κιθάρας ‘with the kithara’ of (once controversially innovative, now indisputably classic) nomoi by the New Music citharodes Timotheus and Polyeidus, as well as works by “our ancient poets,” presumably canonical Cretan composers. [378] Strategic concert programming, this—Menecles knew how to please the patriotic sensibilities of local audiences, as well as how to wow them with the virtuoso music of the prestigious classics. The success of his citharodic diplomacy is well attested by the two inscriptions. [379]
Another politically engaged citharode of note, closer in time to Nero, was Anaxenor of Magnesia on the Maeander, whose fame was such that he was honored with a bronze statue in the Magnesian theater, its inscription lauding his “epic” talent: the man has the “godlike voice” of a Demodocus (Strabo 14.1.41; cf. Section 5 above). Anaxenor’s celebrity led him to develop a close relationship with Nero’s great-grandfather, Mark Antony:
Ἀναξήνορα δὲ τὸν κιθαρῳδὸν ἐξῆρε μὲν καὶ τὰ θέατρα, ἀλλ’ ὅτι μάλιστα Ἀντώνιος, ὅς γε καὶ τεττάρων πόλεων ἀπέδειξε φορολόγον στρατιώτας αὐτῷ συστήσας.
The theaters exalted Anaxenor the citharode, but Antony exalted him most of all, since he even appointed him revenue collector from four cities, arranging a bodyguard of soldiers for him.
Strabo 14.1.41
Anaxenor had parlayed his theatrical successes into something more than lucrative patronage; Antony made him into a quasi-autonomous mini-potentate overseeing Imperial business across an interstate network of cities. Indeed, one would imagine that his political responsibilities overshadowed his musical career. (Or did he somehow combine tribute collecting and concertizing?) Strabo says that in his home city of Magnesia the citizens “clad him in purple as one consecrated to Zeus Sosipolis (the ‘City-Savior’), as the γραπτὴ εἰκών ‘painted image’ in the agora shows.” That elaborate monuments to Anaxenor commanded prime real estate in both the theater and the agora demonstrates how deeply the city was invested in this citharode’s prestige, enhanced as it was by his intimacy with Antony; so too does his being adorned in the purple of Zeus Sosipolis, whose cult was among the most important in Magnesia. There was probably a citharodic agôn attached to the local festival of this deity, but the painting would seem to commemorate the appointment of Anaxenor to some distinct honorary position within the cult rather than the mere recognition of a festival victory. (Could his association with Zeus Sosipolis reflect his own reputation as a city-savior? The ideal of the citharode as a musical protector of the polis goes back to Terpander and the accounts of his rescuing Sparta from destructive strife.) There is no question that Antony’s exuberant, wide-eyed philhellenism—his direct participation in living Greek culture(s) high and low, in contrast to the idealized Hellenizing of an Octavian—was an important model for Nero; his ancestor’s political manipulation of citharodic prestige in the case of Anaxenor might well have nourished his own vision of an Imperial politics of kitharôidia. [380]
Finally, worthy of mention is another politically active musician of the Antonian period, Theomnestus, a psaltês ‘harper’, who was a rival for power to Nicias, a tyrant of Cos. Strabo 14.2.19, which is our only mention of him, supplies no further details about his activity, but the fact that at least some of the citizens of Cos endorsed the prospect of a tyrant-harpist suggests how receptive Greeks, especially those in the East, where Anaxenor too held sway, would have been toward a princeps citharoedus.

22. Nero’s Catastrophic Kitharôidia

22.1 Trojan music

Nero never made it to the Greek East—where two of his revenant impostors would, however, make their rounds—nor to his romanticized Alexandria, another haunt of Antony. By all accounts, however, the Greek masses in Naples and Achaea, like the urban plebs in Rome, eagerly applauded Nero’s appearance before them in his grand skeuê, neither knowing nor caring that they were witnessing a “public disgrace” (Tacitus Annals 16.4.4). But despite all attempts to legitimate and ennoble his activity by appeals to validating precedents from myth and history, Roman and, still more so, Greek intellectuals and cultural elites who knew and appreciated the myth and history of kitharôidia reacted with horror to the idea of the citharodic emperor. For them, Nero not only transgressed standards of Roman decorum and compromised his principate with his show business; more so, what seemed to them his crass bid for citharodic stardom at the utter expense of his political authority also denigrated the classic ideal of kitharôidia itself as a force for civic order and stability. Nero had wanted to claim this ideal for himself. These informed critics in their turn used exemplary models of sociopolitically normative kitharôidia to undercut the viability of any such claim, figuring Nero as a citharodic anti-ideal.
A rich expression of such critique is to be found in Dio Chrysostom’s oration delivered to the Alexandrian populace (32.60). Dio asks the Alexandrians, who are notorious both for their devotion to citharodes and their political volatility, if they “want to be seen as having the same disease (νόσος) as Nero.” The orator continues, “His excessive involvement (ἡ λίαν ἐμπειρία) in and enthusiasm (σπουδή) for this [the music of the kithara] did not profit that man at all. Indeed, how much better would it be to imitate the present ruler, who is attentive to culture (παιδεία) and reason (λόγος)? Will you not disregard that shameful and immoderate lust for popular acclaim (φιλοτιμία)?” Dio’s comparison of the Alexandrians qua spectators/citizens to Nero qua citharode/emperor flatters neither. Both are wildly devoted to kitharôidia, but in its lowest, most sensationalistic form, one that sacrifices the spiritual nobility of the music to the base φιλοτιμία of its practitioners. Accordingly, Dio suggests, in both cases the traditional alliance between the kithara and political order, which goes back to myths of Amphion in Thebes and legends of Terpander in Sparta, curing the Spartans of their debilitating stasis, has been traumatically ruptured; the purely spectacular dimension of kitharôidia has overridden its cosmic ordering function. Nero, citharode and king, suffered from disease, νόσος; Dio may be ironically alluding to a variant of the Terpander story in which the civil strife of the Lacedaemonians is figured as illness or plague (Aelian Historical Miscellanies 12.50; Boethius On Music 1.1), with the implication that Nero, compromised both politically and musically, could not cure himself of his own corruption in either respect. Likewise, the Alexandrians, obsessed by a star-driven, spectacular citharodic culture with little respect for nomoi (musical and political) are, as audiences, “gluttonous listeners” (32.62), and, as a civic body, are lacking of discipline (eutaxia), gentleness (praotês), social concord (homonoia), and civic order (kosmos politeias, 32.37). These were the very goods guaranteed by the healthy citharodic culture of ancient Sparta, with which the orator explicitly contrasts unruly, present-day Alexandria (32.60; cf. 32.67, 69). [381] By way of cure, Dio urges the populace to emulate the current emperor, probably Vespasian, who successfully balances good culture in the Classical tradition, paideia, with rational government, logos. [382] It is possible that Dio has in mind too Nero’s irrational wish to surrender his rule and ply his tekhnê in Alexandria (Dio Cassius 63.27.2); the combination of political irresponsibility and “immoderate φιλοτιμία” expressed by it resonates perfectly with the orator’s critical vision of the Alexandrian polis and the Roman emperor.
Implicit in a dramatic event prominently placed in both the Tacitean and Suetonian accounts of the Naples performance is another critical resonance of citharodic myth. Suetonius writes, “Even though the theater was suddenly rocked by the tremor of an earthquake, Nero did not cease singing until he completed the nomos he had begun” (Nero 20.1). Tacitus, somewhat less dramatically, has it that the theater collapsed after the completion of the performance, when audience and performer had gone: “There an event occurred, which many thought ill-omened, but which he took to be a sign of providence and divine favor: after the people who had been in attendance exited, the theater collapsed, empty and without harming anyone.” [383] Putting to one side questions about the exact timing and details of the earthquake, southern Italy is geologically unstable, and a serious tremor probably did occur at some point around the time Nero played in the Neapolitan theater, perhaps even during his engagement there. But in the traditions hostile to Nero on which Tacitus and Suetonius both draw, the earthquake could only have been seen in a meaningfully negative light. Specifically, it presented a distorted reflex of two primal citharodic myths, that of Orpheus and Amphion. Nature’s apparent response to Nero’s performance and the destruction of the theater’s walls invert respectively the myths of these exemplary proto-citharodes. Whereas Orpheus uses his music to control and cultivate wild nature, Nero’s serves as a sort of provocation to it, paradoxically rousing its irrational, violent force; whereas the sounds of Amphion’s lyre move the stones that will form the walls of Thebes, his music making serving as the founding act of political kosmos, the kithara of the princeps, who should stand as master of the political order in the Imperial world, instead precipitates the disorderly ruin of walls, of edifice, of that which symbolizes civic structure and political integrity. [384] That Nero so radically misinterprets the event—to him it is not a bad omen, as the majority of people (plerique) would have it, but an act of divine providence—even commemorating the “lucky” event in song, as Tacitus records, only reinforces the mythopoetic irony of his situation. There was also the historical coincidence, whose incidental symbolism may have been exploited by hostile critics, that Augustus had once restored an earthquake-damaged Naples; the penteteric games of the Neapolitan Sebasta had been instituted in honor of this service. Augustus had built the city up, structurally and culturally; Nero, by contrast, brought it again to ruin.
Dio Chrysostom, in the same speech discussed earlier in this section, similarly deploys the myths of Orpheus and Amphion to criticize what he sees as the debased citharodic culture of Alexandria, with its rabid fans and star citharodes “born of Amousia herself” (32.61). Of the latter performers he says:
ὁ μὲν οὖν Ἀμφίων πρὸς τὸ μέλος, ὥς φασιν, ἤγειρε καὶ ἐπύργου τὴν πόλιν· οὗτοι δὲ ἀνατρέπουσι καὶ καταλύουσιν. καὶ μὴν ὅ γε Ὀρφεὺς τὰ θηρία ἡμέρου καὶ μουσικὰ ἐποίει διὰ τῆς ᾠδῆς· οὗτοι δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀνθρώπους ὄντας, ἀγρίους πεποιήκασι καὶ ἀπαιδεύτους.
Amphion to the accompaniment of his music, as the story goes, built up and fortified the walls of his city, but these citharodes overturn and destroy theirs. And surely Orpheus tamed the wild beasts and made them musically cultured through his song, yet these here have made you—human beings!—savage and uncultured.
Dio Chrysostom 32.62
Dio does not explicitly enlist Nero in this gang of politically deleterious citharodes, but his name, as we saw, is invoked as a paradigm, indeed an object of imitation for such perversely destructive music making.
We see a related casting of Nero citharoedus as an anti-Amphion in Dio Cassius’ telling of the infamous rumor, as Tacitus Annals 15.39.3 calls it, that Nero sang while Rome burned in 64 BCE:
πάντων δὲ δὴ τῶν ἄλλων οὕτω διακειμένων, καὶ πολλῶν καὶ ἐς αὐτὸ τὸ πῦρ ὑπὸ τοῦ πάθους ἐμπηδώντων, ὁ Νέρων ἔς τε τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ παλατίου, ὅθεν μάλιστα σύνοπτα τὰ πολλὰ τῶν καιομένων ἦν, ἀνῆλθε, καὶ τὴν σκευὴν τὴν κιθαρῳδικὴν λαβὼν ᾖσεν ἅλωσιν, ὡς μὲν αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν, Ἰλίου, ὡς δὲ ἑωρᾶτο, Ῥώμης.
While everyone else was in such state [of panic], and many, in their extremity, were jumping into the fire itself, Nero went up to the roof of the palace, from which there was the best view of most parts of the conflagration, and donning his citharodic skeuê, he sang the Capture of Troy, as he himself called it, though as it was viewed by the spectators, it was the Capture of Rome.
Dio Cassius 62.18.1
Dio clearly wants to dramatize the fatal link between the emperor’s political irresponsibility and the musical activity that he feels is so unbefitting his office. His Nero, adorned in full citharodic skeuê, climbs to the top of the Palatine Hill to watch the city burn to the ground as he performs, for a very unsettled audience, a composition of his own, the Capture of Troy (Halôsis Iliou in its properly Greek title). That this piece was likely a nomos is an added level of implicit irony—as rumor had it, and as Dio believes (62.16), it was Nero who had ordered the fires to be set, an act of radical disrespect for custom and law, nomos.
Suetonius Nero 38.2, setting the scene in the Tower of Maecenas on the Esquiline, captures an iconic image of Nero, decked out in his stage apparel (scaenicus habitus), just as he sings a section from the Halôsis describing the “beauty of the flame” that consumes Troy. As Tacitus writes in his brief account of the episode, Nero’s song “likened present misfortunes to ancient calamities” (praesentia mala vetustis cladibus adsimulantem, Annals 15.39.3). The emperor’s Hellenizing kitharôidia transforms Rome into Troy. To the critical eye, the warped relationship between the narcissistic, self-absorbed “creative” activity of the princeps and the civic destruction taking place all around, which he views from an aesthetically autistic distance, resonates powerfully against the normative cultural image of the citharode as founder and Apollonian healer of cities. Indeed, we may see in the hostile narrative tradition of Nero’s performance of his Capture of Troy a latent identification with Apollo in his musical aspect—and again, as with the Amphion comparison, a highly ironic one, full of meaningful inversions. The specific point of reference here may be an obscure version, but one not unknown in Rome, of the myth of the founding of Troy that has Apollo building that city’s walls, Amphionically, with the magic of his lyre. [385] Ovid alludes to the myth in Heroides 16.179–180: “You will behold Ilium and its walls, fortified with high towers, built with the song of Phoebus’ lyre” (Ilion adspicies firmataque turribus altis | moenia, Phoebeae structa canore lyrae). Martial 8.6.6 follows: muros struxit Apollo lyra ‘Apollo built the walls with his lyre’. Nero emerges from the fire anecdotes, then, as a perverted incarnation of this constructive Apollo. Standing not far from the Palatine temple that contained Scopas’ rendering of the musical god as supreme emblem of peace and order, Nero sings his song about the destruction of the city that Apollo’s own music built, as a soundtrack to the cinematic inferno consuming the city below him.
But if we are to assume that this performance, or at least one somewhat like it, really did take place, we may wonder whether Nero saw things in a different light. Even if he did not plan the Fire of 64, the catastrophe offered him an opportunity to rebuild the city on his own terms. [386] While it may be no more than a bit of gossip spoofing Neronian philhellenic excess, it is worth noting that Suetonius Nero 55 has Nero speaking of his decision to rename Rome Neropolis, a name that recalls his beloved Naples (Neapolis), and that might point to some grander plan, or dream, for a Hellenizing refoundation of the city. [387] What would seem then to be a macabrely inappropriate performance to most, and no doubt was exaggerated and distorted by hostile reports to seem all the more so, might have been, according to Neronian logic, one that very much followed Apollonian and Amphionic mythical scripts. The destruction of the old urbs portended the birth of a new polis, midwifed by the music of the imperial kithara. It is worth noting that in his epic poem Troica Nero mentioned Apollo Cynthius as a founder of Troy (Servius ad Vergil Georgics 3.36), perhaps an indication that the lyric foundation of Troy was treated in that lengthy work in some detail.
The hostile reception of Nero kitharôidos as a musical destroyer of cities may find a comic expression, in a distinctly Greek context, in a satirical (“skoptic”) epigram by Lucillius:
Ἑλλήνων ἀπέλυε πόλιν ποτέ, δέσποτα Καῖσαρ,
εἰσελθὼν ᾆσαι Ναύπλιον Ἡγέλοχος.
Ναύπλιος Ἑλλήνεσσιν ἀεὶ κακὸν ἢ μέγα κῦμα
<νηυσὶν ἐπεμβάλλων> ἢ κιθαρῳδὸν ἔχων.
Once, Lord Caesar, Hegelochus
freed a city of the Greeks when he came to sing the Nauplios.
Nauplios has always meant disaster for the Greeks,
whether hurling a great wave against their ships (?), or with a kitharôidos.
Lucillius Palatine Anthology 11.185 [388]
Given the difficulties involved in dating Lucillius himself, we cannot with certainty identify the figures referred to in this poem. But there are good reasons to assume that Hegelochus the kitharôidos is meant to be Nero. Suetonius Nero 39.3 tells us that the emperor had a citharodic song called the Nauplios in his repertoire, which was perhaps a revival of an old classic, the Nauplios by Timotheus of Miletus (PMG 785). Nero conceivably performed this Nauplios on his tour of the Greek agônes, during which he conspicuously granted freedom to the cities of Achaea (Suetonius Nero 24.2). Lucillius has wittily conflated the “disaster” caused by the main character in the nomos, Nauplios, whose false beacons destroyed the Greek ships returning from Troy, with the musical “disaster” visited on Greek audiences by the citharode who sings the nomos, Nero. [389] The obvious joke is about Nero’s aesthetically disastrous kitharôidia. “Hegelochus,” the name of a proverbially inept actor who mispronounced his lines (Aristophanes Frogs 303; scholia ad Euripides Orestes 279; Suda s.v. Ἡγέλοχος), insinuates that Nero is only pretending to be a citharode, and doing a bad job of it at that.
Beneath the easy joke, however, sounds a more serious political critique. The imperial citharode, far from genuinely liberating the Greek cities, threatened them rather with civic chaos and destruction, conditions that are, again, perversely at odds with the customary structuring and ordering politics of kitharôidia. Relevant is an observation made by Dio Cassius in connection to the Grecian tour, that Nero “inflicted untold disasters (kaka) on many cities” (κακὰ ἀμύθητα πολλὰς πόλεις εἰργάζετο, 62.21.3). Who then is the Caesar addressed in the first line of the epigram? Vespasian is a good candidate, on account of his general hostility to Nero, against whose excesses his own persona and policies stood in stark contrast. In particular, Vespasian had repealed the autonomy granted to the Greek provinces by Nero (Suetonius Vespasian 8.4), and there are indications too that he critically engaged the legacy of Neronian musical politics (cf. Section 11.2 above). He would thus have been an appreciative audience for Lucillius’ satire. [390]

22.2 Negative exemplars

Classically negative models of musical behavior were also attached to Nero. The author of the pseudo-Lucianic Nero implicitly figures the emperor as Thamyris, who challenged the Muses in song and was punished by them for his hubris (Iliad 2.594–600): Nero went to Achaea convinced that not even the Muses could “prelude (anaballesthai) more sweetly than he” (2). The comparison underlines Nero’s self-delusional hubris, which informs too his decision to cut a canal across the Isthmus. Even more provocatively, Nero is made to claim at Delphi that not even Apollo would dare to compete against him in kithara and song—intimations of Marsyas, whose agonistic boldness also ended badly for him.
As was set out in Section 10, Greek cultural elites under the Empire often, if not always, maintained a hostile front toward the popular music of their time, including contemporary kitharôidia. The expression of such hostility in writers of the Second Sophistic such as Plutarch, Philostratus, Dio Chrysostom, and Lucian tends to be stylized and self-consciously archaizing; indeed, what we hear in it is the music critical idiom of the later Classical period, when the innovations of the New Music drew fire from the Athenian cultural conservatives. By any measure, the controversies generated by the New Music had long since lost their relevance; Timotheus and his ilk had centuries earlier been safely canonized. What drew the Second Sophistic to this discourse was not its timeliness but rather its ossified Classical prestige—this was the opinionated language of Aristophanes, Plato, Aristoxenus, and other worthies—as well as its usefulness in defining a nostalgic ideal of elite Hellenic cultural identity that could stand up against the indiscriminately consuming forces of mass culture under the Empire.
Thus when Dio Chrysostom scolds the second-century CE Alexandrians for their unruly obsession with popular entertainers, he has recourse to the fifth-century BCE attacks on the New Music. He criticizes the virtuoso citharodes beloved in Alexandria for “having perverted and shattered the majesty of song and in every way defiled arkhaia mousikê,” that is, the “classical music” already nostalgized by Classical Greeks (διαθρύψαντες <γὰρ> καὶ κατάξαντες τὸ σεμνὸν τοῦ μέλους καὶ πάντα τρόπον λωβησάμενοι τὴν ἀρχαίαν μουσικήν, 32.61). These so-called musicians produce nothing noble, only “women’s songs and tunes for dancers and drunken excesses of monsters” (ἀλλὰ ᾄσματα γυναικῶν καὶ κρούματα ὀρχηστῶν καὶ παροινίας τερετισμάτων, 32.62). Fitting the overall invective brio of the oration, the language and metaphors vividly recall the conservative vitriol heaped upon New Musicians by the poets of Attic Old Comedy, in which the “unmanning” of music is a recurrent topos, as is its coincident opposite, the charge of sexual excess and perversion. [391] Phrynis the citharode was thus repeatedly mocked in comedy for making the manly art of kitharôidia effeminate (scholia ad Aristophanes Clouds 971a, b). Dio’s image of the Alexandrian citharodes “defiling arkhaia mousikê” alludes above all to the passage in Pherecrates Cheiron (fr. 155 K-A by way of “Plutarch” On Music 30.1142e) in which Phrynis, Timotheus, and others are accused of inflicting λώβη ‘sexual defilement’ on a personified Mousikê. The curious inclusion of “drunken excesses of monsters” on the list of musical misdeeds also probably harks back to some fifth- or fourth-century criticism of Timotheus, whose Cyclops indeed starred a drunken monster (PMG 780–783). The piece may well have been performed still in Dio’s day, but it was unlikely to have continued to shock anyone, including Dio himself, whose outrage at musical “transgression” is entirely stylized, a literary posture.
Not surprisingly, this antiquarian critical discourse, with its full freight of Attic cultural prestige, could be turned against Nero, as we see in a passage from Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana, in which the Gallic aristocrat, Roman senator, and political agitator Julius Vindex exhorts his troops to revolt against the emperor. Vindex foregrounds his disgust at Nero’s kitharôidia:
ἐπὶ Νέρωνα ἐν Ἀχαίᾳ ᾄδοντα τὰ ἔθνη τὰ ἑσπέρια λέγεται κινῆσαι Βίνδιξ ἀνὴρ οἷος ἐκτεμεῖν τὰς νευράς, ἃς Νέρων ἀμαθῶς ἔψαλλε, πρὸς γὰρ τὰ στρατόπεδα, οἷς ἐπετέτακτο, λόγον κατ’ αὐτοῦ διῆλθεν, ὃν ἐκ πάνυ γενναίας φιλοσοφίας ἐπὶ τύραννον ἄν τις πνεύσειεν· ἔφη γὰρ Νέρωνα εἶναι πάντα μᾶλλον ἢ κιθαρῳδὸν καὶ κιθαρῳδὸν μᾶλλον ἢ βασιλέα.
While Nero was singing in Achaea, Vindex, a man capable of cutting off the strings that Nero was boorishly plucking (ἀμαθῶς ἔψαλλε), is said to have rallied against him the peoples in the West. For he delivered to the troops in his command a speech against Nero, one such as a man out of the noblest thought (philosophia) might express toward a tyrant. He declared that Nero was anything rather than a citharode, and a citharode rather than a king.
Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.10
Philostratus draws on Classical citharodic lore to characterize the antagonism Vindex holds toward the emperor, specifically, the series of anecdotes about Spartan ephors who cut off (ἐκτεμεῖν) with knife or adze the excess, “unlawful” strings from the polychord kitharai that foolhardy citharodes dare to play at that bastion of musical traditionalism, the Carneian agôn. (Any kithara with more than the seven strings first standardized by Terpander qualifies as an outlawed polychord instrument.) Most of these anecdotes involve the New Music celebrity Timotheus, whose own account of his “creative differences” with Spartan authorities is preserved in his Persians (202–212). Other versions have Phrynis, an older rival of Timotheus, or even Terpander himself submitting to the grim censure of the ephors. [392] The anecdotal tradition, however, speaks above all to the concerns of those critics opposed to the New Music, and it is to them we should source it. The ephors violently enact what among culturally conservative Athenian intellectuals such as Plato and Aristoxenus remains a romantic lost cause, a purely utopian fantasy: the preservation of arkhaia mousikê against the pernicious inroads of musical innovation and still more against the extramusical effects, i.e. social degradation and moral corruption, that lurk in the Trojan Horse of such novelty. [393]
Thus, through the lens of this loaded storyline, Vindex is appropriately cast into the ephoric role of conservative, incorruptible guardian of social and musical rectitude, while the lawless tyrant Nero is the decadent, “Timothean” transgressor deserving of censure for his willful corruption of traditional citharodic culture in its most ancient stronghold, Sparta, a city that, significantly, had never fallen to tyranny. As was suggested above, Nero likely had Timothean nomoi in his repertoire. But that is not really at issue, as these compositions were now familiar classics. Rather, Nero is Timotheus as he is forever fixed in the cultural imagination, an eternal scandal despite the post-Classical canonization of his work. The iconic conflict between ephor and the citharodic transgressor offers validating cultural historical depth to the musico-political critique of Nero kitharôidos and turannos offered by Philostratus through the aristocratic Vindex. Similarly, Dio Chrysostom enjoins the Alexandrians to emulate the Spartan ephors in checking their addiction to decadent, “Timothean” citharodes and so restoring order to their troubled polis (32.67; cf. 33.57, where the anecdote serves a more humorous point). Dio Cassius relates a relevant anecdote: when Nero toured Greece, he chose not to participate in musical contests in Sparta, “on account of the nomoi ‘laws’ of Lycurgus being opposed to his prohairesis ‘intentions’” (62.14.3). The real reasons for Nero’s passing over Sparta are unclear; probably the citharodic agôn of the local Carneia, once so prestigious, in his own day lacked the glamour of the so-called periodic festivals. [394] But the anecdotal excuse must allude to the legendary conservatism of the citharodic culture there, the strict nomoi governing the execution of musical nomoi, which would not tolerate the bad “intentions,” aesthetic and moral, of the emperor. [395]
The phrase ἀμαθῶς ἔψαλλε deserves further comment. The proper way to sound the strings of the kithara is with the plêktron, not the fingers. Finger plucking (ψάλλειν) is more appropriate to the harp, an instrument whose distinctly Asiatic provenance and association with female players, both citizen wives and prostitutes, diminished its sociocultural status in comparison to the normatively male-played, Hellenic-identified lyre and kithara (see Section 16 above). It is unlikely that Philostratus/Vindex is really taking to task Nero, who surely used a plectrum, for inappropriate playing technique. One inference to be drawn is that Nero’s engagement with citharodic culture makes him no better than a lowly harp girl. The charge of effeminacy is implicit here, as it is explicitly in Boudicca’s abuse of Nero in Dio Cassius 62.6.4–5. But, as an allusion to the old Athenian musical conservatism, the comment implies not that Nero is disgraced by his kitharôidia, but rather that it is he who debases and feminizes—recall the charges that were brought against Phrynis—the noble, manly art of the kithara through his boorishness, amathia, just as Timotheus had disgraced it with his extra strings. [396] Again, Vindex is made into a righteous guardian of arkhaia mousikê.

22.3 Citharoedus scaenicus

If, as Pliny has it (Panegyricus 46.4), Nero was an imperator scaenicus, in the double sense of an “actor-emperor” and “one acting at being emperor,” then he was also a citharoedus scaenicus, one merely pretending to genuine kitharôidia. Like everything else in Nero’s purview, political and cultural, the art was reduced to an empty simulation of the real thing, an act. Other Greek writers of the time pick up on this idea. “Lucian” Nero thus criticizes Nero’s failed “imitation” (mimeisthai) of the performance style of “real” citharodes (7); despite his best attempts, not only his skills, but his ethical inauthenticity betrayed him. [397] Dio Cassius 63.12.2 notes the bitter irony that Helius, a freedman left in charge of Rome as Nero toured Greece, “emulated Caesars” (Καίσαρας ἐζήλου), while Nero, a descendant of Augustus, emulated citharodes and tragic singers—all is simulation, at the expense of good government and good music.

22.4 Nero on Lesbos

Let us conclude by looking at a passage from Lucian’s The Uncultured Book Collector that relates a tale of the transgression and punishment of an earlier anti-Orpheus:
It would not be out of place to tell you also a Lesbian tale (mûthos) that happened long ago. They say that when the Thracian women tore Orpheus to pieces, his head and his lyre, falling into the river Hebrus, were carried out into the Aegean Sea, and that the head floated on top of the lyre, the head singing a dirge for Orpheus, as the story (logos) goes, and the lyre sounding all by itself as the winds fell upon the strings. And thus, with the accompaniment of song, they came ashore to Lesbos to the sound of music, and the people there, having taken up the head, buried it where now stands their temple of Dionysus (Bakkheion), and they hung up the lyre in the temple of Apollo, where it was preserved for a long time. Later, however, Neanthus, the son of Pittacus the tyrant, heard the reports about the lyre, how it charmed animals and plants and stones, and produced music even after the death of Orpheus without anyone’s touching it. He fell in love (erôs) with the idea of possessing the object (ktêma) and, after corrupting the priest [of Apollo] with a great sum of money (megala khrêmata), he persuaded him to substitute another, similar lyre and to give him the one of Orpheus. After he took it, he thought it unadvisable to make use of it in the city during the daytime, but, holding it under his cloak, he went out into the suburbs (proasteion) at night and, putting his hand to it, he struck and jangled the strings, unskilled and unmusical boy (atekhnos kai amousos neaniskos) that he was, hoping that the lyre would produce the marvelous melodies with which he could charm and enchant everybody, and indeed that he would become truly blessed (makarios), an inheritor of the music of Orpheus. But eventually the dogs—there were many of them in that place—brought together by the noise, tore him apart; in that, at least, his experience was like that of Orpheus, but only the dogs were called together to him. At that point it became abundantly clear it was not the lyre that was able to enchant, but the tekhnê and the song of Orpheus, which were the only outstanding things he possessed through inheritance from his mother [the Muse Calliope]. The lyre was just another piece of property (ktêma), no better than the other barbitoi.
Lucian The Uncultured Book Collector 11–12
Lucian is no doubt tailoring this story to suit the anti-materialist message of his essay, the debilitating commodification of culture at the hands of nouveaux riches grasping after social legitimacy by hoarding cultural artifacts. As we saw in Section 3, in the same essay Lucian elaborates the story of the contest between the citharodes Evangelus and Eumelus to express, rather tendentiously, a similiar theme. But it is worth looking beyond this superficial agenda to see the more profound ideological assumptions involved. Like the story of the contest, the tale of Neanthus might not be a Lucianic invention. The backstory to it, the logos of Orpheus’ head and lyre floating to Lesbos, likely dates to the Archaic period. It is tempting to take Lucian at his word that he is working from a local oral account of some real antiquity, a Λέσβιος μῦθος πάλαι γενόμενος ‘Lesbian tale (mûthos) that happened long ago’.
Indeed, it is tempting to trace the roots of the muthos as far back as the Mytilenean aristocratic faction of Alcaeus, with whose cultivation of lyric music and anti-tyrannical politics its plot certainly resonates. Neanthus is named only here, a hapax that could arguably be an antiquarian detail inserted by Lucian to make his tale seem more authentic, or one that could point to the genuine antiquity of the story. [398] Arguably, even if the story was not based on actual anti-Pittican propaganda circulated among the sympotic-political circle of Alcaeus, and even if it is Lucian’s fiction, it nevertheless represents a concise narrative reflex of elitist ideology in Mytilene as encoded in the lyric poetry of Alcaeus, an ideology that took for granted the aristocratic “possession” of lyric mousikê. The final, rather unexpected comparison of the Orphic lyre to the barbitos, the baritone lyre that was a signature musical resource for both Sappho and Alcaeus, works as a kind of “tag,” distinctly evoking the aristocratic symposium that was the main performative context of Alcaean monody. [399]
This instrument appears in a fragment of a lyric song of Alcaeus that recalls the story of Neanthus in that it places the barbitos, here called the barmos, in inappropriate hands, notionally those of Pittacus. [400] The fragment imagines a symposium attended by the companions of Pittacus, who are celebrating his accession to power in Mytilene. [401] The first preserved stanza contains this striking personification of the barmos/barbitos:
ἀθύρει πεδέχων συμποσίω . [
βάρμος, φιλώνων πεδ’ ἀλεμ[άτων
εὐωχήμενος αὔτοισιν ἐπα[
[I]t makes merry, taking part in the symposium … the barmos, feasting lavishly with vain braggarts, (is pleasing to) them. [402]
Alcaeus fr. 70.3–5
Alcaeus’ invective figures the barmos as one of the symposiasts celebrating alongside Pittacus, and, being a member of such bad company, it performs with an appropriate lack of decorum. [403] This barmos “feasts lavishly,” pleasing its fellow symposiasts, and in its gluttony it resembles Pittacus himself, whom Alcaeus would damningly have “devour the polis” (δαπτέτω πόλιν, 7), yet who manages to win the confidence of the populace and god-granted κῦδος ἐπήρ[ατ]ον ‘the glory he craves’ (12–13). [404] At the same time, Alcaeus conflates the barmos with the other symposiasts, those “vain braggarts,” thereby suggesting both the aesthetic and ethical debasement of the instrument’s “voice.” Alcaeus’ contention: as in the public political sphere, so in the private sympotic sphere. In the proper aristocratic symposium, the instrument acts as a decorous prop to good poetic and ethical order, kosmos, and as a graceful musical complement to the politically just discourse circulated there. But as a possession of the Pittacan symposium, it is made to perform a travesty of these noble roles, taking on the character of its déclassé, morally deficient players and auditors. The bad politics of the tyrant are mirrored in his bad lyric culture. [405] In music and government, Pittacus is a “ridiculous, incongruous pretender.” [406]
Neanthus’ offenses are far more severe. The boy misappropriates a Lesbian national treasure, the lyre of Orpheus, on account of which “songs and dances and lovely kithara playing pervade the island, and of all the islands it is the one most known for song (ἐκ κείνου μολπαί τε καὶ ἱμερτὴ κιθαριστύς | νῆσον ἔχει, πασέων δ’ ἐστὶν ἀοιδοτάτη, Phanocles fr. 1.21–22 Powell). The true inheritor of the Orphic lyre and its attendant prestige was generally recognized to be Terpander of Antissa. In one account, it becomes the personal possession of Terpander after it washes up at Antissa and is conferred upon him gratis by the fisherman who finds it; this inherited lyre is the idealized material symbol of the Terpandrean citharodic tradition’s spiritual legacy from Orpheus. [407] It is this prestige that Neanthus too lusts to win for himself—he wants to become an “inheritor (klêronomêsanta) of the mousikê of Orpheus”—but, unlike Terpander, he does so with dubious motives and through dubious means. For Neanthus the Orphic lyre qua material object of possession, ktêma, represents a medium through which to access limitless, even divine power, to “charm and enchant everybody”—a hubristic, tyrannical ambition. [408] And he is willing to spend a great sum of money and tamper with Apollo’s priest to acquire this ktêma.
If the seeds of the story of Neanthus do belong to Alcaean circles, however, we might expect its original subtext to have been that it is Alcaeus and his friends who are the proper inheritors of the Orphic lyre/barbitos and its attendant prestige. It is possible that in fr. 45, which opens with a hymnic invocation of the river Hebrus, Alcaeus related how Orpheus’ lyre and head floated down the Hebrus to be received in Lesbos. The poem breaks off after the second stanza, leaving us no evidence of this, but, as Page puts it, “the invocation of Hebrus would probably suggest at once the story of Orpheus.” [409] Yet that story need not have included Terpander. Alcaeus may not have been sympathetically disposed to the Terpandrean kitharôidia of his native island; he may have viewed it as a threat to his own musical prestige. Indeed, given the nexus of Lesbian kitharôidia, tyranny, and money that is limned in accounts of Alcaeus’ rough contemporary, Arion, at Periander’s Corinthian court (cf. Herodotus 1.23–24), we might even see in the Neanthus tale the faint reflex of an Alcaean critique of Pittacus’ own patronage of citharodic culture, perhaps with a view to creating a musically populist counterbalance to the elitist mousikê cultivated by Alcaeus. Yet we can say nothing certain about the social ideology of kitharôidia on Archaic Lesbos, and we should probably not push this line of interpretation too far. In fact, a respectful, even emulative coexistence between Alcaean monody and the citharodes is as likely to have been the case as antagonism. [410] In any case, generic subtleties are not essential to Lucian’s telling of the tale, which is concerned with tyrannical perversion of lyric music tout court.
As with Alcaeus’ vision of his father Pittacus, the lyre in the hands of this atekhnos kai amousos neaniskos becomes debased, an instrument of aesthetic, political, and moral corruption. He plays badly, in a socially disembedded context (on the darkened fringes of the polis) that stands in striking contrast to the nodes of sociopolitical integration in which both sympotic lyric and public kitharôidia traditionally operate. Here, ironically, Neanthus wins his audience, the pack of dogs, drawn together not by music, which he is incapable of making, but by the unmusical noise produced by the lyre. The act of violence perpetrated by the dogs mirrors the aesthetic disorder of the boy’s amousia, the symbolic violence he himself perpetrates against the lyre. What Neanthus tragically misrecognizes is something that is abundantly clear to Alcaeus and Lucian: mousikê is a spiritual property that resists misappropriation; it cannot be objectified, bought or sold, and “put to use”; it does not inhere in any material ktêma. [411] Orpheus’ instrument is “no better than the other barbitoi,” but in the hands of the deserving, be it Alcaeus and his friends or Terpander (reputed in one tradition to be the inventor of the barbitos, Pindar fr. 125 S-M), that is, those who possess the proper ethical and political orientation to practice true mousikê, barbitoi do become extraordinary instruments; they become animated with the cosmic potential that the unmusical Neanthus fails to elicit from the Orphic lyre.
Nero is not an explicit object of the satire in Lucian’s text, but, as with Evangelus, the citharodic pretender exposed at the Pythian agôn, so Neanthus and his failed attempt to hijack the lyric tradition inevitably evoke the memory of Nero’s citharodic ambitions, in the former case as spectacular comedy, in the latter as political malfeasance. The main themes of the Neanthus tale, the tyrannical misappropriation of kitharôidia and the problem of musical imposture, clearly recall the concerns of the anti-Neronian musico-political discourse we have examined in this section. Again, the tale itself may not go back before Lucian, but it does display a familiarity with the musical political ideology of Archaic Lesbian lyric. As such, it suggests the profundity of the tradition of elitist counter-culture through which the learned critics of Nero could frame and elaborate their own ideological antipathy toward the princeps citharoedus. As Nero could play the role of a citharodic culture hero, an Apollo, Orpheus, or Terpander, so could his cultured detractors assume the oppositional roles of Spartan ephors, Classical Athenian reactionaries, even Mytilenean aristocratic symposiasts.


[ back ] 1. The straight-hanging chiton worn by the citharode is called by Dio Cassius 63.17.5 and 63.22.4 the ὀρθοστάδιον (on which see scholia ad Aristophanes Lysistrata 45). In the same passages Dio has the performer wearing kothornoi ‘buskins’, which are more commonly associated with post-Classical tragic actors. Citharodes in Greek vase paintings are normally barefoot (e.g. Plate 9), although some wear low-cut footwear (e.g. Plate 1).
[ back ] 2. Herington 1985:17, from his description of a depiction of a citharode by the Berlin Painter on an early fifth-century BCE amphora (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1956 [56.171.38]).
[ back ] 3. Aristotle Politics 8.1341a18–19. The sketch of costume and kithara given here is a loose composite of late Archaic and Classical Attic vase paintings and descriptions in Roman-era literary sources (e.g. Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.60; Ovid Metamorphoses 11.165–169; Lucian The Uncultured Book Collector 8–11, Dio Cassius 63.22.4). While the late literary sources offer a rather gaudier, more luxurious image of the kithara player than the vase paintings, the similarities strongly suggest continuity in the performers’ self-presentation from early Greek to later Roman times. See the detailed discussion of instrument and costume, with illustrations, in Bélis 1995, Paquette 1984:90–102, and Maas and Snyder 1989:58–68 and 171–175. The kithara underwent morphological changes during the Hellenistic period that were probably reflected in Nero’s instrument. By the Imperial period some kitharai seem to have acquired a slimmer, more elongated profile than their more robust Classical ancestors. A good example is to be seen in one of the Spada reliefs from second-century CE Rome that shows Amphion and his brother Zethus (or perhaps Hermes; see Newby 2002:134–137, with fig. 4.9), or in a fresco fragment with a seated Apollo from the Palatine Antiquarium (inv. 379982). But it is impossible to say whether these thinner instruments were regularly played by professional citharodes of the Empire. Cf. n163 below.
[ back ] 4. On this important distinction, with its attendant occasional, gender, class, ethical, even moral dimensions, see Maas and Snyder 1989: “[The kithara] was not a lyre played by an amateur for idle amusement at a dinner party or by young school boys or by Athenian wives entertaining one another in the women’s quarters of their houses” (58).
[ back ] 5. The sling or strap is designated the telamôn or aortêr (from aierein ‘to raise up’), as in a scholion to Iliad 15.256, which claims that Apollo’s epithet χρυσάωρ means ‘of the golden aortêr’ (rather than ‘of the golden sword [aôr]’). The etymology is fanciful, but it reflects assumptions about the “glitz” of the citharode’s outfit. The sling is called balteus or balteum in Latin: Apuleius Florida 15.9. The excess end of the tied-off strap is sometimes shown hanging down from the side of instrument in the vase paintings. In some images this excess resembles a spare set of strings, but this is likely because it has been tasseled or fringed to add decorative fancy to the costume. See Maas and Snyder 1989:67–68.
[ back ] 6. See e.g. Tacitus Annals 16.4; cf. Suetonius Nero 23.2 on Nero’s studied attempts to pass himself off as just another citharodic agonist.
[ back ] 7. See e.g. Suetonius Nero 23.2, 39.3; Champlin 2003:57. Overplaying: Suetonius Nero 23.2, an account of Nero’s literally captive audiences in Greece. The claim by Vindex that Nero was a malus citharoedus ‘bad citharode’ (Suetonius Nero 41.1) was a taunt meant to hurt the emperor’s feelings (which it did); it was not an honest assessment based on personal experience. Texts relating to Nero’s citharodic career are collected in Wille 1967:338–357.
[ back ] 8. Translation based on Macleod 1967:515. Nero’s voice seems to have been his primary drawback. Dio Cassius 61.20.2 says that his voice is brakhu kai melan ‘small and indistinct’; in Suetonius Nero 20.1 it is “weak and husky” (exiguae vocis et fuscae). Warmington 1977:78 notes, however, that a vox fusca might not have been a total liability. He compares Quintilian 11.3.171, which says that such a voice was “suitable for conveying emotional, pitiful and dramatic situations.”
[ back ] 9. Dio Cassius 63.27.2; cf. Suetonius Nero 40.2.
[ back ] 10. Cf. Griffin 1984:201.
[ back ] 11. See e.g. the otherwise excellent studies of Dupont 1985, Bartsch 1994, Edwards 1994. These authors do not, to be fair, completely neglect Nero’s fundamentally musical persona, but Beacham 1999 and Champlin 2003 are far more attentive to Nero’s citharodic efforts. See too the less sophisticated but still useful Gyles 1947 and 1962.
[ back ] 12. See Lesky 1949:397–398 = 1966:343–344, who notes that in Tacitus’ Annals, which as we have it covers events through 66 CE, Nero is referred to always as a citharoedus, with the sole exception of 15.67.2, in which one of the members of the Pisonian conspiracy of 65 CE calls him histrio ‘actor’. But even here we may be wary of taking this as a literal reference to acting, as is the case with scaenicus ‘stage player’ at Annals 15.59.2 (cf. n193 below).
[ back ] 13. See Edwards 1994 on Nero’s subversive confounding of reality and appearance.
[ back ] 14. Tacitus Histories 2.8: citharae et cantus peritus, unde illi super similitudinem oris propior ad fallendum fides. Tacitus reports two versions of the citharodic pretender’s background: he was either a slave from Pontus or a freedman from Italy.
[ back ] 15. Strictly speaking, the proverb non omnes qui habent citharam sunt citharoedi ‘Not all who hold a cithara are citharodes’ (Varro De re rustica 2.1.3) is thus true, but not entirely felicitous: most people who possessed kitharai were indeed citharodes. The luxurious ornamentation of kitharai in the Imperial era would only have put them further out of common reach.
[ back ] 16. Evangelus inevitably recalls another arriviste citharode from Italy, Nero, whose tour of the Greek contest circuit included the Pythian games, although Nero is not the primary object of Lucian’s satire.
[ back ] 17. Such a breakdown of consensus between audience and (rhapsodic) performer, the moment when the latter realizes he has lost not only audience favor but, still worse, his prize money, is dramatically evoked in Plato Ion 535e.
[ back ] 18. Eumelus’ Elean provenance also has symbolic force. Elis was the home of the Olympic festival, which, until the time of Nero’s tour of Greece in 66/7 CE, when the program was altered to accommodate the emperor’s citharodic endeavors (Suetonius Nero 23.1), hosted no mousikoi agônes, only athletic games, at which the athletes famously competed in the nude. Eumelus embodies the “stripped-down,” spiritually aristocratic ethos/aesthetic of the Olympics.
[ back ] 19. Three to five contestants seems to have been the rule at major citharodic agônes: five at the Panathenaia in the first half of the fourth century BCE (IG II2 2311.4–11, in the restored text of Shear 2003); three at the fourth-century festival of Artemis in Eretria (IG XII ix 189) and perhaps at Delphi as well (according to Lucian The Uncultured Book Collector 9, a third citharode, Thespis of Thebes, competed against Eumelus and Evangelus). See Bélis 1995:1052; 1999:133–134. The vetting of potential competitors could have taken place at the assembly before the agôn, the proagôn. Such an event is attested for Eretrian mousikoi agônes: IG XII ix 189.22.
[ back ] 20. See Vos 1986:128, Wilson 2002:51–52, and Miller 1997:162–175 on the costume of auletes, players of the reed-blown pipes called auloi. At the Pythian contests it was traditional for auletes to wear specific raiment called the Puthikê stolê. The famous aulete Chrysogonus, decked out in these distinctive garments, played the auloi aboard the trireme carrying Alcibiades back from exile (Athenaeus 12.535d; Plutarch Alcibiades 32.2). The virtuoso’s costume was no doubt as much a feature of the political theater as his music. Athenian dramatic, dithyrambic, and theoric choruses were often lavishly costumed. See Plutarch Nicias 3.4–6 for a particularly grandiose case. Funding for choral skeuê (and that of the accompanying aulete) was provided by the wealthy citizen khorêgos, and as such the costume was a reflection of his own desire for social distinction. The khorêgos himself wore an eye-catching outfit to match that of his chorus: Demosthenes 21.16, 22. Cf. Wilson 2000:86–88.
[ back ] 21. Cf. Boyd 1994:112n8, who argues that the golden wreath that Socrates imagines the rhapsode Ion wearing to the Panathenaia (Ion 541b–c) is the same one he received as prize at the Asclepieia in Epidaurus.
[ back ] 22. As recorded in the Panathenaic prize inscription IG II2 2311. The section recording the second through fourth prizes in kitharôidia is damaged (lines 8–11), but Kotsidu 1991:101, 212n240 makes convincing arguments for these amounts. On the inscription, see now Shear 2003, who proposes slightly different reconstructions of the prize amounts for citharists and aulodes (95).
[ back ] 23. Miller 2004:134, who estimates that the first prize amount for citharodes would be roughly equivalent to 150,000 dollars US, while a fifth-place contestant still earned the equivalent of several thousand dollars. Athens was a remarkably lucrative market for citharodes, but other cities offered them relatively high payouts as well. See the discussion of the Eretrian Artemisia below.
[ back ] 24. The prize amounts for the citharist are those proposed by Shear 2003:95; Kotsidu 1991:101 proposes a prize of 500 drachmas and a crown worth 300 drachmas.
[ back ] 25. Aristotle Constitution of Athens 60.3: “The prizes for winners in the mousikoi agônes are of silver and gold.” Kotsidu 1991:100 argues that cash prizes were instituted only after restoration of the democracy in 403–402 BCE, but it seems unlikely that itinerant musicians would ever have been awarded the cumbersome oil-filled amphorae awarded to athletic victors. See Herington 1985:246n28; Davison 1958:38. See further Part IV.7n158.
[ back ] 26. Such reductionism colors the following assessment from Bélis 1995: “Alors qu’à l’epoque classique, les musiciens accomplissent leur métier en recherchant moins la fortune que les couronnes conquises dans les concours sacrés, à partir du quatrième siècle, leurs ambitions sont de connaître aussi vite que possible la gloire … et, simultanément, d’amasser des richesses” (1057). This is not to say that glory and renown were not important to Archaic and Classical citharodes, only that the accrual of wealth was equally important, and increasingly feasible with the expansion of contests and patronage opportunities in the sixth and early fifth century BCE.
[ back ] 27. The rhetoric involved in fashioning this persona is complex. In part it is an attempt to compensate for the lower socioeconomic status of the citharist relative to the citharode; IG II2 2311.15–17 (in the restored text of Shear 2003) shows that citharists earned about half what citharodes did at the Panathenaia. It is also a response to the conservative critics of his music. Cf. Wilson 2004:291, who observes that Stratonicus “appears to have been unconcerned to conceal the economics at the base of his career.” Not only is Stratonicus unapologetic about the commodified status of his music, he is eager to advertise it (cf. n70 below). His self-presentation as a Panhellenic touring musician amounts to a recuperation of the stigmatization of musical performance for pay, misthos, that we see framed by elites such as Aristoxenus. At the same time, Stratonicus appropriates the prejudices of that elite ideology, effecting a détournement of its snobbery to ennoble his own commercial activity. For it is the Muses themselves who authorize him to exploit, for monetary gain, the amousia of the mass audiences he entertains. For extra measure, Stratonicus adds a hint of royal entitlement to his self-fashioning with the metaphor latent in telos. As Gulick 1996:88 notes, “Stratonicus alludes to the custom of assigning certain towns and villages for the support of favorites at court.” Cf. Athenaeus 1.29f, where this custom is connected to the Persian court.
[ back ] 28. Compare the image of the itinerant singer as hungry gastêr ‘stomach’ in Hesiod Theogony 26–28, which “serves as the symbol for the dependence of the poet … on the patronage of a localized audience” (Nagy 1990b:190).
[ back ] 29. Cf. Murray 1993:240 on the “complex international market economy” in place by the mid sixth century BCE.
[ back ] 30. We may note how Herodotus emphatically inscribes Arion in a world of monetary exchange. After he makes his khrêmata megala, he “hires” (misthôsasthai) a Corinthian ship to take him home. Herodotus’ account no doubt reflects the commercialized musical culture of the time in which he composed (c. 430s BCE), but that does not mean it tells us nothing about the economic realities of Archaic kitharôidia, of which Arion is an idealized exemplar. Wilson 2004:285 perhaps overstates the case when he argues that Arion’s tour is purely a retrojection of “contemporary [i.e. later fifth-century] musical practices and mentalities” onto the Archaic past. Of course, the emphasis on money and commerce in the Herodotean account reflects the context of Arion’s tenure in Periandrean Corinth, known for its trade and its wealth—a logical base from which kitharôidia could be commodified on an international scale.
[ back ] 31. Cf. Herington 1985:16.
[ back ] 32. Satire 10.210–212: nam quae cantante uoluptas | sit licet eximius, citharoedo siue Seleuco | et quibus aurata mos est fulgere lacerna (“For what pleasure is there in a singer, even if he is outstanding, even Seleucus the citharode and those whose custom it is to gleam in a golden mantle”). The lines belong to a list of geriatric miseries. The inability to enjoy the definitive musical pleasure, kitharôidia, is prominent among them, thanks not only to the loss of hearing but, significantly, of sight as well. Courtney 1980 ad loc. thinks that quibus implicitly refers to tibicines, or auletes, since these musicians are associated with the lacerna ‘mantle’, while the more conspicuous item of the citharode’s habitus is the chiton. But Roman descriptions of citharodic skeuê do take both garments into account. Nero wears a purple chiton and a gold-adorned khlamus, a mantle analogous to the lacerna (Hallet 2005:334–335), on his triumphant return to Rome (Suetonius Nero 25.1); cf. Apuleius Florida 15.8; Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.60. Philostratus the Elder Imagines 1.10 ascribes a magical, prismatic charm to the multi-colored khlamus of Amphion. At least in the fourth century BCE, the khlamus-mantle is called the epiporpama, after the porpê ‘brooch’ that fastens the garments together at the shoulder (Plato fr. 10 K-A, with Pollux Onomasticon 10.190).
[ back ] 33. As a high-profile sophistic performer himself (see e.g. Florida 9), Apuleius must have well appreciated the celebrity citharode’s twin cultivation of talent and image. His telling of the Marsyas and Apollo story in some sense begs to be read as quasi-autobiographical: Apuleius, like Apollo kitharôidos, embodies both substance and style, gracefully reconciling the contrasting personae of philosophical heavyweight and dashing, charismatic sophist. The accusers who brought Apuleius to court on a charge of witchcraft had tried to impugn his intellectual pursuits by calling him a “handsome philosopher” (Apology 4.1). For the “philosophical” bias against the visually attractive, see Zanker 1995:235.
[ back ] 34. Cf. Murray 1996:102.
[ back ] 35. To put the smallness of this amount in perspective: at the fourth-century BCE Great Panathenaia a second-place winner in the citharodic agôn would alone take home 1,2000 drachmas cash (IG II2 2311.8).
[ back ] 36. Cf. Csapo and Slater 1994:204; Hasebroek 1965:167; de Ligt and de Neeve 1988. For the commercial ambience surrounding the early Panathenaic mousikoi agônes (probably) held in the Agora, see Kotsidu 1994:169.
[ back ] 37. The pompê probably already featured an impressive military display: Strabo 10.1.10. On the performative nature of pompai, see Kavoulaki 1999. Another section of the Eretrian inscription records that musicians are to be paid a stipend of one drachma per day leading up to the agôn (lines 21–23). Such stipends were likely not uncommon. Itinerant agônistai could be treated by “patron” cities as temporary retainers during festival times, not merely as performers who passed through to win prizes on agôn day and then moved on. More generally, in the time immediately before and after the contest proper the citharode would very much have been on display in the city, engaging in all sorts of informal contests, interventions, and displays, musical and verbal, doing the “off-stage” cultural work of kitharôidia, at proagônes, civic events, public discourses, semi-public exchanges of “shop talk” between agônistai at parties, private entertainments, etc. The anecdotal tradition surrounding the “witty” citharist Stratonicus offers an invaluable window onto the politics of the para-agonistic scene (see evidence collected in Gilula 2000). Plato’s Ion is a stylized dramatization of a conversation about contests and mousikê held in the run-up to the Panathenaic agônes. See Nagy 2002 on refractions of para-Panathenaic discourse in Plato.
[ back ] 38. It is unclear in what sense exactly the musicians are to “compete” in the sacrificial prosodion; cf. von Prott and Ziehen 1906:255. The verb in the inscription, agônizesthai, does mean ‘to compete’, and rather than take it to mean merely ‘participate’ or ‘perform’, as it might in some Hellenistic festival inscriptions (cf. Slater 2007:34–35), we should here, I think, respect its original semantics, attenuated as they might be—thus my “informal agôn” above—and see in the use of the word a statement of the city’s agenda of “agonization.” It is remarkable that in Attic iconography, at least, string players are never shown accompanying sacrifice at the altar itself, only auletes (Nordquist 1992:155). As auletes are not explicitly mentioned in the Eretrian inscription, we may assume the case was different at the Artemisia.
[ back ] 39. See Pearl 1978.
[ back ] 40. In reality, even self-advertised stephanitic contests, such as the “sacred games” of the Pythia and their derivatives in Naples and elsewhere, likely offered cash or valuables to musical victors as supplements to the crown awards. Cf. Slater 2007:38–40; Pleket 2004. The symbolic capital of prestige earned at the stephanitic agônes was necessary to build a reputation, but financial capital was necessary to sustain a citharodic career.
[ back ] 41. By comparison, the three top prizes for citharists amount to 235 drachmas, those for rhapsodes, 170 drachmas; the boy aulodes are allotted prizes totaling 100 drachmas, and the parodists receive only 60. The strong emphasis on string music at the Artemisia, to the detriment of aulos-based forms, is noteworthy. Perhaps a deliberate “niche” marketing/branding strategy lies behind it, a plan to make the most of limited resources in order to put the Artemisia on the geomusical map as a small but attention-worthy center of one field of musical tekhnê. The inclusion of auletic and adult aulodic events would have stretched the budget too thin, making it difficult to attract high-caliber citharodes (and citharists).
[ back ] 42. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin F 1686. See Shapiro 1992:54–55, with fig. 34, a, b: “The Berlin amphora … gives us our first glimpse of the colorful and elaborate costumes characteristic of professional musicians at Athens.”
[ back ] 43. So Bundrick 2005: “Although many of the musicians employed for Athenian rituals were likely hired professionals, in the case of the Parthenon frieze with its apparent emphasis on the Athenian demos, these particular musicians are probably citizens too” (152). If they are citizens, the kithara players, at least, might belong to the aristocratic clan of the Euneidai, whose members, we learn from Harpocration s.v. Εὐνεῖδαι, “were citharodes who provided service for religious rituals.”
[ back ] 44. On the ornamented sleeved chiton (khitôn kheiridotos), see Miller 1997:156–165, who suggests that fifth-century musicians were drawn to the garment for its connotations of Eastern sumptuousness; cf. Bundrick 2005:166.
[ back ] 45. Kirby 1965:14–16, as condensed in Auslander 2006:102.
[ back ] 46. On “mixed mode” poetry, mimetic and diegetic, of which Homeric epic is the primary example, see Plato Republic 392e–394c. The “new nomos” of the later fifth century BCE did, however, involve a greater emphasis on theatrical mimesis, which compromised, yet still did not entirely obscure, the integrity of the citharode’s traditional persona; see Section 17 below; Part IV.11.4.
[ back ] 47. On the concept of musical personae, derived from Goffman’s “presentation of self,” see Auslander 2006: “Musical performance may be defined … as a person’s representation of self within a discursive domain of music. I posit that in musical performance, this representation of self is the direct object of the verb to perform. What musicians perform first and foremost is not music, but their own identities as musicians, their musical personae” (102). See too Nagy 1996 on the mimetic reenactment of ritual personae in Archaic and Classical Greek performance culture.
[ back ] 48. Eliade 1964:147. On parallels between the shaman and Orpheus, see Graf 1987; Freiert 1991; McGahey 1994:3–26.
[ back ] 49. On Minoan-Mycenaean musicians, see Anderson 1994:6–14; “sacral dress”: Nilsson 1971:155–164. The bird depicted rising up next to the Pylos bard may indicate that this is an epiphany of Apollo (so Anderson). Otherwise, the summoned bird, as well as the rocky outcropping on which the bard sits, which suggests a wild terrain “outside a constructed human environment” (Younger 1998:48), could identify him as Orpheus. Compare the lyre player in a striped robe standing beneath two flying birds on a Late Minoan IIIB pyxis in Chania, Crete (Maas and Snyder 1989:16, fig. 2b). Cf. Langdon 1992:76–78. For Near Eastern parallels, see Franklin 2006a:53–54. The processional lyre players depicted on paintings from Hagia Triada, Crete, who wear ankle-length, vertically banded robes, very closely resemble Archaic/Classical citharodes; these are presumably mortal ritual officiants. See discussion and illustrations in Anderson 1994:7–9 and Maas and Snyder 1989:2–3, 16.
[ back ] 50. Cf. discussion of this image in Part III.11.
[ back ] 51. For a plausible reconstruction of the Archaic rediscovery of lost Minoan-Mycenaean musical technology via the culture of Mermnad Lydia, see Franklin 2002 and 2008; cf. Boardman 1980:97–98. It is telling that the earliest surviving image of Apollo playing a seven-stringed kithara, painted on a later seventh-century amphora from the island of Melos (Athens, National Museum 911, Maas and Snyder 1989:42, fig. 2), appears in a markedly Orientalizing context. Apollo stands in a chariot drawn by four winged horses, exotic creatures derived from the Near Eastern bestiary.
[ back ] 52. Evans 1928:721; cf. Anderson 1994:8. On Greek adoption and adaptation of Eastern fashions in general, see Miller 1997:153–187, especially 161–162 on musicians’ dress. West 1992:55 considers the patterned cloth that citharodes drape from their instruments to be “inspired by oriental pomp” (see e.g. Plates 1, 9). Similar textile adornments are shown suspended from the vertical harps of musicians on seventh-century BCE Assyrian reliefs.
[ back ] 53. Cf. Gray 2001:14n1; Herington 1985:16.
[ back ] 54. Aelian Historical Miscellanies 3.43 records an anecdote that also attests to the sacred aura of citharodic skeuê, although in this case it fails to save the life of its wearer. The Sybarites slaughter a citharode, despite the fact that he had fled to the altar of Hera and was still wearing his stage costume (sun autêi stolêi). The hubristic disrespect for the altar is significantly parallel to that for the stolê as the Sybarites kill this ‘therapôn (servant) of the Muses’. Perhaps their own excess luxury in dress (Athenaeus 15.518e–519b) has caused them to lose sight of the special status accorded to citharodic costume.
[ back ] 55. Yet Nero felt a real kinship with Apollo kitharôidos; he was deeply invested in the ideal of the divine citharode. See Suetonius Nero 53, Pliny Natural History 30.14, Dio Cassius 63.20.5 on Nero’s Apollonian fixation. Further sources collected in Miller 2000:410n5. The official designation for Neronian citharodic performance came to be “divine voice” after 65 BCE: Suetonius Nero 21.1, Dio Cassius 63.20.5. Cf. Kauppi 2006:60–61.
[ back ] 56. Cf. n20 above on the distinctive stolê of auletic competitors at the Pythian contests, which was likely emulative of citharodic costume.
[ back ] 57. These coins were minted between 62 and 65 CE. Suetonius thought they were struck to commemorate Nero’s tour of Greece in 66–67 and that the citharode portrayed on them was the emperor (Nero 25.2). But see Champlin 2003:117, with illustration in Griffin 1984, fig. 31. Kitharai (but not citharodes) had been featured on Roman coins going back to the second century BCE (Wille 1967:214). Various Greek municipalities, especially ones with strong Apollonian and/or citharodic connections such as Delos, Mytilene, and Methymna (Richter 1965:68, figs. 269–270; Schefold 1997:156–157, Abb. 70) had been striking coins with Apollo kitharôidos or the kithara alone since the fifth century BCE.
[ back ] 58. Pliny Natural History 36.25; Propertius Elegies 2.31.16 (Pythius in longa carmina ueste sonat ‘The Pythian god wearing his long garment performs his songs’); Ovid Metamorphoses 11.165–169 may also be an ecphrasis of the statue. Roccos 1989, however, argues that the Palatine Apollo was a Roman work modeled on the Athenian cult statue of Apollo Patroos by Euphranor.
[ back ] 59. See Roccos 2002 for a fascinating reconstruction of the “narrative” contextualization of statues of long-robed Apollo citharoedus on the private grounds of Imperial villas.
[ back ] 60. Thus Péché and Vendries 2001:74, with illustration.
[ back ] 61. Cf. Kay 2006:136–155.
[ back ] 62. Villa Giulia M 354; Seebass 1991:19, with fig. 6; Shapiro 1992:69.
[ back ] 63. Thus Seebass 1991:19.
[ back ] 64. Amyx 1976:28; cf. Bundrick 2005:118. I note that the phrase khaire Orpheus corresponds to a type of hymnic closing formula whereby the performer bids adieu to the divinity he has been singing, e.g. Homeric Hymns 12.6. Citharodes as well as rhapsodes sang hymns, so perhaps the inscription quotes the text of a citharodic hymn to Orpheus that the citharode has been performing. This interpretation is enticing, but problematic, since the citharode is depicted in pre- or post-performance mode, neither playing nor singing.
[ back ] 65. The use of the Thracian-style kithara by some Classical citharodes surely invited such identifications. See n111 below.
[ back ] 66. Slater 1999 discusses the function of the kalos-inscription within the Athenian “culture of fame.” Citharodes labeled kalos are sometimes named, e.g. a red-figured krater by Polygnotus, with a young kithara player labeled “Nikomas kalos” standing before admirers (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 21.88.73; Richter and Hall 1936, no. 126), a fact that prompts still another reading of the Orpheus oinochoe. Is this real-life citharode actually named Orpheus? No citharodic Orpheuses are attested, although we hear of an Orpheus of Croton, who was supposedly employed by the Peisistratids to edit the text of Homer (Tzetzes On Comedy p20 Kaibel; cf. Suda s.v. Ὀρφεύς, 657 Adler).
[ back ] 67. IG I3 666 and 754. See Raubitschek 1949, nos. 84 and 86; cf. Wilson 2004:284. Kotsidu 1991:80, however, argues that the dedicatory objects were more likely to have been tripods.
[ back ] 68. Polemon fr. 25 Preller tells the tale, recorded in Athenaeus and Pliny, that a refugee from Thebes had successfully hidden a sum of gold in the sculpted fold of the citharode’s mantle; the money was recovered after the city was restored twenty years later. As a result, Pliny tells us, the statue was nicknamed Dicaeus (‘Just One’). The curious anecdote conflates two themes in the cultural imagination surrounding the citharode: his ability to make money and to protect cities (Thebes itself was founded by the citharode Amphion).
[ back ] 69. IG IV 591 (Stephanis 1988, no. 1066) records Heliodorus’ multiple victories in agônes at the Nemean, Isthmian, Pythian, Actian and, curiously, Olympic festival; in the games at the “Shield of Argos” festival, the Sebasta in Naples, the Koinon of Asia, and the Urania; and in numerous other provincial agônes. On the inscription, see Wallner 2001, who argues that Heliodorus competed at the Olympics, where there was normally no citharodic agôn, as a kêrux ‘herald’.
[ back ] 70. We see an exaggerated example of such gamesmanship in an anecdote preserved in Athenaeus 8.351e–f: after a victory in Sicyon, the citharist Stratonicus dedicated a “trophy,” perhaps a statue, in the Asclepieion, which was inscribed with the words “From the spoils of bad citharists.” That is, the monument advertised its own status as a marker of its dedicator’s economic success in the contests; it was funded with the winnings Stratonicus “took” from his opponents.
[ back ] 71. For a vivid description of a festival performer (in this case a rhapsode) transfixed by the collective gaze of an audience more than 20,000 strong, see Plato Ion 535d–e.
[ back ] 72. The eroticized tableau of beautiful young Achilles singing and playing his precious, silver-bridged phorminx (the Homeric “lyre”) for a rapt Patroclus in Iliad 9.182–194 is a paradigmatic case.
[ back ] 73. For the ethical and somatic comportment instilled by the kitharistês, see Plato Protagoras 326a–b.
[ back ] 74. On the adolescent lyre player in schoolroom and courtship scenes, see discussions in Dover 1989:75, Maas and Snyder 1989:87–89, and Bundrick 2005:60–66. In at least one scene Eros has intercrural intercourse with a lyre-holding youth (fragmentary kylix by Douris, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 13.94; see Shapiro 1981:142, with pl. 28, fig. 14). Cf. Koch-Harnack 1983:166–172 on the lyre as courting gift. Koch-Harnack points out that in some images of the symposium, (nude) young men are shown playing the lyre, and open to the sexual advances of older symposiasts (e.g. the party scene on a kylix of the Hegesiboulos Painter, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 07.286.47; cf. Dover 1989:96). But these may be professional, hired musicians, such as the Syracusan boy lyre player in Xenophon Symposium 2.1, rather than the “real thing.”
[ back ] 75. Thus Wilson 2004:296-297. Fabbro 1995:166–168 thinks that the chorus is a dithyrambic chorus at the Panathenaia, but, pace Koller 1962, there is no firm evidence for lyric or citharodic dithyrambic performance in Athens.
[ back ] 76. On this polarization, see Wilson 1999.
[ back ] 77. Cf. Collins 2004:125–126.
[ back ] 78. For the conceptualization of the sympotic group as a Dionysian chorus, compare Plato Laws 664d, 665b, 666b–d. (Collins 2004:125n41 thinks that the khoroi of Ion’s elegiac fr. 26.11 West refer to symposia, but these might be, at least at the primary level of reference, dithyrambic festival choruses.) The skolion in question was probably sung to the lyre, but aulodic performance of skolia was also practiced (cf. Aristophanes Wasps 1219–1222). If PMG 900 were sung to the “Dionysian” aulos, then the self-referentiality of Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν would obviously be more apparent. In the sixth and early fifth centuries BCE the easy coexistence in the symposium of auloi and lyres, as well as the vaguely exotic baritone lyre, the barbitos, was common.
[ back ] 79. Cf. Kurke 1997:117–118, who is less inclined to see humor in these skolia.
[ back ] 80. Some Attic sympotic vessels imagine the realization of such fantasies; see n74 above.
[ back ] 81. Lissarrague 1990:138–139. For the image, see Bundrick 2005:2, fig. 1.
[ back ] 82. Discussion in Fisher 2001:314.
[ back ] 83. Against Timarchus 41. The speech was delivered in 346 BCE. On Misgolas, see discussion in Fisher 2001:170–172 and Dover 1989:73–74.
[ back ] 84. Cf. Arnott 1996:62–63.
[ back ] 85. Translation adapted from Fisher 2001:172, who renders κιθαρῳδοῖς as ‘lyre players’, which misses the mark, as does Davidson’s ‘cithara-boys’ (2001:30). Misgolas does not pursue amateur lyre players or hired party boys, like the youthful lyre player in Xenophon Symposium 2.1, 4.53–54, but real concert musicians.
[ back ] 86. An example of one such good-looking citharode from the later fifth century BCE is Arignotus, whose kharis, his musical and physical grace, made him “beloved to all men” (Aristophanes Wasps 1277–1278). Aristophanes insinuates that Arignotus was a promiscuous erômenos (see Totaro 1991), but that need not have been the case. Cf. Part IV.10.
[ back ] 87. Cf. Diogenes Laertius 7.13–14 for a similar account.
[ back ] 88. Aristocles appears again at Mirabilia 169, a work (probably) by Antigonus of Carystus, in which his student Timon speaks of a special acanthus-wood plêktron that Aristocles handed down to him. It is likely, I think, that this Aristocles was the father of the star citharode Nicocles, a Tarentine who made his primary residence in Athens (Stephanis 1988, no. 1839).
[ back ] 89. Zeno himself appears in the anecdotal tradition as an admirer of the star citharode Amoebus, but for him virtuoso citharodic performance was (apparently) less an erotic experience than an opportunity for philosophical speculation on the sublime tension between sensible musical harmony and the brute materials of the instrument that produces it: “They say that Zeno, when he was about to go to the theater to hear Amoebus sing to the kithara, said to his students, ‘Let’s go and learn what sort of orderly harmony and voice (τάξεως ἐμμέλειαν καὶ φωνήν) is emitted from animal guts and sinews [the strings] and pieces of wood and bone [the frame of the kithara] when they are imbued with human reason (logos) and rhythm” (Plutarch Moralia 443a = SVF I, p67 fr. 299 von Arnim). Stoics believed in the power of music to transform human behavior, and Terpander’s pacification of violence in Sparta seems to have been for them an item of belief (Philodemus On Music 1 fr. 30.31–35, p18 Kemke = Diogenes of Babylon SVF III, p232 fr. 84 von Arnim).
[ back ] 90. Goldhill 2005:278; Henderson 1975:177.
[ back ] 91. Padgett 1995:400.
[ back ] 92. At Laws 718b–c tragedy is said to “offer demagoguery” for the masses (okhlos). At Gorgias 502a Socrates says that kitharôidia appeals to the “mass of spectators” (okhlos theatôn).
[ back ] 93. Strategems 4.6.1. Polyaenus’ emphatic mention of the performance of Amoebus suggests that it was as significant a draw for the “great crowd” as the wedding itself; in retaining Amoebus, Antigonus presumably wanted to ensure that all potential resistors would be fully distracted by the celebration.
[ back ] 94. For a judicious discussion of Palaephatus’ methods, see Stern 1999.
[ back ] 95. A musical Zethus is attested only here; in other accounts (e.g. Pausanius 9.5.4), Amphion alone is musical. Cf. Part II.12n305. On Amphion’s foundation of Thebes, see Rocchi 1989:47–56.
[ back ] 96. We may compare the libidinal compulsion, the ἔρος ἀμήχανος, that stirs Apollo to listen to Hermes’ lyre singing in Homeric Hymn to Hermes 434, or the “music-mad compulsion” (μουσομανὴς ἀνάγκα) experienced by one enthusiast of kitharôidia in Sophocles’ Thamyras (fr. 245.1–2), lending his (or her) fascination with this predominantly Apollonian art an impetuous, Dionysiac tone. Dio also makes the telling revelation that the pleasure afforded to the masses by citharodic performance is much greater than the pleasure produced by popular rhetors and sophists such as he (19.4).
[ back ] 97. The word σπουδή seems to be a vox propria for the passionate enthusiasm attending kitharôidia. Cf. scholia ad Aristophanes Clouds 964c: ἐσπούδαζον δὲ οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι περὶ κιθαρῳδίαν (“The [fifth-century] Athenians were fanatical about kitharôidia”); Dio Chrysostom 32.61 criticizes Nero’s σπουδή for kitharôidia, as well as his practice (ἐμπειρία) of it; Plutarch Dialogue on Love 749c speaks of the σπουδαί that erupt surrounding a citharodic agôn in Thespiae. Plutarch Life of Themistocles 5.3 says that a citharist popular in Athens was σπουδαζόμενον. Aeschines Against Timarchus 168 mentions the “amazing σπουδή” (δαιμονίως ἐσπουδακώς) of Misgolas for the citharodes he desired.
[ back ] 98. Aristotle Politics 8.1341b–1342a characterizes the audience of musical agônes as entirely low class, tendentiously passing over the numerous aristocrats who surely watched the contests. There is no reason to believe that women (of various classes) were not caught up in the mix as well.
[ back ] 99. London E 460; Bundrick 2005:169, fig. 99. The man could of course be a citharist, but this does not affect the argument.
[ back ] 100. Villa Giulia 5250; Lezzi-Hafter 1976, plate 146. See Shapiro 1992:58. The hydria on which one of the women sits in the Villa Giulia scene may itself represent a prize of victory. For the motif compare a late-fifth-century khous (Basel, Collection of Herbert A. Cahn 649) that shows a young kithara player standing on the bêma before a Nike seated on a hydria that is probably made of metal. Here the agôn is presumably set at the Anthesteria festival. See discussion in Smith 2007:163–164, with fig. 8.8.
[ back ] 101. Goldhill 1994:356–357 is right to remind us that we cannot be absolutely certain that, although women took part in the Panathenaic procession, they also attended the musical contests. But he is too quick to dismiss the evidence of this vase painting, nor does he acknowledge the woman spectator on the calyx krater discussed above.
[ back ] 102. These “rites of Pallas” could well refer to the athletic games at the Panathenaia (cf. Scanlon 2002:223). If so, this passage could serve as indirect evidence for the presence of women at the musical games as well.
[ back ] 103. It is probably relevant that the charisma and itinerant lifestyle of the professional musician could have led, even if only anecdotally, to the sort of sexual opportunism with which Creusa indicts Apollo. Some variation on this theme seems to lie behind the plot of Menander’s comedy Kitharistês, in which the titular character, an Athenian, has an illegitimate daughter in Ephesus. The short biography by the Augustan-era historian Nicolaus of Damascus of the seventh-century BCE Magnes of Smyrna tells of a “good-looking man, known for both his poetry and mousikê,” who traveled from city to city performing in splendid attire, sleeping along the way with smitten women—whose jealous menfolk eventually killed him, in a kind of inversion of the Orpheus myth—and becoming the boyfriend of the Lydian tyrant Gyges (FGrH 90 F 62). The Ionian Magnes is probably meant to have been an aulode or rhapsode, but the profile of the charismatic itinerant belongs to the citharode as well.
[ back ] 104. See Bundrick 2005:116–126; Seebass 1991.
[ back ] 105. Bundrick 2005:120 must be correct, however, to dissociate Bassarids from the scenes of Orpheus’ murder on Attic vessels, which both predate its production and do not specifically have maenads killing Orpheus, as is seemingly the case in the play (“Eratosthenes” Katasterismoi 24.140). Cf. West 1990b:36–38. Could Aeschylus’ play have had a citharodic source? See Part III.8.
[ back ] 106. Certainly, the images of the murder are blatantly eroticized; some, such as that on an amphora by the Phiale Painter (Munich, Staatliche Antikensammlung und Glyptothek 2330; Bundrick 2005:121, fig. 73), parallel images of young lyre players pursued by excited admirers (e.g. Eos pursuing Tithonus, amphora attributed to the Group of Naples 3169, Naples 81541/H 3169; Bundrick 2005:65, fig. 37).
[ back ] 107. Cf. Bundrick 2005:121–122 and 126, who thinks that the scenes recall “contemporary interest in musical ethos, as for example in the work of Damon.” On this “elitist” reading of the Orpheus images, the maddened Thracian women intent on killing the hero might, at least in the later fifth century, have come to symbolize the forces of an anti-aristocratic demotic Athenian culture bent on diminishing the embattled prestige of elite lyric paideia. Orpheus is never portrayed as a citharode in fifth-century Athenian art, as he is at least once in the sixth century (see discussion above).
[ back ] 108. Cf. Hall 1989:135–136.
[ back ] 109. Cf. Wilson 2004:286.
[ back ] 110. E.g. a volute krater by Polion (Ferrara, Museo Archeologico Nazionale T 127; c. 420 BCE), showing Thamyris kitharôidos (or kitharistês) with the Muses. Froning 1971:67–86 connects the scene to a dithyramb performed at the Hephaisteia festival.
[ back ] 111. See Maas-Snyder 1989:145–147 and Bundrick 2005:26–29 for discussion and illustrations; cf. Cillo 1993. This kithara probably bore some relation to the phoinix, a lyre-like instrument whose arms were made from the horns of Libyan antelopes (Herodotus 4.192.1); Nicomedes On Orpheus ap. Athenaeus 14.637a–b says that the phoinix was employed by “Thracian kings at their feasts.” See Cillo 1993:231–232.
[ back ] 112. See e.g. the pelike by the Painter of Athens 1183 (Bundrick 2005:29, fig. 16). Note too the ribbing on the arms of the kithara held by the young citharode on the pelike of the Epimedes Painter (Plate 13). This effect is articulated in one of the fragments from the Sophoclean Thamyras: Thamyris breaks the χρυσόδετον κέρας ‘gold-bound horn’ (fr. 246.1) of his kithara. Raw nature is overlaid with luxurious refinement. Cf. the silver-bridged phorminx (Iliad 9.185–189) of Achilles, a figure who shares a certain marginal status with Thamyris. Cf. Rocchi 1980. On later-fifth-century Athenian interest in things Thracian, see Parker 1996:173–174.
[ back ] 113. Translation is based on that of Braund 2004.
[ back ] 114. Sexual activity was thought to degrade the singing voice. See discussion in Hall 2002:23–24.
[ back ] 115. Haunting this entire passage is the specter of illegitimacy, as Braund 1992:75–76 shows. Cf. Satire 6.76–77, where a citharoedus with the imposing name of Echion (one of the hubristic Giants) threatens Rome’s noble bloodlines. The vision of high society crawling with the progeny of citharodes is pure hysteria, but it reflects an actual sociocultural development: the increased participation in the Hellenic musical arts on the part of Roman elites and the increased penetration of star musicians into the ranks of the social elite. See Wille 1967:336–338.
[ back ] 116. Courtney 1980:312–313 notes how Pollio’s cithara is treated “as if it were animate.” Pollio himself is imagined as speaking confidentially to it (fidibus promittere, 388). Juvenal perhaps has in mind the citharode’s prooimion or sphragis, both sections of his song in which he might address his instrument and/or speak of his hopes of victory (cf. Terpander fr. 4 Gostoli; Timotheus Persians 202–236).
[ back ] 117. Limbs/melodies of effeminate musicians: Cratinus fr. 276 K-A.
[ back ] 118. Hedea’s victory, presumably over other boys her age, is extraordinary; no other female victors of any age in mousikoi agônes of any sort are attested. Hedea’s father, Hermesianax of Tralles, commemorated it, along with equally unique athletic victories at the Nemean and Isthmian Games, on an inscribed statue dedicated at Delphi (SIG3 802). See further Goldhill 2005:280–282; Bélis 1999:56–57.
[ back ] 119. IG II2 2311, line 22d in the restored text of Shear 2003: παῖδες κιθαρισταί compete at the Panathenaia. These contests probably had a history going back to the Archaic period. On the obverse of a Panathenaic-type amphora from around 530 BCE (Reggio 4224; Kotsidu 1991, Tafel 8) a young musician stands atop a bêma playing a small-scale kithara before two seated spectators or judges; on the reverse Athena is depicted, suggesting the Panathenaic setting of the contest scene. There is a possibility that the youth is singing to the kithara, but given the fact that only boys’ kitharistikê is later attested for the Panathenaia, this competitor is probably a citharist.
[ back ] 120. At the fourth-century BCE Panathenaia there was also a boys’ contest in solo singing to the accompaniment of the aulos, aulôidia (IG II2 2311, line 22a in the restored text of Shear 2003). As kitharistikê, solo kithara playing, involves only playing, so aulôidia too involves the display of only one musical skill, singing. Solo aulos playing, aulêtikê, and rhapsôidia, while single-skill media, nevertheless were practiced only by adult males at the Classical Panathenaia, presumably due to the technical and narrative virtuosity respectively demanded by each.
[ back ] 121. On the expansive menu of festival contests and agonistic categories in the post-Classical era, see Robert 1984; Pallone 1984; Csapo and Slater 1994:186–206; Bélis 1999:113–132.
[ back ] 122. Biers and Geagan 1970:80 (lines 44–46). Cf. IGSK 17 2.3813: boy citharode victorious at the Great Artemisia in Ephesus, third century CE.
[ back ] 123. The majority of citharodes (and citharists) depicted on Archaic and early Classical Attic vases are bearded. Those that are unbearded, such as the Brygos Painter’s citharode, represent the Apollonian neos-type. (Although the Brygos citharode is tagged ho pais kalos, this is no indication that he is an adolescent pais, but rather a salute to his youthful good looks; his robust neck and chest in fact signal a postadolescent age. Cf. Shapiro 2004:2 on the tag kalos; Davidson 2006 on age grades and age-indicative physical traits.) In the High Classical style youthful idealizing becomes the norm; citharodes and citharists are now mostly depicted as unbearded, regardless of age, although hairstyles are consistently short (see Shapiro 1992:58). It is possible, however, that this is not merely representational convention; professional citharodes may have increasingly adopted a clean-shaven look during the later fifth century BCE, which played into criticisms that they were effeminate. Phrynis the citharode was called a gunnis ‘sissy’ (scholia ad Aristophanes Clouds 971a); he is represented as beardless on a southern Italian krater of the fourth century BCE (Salerno Pc 1812), in a scene likely based on Eupolis’ Demes. Cf. Part IV.10n283. For long hair as an affectation of Imperial citharodes, see Dio Cassius 63.9.1.
[ back ] 124. Cf. Braund 1992:76 on Juvenal’s articulation of this type: “[A]n adulterer may lurk under the guise of a cinaedus. Paradoxically, the softer he looks, the more athletic he will be in bed.”
[ back ] 125. Another reflex of the sexually troped music criticism of the Classical period is to be found in a contemporary of Juvenal, Dio Chrysostom 32.61–62: present-day citharodes are characterized both as violent sexual transgressors against old-time music (arkhaia mousikê)—this is a theme from Old Comedy, above all Pherecrates Cheiron fr. 155 K-A—and as singers of aismata gunaikôn. This latter phrase could be understood to mean ‘women’s songs’ or ‘songs sung for the enjoyment of women’. Again, the conceit of the musician as effeminate seducer is operative.
[ back ] 126. Compare Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.7, in which Apollonius complains of Nero’s having “cast off the skeuê of Augustus and Julius in exchange for that of [the citharodes] Amoebus and Terpnus.”
[ back ] 127. Nero’s bloated face and neck, evident in the realistic portraiture on his coins of this period, must have considerably dampened the “Apollonian” effect as well. See Suetonius Nero 51; Griffin 1984:121.
[ back ] 128. We could compare the gushing proclamation of love (and nascent lust) by an upper-class girl for a citharodic neos that is imagined in Greek Epistles 2.5 of Aristaenetus (fifth or sixth century CE, but probably following earlier Imperial literary sources).
[ back ] 129. The simple, virtuous character of the testudo stands in stark contrast to the sumptuous rings of Juvenal’s player. There is perhaps a suggestion of a feminizing corruption of lyric music’s traditional purity, as well as an allusion to the bejeweled kitharai of professional citharodes. Preciously adorned amateur stringed instruments have a distinguished pedigree, however: Achilles plays a phorminx with a silver bridge (Iliad 9.186).
[ back ] 130. Wood and ivory are also attested. See West 1992:65, 1990a:1–2, who notes the phallic suggestiveness of the plectrum’s shape. See the plectrum held by a Roman Apollo citharoedus in Plate 4. Suda s.v. Σαπφώ (107 Adler) records the odd claim that Sappho invented the plectrum. Given that the apocryphal biographical information in this entry includes a marked amount of blatant sexual invective—the image is of the poet as an oversexed courtesan—her supposed invention of this phallus-shaped device may have originated in a joke about her excessive sexual appetites. The symposium, where the songs of Sappho were reperformed (Aelian via Stobaeus 3.29.58), was likely its original context; discussion of inventions, heurêmata, both serious and playful, was typically sympotic (see e.g. Critias D-K 88 B 2 and 6). This is noteworthy: Sappho fr. 99.5 L-P (=Alcaeus fr. 303A.5 Voigt) describes the khordai ‘strings’ of the lyre as olisbodokoi ‘receiving the olisbos’. In Attic comedy, olisbos means ‘dildo’. West believes that Sappho uses olisbos to denote the plectrum, with no sexual undertones; only later did the semantic development from ‘plectrum’ to ‘dildo’ take place. It is possible, however, that the epithet forms part of Sappho’s originally obscene invective against her supposed rivals, the Polyanaktidai, who are mentioned in the same poem (cf. Parker [H.] 2005:7–9). Sappho would thus be insulting her aristocratic enemies’ musical and moral character. But it could also be that this very song, as it circulated through Athenian symposia, inspired jokes about Sappho’s invention of the plêktron qua sex toy. Cf. Nagy 2007a on how Sappho’s own “character” could be profaned as her songs were reperformed at symposia. The plectrum could suggest violence as well as sex: in one version of the myth, a frustrated Heracles stabs his lyre teacher Linus with his plectrum (Aelian Historical Miscellanies 3.32).
[ back ] 131. Cf. Tibullus 1.3.32, with Cairns 1979:64–65.
[ back ] 132. Lines 3–4 of Paul’s epigram allude to the poetry of Sappho, the supposed inventor of the plectrum, specifically to the famous erotic triangulation described in the first stanze of her fr. 31: “The man to whom she nods in favor, that man is another Anchises, he is another Adonis.” Paul implicitly likens Maria to Aphrodite, the lover of these mythical heroes. As such, this scenario also offers an allusive variation on the seduction scene in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. There it is god-like Anchises who plays the lyre for a smitten Aphrodite (κιθαρίζων, 80), who in turn seduces Anchises. Scenes such as this one reflect at the level of myth the sexual charisma of the real-life lyre player (and a fortiori the citharode).
[ back ] 133. On the phorminx, also called, by modern scholars, the cradle or round-based kithara, as a women’s instrument, see Bundrick 2005:26.
[ back ] 134. It is worth noting that Paul evinces interest in citharodic culture in another epigram, Palatine Anthology 6.54, which refers to the legendary Locrian citharode Eunomus, who won the Pythian agôn with the help of a cicada.
[ back ] 135. The lemma to another erotic epigram in the Palatine Anthology reads eis kitharôidon (5.138), but the lovely Zenophila whom the epigram praises plays the pêktis, which is usually a type of many-stringed harp. Again, the organological terminology may be more poetic than technically accurate. Perhaps Zenophila plays a polychord kithara, common enough in late antiquity, which is here “metaphorically” called a pêktis. There is a similar conflation in the treatise On the Guild of Dionysus by the third-century BCE scholar Artemon of Cassandrea, FHG IV 342 = Athenaeus 14.636e: the polychord kithara of Timotheus of Miletus, no harpist he, is called the magadis, a type of harp.
[ back ] 136. We do not know what instrument was played by the kitharistriai, who entertained alongside aulêtrides and psaltriai (female auletes and harpists) at Classical Athenian symposia, primarily accompanying men’s singing, but perhaps their own as well (cf. Plato fr. 71.12–13 K-A; Philodemus of Gadara Epigram 1.1). Their wage, capped and monitored by the civic bureaucrats called astunomoi, was no more than two drachmas per night (Aristotle Constitution of Athens 50.2). Did these low-rent entertainers lug large and costly kitharai to rowdy parties? Perhaps they did; most harps were, after all, also expensive and unwieldy. Significantly, however, in the Attic iconographical record, women, citizen or “working,” are hardly ever shown playing the kithara. A handful of late Archaic depictions of reveling maenads and hetairai playing the instrument indicate that women would at least be able to play it in sympotic or comastic contexts, even if they rarely did so. (See examples and discussion in Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:225, 250.) But the smaller, lighter-weight bowl lyre or phorminx seems more suitable to the rather basic purposes of the kitharistria, as they are to those of the kitharistês ‘lyre teacher’, who is never depicted holding a kithara. One context in which kitharistriai could well have played the kithara was the public religious festival, for which they were occasionally hired to provide music, as Menander Epitrepontes 477–479 attests (Habrotonon, a psaltria, plays for girls’ choruses at the Tauropolia). Dinarchus 1.23 mentions a kitharistria at the Eleusinia; a woman named Seddis was employed as kitharistria in a temple precinct in Sardis (Sardis VII 1.3). Cf. Bélis 1999:41–42.
[ back ] 137. Goldhill 2005:276–277.
[ back ] 138. Cf. Menander’s hetaira character Habrotonon, who harps for male clients as well as female festival-goers (Epitrepontes 477–479). On Glauce, see below.
[ back ] 139. On the memorandum, see Bell 1925; Bélis 1999:21–22. Heracleotes also mentions the need for an epistatês (line 27), which Bélis translates as ‘manager’, to put him in competitive position in the run-up to the festival. What role the epistatês played in managing the career of the citharode we can only guess, but the very existence of such a figure speaks to the complexity of organization and commercialization in the citharodic culture of the Hellenistic period. See the following note.
[ back ] 140. Thus Rostovtzeff 1922:174, who suggests that Zenon’s and Nestor’s schools were training grounds for professional musicians and athletes whose winnings the benefactors would subsequently share: “But is it not more probable that the interest was not only of a sportive character but that Zenon and Nestor were interested materially in the victory of their boys? In the Hellenistic period the Greek agones were contests of professionals and the prizes consisted not only in crowns but also in comparatively large sums of money. Large sums could be also gained by betting on the best trained boys.”
[ back ] 141. Lightfoot 2002:212.
[ back ] 142. Aelian On the Nature of Animals 1.6, 5.29, 8.11; Historical Miscellanies 9.39; Plutarch Moralia 972f; also Pliny Natural History 10.51. A speaker in Plutarch Moralia 397a argues that the Pythian priestess should not be expected to sing as well as Glauce the kitharôidos.
[ back ] 143. Thus Goldhill 2005:279–280.
[ back ] 144. In Hedylus 1883 Gow-Page (ap. Athenaeus 4.176d) she is a maker of drinking songs reperformed by the aulete Theon. At Theocritus Idyll 4.31, Corydon, a rustic singer to the reed surinx, the country cousin of the aulos, claims he can “strike up the tunes of Glauce” (τὰ Γλαύκας ἀγκρούομαι). The scholiast to the passage calls her a kroumatopoios, which can in fact denote any kind of instrumental composer, but probably means aulete here (so Dorion, a famous aulete, is called a kroumatopoios by Hellenistic authors; see West 1992:369n34).
[ back ] 145. Goldhill 2005:280.
[ back ] 146. This is essentially the position of West 1992:378–379; 373.
[ back ] 147. Discussion in Bélis 1999:37–60. Loman 2004 makes a strong argument that the number of agonistic female musicians in the Hellenistic period was considerably greater than our sources indicate. For female theatrical performers in late antiquity, see Webb 2002.
[ back ] 148. Inscriptional evidence presented in Robert 1938:36–38. Kleino did not compete in contests at Iasos but rather offered epideixeis ‘recitals’ in the theater. Polygnota probably did formally compete at Delphi, as did another khoropsaltria from Cyme (daughter of one Aristocratus), whose name has been lost from a second-century BCE inscription (SIG 689 = Stephanis 1988, no. 2815). See discussion in Bélis 1999:53–56.
[ back ] 149. Polygnota’s family probably belonged to one of the performers’ guilds of Dionysus that arose during the Hellenistic period. See Harmon 2005:352n5.
[ back ] 150. It should be noted that Ptolemaic symposia were managed on a far grander scale than Archaic and Classical private symposia. Ptolemy Philadelphus entertained in an enormous, lavishly accoutered symposium tent (Athenaeus 5.196a–197c), in which it is easy to imagine concert performances being staged for a relatively large, while still select audience. See Murray [Oswyn] 1996, who sees the tyrants’ symposia as a model for those of the Hellenistic kings: “They [the tyrants] expanded the size and expense of the symposium until it became almost confused with the public festival” (16).
[ back ] 151. We hear of several sympotic aulêtrides who evoked the glamour of the Panhellenic contests by adopting noms de guerre such as Nemeas, Isthmias, and Pythionice. The practice was common enough in fourth-century Athens for (ineffectual) legislation to be passed against it (Polemon fr. 38 Preller = Athenaeus 13.587c). See McClure 2003:62. Straton, the fourth-century king of Sidon and a legendary hedonist, fused the thrill of the music contest with the sexual adventure of the symposium in fabulously literal fashion by having his hired female entertainers compete against one another in mock mousikoi agônes (Theopompus FGrH 115 F 114 = Athenaeus 12.531c). Theopompus also records that a favorite of the fourth-century BCE Phocian tyrant Phayllus, an aulêtris named Bromias, “would have played the aulos at the Pythian games had she not been prevented from doing so by the populace” (Athenaeus 13.605b)—an example of the way the private musical and erotic lives of kings or tyrants could spill out into the public performative realm. The case of Maria from Pharia could be analogous.
[ back ] 152. Cf. Anderson 2000:156. Lucian The Uncultured Book Collector 12 imagines dogs being irresistibly, and violently, drawn to the son of the Lesbian tyrant Pittacus as he plays the misappropriated lyre of Orpheus. Here too a musico-political allegory may be at issue, with the dogs representing the “masses” attracted to the tyrant-musician. Plato notably singles out the “sounds of dogs and sheep and birds” as objects of mimetic imitation by the sensationalistic New Music performer (Republic 397a–b).
[ back ] 153. Goldhill 2005:288n27.
[ back ] 154. Cf. West 1992:329.
[ back ] 155. The quotation is from Goldhill 2005:288n22.
[ back ] 156. See Webb 2002 on the life story of Theodora, fact and fiction.
[ back ] 157. See n136 above.
[ back ] 158. Silberberg-Pierce 1993, fig. 9
[ back ] 159. Cf. Silberberg-Pierce 1993:32–33.
[ back ] 160. The kithara is not mentioned in this passage; only the term kitharismata is used. But in 2.7 Leucippe explicitly plays a kithara. Ovid is aroused by a girl playing a stringed instrument, probably a lyre, in Amores 2.4.27–28.
[ back ] 161. A fresco from the Casa di Giasone in Pompeii (Müller 1994, fig. 49) shows a woman, probably a Muse, standing upright in a citharodic pose, but she is holding a khelus-lyre rather than a kithara.
[ back ] 162. See e.g. Edwards 1997.
[ back ] 163. See Maas and Snyder 1989:174–175 on this kithara type. The woman’s kithara resembles that represented on a fourth-century BCE jasper scaraboid (Oxford 1921.1236, Maas and Snyder 1989:192, fig. 5), or the kithara held by a seated, bare-chested Apollo in another Roman fresco (Palatine Antiquarium, inv. 379982). It is also similar, but certainly not identical, to the “Italiote” kithara, a rectangular-shaped instrument with straight, parallel arms more practically akin to the harp than to the kithara, that is to be seen in the hands of wealthy domestic musicians, men and women, in south Italian vase paintings of the later fourth century BCE. Cf. Maas and Snyder, 175–178; West 1992:56, who notes that this kithara could have been “an import from the Levant.” Its exotic origin and appearance no doubt would have made it a status symbol, as harps had been for earlier generations of Greek elites (cf. Power 2007:194–197). It does appear in the hands of a seated woman—Sappho?—in a wall painting from Stabiae, who tunes the instrument as she plucks an arched harp, sambuca, lying at her side (Landels 1999:76–77)—the “harmony” of harp and kithara in this context is telling.
[ back ] 164. Representative images in Paquette 1984:124–126.
[ back ] 165. I discuss plucking and plectra in detail below. The “Italiote” kithara was sometimes plucked à la harpe, as we see on an Apulian pelike, Turin 4149; Paquette 1984:115, C22. (Note that this instrument has nine strings.)
[ back ] 166. Pace Studniczka 1924: the instrument is not meant to be a “five-stringed magadis” (87). It is clearly a kithara.
[ back ] 167. Convenient summary of approaches in Bieber 1956 and Müller 1994:23–44, 139–141.
[ back ] 168. Studniczka 1924:89–95 (“das Bildnis einer berühmten Hetäre hellenistischer Zeit”). Gonatas and citharode: Antigonus of Carystus by way of Athenaeus 13.603e; Diogenes Laertius 7.14.
[ back ] 169. The gaze of the musician, unlike the front-and-center stare of the girl behind her (an attendant, according to Studniczka 1924:89), is notably awry, and perhaps playfully so. That is, she is forever looking away from the viewer who would catch her eye, always showing her favor to another. Cf. Studniczka 1924:88.
[ back ] 170. Pfrommer 1992:19–23.
[ back ] 171. An Apollo kitharôidos from Cyrene, produced during the reign of Hadrian, now in the British Museum, was based on a Hellenistic model, and probably referred to earlier sculptural images of the god in Cyrene. On the statue, see Flashar 1992:126; cf. Higgs 1994 on its historical context.
[ back ] 172. Bing 2005:128. AB = Austin and Bastianini 2002. See too the reconstruction and discussion of Puelma 2006.
[ back ] 173. It is possible that Ovid took his account from a Hellenistic source eager to link the citharodic legacy of Methymna to Alexandria; the two cities enjoyed close political ties in the third century BCE (cf. Bing 2005:130–131, who would locate the Posidippean epigram in this political context). It is notable that one tradition, perhaps of Archaic antiquity, has Terpander bringing the lyre of Orpheus to Egypt (Nicomachus Excerpts 1 = T 53b Gostoli). Could this account too have had currency in the Alexandrian culture of kitharôidia? The shift of Orphic prestige from Antissa to Methymna, however, may have taken place only after Antissa was destroyed around 167 BCE and its population moved to Methymna (Livy 43.31.14, Pliny Natural History 5.139); cf. Graf 1987:93.
[ back ] 174. Bing 2005:129–130.
[ back ] 175. Stephens 2004:174 argues that in AB 37 Arsinoe “is imaginatively positioned as the successor of earlier artistic patrons” such as Periander of Corinth, Arion’s patron. An epigram of Posidippus from the “Gemstones” series (AB 9) describes the emblem on the famous seal ring of Polycrates of Samos as “the lyre of a singer-man playing the phorminx”—another embedded model of lyric patronage (Stephens 2004:173). On possible mythic refractions of Ptolemaic interest in kitharôidia in Theocritus Idyll 22.24 (the Dioscuri imagined as “citharists and singers”) and Idyll 18.35–37 (Helen expertly singing hymns to the lura), see Part II.10. The latter passage is especially suggestive. If Helen is meant to evoke Arsinoe (Griffiths 1979:86–91), then her expert lyre singing might serve to validate heroically the kitharôidia practiced by the Ptolemaic queen.
[ back ] 176. Suetonius Nero 23.3 describes Nero’s performance anxieties on his tour of Greece; cf. Kelly 1979:33–34.
[ back ] 177. Cf. n27 above for the critique of elite musical ideology by Stratonicus, the professional’s professional.
[ back ] 178. See Geer 1935; Arnold 1960:246–247; Caldelli 1993:28–37. Cf. Gouw 2006:220–221 on the appropriateness of Naples as the site of these first Greco-Roman games.
[ back ] 179. Statius Silvae 3.5.91–92. It is possible that Nero sang at some point in this odeion, but both Tacitus and Suetonius indicate that Nero made his debut in the open theater, which was a larger structure.
[ back ] 180. Cf. Geer 1935:214–215. The quinquennial schedule of the Sebasta would also seem to make a performance at them in 64 impossible, though Nero would later—sacrilegiously—alter the festival calendar in Greece to accommodate his own touring schedule, as well as, perhaps, the date of his own second Neronia (Suetonius Nero 23.1; 21.1).
[ back ] 181. Augustus had attended the Sebasta soon before his death in the summer of 14 CE (Dio Cassius 55.10.9, 56.29.2; Suetonius Augustus 98.5).
[ back ] 182. See e.g. Athenaeus 14.623d: Amoebus, a famous citharode of the third century BCE, earned one Attic talent for each public recital he gave in the theater at Athens.
[ back ] 183. Strabo describes how both Greek intellectuals working in Rome and Roman citizens alike enjoyed ἡ ἐν Νεαπόλει διαγωγὴ ἡ Ἑλληνική ‘the Hellenic lifestyle of Naples’ (5.4.7). Further sources discussed in Bowersock 1965:81–84.
[ back ] 184. Thus Geer 1935:215.
[ back ] 185. On the emendation sufferti (for sufferi), see Borthwick 1965:252. Borthwick proposes yet another emendation, se suffritinniturum, which, he argues, would represent the Greek ὑποτερετίζειν used by Nero, presumably quoting a Greek poetic source, perhaps a sympotic song. The verb describes the singing of the cicada.
[ back ] 186. At Xenophon Symposium 2.1, the verb kitharizein is used to describe the performance of a handsome boy at a drinking party. It is often translated as ‘play the kithara’, but Xenophon probably intends it to mean, as often, ‘play the lyre’ (see Maas and Snyder 1989:80–81). There were exceptional convivial events, however, at which kitharai could be heard. At the monarch’s or tyrant’s symposium, professional citharodes could provide entertainment, or symposia attended by sophisticated musical enthusiasts, some of whom would be sufficiently competent to play the kithara (see Power 2007). The citharode Amoebus—the namesake of the famous third-century BCE citharode—performs for fellow mousikoi and literati at the symposium that is the setting for Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistae (14.623d).
[ back ] 187. Under the Empire, however, other wealthy individuals likely retained citharodes for their private entertainment as well. A character in the “Plutarchean” On Music (written around the second century CE), a rich man named Onesicrates, who hosts the symposium that the treatise narrates, pays a salary (suntaxis, 2.1131c) to Lysias, a χειρουργῶν κιθαρῳδός ‘practicing citharode’ (43.1146d).
[ back ] 188. On Nero’s Juvenalia, see Morford 1985:2019–2020. Nero did not take the stage alone at these events; members of the Roman aristocracy were encouraged (or forced) to participate in dramatic and musical (solo and choral) performances. But—important to note—Nero was the only performer who took the stage as a citharode. Dio Cassius describes Nero’s performance as the climax of the event: he appears on stage in full skeuê and sings the Attis (or Bacchae) to the rapturous shouts of the Augustiani, who acclaim him a Pythian Apollo. But Dio also emphasizes amateurish details—Nero’s advisors Seneca and Burrus prompting him from the wings and the weakness of his voice.
[ back ] 189. Dio Cassius 61.21.2 says this custom began after the first Neronia of 60 CE.
[ back ] 190. See Beacham 1999:208–211, 237–238.
[ back ] 191. For representative modern views, see e.g. Champlin 2003:66–67 and Edwards 1994, who argues too that transgressive stage play is empowering—a demonstration of the individual’s ability to transcend society’s rules.
[ back ] 192. See Edwards 1994:83–86 and 1997 on actors, prostitutes, and the social and legal stigmas involved in infamia. We may note that practitioners of Nero’s primary athletic pursuit, chariot driving, were similarly exempt from infamia (Tertullian On Spectacles 22). Chariot racing was, however, less objectionable than singing to the kithara. Seneca and Burrus had encouraged a young Nero to drive his chariot (in a semi-private setting in the Vatican valley) to distract him from pursuing his citharodic ambitions (Tacitus Annals 14.14.2).
[ back ] 193. Tacitus Annals 15.65: “In terms of the disgrace, it made no difference if a citharode were removed and a tragic singer succeeded him, because, as Nero sang to the cithara, so Piso sang in tragic costume.” It is possible that when Flavus later tells Nero that he began to despise him when Nero “became a chariot driver, a histrio, and an arsonist” (Annals 15.67.2), he means histrio not as a literal description of the emperor’s acting, but as a denigrating metaphor for his citharodic persona—Nero citharoedus was no better than common histrio ‘actor’ (cf. Annals 15.59.2, where Flavus imagines Nero as a cowardly scaenicus). Dio Cassius 62.24.2 alternately has Flavus telling Nero that he could not endure being a slave to a κιθαρῳδός (no mention of acting). Cf. Woodman 1993:125.
[ back ] 194. Tacitus seems to voice this conservative Roman reaction within a conservative Greek discursive frame: the ethos theory of music, which goes back, via Plato, to the Athenian sophist Damon of Oa. The theory holds that musical sound can actually shape the character of its auditor for better or worse. See Anderson 1966. The ethical danger of “effeminizing” music is a recurring preoccupation of ethos theory, both in its vernacular and intellectual expressions (e.g. Aristophanes Women at the Thesmophoria 130–145; Plato Republic 398e–399a, Laws 802d; Aristides Quintilianus On Music 2.16; cf. Csapo 2004:230–232). Its proponents argued too that music could effect changes in the body politic as well as the individual, which is the argument Tacitus is channeling here. There is Damon’s famous credo, quoted by Socrates in Plato Republic 424c: “Nowhere are the styles of music altered without change in the greatest laws (nomoi) of the polis.”
[ back ] 195. Piso’s lyre playing is the subject of fourteen fascinating lines in the poem known as the Praise of Piso (163–177; on the poem, see Griffin 1984:148). The anonymous poet is careful to specify that Piso plays the amateur’s tortoise-shell lyre (testudo, chelys, lyra) rather than the cithara, and that he does so “without shame” (169, 171), following the example of Achilles, whose musical interests complemented his martial glories. That so large a chunk of the panegyric is devoted to the lyre, however, suggests that Piso took seriously his lyric culture, and may even have harbored quasi-professional ambitions similar to Nero’s, if not as grand.
[ back ] 196. Champlin 2003:66 probably goes too far in saying that “Nero [qua performing musician] could count on considerable sympathy among the [artistically inclined] leaders of society.” Another senatorial opponent of Nero, Thrasea Paetus, like Piso, tragico ornatu canebat ‘sang in tragic costume’ (Tacitus Annals 15.65.2; Dio Cassius 62.26.3 says the occasion was a local festival in Thrasea’s native Patavium, not the professionally tainted spectacle games in Rome). His fatal refusal to indulge Nero’s kitharôidia may have been as much an ethical resistance to irresponsible mousikê as irresponsible politics. Cf. Beacham 1999: “Thrasea infuriated the emperor because, far from being ignorant or dismissive of the fine arts, he was actually something of a connoisseur; it was Nero’s art that he disdained” (242).
[ back ] 197. His reticence had a practical rather than ideological basis as well, but one again defined by Greek rather than Roman considerations: Nero, for all his apparent self-delusion and bouts of musical megalomania (e.g. Suetonius Nero 41.1), was serious about his tekhnê. He knew what professional achievement in it sounded like, and he could have simply been reluctant to perform in public alongside professionals before he felt fully confident to compete at that level. (Recall that the Naples performance was non-competitive.) Cf. Bradley 1978:124.
[ back ] 198. Romans did not always recognize this Greek bias, but sought rather to distinguish “us Romans” from “those Greeks” with respect to just this proscription of public performance. See the classically reductive contrast in the prologue to Cornelius Nepos Lives (5).
[ back ] 199. Cf. “Plutarch” On Music 12.1135c, probably quoting Aristoxenus: “[The New Music composers] Crexus, Timotheus, Philoxenus, and the composers who were their contemporaries were excessively low-brow (φορτικώτεροι) and attached to novelty, pursuing the style that is nowadays called crowd-pleasing (φιλάνθρωπον) and money-making (θεματικόν).” On the latter term, referring to valuable prizes won at “thematic” contests, see Pollux Onomasticon 3.153, with Barker 1984:218n95.
[ back ] 200. I summarize here the arguments in Aristotle Politics 8.1339a–1342a; cf. already Aristophanes Clouds 967–972. Aristotle’s critique of the “banausic” professionalism of mousikoi agônes is illuminated by Rhetoric 1.9.1367a32–33. Ober 1989:277 paraphrases: “A man not carrying on a banausic trade (tekhnê) was shown to be a free man (eleutheros) because he need not ‘live for the sake of another’.” Both the agonistic performer and his audience are people “living for the sake of another,” and so each complements the other. The Damonian ethos theory of music (cf. n194 above), maintained in various forms by Plato, Aristotle, and Aristoxenus, provided the intellectual justification for such snobbery—musical sound was politically and ethically dangerous if left uncontrolled by the elite. Ford 2004 is a valuable discussion of Aristotle’s conception of the place of mousikê in elite paideia.
[ back ] 201. See Sarti 1992. It is important to note that there is no Classical use of the term lyrode, lurôidos ‘lyre singer’ attested, and the term very likely was not used during the Classical period at all (cf. Winnington-Ingram 1988:250). This is no doubt because a certain incompatibility was felt between the connotations of expertise and professionalism that would attend lurôidos (cf. kitharôidos) and the amateur practice and ideology of the lyre.
[ back ] 202. For the implications of prostitution in the term, see Gulick 1937:411, who sees an allusion to the “vulgar” Eros or Aphrodite of Plato Symposium 180e, 181a. On the fragment, see Meriani 2003:15–48. Aristoxenus alludes as well to the neutral phrase δημώδης μουσική ‘popular music’ at Plato Phaedo 61a7, which Socrates uses to describe his recent settings to the lyre of some logoi ‘tales’ of Aesop and a prooimion to Apollo. He deploys this language in a typically ironic fashion, however, deprecating his own humble efforts through mock self-aggrandizement. Despite the fact that he is preparing what amounts to a traditional citharodic performance—a prooimion to Apollo, followed by a sung narrative logos—Socrates is of course no citharode making music for the people; his lyric mousikê is truly amateur and will remain apocryphal, hidden away from the dêmos at large. At the same time, he uses the phrase with some derision: Socrates’ true art, the rarified practice of philosophical dialectic, which to his mind is the ultimate form of mousikê (μεγίστη μουσική, 61a3–4), implicitly stands at the opposite pole from the “real” δημώδης μουσική his lyric dabblings parody.
[ back ] 203. Relevant here are the negative characterizations of the Hellenistic tekhnitai of Dionysus (“Aristotle” Problems 30.10; Theopompus FGrH 115 F 2 ap. Athenaeus 6.254b), and their own repeated attempts at self-legitimation. See Lightfoot 2002:218–219. I take this opportunity to note that citharodes do not seem to have been prominent members of the various guilds of Dionysian Artists. A review of the 200-plus post-Classical citharodes listed in Stephanis 1988 yields only five who are explicitly connected to a guild (nos. 15, 1023, 1025, 1661, 2071). Ma 2007:231, 241 argues reasonably that the Phocaean citharode Demetrius son of Menippus (Stephanis no. 636), mentioned in two Tean victor lists from the third and second centuries BCE, was an official in the Koinon of the Artists of Ionia and the Hellespont, although we cannot be sure of this, as the inscriptions do not make it clear. Perhaps citharodes were generally in a better position, economically and politically, to operate as free agents than the primarily dramatic and choral-based performers who assembled in the guilds. The obviously Dionysiac character of the genres and performances put on by the artists may also have acted to exclude the notionally Apollonian citharodes.
[ back ] 204. Cf. Arnott 1979:139. The neighbor’s recognition that Phanias is not so very different from himself may have been integral to the play’s ending, in which, the fragments suggest, the neighbor’s son Moschion was permitted to marry Phanias’ daughter. The daughter was herself a victim of a misconception, being initially identified as an Ephesian rather than Athenian (and so unmarriageable). The suture of socioeconomic difference and the righting of culturally conditioned misperceptions about character are features of New Comedy’s “philanthropic” mission; cf. the conclusion of the Dyskolos.
[ back ] 205. By Alexis, Anaxippus, Antiphanes, Apollodorus, Clearchus, Diphilus, Nicon, Sophilus, and Theophilus. Cf. Cooper 1920:52; Arnott 1996:292.
[ back ] 206. Ambivalent attitudes toward professional musician as other, subaltern, or deviant, yet enviably talented, sexually attractive, and socially indispensable are well attested cross-culturally in the anthropological and ethnomusicological literature. See e.g. the classic work of Merriam 1979 and 1964:123–144 on musicians among the Basongye of Zaire (“[T]he attitude toward musicians among the Basongye is ambivalent; on the one hand, they can be ordered about, and they are people whose values and behavior do not accord with what is proper in the society; on the other hand, their role and function in the village are so important that life without them is inconceivable,” 1964:136); Becker 1951, on American jazz musicians; Leppert 1993:153–187, on the representation of the musician as effeminate, ethically dubious outsider in nineteenth-century European art and literature.
[ back ] 207. See Nagy 1989:135 on the problem of misthos ‘wage’ for poets and musicians, with Will 1975.
[ back ] 208. The name A. Larcius Lydus is epigraphically attested in Rome (inscribed on a water-pipe); the Roman senator Larcius Macedo, whose violent death at the hands of his slaves is related in Pliny Letters 3.14, was probably his son. See Bradley 1978:134, who argues that the elder Larcius is the praetor mentioned in a variant of Dio’s anecdote recorded in Suetonius Nero 21.2, though this seems unlikely (see Champlin 2003:290). In the Suetonian version, an unnamed praetor offers Nero a million sesterces to perform inter scaenicos ‘among the stage players’ in a spectaculum he was organizing. In contrast to Dio’s account, here Nero does not reject the offer outright, but considers accepting it.
[ back ] 209. Nero had for the first time instituted contests in tragôidia and kitharôidia at Olympia in 67 CE, a highly controversial move. Philostratus’ Apollonius of Tyana, scandalized at this, scoffs that at Olympia there was neither theater nor stage, only a natural stadium and naked athletes (Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.7), thereby drawing an implicit contrast between this true aristocratic amateurism and the pomp and finery associated with the professionalized mousikoi agônes at chrematitic festivals. But perhaps we could view Nero’s musical intervention at the Olympic Games not as a thoughtless act of cultural disrespect, but as a deliberate (yet incidentally disrespectful) attempt to invest competitive musicality with the amateur ethos of Olympic sport.
[ back ] 210. Legend has it that Alexander possessed the instrument of his idol Achilles, the paradigmatic aristocratic lyric amateur (Plutarch On the Fortune of Alexander 331d; cf. Life of Alexander 15.9; cf. Veneri 1995:129). Dio Chrysostom On Kingship 2.28 imagines Alexander saying that he wants only to learn the lura or kithara well enough to sing hymns to the gods and passages of Homer. (Could the unexpected inclusion of the kithara in Alexander’s decidedly amateur curriculum be Dio’s subtle swipe at Nero?) Alexander’s real-life lyric skill, however, was apparently negligible, or at least such was the gossip; Demosthenes made mean jokes about it in Athens (Aeschines Against Timarchus 169). The general lyric incompetence of the (constitutionally uncultured) Macedonians forms the basis of a humorous anecdote involving the witty citharist Stratonicus and his inept Macedonian student (Athenaeus 8.351b).
[ back ] 211. Cf. Edwards 1997:90. See Section 14 below.
[ back ] 212. Suetonius Nero 12.3; Tacitus Annals 14.20–21. On the games, see Caldelli 1993:37–43; on their Hellenizing ambience, see Champlin 2003:72.
[ back ] 213. Suetonius Nero 12.3, who says that Nero dedicated the crown to Augustus (see discussion below). Dio Cassius 61.21.2 offers a more hostile, and probably less reliable account: the citharodes’ contest was entirely canceled and the crown automatically awarded to Nero. Dio adds too the colorful detail that Nero wore his skeuê when he went to the gymnasium to have his faux victory officially recorded.
[ back ] 214. Cf. Champlin 2003:74–75; Bolton 1948.
[ back ] 215. Timaeus FGrH 566 F 43b ap. Strabo 6.1.9 indicates that the first slot in the order was the most desirable, and that disputes and special pleading could arise over its assignment. At the Pythian contest, Timaeus has it, the citharode Ariston of Rhegium demanded that he go first, despite his second-place draw, because Rhegium had been a Delphian colony. The proverbial phrase “After the Lesbian Singer” derived from the tradition in Sparta, established to commemorate Terpander of Antissa, of honorarily according citharodic competitors from Lesbos the lead positions in the line-up at the Carneian agôn (Aristotle fr. 545 Rose). Why the lead-off slot was considered best by citharodes is unclear; perhaps it was merely a question of prestige. By contrast, at the Athenian dramatic contests it seems to have been seen as a liability to a play’s success. Aristophanes Assembly Women 1161–1162 warns the judges not to forget his comedy, which was staged first, in the manner of “bad prostitutes” who recall only their latest clients.
[ back ] 216. Suetonius Nero 10.2. The poem that Nero recited at the Neronia could have been an excerpt from his Latin epic, Troica, which Dio Cassius 62.29.1 says he recited at a public festival in 65. Cf. Champlin 2003:290n78. The public recitation of poetry was less objectionable than public music making, as Fantham 1996:156 notes: “[I]t seems very likely that he resorted to the poetry of recitation and the book only until he felt free to practice the less dignified and more exciting musical art of the singer.”
[ back ] 217. Tacitus Annals 16.4. Suetonius Vitellius 4 has the future emperor Vitellius, who is supervising the games, intercede directly with Nero as an “envoy of an insistent populus” to persuade him to perform in the theater as a citharode. Cf. Beacham 1999:230.
[ back ] 218. For the elitist counterclaim that Nero should have kept his music hidden, see Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.6.2.
[ back ] 219. Tacitus Annals 16.4.4: et plebs quidem urbis, histrionum quoque gestus iuvare solita, personabat certis modis plausuque composito. crederes laetari, ac fortasse laetabantur per incuriam publici flagitii.
[ back ] 220. Cf. Bartsch 1994:29, who notes that Tacitus does not qualify this initial enthusiasm.
[ back ] 221. Cf. n193 above; Section 22.3 below.
[ back ] 222. Although a supreme confidence is more typical of the citharodic persona in performance. See e.g. Plutarch How to Praise Oneself Inoffensively 1.539c (= Timotheus PMG 802).
[ back ] 223. In 115 BCE the censors banned all performance arts in the public games (artes ludicrae) except those of the “Latin tibicen with cantor ‘singer’” and the native Italian song-and-dance show called the ludus talarius (Cassiodorus Chronica from 639). Wille 1967:219n107 thinks that the xenophobic ban reflects the growing popularity of kithara playing. But that is far from the only implication. Other second-century Roman conservatives are more openly concerned with the popularity of Greek harp (rather than kithara) players and dancers. Cf. Comotti 1989:51.
[ back ] 224. Testimonia collected in Wille 1967:331–334.
[ back ] 225. Suetonius Life of Caligula 54. Apelles: Dio Cassius 59.5.2; Suetonius Caligula 33; Philo On the Embassy to Gaius 203–206; cf. Beacham 1999:172. The pre-Neronian anecdotal tradition is full of stories of prominent men and women falling in love or lust with actors, singers, mimes, and dancers—not citharodes. See Edwards 1997:80.
[ back ] 226. Cf. Cizek 1972:208. See Suetonius Nero 23.2 on Nero’s fraught intimacy with his citharodic rivals.
[ back ] 227. See various testimonia collected in Wille 1967:211–218. Cicero Tusculan Disputations 1.2.4 recognizes that singing to the lyre (nervorum vocumque cantus) represented the peak, the summa eruditio, of traditional Greek paideia.
[ back ] 228. Cf. n57 above.
[ back ] 229. From an early point a significant etymological relationship between the Latin meanings of fides as ‘trust, good faith’ and ‘lyre/kithara’ was probably recognized (wrongly: musical fides probably comes from σφίδη, which Hesychius glosses as χορδή ‘string’). According to Festus (s.v. fides), whose lexicon epitomizes On the Significance of Words by the Augustan-era Verrius Flaccus, the cithara is called fides because the tuned strings resemble the way good faith establishes social harmony among men. Hardie 2007 discusses the musico-political symbolism (viz. “musical harmony as a model for reconciliation and political concord,” 551) of the figure of the lyre-playing Hercules Musagetes, attached to the cult of the Muses in Republican and Augustan Rome.
[ back ] 230. For example, Wilson 1999/2000 shows how Euripides’ dramatic treatments of the mythical citharodes Amphion and Euneus reflect issues in the contemporary string culture of Athens. The citharoedus in Horace Ars Poetica 355–356 who “always plays the wrong note” is a wholly generic figure, and is probably, like the other musical exemplars mentioned by Horace in the poem, derived from some Greek anecdotal or proverbial source.
[ back ] 231. Cf. Champlin 2003: “Nero the performer is inseparable from Nero the patron, the giver of games” (68).
[ back ] 232. Nero’s Terpnus is likely to be the same as the Flavius Terpnus, a κιθαρῳδὸς Ἀλεξανδρεύς, commemorated in a second-century CE funerary inscription from Rome (IG XIV 2088). The Flavian praenomen could indicate an accommodation to the post-Neronian political scene. See Wille 1967:322, but cf. Stephanis 1988, no. 2398, who notes problems in dating. Even if this Flavius Terpnus is not Nero’s Terpnus, could it be his son or student?
[ back ] 233. “Plutarch” On Music 9.1134b–c, with Hellanicus FGrH 4 F 85 ap. Athenaeus 14.635e.
[ back ] 234. Suda s.v. Μεσομήδης, with the sensible emendation proposed by Whitmarsh 2004:382.
[ back ] 235. IGR IV 1432 = Stephanis 1988, no. 2121. The catalogue of festivals is a vivid testimony to the geographical expanse of Imperial citharodic culture: Smyrna, Rome, Puteoli, Naples, Actium, Argos, Nemea, Pergamon, Delphi, Ephesus, Epidauros, Athens, Sardis, Tralles, Miletus, Rhodes, Sparta, and Mantinea. Bowie 1990a:89 is surely right in saying that Mesomedes was “the tip of an iceberg. There must have been many citharodes whose songs gave pleasure to Antonine Greeks” (and Romans, we should add).
[ back ] 236. The choraules seems to have become a popular figure in Flavian Rome. See West 1992:93n63 and 377; Strasser 2002. Juvenal 6.76–77 imagines that the citharode Echion, the choraules Ambrosius, and the tibicen Glaphyrus have fathered children with aristocratic Roman matronae. Trimalchio perversely commands his choraules to ‘sing in Latin’ (Latine cantare), that is, to accompany singing in Latin rather than the usual Greek (Satyricon 53).
[ back ] 237. The epigraphical record also reflects this post-Neronian focus on the citharode. Wille 1967:322 counts six Roman epitaphs for citharoedi (and one for a citharoeda, Auxesis, CIL VI 10125). Some of these citharodes were free, some slaves to wealthy families, such as the auspiciously named Amphion, property of one C. Salarius Capito (CIL VI 10124B). Such slaves were probably not competitors at agônes, but rather kept for private entertainment.
[ back ] 238. Suetonius Life of Vespasian 19; walking out/falling asleep: 4; Tacitus Annals 16.5.3, who has Vespasian dozing off at the second Neronia.
[ back ] 239. The MSS. name him Apellaris, which many take as a corruption of Apelles. This Apelles was perhaps the same Apelles who enjoyed fame in the time of Caligula. If so, he would have been quite old when he sang at Vespasian’s games. Perhaps it was a deliberately politicized choice to bring this star from the days before Nero back into the spotlight.
[ back ] 240. See Varner 2004:52–55 on Vespasian’s appropriation of Neronian statuary. On Vespasian as a patron of the arts, see Suetonius Vespasian 17.
[ back ] 241. On the history of the theater, see now Sear 2006:61–65.
[ back ] 242. Latin writers sometimes use acroama to refer to an entertainer rather than an entertainment (e.g. Suetonius Life of Augustus 74). Even if Suetonius is using it here in that sense, my interpretation of the symbolic force of Vespasian’s act is essentially the same—he is ostentatiously redeeming these “old-time entertainers” from the previous regime by re-presenting them under his own cultural aegis.
[ back ] 243. If Jones 1973 is correct in dating the Alexandrian Oration of Dio Chrysostom to the reign of Vespasian, then we might see a reflex of such propagandizing in Dio’s contrast between Nero’s “excessive involvement in and enthusiasm for” kitharôidia and the paideia—the word evokes a re-engagement with the Classical tradition—promoted by the current arkhôn, Vespasian (32.60).
[ back ] 244. “Archaic revival” recitals had occasionally been presented by citharodes in Greece. A second-century BCE proxeny decree from Delphi honors Thrason and Socrates, brothers from Aegira, who presented concerts featuring “lyric compositions [lurika sustêmata] of ancient poets.” The lura that is carved into the stone alongside the inscribed decree (FD III 1 no. 49) suggests not that these brothers literally played lyres, but that they were citharodes reperforming, as the decree indicates, the works of the old-time lyric poets in their own professionalized, citharodic concert versions.
[ back ] 245. Suetonius Life of Vitellius 11.2: convivio citharoedum placentem palam admonuit, ut aliquid et de dominico diceret, incohantique Neroniana cantica primus exsultans etiam plausit.
[ back ] 246. It would not have been unusual for Alexandrians to be in Naples, given that the Egyptian grain ships came to port at nearby Puteoli (Bradley 1978:127). But could their arrival have been deliberately timed to coincide with the concert in Naples (or vice versa)? Suetonius Nero 20.2 says that after the Neapolitan debut, Nero did expressly summon more Alexandrians to supplement his “official” claque. We may note, however, that in his archly critical account, Tacitus mentions that the audience was composed of Neapolitans and “those whom the fama surrounding the event had drawn from the nearby coloniae and municipia” (Annals 15.33.3). Is Tacitus consciously suppressing mention of the Alexandrians just because their response to Nero was “genuinely” positive? From another angle, however, one would expect Tacitus to expose Nero’s shameless self-promotion if he had deliberately stacked the audience with Alexandrians.
[ back ] 247. Bartsch 1994. On Greek theatrical audiences as “performers,” see Wallace 1997, with discussion in the following section.
[ back ] 248. Cf. Bartsch 1994:29.
[ back ] 249. See Cameron 1976:191–229 and Slater 1994 on theatrical factions in Rome. Earlier in Nero’s principate factions attached to the pantomimes had rioted in the theater (Tacitus Annals 13.25.3), as they had under Tiberius (e.g. Annals 1.77; Suetonius Tiberius 37.2).
[ back ] 250. Cf. Cizek 1972: “Such a program [the formation of the Augustiani and the institution of the Neronia] was the consequence of the emperor’s limitless passion for art and athletics and at the same time of his concern to create an adequate social and ideological context [for them]” (124). Cf. Bradley 1978:127–128.
[ back ] 251. See Wallace 1997:105 on hissing; Csapo and Slater 1994:290 on the repertoire of crowd noises in the Athenian theaters. Timotheus Persians 209–212 evokes the hostile reaction to his music in Sparta: “The people (laos) buffets me, flaming, and drives at me with fiery blame, that I dishonor the older Muse with my new songs.”
[ back ] 252. The scholia on Aristophanes Acharnians 13–14 (“At another time I felt joy, when Dexitheus came onstage after Moschus to sing the Boeotian nomos”) seem to preserve traces of such disagreements over the quality of the two popular citharodes mentioned by the play’s protagonist Dicaeopolis, or at least how variant opinions of them were refracted in Old Comedy. One scholiast ad loc. says that Moschus was a φαῦλος κιθαρῳδός ‘poor citharode’, because he sang ἀπνευστί ‘without taking a breath’. Another, however, reports that some (tines) have it that Moschus was so called after the calf (moskhos) that he won as a victor in a contest—a sign of success. Similarly, this scholiast says that Dexitheus was an ἄριστος κιθαρῳδὸς καὶ πυθιονίκης ‘star citharode and Pythian victor’, but notes too that “others say” he was psukhros ‘frigid’.
[ back ] 253. The anecdotes are collected in Athenaeus 8.347f–352d. See Gilula 2000; Wilson 2004:289–292.
[ back ] 254. Clearchus On Proverbs fr. 80 Wehrli = Athenaeus 8.347f. Wilson 2004:292 notes the class-based assumptions here; Stratonicus invokes “a persistent élite ideal of a perfect conformity between body-type, voice, and ability.” We should note that Stratonicus, as a citharist, was himself literally “without a voice.” He criticizes just that which makes kitharôidia a more prestigious medium than kitharistikê.
[ back ] 255. Cf. Austin 1922:73.
[ back ] 256. See the harsh characterizations of Cinesias among the testimonia collected in Campbell 1993a:41–59. Meles’ own stylistic predilections are left vague—he is never explicitly counted among the New Musicians—but we may assume that the apple did not fall far from the tree. In Pherecrates fr. 6 the second worse citharode is said to be Chaeris. This Chaeris is a tough nut to crack, as the ancient testimony for his activity and identity—aulete and/or citharode?—is confusing (cf. n274 below). But if the Chaeris mentioned at Aristophanes Acharnians 15–16, who “stooped sideways” (παρέκυψε) onto the stage to play the Orthian nomos in the agôn, is Pherecrates’ citharodic Chaeris, as seems likely, then his “badness” was a comic topos: Aristophanes’ Dicaeopolis says that he “almost died and was in torture” when he saw Chaeris come onstage. It is likely that Chaeris either once contorted his body in some unfortunate fashion while performing, ironically, the “upright” (Orthios) nomos (cf. Platter 2007:61), perhaps at the Great Panathenaia of summer 426 BCE, the year before Acharnians was produced (cf. Olson 2002:70), or, more likely, that his “stooping” was an intentional histrionic effect (see further discussion of this possibility below). Either scenario could explain why Chaeris was unfairly tarred by the comedians as a “torturous” performer. Despite the satire, however, the fact that he was even among the select ranks of festival agonists in Athens indicates that he was highly competent. A proverb, “Chaeris singing the Orthios” (Χαῖρις ᾄδων ὄρθιον) was applied to those who sang well (Paroemiographi Graeci I, Appendix to Centuria V, 21; Suda s.v. Χαιριδεῖς).
[ back ] 257. Cicero On the Laws 2.15.39; Pausanius 3.2.10; Dio Chrysostom 33.57; Boethius On Music 1.1; Athenaeus 14.636e–f; Plutarch On Advancing in Virtue 13.84a, Agesilaus 10.4 (Phrynis has two strings cut off his nine-string kithara), Laconian Institutions 17.238c (Terpander censured for adding eighth string; ephor cuts away Timotheus’ extra strings at the Carneia). See further Wilamowitz 1903:69–70; Palumbo Stracca 1997.
[ back ] 258. Cf. Taplin 1993:42 (with fig. 16.16); Storey 2003a:117 (with fig. 1), 130, 169–170.
[ back ] 259. See Crowther and Frass 1998, although their contention (p61) that flogging was common at dramatic and musical contests seems to me based on a superficial reading of the testimonia. “Mild corrections”: Herington 1985:17. I would disagree with his contention (p226n30), however, that Aristophanes Frogs 1024 (Dionysus, acting in the capacity of judge of the agôn between Euripides and Aeschylus, tells the latter to “take a beating,” τύπτου, because his Seven Against Thebes made the Thebans more warlike) reflects the reality of mousikoi agônes.
[ back ] 260. For testimonia on the behavior of dramatic audiences in Greece and Rome, see Csapo and Slater 1994:301–317. Wallace 1997 puts the Greek testimonia in context and deals with mousikoi agônes as well. The notoriously unruly pantomime factions in Rome have been studied by Slater 1994. For a rich study of the active listening culture at operas and concerts in early modern Paris, see Johnson 1996.
[ back ] 261. On the Erotideia and Mouseia, see Graf 2006:191–195; cf. Bonnet 2001. We have epigraphical evidence for citharodic victors only at the Mouseia: IG VII 1762 (Epicrates of Boeotia, two-time victor, third century BCE); IG VII 1760 (Demetrius of Aeolic Myrine; around 85 BCE); IG VII 1773 (Aulus Clodius Achilleus of Corinth, second century CE); SEG III 334.48 (Memmius Leon of Larisa, third century CE).
[ back ] 262. Odyssey 22.245–246: αὐτῷ τοι μετόπισθ’ ἄχος ἔσσεται, εἴ κεν ἀοιδόν | πέφνῃς, ὅς τε θεοῖσι καὶ ἀνθρώποισιν ἀείδω. The story of Arion contains a similar moral (don’t harm singers, or else!) and we could imagine that it and the Sybaris tale—there are significant parallels between them—were both propagated in some form by citharodes with the intent of insuring occupational safety during their travels, or perhaps even during partisan flare-ups such as the one dramatized in the Aelian anecdote. Cf. Svenbro 1984:169–172.
[ back ] 263. On this tradition, see Ampolo 1993.
[ back ] 264. One would like to know what sort of intrigue and drama might have attended the Great Panathenaic citharodic agôn of 402/1 BCE, the first one held in the wake of the political turmoil following the end of the Peloponnesian War. The gold crown for the winner of the citharodic contest in that year was not in fact awarded, but dedicated by the polis (i.e. not the victor) to Athena. This may have been due to a tie for first place, but since we do not know how many judges assessed the Panathenaic mousikoi agônes, we cannot be sure that such ties occurred (Lucian Harmonides 2 refers to “seven or five” judges at a mousikos agôn). Cf. n268 below. Some more politically fraught disagreement over the contest and the competitors might rather have been the cause. This same crown appears in the inventories of the goddess until 385/4 BCE. For the inscriptional evidence, see Kotsidu 1991:86–87, although her contention that different crowns were being dedicated through these years is improbable; cf. Shear 2003:95n33.
[ back ] 265. Wallace 1997: “Plato’s historical statement about the rod” is “at best misleading” (99). However, the “rod holders” (rhabdoukhoi), charged with keeping order (eukosmia) among the audience, are attested in Aristophanes Peace 734, with scholia. Surely these officials were not there to keep the crowd quiet, as comic audiences were supposed to be voluble and reactive, nor were they there to beat arrogant comic poets, as Aristophanes jokes. The inebriated comic audience might have been in need of special crowd control.
[ back ] 266. As Wallace 1997 sensibly argues.
[ back ] 267. Representative is a black-figured pelike with a citharode playing between two seated men, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Kassel, Antikensammlung T.675; Shapiro 1992:69, fig. 47; Maas and Snyder 1989:74, fig. 5. Maas and Snyder believe that the listening youth on the Brygos Painter’s amphora is a judge (61), but this seems to me unlikely.
[ back ] 268. See Csapo and Slater 1994:160 on dramatic judging and popular sentiment; cf. Wilson 2000:100–102 for political factors. We know next to nothing about the mechanics of judging mousikoi agônes. Judges of music, like those of drama and sport, took oaths of fairness (Plato Laws 659a–b). Plato prescribes only one judge, over the age of thirty, to officiate and assess the solo musical contests in his ideal state (Laws 765a), but this seems abnormal. The Attic vase paintings tend to show two to three possible judges of kitharôidia, but we cannot be sure what figures in contest scenes are in fact meant to be judges. Seven citizens judge a Ptolemaic contest of poets in an anecdote told by Vitruvius 7.5.
[ back ] 269. The anecdotal record has it that judgments in Athens repeatedly went unfairly against Menander and for his less talented rival Philemon, thanks to the latter’s influential partisans (Quintilian 10.1.72; Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 17.4).
[ back ] 270. Stratonicus curiously refers to the wage (misthos) he would typically receive for a concert as an eranos ‘contribution’, a word that obscures the monetary reality of the return. But the sarcasm dripping from his remark makes a mockery of such mystification, putting it in tendentious quotation marks, and serving as a reproach to the audience. Their cheapness with applause, which costs nothing, indicates their larger misperception of “how it works,” i.e. Stratonicus plays, and audiences reward his virtuosity with money. Stratonicus also called Rhodes a “city of suitors” (Athenaeus 8.351c), alluding to the Ithacan suitors’ selfish misuse of the singer Phemius in the Odyssey, but also suggesting the Rhodians’ unwillingness to “commit” financially.
[ back ] 271. Cf. Amphis Dithyramb fr. 14 K-A (fourth century BCE), in which a dithyrambic poet (or perhaps an aulete) looks forward excitedly to introducing an exotic instrument called the gingras, a small-scale aulos of Phoenician provenance, to the okhlos at the dithyrambic agôn, where he is sure that it will win the prize by “heaving up everything, like a trident, with the applause (krotoi) it gets” (cf. Barker 1984:263; Wilson 2000:69–70). The professional reflexively associates applause with victory.
[ back ] 272. The verb ὑποκιθαρίζω ‘play the lyre/kithara in accompaniment’ is late and exceedingly rare (see LSJ s.v.) and does not in any case apply to kitharôidia. At Homeric Hymn to Hermes 54 we find the phrase θεὸς δ’ ὑπὸ καλὸν ἄειδε describing the singing of Hermes to the lyre (cf. 502: θεὸς δ’ ὑπὸ καλὸν ἄεισεν, describing Apollo’s performance). Nagy 1990b:353 translates ‘the god sang beautifully, in accompaniment’, which would mean that the composer of the Hymn conceives of the vocal component of song as secondary to the lyre. But the idea of sung text as subordinate to instrumental music goes against the dominant ideology of early Greek mousikê, which accorded symbolic primacy to testa over musica. (See Pratinas PMG 708.6–7 for a strong affirmation of this mentality in the context of aulodic song, with Gentili 1988:24–27.) Further, none of the examples of ὑπᾴδω cited in LSJ corresponds to the idea of singing in accompaniment to an instrument; the examples that refer to actual musical performance denote rather singing that “accompanies,” i.e. plays a role in, the full ensemble of choral song and dance. West 2003:117, 153 takes ὑπό in the opposite sense, translating, ‘the god sang beautifully to its accompaniment [that is, to the accompaniment provided by the kithara]’. But perhaps we should not read any notion of ‘accompaniment’ out of ὑπαείδειν at all, and take the phrase to mean simply ‘the god sang in addition to’ the lyre that was already sounding; that is, ὑπό has a temporal as well as spatial sense—the voice emerges ‘from under’ the layer of lyric melody that is already sounding. Cf. Ovid Metamorphoses 5.340: haec percussis subiungit carmina nervis ‘[Calliope] (sub)joined this song to the struck strings’. The parity between lyre and voice is suggested in the Hymn by the recurrent conceit of the lyre as singer (39) or having voice (443, 478–485).
[ back ] 273. Confusion reigns in the scholia. A scholiast on Acharnians 16 says Chaeris was both a citharode and an aulode, while a scholiast to Peace 951 specifies that there were separate auletic and citharodic Chaerises. See Stephanis 1988:456; Olson 2002:71 and Winnington-Ingram 1988:252–253, who think Chaeris was both citharode and aulete. By contrast, another Aristophanic scholion has it that the citharode Phrynis of Mytilene was initially an aulode (Clouds 971a). A comic play on this proverb could lurk here, a comment on Phrynis’ perceived lack of talent: he woefully inverts the cliché, a failed aulode turned citharode. Another scholiast (Clouds 971b) records that Phrynis was called ψυχρός. Alternately, though not exclusively, the joke could play on the influence of the “polychord” aulos (cf. Plato Republic 399d) on his harmonically expansive kitharôidia.
[ back ] 274. Nicostratus may be an anecdotal by-form of Stratonicus, the name of the historical citharist whose biting wit became proverbial. See further Stephanis 1988:333; Wilson 2004:282n35. It is notable that in the anecdotes collected in Athenaeus 8.347f–352d Stratonicus more often than not directs his verbal attacks against citharodes rather than citharists, a tendency that could reflect a concerted rhetorical campaign by this practitioner of the “underdog” medium of kitharistikê to chip away at the relatively greater prestige enjoyed by citharodes—a campaign conducted entirely offstage, since citharists could not sing their critical and self-promotional agendas in performance, as citharodes could.
[ back ] 275. Testimonia assembled and discussed in Gostoli 1990:40–44 and 122–123.
[ back ] 276. … ingreditur, vulgi auribus ut placeat. | stat tactu cantuque potens, cui brachia linguae | concordant sensu conciliata pari. | nam sic aequali ambo moderamine librat | atque oris socias temperat arte manus, | ut dubium tibi sit gemina dulcedine capto, | vox utrumne canat an lyra sola sonet. Latin Anthology 103 Kay = 114R, another “On a Citharode” epigram, also foregrounds the “twin delight” produced by the citharode’s hands and voice. This one has a “tongued thumb” (linguato … pollice, 3), which makes the “singing strings emit a human voice” (humanum … chorda canora loqui, 4); his “voice and fingers sing as one from their different sources” (unum ex diversis vox digitique canunt, 10). Cf. Tibullus 2.5.3, vocales chordae; Lygdamus (Tibullus 3) 4.41.
[ back ] 277. Kay 2006:146 speaks of the “emphasis on combination and harmony” in the epigram.
[ back ] 278. Cf. Lucian Imagines 14.
[ back ] 279. Cf. “Aristotle” Problems 19.9; Pollux Onomasticon 4.63. See Barker 1984:191n7; West 1992:67.
[ back ] 280. See Barker 1984:162–163 and 1995:41–45. It must be emphasized that Greek musicians never developed systematized chordal harmony or polyphonic counterpoint. The devices mentioned by Plato are essentially ornamental. Gerolamo Mei’s 1572 letter to Vincenzo Galilei, a fellow member of the Florentine Camerata, remains an important discussion of the monophonic basis of ancient Greek music (Palisca 1989:56–75).
[ back ] 281. Cf. Barker 1995:44. The citharodes associated with the Athenian New Music were likely the pioneers of these “contrapuntal” effects, to which their innovative polychord kitharai were ideally suited. Earlier experiments were probably essayed as well. See e.g. “Plutarch” On Music 21.1138b, which refers to the instrumental poikilia of old-fashioned music, with comments in Barker 1984:227.
[ back ] 282. At Aristophanes Wealth 290 the slave Cario imitates the strum of the kithara with the expression threttanelo; the bright ring of struck strings could also be vocalized as tênella (Archilochus fr. 324.1W, with scholia ad Pindar Olympian 9.1). Aristides Quintilianus On Music 2.79 says that the letter tau “sounds like strings of an instrument”; elsewhere he says that the shape of tau resembles that of the plectrum (3.130).
[ back ] 283. Cf. Csapo 2004:222–229; Gentili 1988:30.
[ back ] 284. Cf. Barker 1984:236n203 on ἀπέδυσε κἀνέλυσε: “[B]oth words indicate undressing … It is a plausible guess that the first refers principally to the breakdown of rhythmic structure (cf. the use of apolelumena at Hephaestion On Poems 3.3, Aristides Quintilianus 52.12–14), the second to the disruption of melodic forms by frequent modulation.”
[ back ] 285. See West 1992:42–47 on the aesthetics of the singing voice.
[ back ] 286. Cf. Barker 1984:251.
[ back ] 287. Agathemerus also served as secretary of the Guild of the Artists of Dionysus in Ephesus (IGR IV 468.19 = Stephanis 1988, no. 15).
[ back ] 288. Thus Beazley 1922:73; on 74–75 he discusses an interesting set of parallel images from a now-lost Panathenaic-type amphora. Herington 1985:17 thinks that the man with the forked wand is a judge “correcting” some misdeed of the citharode, but this identification seems to me less probable.
[ back ] 289. See especially West 1992:64–70; Maas and Snyder 1989:63–64; 92–94.
[ back ] 290. It is worth noting an emendation for praebent written into the Bg codex containing this passage from the Institutio: prement ‘press’, which probably derives from a gloss on the damping function indicated by continent. See Borthwick 1959:27.
[ back ] 291. Cf. Anderson 1994: “The true function of the left hand: to damp in advance the strings not meant to sound; so among present-day Nubian tribesmen—and the working principle of the Autoharp today” (176). Note that Greek vase painters tend to show citharodes holding their fingers in damping position even while not playing (e.g. a red-figured calyx crater, c. 430 BCE; Bundrick 2005:169, fig. 99); maintaining this position was clearly habitual for the well-trained performer. It is also the most natural way to hold the left hand as the wrist is braced by the instrument’s support strap.
[ back ] 292. This damping of a struck note was called katalêpsis (scholia ad Clouds 318; Suda s.v. κατάληψις). Borthwick 1959 discusses the term, but his reconstruction of this rather simple procedure makes it into something overly complicated. Also, we need not suppose that it involved creating staccato effects alone (p25); it may have sometimes, but a good player could use damping to create an even legato tone.
[ back ] 293. West 1992:64–69. Cf. Maas and Snyder 1989:64 and passim; Paquette 1984:99–100; Bélis 1995:1048–1050; Wille 1967:212–213 on Roman sources. With the exception of Anderson 1994:176, this view, with various modifications, is the consensus going back to Sachs 1940:132–133. My dissent responds specifically to West, because his Ancient Greek Music has become the standard reference for technical matters. Winnington-Ingram 1956:183 holds, as I do, that the player struck individual notes with the plectrum; less convincing is his contention that the right-hand fingers regularly plucked notes.
[ back ] 294. Three examples: (1) One of the three singing satyr-citharodes depicted on the “Singers at the Panathenaia” bell krater by Polion inserts his plectrum between the two high strings of his instrument; his left hand probably damps other strings as he does this (New York 25.78.66; West 1992, plate 16). (2) On a pelike by the Meidias Painter (New York 37.11.23; Bundrick 2005:55, fig. 32) the legendary citharode Musaeus applies the plectrum to the strings of his kithara while apparently damping with left hand. He does not sing. (3) A singing comast applies the plectrum to the strings of his barbitos (red-figured skyphos, Louvre G 156; Paquette 1984:185, B21); strumming seems unlikely.
[ back ] 295. Gombosi 1939:116–122. Winnington-Ingram 1956 shows how improbable are this and other theories about “stopping” kithara strings to alter their pitch. Cf. West 1992:66n81. Harmonics—the bell-like, high tones produced by lightly stopping struck strings with the finger—were likely part of the citharode’s repertoire of techniques, but their use was surely highly occasional, as it tends to be in modern string playing.
[ back ] 296. Maas and Snyder 1989:64.
[ back ] 297. Paquette 1984:112, C18 notes other oddities in the appearance of this kithara.
[ back ] 298. A kithara player on a mid-sixth-century neck amphora is depicted striking a string or strumming—it is impossible to tell the difference in this case—well below the bridge (London B 260; Shapiro 1992:65, fig. 42b). On the “Singers at the Panathenaia” bell krater the middle satyr-citharode is striking the string closest to him (i.e. the lowest-pitched string) below the bridge, which, as on the Brygos Painter’s instrument, is placed very high up the soundboard. He is singing and damping the outer strings as he does this. His “Thracian” kithara has eight strings—perhaps another “error,” or perhaps Polion’s intentional spoof of the polychord kitharai with which some citharodes of the later fifth century were experimenting.
[ back ] 299. Cf. Borthwick 1959:27n3. The same phrase recurs in lines 419 (Hermes again playing) and 501 (Apollo playing), but in both places the manuscripts have κατὰ μέλος for the κατὰ μέρος of line 53. West 2003:116 adopts κατὰ μέλος for line 53 as well, translating it as ‘in a tuned scale’, which could of course describe a strum. (The open strings of the lyre or kithara were tuned to the notes of a specific “scale,” or harmonia; see Winnington-Ingram 1956:172–173.) Càssola 1994:520, however, argues strongly for κατὰ μέρος as the original reading in all three lines. Of course, the two variants could have coexisted synchronically within the oral performance tradition of the Hymn.
[ back ] 300. LSJ s.v. I.5. The noun κροῦμα may denote a tone struck by a plectrum (e.g. Aristophanes Women at the Thesmophoria 120 and Plato Republic 333b, both of kithara music); by rough analogy it came to denote tones sounded on the aulos as well. See LSJ s.v. I.2. Rocconi 2003:26–51 discusses the semantics of κρούειν and ψάλλειν.
[ back ] 301. In schools on second-century BCE Teos (SIG 578.15) and Chios (SIG 959.10), separate instruction was provided in psalmos and kitharismos, that is, harp and kithara playing. Cf. West 1992:74n115.
[ back ] 302. Discussion in Power 2007:198–199. Still more problematic is the compound epithet ]οψάλακτος used by the satyrs of Sophocles’ Ikhneutai to describe the ompha ‘voice’ of Hermes’ new lyre (329). Lloyd-Jones’ χερ]οψάλακτος ‘plucked by hand’ would obviously suggest finger plucking, but the first element of the compound may have been something else entirely, and the epithet may have had less literal implications. Again, the context—the satyrs are reacting to an instrument they have never before heard—discourages our taking the epithet as a straightforward description of normative practice. The (fourth-century BCE?) writer of a diatribe against the music theorists called harmonikoi that is transmitted in the Hibeh Papyrus 1.13 seems to use psaltai and psallein (coll. 1.7 and 2.7) in an unmarked sense to cover all stringed instruments, plucked and picked (thus Barker 1984:185n12). This would be unique. But at col. 2.14 we learn that the harmonikoi themselves demonstrate their theories on the psaltêrion, a plucked string instrument of some sort, and this has probably influenced the writer’s overall word choice. Similarly, psallein consistently has a “theoretical” rather than practical application in “Aristotle” Problems 19. In a few late texts, krouein and psallein are used indiscriminately, e.g. Plutarch Moralia 67f; Lucian On the Parasite 17. Musical terminology in general becomes less precise in Imperial literature. Some authors of the period, however, apply psallein to lyre playing with derogatory implications, e.g. Plutarch Life of Pericles 1.5; Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.10.
[ back ] 303. See West 1992:71–75 and 1997:48–50 on harps. Attic vase paintings show that another stringed instrument played exclusively by women in the fifth century, the phorminx, was also occasionally plucked with both hands à la harpe (e.g. a Muse on a white-ground kylix, Louvre CA 483; Kaufman-Samara 1997:287, fig. 3). On the “Italiote” kithara, occasionally plucked like the harp, see n163 and n165 above. One would like to know more about the social context of the psaltinx, which Hesychius s.v. calls a kithara, but whose name suggests a hybrid of (plucked) harp and phorminx.
[ back ] 304. Cf. Anderson 1994:176.
[ back ] 305. On the dating, see Maas and Snyder 1989:93.
[ back ] 306. See e.g. the Muse playing a pêktis on a red-figured amphora (London E 271; West 1992, plate 21).
[ back ] 307. To my knowledge only one image clearly shows a kithara player pinching a string: an Apulian krater, Adolphseck 178; Paquette 1984:115, C21.
[ back ] 308. Plate 18 in West 1992; Maas and Snyder 1989:111, fig. 26, with discussion on p93.
[ back ] 309. West 1992:69. Another, less likely interpretation of this gesture could be that the player pulls the string to loosen slightly its tension and so lower its pitch—tuning on the fly.
[ back ] 310. A point made by Borthwick 1959:26.
[ back ] 311. Cf. West 1992:67n83, with references; Wille 1967:212–217.
[ back ] 312. On the sambuca see West 1992:77. Cf. further Wille 1967:211–212, 214. Romans long continued to be fascinated by harps. An Alexandrian player of the trigônos inspired widespread mousomania ‘music madness’ when he gave a public recital in Imperial Rome (Athenaeus 4.183e).
[ back ] 313. Macrobius Saturnalia 3.14.5. Playing psalteria remained a controversial activity for Roman women and girls, though surely not a rare one, even in Quintilian’s time (1.10.31).
[ back ] 314. See Wille 1967:213–214. A female citharist plucking both an “Italiote” kithara and a sambuca on a wall painting from Stabiae exemplifies the (generally female) bridge between harp and lyre culture in Rome. Cf. n163 above. A painting from the Casa del Citarista reflects a gendered distinction between picking and plucking: a bearded, seated citharist plays with a plectrum, a younger, standing woman plucks a lyre. See Richardson 2000:64–65.
[ back ] 315. Sometimes it is impossible to tell which is meant by psallere. Sallust Bellum Catilinae 25.2 says that the aristocratic Sempronia knew how “to psallere and dance more charmingly than was fitting for a respectable woman (proba).” Was it the lyra or the harp she played too well? In either case, Sallust probably wants the word to evoke the louche world of the professional psaltria (see e.g. Philodemus of Gadara Epigrams 1.1, 3.3, 4.5, 6.1), and so underline the impropriety of Sempronia’s (Greek) cultural enthusiasms. Suetonius says that Emperor Titus was good at psallere (Life of Titus 3); Historia Augusta, Life of Hadrian 14.9 says that Hadrian prided himself on his psallendi et cantandi scientia ‘skill in singing and psallere’. One thinks immediately of lyre playing, especially in the latter case, but harp playing should not be ruled out. Notably, Suetonius never uses psallere to refer to Nero’s citharodic activity.
[ back ] 316. This seems to me a better reading than to conjecture a “practice of attaching picks to the individual fingers” (West 1992:67n83). Martial 14.167 advises a lyre player, who has presumably been using his right thumb to pluck, to use a plectrum if he wants to avoid blisters. Cf. scholia ad Persius 6.5.
[ back ] 317. E.g. Vergil Aeneid 6.647: Orpheus, as lyric accompanist to the eternal choral performances in Elysium, alternately uses his fingers, then the ivory plectrum to strike the seven strings of his instrument (iamque eadem digitis, iam pectine pulsat eburno); Ovid Metamorphoses 11.168–170: in an idealized citharodic context, Apollo “strikes (sollicitat) the strings with skilled thumb,” but also clutches a plectrum in his right hand; Persius 6.5: in an amateur lyric context, Caesius Bassus, the poet, uses his “respectable thumb,” although he also holds a pecten ‘plectrum’ (2). Cf. too Lygdamus (Tibullus 3) 4.39–40; Venantius Fortunatus 7.1.1.
[ back ] 318. I leave Philostratus Imagines 1.10 out of account here, an ecphrasis of a painting of a seated Amphion playing the lyre. Philostratus says that Amphion plucks (ψάλλει) the strings with his left hand and strikes (παραπλήττων) with his right (4), but there is some potential confusion here with harping. Amphion’s lyre is alternately called a magadis (2) and a pêktis (3). Perhaps this is only variatio for the sake of color, a cavalier disregard for organological accuracy that we sometimes encounter in Imperial writers. Nonetheless, we should approach Philostratus’ ψάλλει with caution.
[ back ] 319. On the ambiguity of psallere, see n315 above. The word perhaps alludes here to Anacreon’s own musico-sympotic frame of reference, which prominently features Eastern harps. Apuleius argues that the statue represents Bathyllus, one of the boys beloved by the Tean poet, and that Bathyllus is singing one of Anacreon’s songs. It could be that Apuleius is viewing the statue through an appropriately sympotic lens, figuring the citharode as an Anacreontic harper. But psallendi is used of Pythagoras later in the speech in the more neutral sense of “string playing.”
[ back ] 320. E.g. the account of the Spartans’ punishment of the citharode Timotheus preserved in Artemon of Cassandrea FHG IV 342 = Athenaeus 14.636e. There, Timotheus is also figured as a player of a harp called a magadis, not because he plucks, but because his kithara, like a harp, has more than seven strings.
[ back ] 321. The term epipsalmos ‘plucking in addition’, a manual technique of kithara playing mentioned in Ptolemy Harmonics 2.12, may describe one such special effect. For Barker 1989:341–342 the term indicates an “accompaniment adding decorative figures” around the main melody articulated by voice and plectrum. It is easy to see how polukhordia, pizzicato, and heterophônia (see Plato Laws 812d) could all three have been mutually reinforcing developments.
[ back ] 322. Barker 1984:270n46. Pollux Onomasticon 4.59 says that the epigoneion had 40 strings.
[ back ] 323. Barker 1982; Barker 1984:300 and 2001:19–20. West 1992:341–342 offers a different interpretation of the phrase enaulos kitharisis.
[ back ] 324. Cf. Barker 1984:52n17. There was also an auletic Puthikos nomos (Pollux Onomasticon 4.84). Citharists no doubt felt compelled to compete with the expressive devices the auletes deployed in their nomos.
[ back ] 325. Cf. Coleman-Norton 1948:19n97.
[ back ] 326. See Coleman-Norton 1948:6n16.
[ back ] 327. Scholia Bobiensa to Cicero Verrine Orations 2.1.53 says that the Aspendian citharist strikes the strings “not with thrust-out hand, but with very obscure motions,” but offers nothing specific about singing, the left hand, or plucking. Zeno Myndius ap. Zenobius 3.161 offers the most fanciful gloss on intus canere. No longer is the statue the point of reference, but real Aspendian citharists, who are known for their introverted style of playing; they make no outward gestures, concentrating entirely on their instruments (but again, Zeno makes no mention of plucking). Given the basic acoustical demands of open-air performance on the kithara, the existence of an entire school of dedicatedly introverted, audience-disregarding citharists seems highly unlikely, but that is exactly what West 1992:68n88 believes: “[T]he citharists of Aspendos … were proverbial for playing in an introvert way, as if only to themselves, without the grand flourishes with the plectrum.”
[ back ] 329. Phillis of Delos ap. Athenaeus 1.21f. Cf. Herington 1985:16–17 on the passage.
[ back ] 330. A similar dance pose is struck by the youthful citharode depicted on a roughly contemporary black-figured olpe, a small vessel for pouring oil and wine (Wilson College; Pinney and Ridgway 1979:56–57, no. 25).
[ back ] 331. See Lawler 1951:67–68 on the Minoan-Mycenaean antiquity of choral high stepping. The Hymn knows Apollo as a solo musician as well (182–184).
[ back ] 332. See further Part II.3. On the orchestic movement of chorus-accompanying auletes, cf. Wilson 2002:60–61.
[ back ] 333. I follow Herington 1985: “There is much mimesis here, I imagine, recalling the ‘marching movements’ which an ancient source [Phillis] attributes even to the earlier kitharodic performances” (158).
[ back ] 334. Cf. Kramer 2001:80–81; Smart 2004 on novel mimetic synchronizations between somatic and musical gestures in nineteenth-century opera, a trend criticized by Nietzsche, for whom Wagner was the most exemplary “mimomaniac” (Nietzsche Contra Wagner, 1968:665). In the latter part of the fifth and the beginning of the fourth century BCE, popular stage actors were themselves increasingly “theatricalizing” tragedy, exploring new mimetic modes of “mannerism” and “realism” in their bodily and vocalic self-presentation, which must have offered enticing models for emulation by auletes and citharodes. See Csapo 2002 and Valakas 2002.
[ back ] 335. Olson 2002:70–71 offers a different interpretation of παρέκυψε: Chaeris “pokes his head out” from the side of the stage “with a view to performing the Orthios nomos.” Other instances of the verb parakuptein in Aristophanes support this interpretation, but in this case, the meaning “stooping sideways” (LSJ s.v.) while performing certainly makes for a richer comic scene. On Chaeris as a “bad” musician, i.e. a New musician, see n256 above.
[ back ] 336. Translation based on Barker 1984:128. Cf. Laws 669e, where the instrumental imitation of animal noises is derided.
[ back ] 337. Arguably the passage could represent a composite of various musical media. But note that Plato specifically attacks citharodic imitation of auletic music in Laws 700d.
[ back ] 338. Cf. Plutarch Alcibiades 2.4: Alcibiades claimed that lyre playing suited a free man because it did not affect his noble skhêma ‘bearing’ and morphê ‘appearance’, while the aulos distorted the features and so was unfitting for the free man. Athena supposedly rejected the aulos for the same reason (Aristotle Politics 8.1341b1–6). This ideological investment in the non-mimetic, subdued aspects of lyre playing—a gentleman could “be himself” while he played the lyre—surely contributed to old-guard anxieties surrounding the theatralization of kitharôidia: citharodes were beginning to look more like auletes when they performed.
[ back ] 339. Theophrastus fr. 92 Wimmer ap. Athenaeus 1.22c attributes the innovation of rhythmic body movement in aulêsis to one Andron of Catana, perhaps a player of the generation before Pronomus. On the mimetic body of the aulete, cf. Csapo 2004:213; Wilson 2002:61.
[ back ] 340. For Plato the aulos is the model “panharmonic” instrument (Republic 399d). To appreciate the relationship between mode and movement, it is important that we should understand harmonia not merely syntactically, as a systematized collection of intervallic relationships—harmonia is hypothetically a discrete tuning of the seven-stringed lyre—but also processually, with each differentiated mode involving its own “fuzzy” parameters outside of pure harmonic syntax, such as pulse, tempo, tessitura, timbre, mood, performative dispositions, those affective, non-structural stylistic elements that add up to what a jazz musician might call a “vibe” or a “feel,” and what Greek writers on music call an êthos. (For syntax versus process, see Feld and Keil 1994:96; on êthos, see Anderson 1966.) Collectively, these elements carry class, gender, sexual, and ethnic connotations. To change harmoniai thus means to enact a variety of socioculturally inflected schemata whose characteristics may be represented visually on the body of the performer.
[ back ] 341. Phillis, like most other music historians of the late Classical and Hellenistic periods, was very probably nostalgic for old-time music, and thus was likely biased against the “new” citharodes. His qualification of the old citharodes’ march-style movements as embatêrioi may be meant to evoke the famous military marching song of the Spartans, the embatêrion, which, for those opposed to new musical trends, “stood for old-fashioned simplicity and good order” and “offered a brilliant antithesis to New Music and all that it symbolized” (Csapo 2004:242). The embatêrion was accompanied by the aulos (Polybius 4.20.1–6), but Phillis may have in mind the connections between early kitharôidia and the Spartan Carneia.
[ back ] 342. Aristophanes Assembly Women 102 (with scholia) suggests that Pronomus wore a great, bushy beard, but the joke is probably that Pronomus was clean-shaven, the better to display his facial mannerisms. A smooth, “effeminate” look may have been cultivated by the stars of the New Music; compare Agathon in Women at the Thesmophoria 191–192. Cf. n123 above; Part IV.10n279.
[ back ] 343. Cf. Part IV.11.
[ back ] 344. Conservatives’ anxieties about the revolutionary nature of the “new dithyramb,” its privileging of the mimetic over the diegetic, music over text-centric mousikê, aulete over chorus (cf. Pratinas PMG 708), are almost absurdly realized in the gesture memorialized with distaste by Aristotle. The aulete actually attacks the koruphaios during the performance: an iconic moment of transgression of the earlier social and aesthetic hierarchy of professional accompanist and amateur citizen chorus.
[ back ] 345. Cf. discussion in Power 2011 (forthcoming).
[ back ] 346. Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.39; Dio Cassius 61.20.2. On the Imperial tragoedus ‘actor-singer’, see Hall 2002 and Kelly 1979.
[ back ] 347. Macleod 1967:515 translates τὸ νεῦμα ἐξομοιῶσαι τοῖς μέλεσιν as ‘swaying his head in time to the music’, which I have followed in Section 2 above. The phrase does seem to refer primarily to the rhythmic coordination of head and music, but the verb ἐξομοιῶσαι literally means ‘to liken, assimilate’, which may suggests too some stylized synching of head movement to the ethical character of the melê.
[ back ] 348. Although we have no preserved epinikion for a citharodic victor, Pindar’s Pythian 12, for Midas of Acragas, an auletic victor at the Pythian agônes, does draw parallels between the heroic labors (18) of Perseus—his slaying of Medusa, which precipitates Athena’s very invention of the auloi, and his return to Seriphus—and the agonistic experience of Midas. It is not surprising that we should have an epinician commemoration of an auletic victory, as auletes could not “speak for themselves.” Citharodes could, however, celebrate their own past victories in their prooimia or in the sphragis sections of their nomoi. We have such an embedded auto-epinician, Timotheus PMG 802, in which the citharode boasts of a victory over an older rival, Phrynis. Another “mute” instrumentalist, the citharist Stratonicus, relied on the extra-performative medium of the epinician inscription to commemorate his victories (although some citharodes did this as well). See n70 above.
[ back ] 349. Other competitive musicians practiced and/or advertised sexual abstinence. See the references collected by Kay 1985:230, who is commenting on Martial 11.75.3, where the practice of infibulation is associated with citharodes. Galen De locis affectis 8.451 claims that both young athletes and singers who refrain from sex risk premature genital shriveling.
[ back ] 350. See Scanlon 2002:227–236 on stories of athletes’ abstinence. As he points out, total abstinence rather than sexual moderation was probably the exception, never the general rule for training athletes.
[ back ] 351. Herington 1985:275n25 bases his timing on the estimated total length of Timotheus’ Persians (around 700 lines, some 240 of which are preserved), “allowing … for considerable variations in tempo and perhaps even pauses for miming.” This estimate may even be too low. Nero’s penchant for marathon performances should be kept in mind here. Suetonius Nero 21.2 emphasizes the great length of his version of the nomos Niobe at the second Neronia. Since the nomos—in particular, the more open-ended Terpandrean nomos—was not simply the sum of its text or its melody, but rather the framework for an improvised performance event (see Part II.5), its duration could vary quite a bit depending on the citharode’s approach to the material, as Herington recognizes.
[ back ] 352. Cf. Suetonius Nero 24.1: in certando vero ita legi oboediebat, ut numquam excreare ausus sudorem quoque frontis brachio deterget ‘In competition he so thoroughly obeyed the rules that he never dared to clear his throat and he even wiped the sweat from his brow with his arm.”
[ back ] 353. Suda s.v. γλυκὺ μέλι καὶ πνιξάτω = T 16b Gostoli; cf. Palatine Anthology 9.488 = T 16a Gostoli.
[ back ] 354. On Nero’s unique brand of philhellenism, see Griffin 1984:208–220.
[ back ] 355. Champlin 2003 is a notable exception. Although not particularly relevant to Nero’s musical enthusiasms, Alcock 1994 is an exemplary attempt to recover a viable geopolitical agenda behind his Grecian tour, one of his supposedly “madcap antics.”
[ back ] 356. On Nero’s complex Apollonism, see Champlin 2003:112–116. See most recently the insightful discussion of citharodic Apollo in Bundrick 2005:142–150. Her comments on his guardianship of cities are especially relevant: “Apollo was honored as a god who brings not only sophrosyne and harmonia but also dike, a god who continues to protect the city and its interests” (146).
[ back ] 357. I follow in part the translation of Eden 1984:33–35. See the general discussion of the passage as Neronian propaganda in Schubert 1998. I see no compelling reason to view these lines as a late insertion into the satirical text, as does Champlin 2003:116. Seneca is laying the groundwork for programmatic themes that would emerge more openly in Nero’s principate in the 60s.
[ back ] 358. Eden 1984:78.
[ back ] 359. Discussion in Veneri 1995. For the implicit critique of musical professionalism involved the praise of Achilles’ and Piso’s lyre, cf. n195 above. Tradition had it that Alexander the Great followed the noble example of Achilles in enjoying music, even claiming to possess the hero’s lyre; cf. n210 above; Veneri 1995:128–131. Alexander’s legendary rejection of the lyre of Paris as effeminate and morally corrupt (Plutarch On the Fortune of Alexander 331d, Life of Alexander 15.9, Aelian Historical Miscellanies 9.38) is worth noting in view of Nero’s praise of Paris.
[ back ] 360. See Sullivan 1985:92–93, followed by Champlin 2003: “Paris the hero … was chosen to reflect the paradoxes of Nero’s own character, with its combination of sensual living and careful training” (82–83).
[ back ] 361. Something of this star quality, in this case auletic rather than citharodic, is captured by Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis 576–578, in which the chorus imagines Paris, still an oxherd on Mt. Ida, “playing barbarian tunes on his surinx, blowing (?) mimêmata ‘imitations’ of the auloi of Olympus on his reeds.” Despite his humble surroundings and rustic surinx, Paris emulates the glamour and virtuosity of professional auletes, who in Euripides’ time would still have played the nomoi attributed to their exemplar, the legendary Phrygian piper Olympus (on whom cf. “Plutarch” On Music 7.1133d–f). In Judgment of Paris scenes in sixth- and fifth-century BCE Attic vase painting, the pastoral Paris fetchingly plays the tortoise-shell lyre, the image of an attractive, well-born Athenian youth (see Bundrick 2005:65–66). In a late rendering of the Judgment, however, Paris, seated in a columnated structure holding a princely scepter in one hand, the lyre in the other, transcends the role of the humble country lyrist—he is a star (cup by the Painter of Berlin, Berlin F 2536; Maas and Snyder 1989:104, fig. 9). Pace Maas and Snyder 1989:226n18 the figure with the kithara in the (pre-)Judgment scene on a red-figured amphora in Brussels (A 3089, CVA Belgium III, pl. 120) is Apollo, not Paris.
[ back ] 362. On the statue, cf. n58 above: it may not actually have been Scopas’ work, but I will continue to refer to it as such. Miller 2000:409–410 notes the symbolism of Nero’s triumphal procession to the Palatine temple after his victorious musical tour of Greece: “The lyre-playing god greeted the lyre-playing emperor, and vice versa.” This triumphus was a parody of a conventional military triumph, complete with a “captive” citharode, Diodorus, whom he had bested in the contests (Dio Cassius 63.20.4). See further Miller 2000:416–417. Suetonius Nero 39.2 records an anonymous graffito that cleverly connects Nero’s failure of leadership to his fascination with Apollo in his musical, rather than martial, aspect: dum tendit citharam noster, dum cornua Parthus, | noster erit Paean, ille Hecatebeletes (“While our leader tunes his cithara and the Parthian bends his bow, ours will be [Apollo] Paean, theirs will be [Apollo] Far-shooter”). Champlin 2003:116 suggests, however, that Nero chose to sing the Niobe at his first appearance in Rome at the Neronia because the myth shows Apollo in his most martially relentless aspect: “to sing the woes of Niobe was to sing the fearsome power of Apollo.” We know nothing about the content of the Niobe, but we might speculate that Apollo’s kitharôidia was somehow thematized in the nomos. Niobe’s husband was Amphion, whom one tradition made an antagonist of Apollo for jeering, presumably along with his wife, at Leto and her children (Pausanias 9.8.4). But their antagonism had a properly musical dimension as well; that Amphion was a protégé of Hermes rather than Apollo may have played a part in its genesis. In the Niobe, then, Apollo’s fierceness as a citharodic agonist—thus we see him in the myth of his contest with the aulete Marsyas—as well as an archer may have been at issue. The combination of musical and martial prowess was something Nero himself tried to project, as his triumph illustrates.
[ back ] 363. Cf. Tibullus 2.5.1–2, probably also referring to the Scopas statue in light of Actium: “Phoebus, come here with your cithara and your songs” (Phoebe … huc age cum cithara carminibusque ueni). See Murgatroyd 1994:165–170.
[ back ] 364. Not entirely certain, but still open to the possibility is Camps 1967:205–206; cf. Barchiesi 2005:284–285, who notes that the “iconography of Apollo had been converging with the official image of Octavian long before 28 BCE.”
[ back ] 365. On Augustan emulation of Apollo as an inspiration for Nero, see Champlin 2003:142.
[ back ] 366. Translation of Camps 1967:205.
[ back ] 367. Camps 1967:205 suggests that we might read quidam for equidem in Propertius 2.31.5, which, while still vague, would make the case clearer that the statue is meant to represent a “certain somebody” (Augustus) in the guise of the god. Servius on Vergil Eclogues 4.10 mentions, but does not locate, a statue of Augustus cum Apollonis cunctis insignibus ‘with all the insignia of Apollo’.
[ back ] 368. See e.g. Griffin 1984, fig. 31. On the pairing of the radiate crown and the kithara in Nero’s Apollonian self-fashioning, see Champlin 2003:116–118. On Nero’s triumphant return from the Greek tour in 67, he was publicly lauded as “Nero Apollo” (Dio Cassius 63.20.5; cf. Suetonius Nero 53).
[ back ] 369. RPC 1371 and 1376. Other examples discussed by Champlin 2003:117.
[ back ] 370. It is worth noting that Nicopolis hosted the Augustan-founded Actian Games for Apollo, which included mousikoi agônes, and surely citharodic agônes at those. Nero does not seem to have competed at the Actian Games, but the refoundation of their host city does seem to have been a bid to engage with a significantly Hellenic facet of Augustus’ post-Actian politics. For the possible overlap between Apollo Ktistês and Kitharôidos in the Greek cultural imaginary, see Franklin 2006b:382, with reference to the refoundation of the Sicilian city of Camarina in the later 460s BCE, in which the strings of the lyre provided the symbolic structuring coordinates for the reorganization of the citizen body. See Cordano 1994; Wilson 2004:280–281. Plutarch Life of Aratus 2.1 registers an interesting inversion of the association between lyric harmonia and civic organization. In Sicyon, when the old Doric aristocracy gave way to demagoguery and factionalism, it was as if the harmonia of the city—we presume the Dorian harmonia—had been put out of tune. The implicit lyrico-political ideology here is properly elitist: the polis as lura is imagined as the possession of the aristocracy, for whom the “real” lyre would have served as a marker of social privilege and distinction.
[ back ] 371. Champlin 2003:142 identifies this statue as that of Augustus-Apollo in the Palatine library. His observation, “[Nero] was surely paying the tribute of one citharode to another,” is one with which I would partially agree, but which needs to be nuanced along the lines I explore below.
[ back ] 372. In terms of the literary-poetic expression of Augustan cultural politics, we may note how far the emulation of consecrated Hellenic poetic canons—Homeric epic, Aeolic monody, Alexandrian learned poetry—practiced by Horace and Vergil lie from Nero’s promotion of the relatively vulgar, professionalized, gaudy culture of kitharôidia.
[ back ] 373. A related détournement of Augustan material culture occurs on Nero’s return to Rome from his victorious tour of the Greek games: Nero appropriates for his “musical” triumph the same chariot that had carried a militarily triumphant Augustus into the urbs (Suetonius Nero 24–25; Dio Cassius 63.20).
[ back ] 374. Champlin 2003:107.
[ back ] 375. We may note that one aspect of his Neapolitan debut recalls the story of Arion’s sea-borne adventure. Nero, like Arion, played to an audience made up (largely) of sailors, if considerably less hostile than Arion’s Corinthians. This was probably a coincidence, and very improbably a deliberate set-up, but Nero may have appreciated the fact that it added a certain mythic resonance to his performance.
[ back ] 376. A model for this arrangement may already be suggested by the story of Arion’s Western tour (Herodotus 1.24). Schamp 1976:118 has posed the question, “Would Arion have been a sort of ambassador in the service of Periander’s politics of prestige?” Beyond sheer cultural prestige, however, his patronage of Arion conceivably represented a savvy “business” investment for the tyrant and his commercially oriented city of Corinth (cf. Thucydides 1.13.5). Corinth “had intense contact with the West, the direction in which its colonial and commercial interests primarily lay from early in its history” (Munn 2003:197). Arion’s itineracy in southern Italy and Sicily may have served as an advertisement in these lucrative markets for Corinthian exports. The notion of Arion’s kitharôidia as a “luxury export” (from the Eastern Aegean, with its Lydian cachet, via Corinth) is reinforced by his transport on a Corinthian merchant vessel (Herodotus 1.24.2).
[ back ] 377. The relevant inscriptions are I.Cret. I viii 11 (Knossos) and xxiv 1 (Priansos). Teos was a major center of the Artists of Dionysus, and Aneziri 1997:96–97 and others understandably assume that Menecles (who is called “son of Dionysius”) belonged to the organization. But it is notable that no mention of it is made in either decree. Cf. n203 above. In the Knossian decree Menecles is complimented as an ἀνὴρ πεπαιδευμένος ‘cultured gentleman’, but that need not mean that he was a musical amateur, as Bélis 1999:45 would have it.
[ back ] 378. Menecles also “brought in (εἰσήνεγκε) a historical cycle (kuklos) about Crete and the gods and the heroes born in Crete, creating his compilation from many poets and historiographers.” What may be described here is a piece in the “patchwork” or medley style associated with the fourth-century citharode Polyeidus (“Plutarch” On Music 1138b); cf. Hordern 2002:12–13, who thinks of “a collection of otherwise unrelated poems on the same general theme.”
[ back ] 379. Chaniotis 1988 argues that two other Cretan decrees from the second century BCE indicate that ambassadors from Mylasa performed songs by the Cretan classic Thaletas. Thaletas is mentioned in the inscriptions, but unfortunately there is no clear mention of performance, nor whether the Mylasians were musicians. Thaletas was known as a choral composer, but certainly the Mylasians could have performed citharodic adaptations, as Menecles probably did of the “ancient poets” of Crete. Here, I would note a third-century CE honorary decree from Crete for the citharode Eubius of Messene, awarded proxenia and citizenship (I.Cret. I xxiv 4A).
[ back ] 380. Cf. Champlin 2003:173–176. As with Nero, Antony’s citharodic associations raised Roman eyebrows. His intimacy with Anaxenor is cited in Plutarch Life of Antony 24.2 as a sign that he had “gone native” in Asiatic Greece.
[ back ] 381. Dio 32.70 reminds the Alexandrians that a leader from their own recent history presaged the travesties of Nero: Ptolemy XII (80–51 BCE), nicknamed Aulêtês, was, like the Roman emperor, a would-be musician who “busied himself with aulos playing” while his city fell into violent factionalism. Dio imagines Alexandria in its last days of pre-Roman autonomy gripped by a self-consuming danse macabre: “In the end, he with his aulos playing and you with your dancing destroyed the polis.”
[ back ] 382. Vespasian: Jones 1973, who connects the oration to an outbreak of stasis in Alexandria mentioned by Eusebius, probably in 74/5 CE (p307).
[ back ] 383. Annals 15.34.1: illic, plerique ut arbitra[ba]ntur, triste, ut ipse, providum potius et secundis numinibus evenit: nam egresso qui adfuerat populo vacuum et sine ullius noxa theatrum collapsum est. The story about the total collapse of the theater is not known to Suetonius, who places Nero back in the theater in the days after his debut, playing to an audience.
[ back ] 384. Amphion: Hesiod fr. 182 M-W = Palaephatus On Unbelievable Tales 41; Pindar fr. 194 S-M, “the golden foundations [of Thebes] have been made to sound with holy songs,” evoking the Amphionic foundation (cf. Nagy 1990b:145). See Rocchi 1989:47–56.
[ back ] 385. The version related in Homer Iliad 7.453 has Apollo and Poseidon building the walls, with no mention of music; cf. 21.446 (Poseidon alone). Kenney 1996:107 thinks the “Amphionic” version is an “Ovidian embroidery.” But it need not be; Apollo also built, alongside Alcathous, the walls of Megara with his kithara: “Vergil” Ciris 107–109; Pausanius 1.42.2; Palatine Anthology 16.276.
[ back ] 386. Champlin 2003:178–209, defending the ancient tradition of Nero’s arson, argues that Nero did plan the destruction of Rome, with a view to rebuilding it as his dream city. Griffin 1984:132 rejects the tradition, but see her discussion of Nero’s ambitious urban planning (130–131).
[ back ] 387. McGlew 1993:22 suggests that Nero’s (possibly) literal destruction of Rome recalls Greek colonists’ “symbolic destruction” of their cities in order to “exert political control over their own refoundation.”
[ back ] 388. The translation follows that of Nisbet 2003:119.
[ back ] 389. Cf. Nisbet 2003:122–123. Lucillius is perhaps picking up too on an anecdote in which Timotheus’ performance of his Nauplios was mocked by the aulete Dorion for its bathetic imitation of a sea storm (Hegesander FHG IV 416 ap. Athenaeus 8.338a).
[ back ] 390. Aubreton 1972:262 argues for Vespasian. Longo 1966 argues that the poem is addressed to Nero: Lucillius flatters him by suggesting that even a Greek citharode could not sing the Nauplios as well as the emperor. But see rebuttal in Nisbet 2003:121–123.
[ back ] 391. For remarks on the “ancient” Greeks’ anxieties about effeminate music, cf. 33.57, from Dio’s speech to the Tarsians. A still later example is to be found in an oration of Themistius to the citizens of Constantinople (c. 350 CE), in which Themistius praises Aristoxenus for having “attempted to give a manly vigor to music that had been made womanly” (364b = Aristoxenus fr. 70 Wehrli). Commentary in Visconti 1999:131–132.
[ back ] 392. See Wilamowitz 1903:69–71; Hordern 2002:7–8. Cf. n257 above, with references.
[ back ] 393. Csapo 2004:244 discusses the displacement of conservative Athenian fantasies about the violent repression of New Music onto fiercely traditional Sparta.
[ back ] 394. Kennell 1988 argues for Nero’s focus on establishing himself as a periodonikês ‘periodic victor’; followed by Champlin 2003:98, 295n32. (The periodic agônes entered by Nero were six in number: the Olympics, the Pythia, the Nemeia, the Isthmia, the Actia, and the Argive Heraia.) Other views presented in Alcock 1994:105; Arafat 1997:144–145.
[ back ] 395. Dio reports that Nero avoided another one-time capital of citharodic culture, Athens, “on account of the story of the Furies,” a fictive excuse similarly involving an allusion to Classical Greek culture. The Panathenaia of the first century CE had fallen far from its Classical glory: Kennell 1988:244–245.
[ back ] 396. It is worth recalling the story that the Spartan ephors once censured a psaltês ‘harpist’ because he “played the strings (kitharizein) with his fingers” (“Plutarch” Sayings of the Spartans 233f). Here “harpist” is likely a derogatory name for a kithara player. The additional strings on Timotheus’ kithara led to the mistaken impression that he was a harpist, a player of the polychord magadis (Artemon of Cassandrea FHG IV 342 = Athenaeus 636e).
[ back ] 397. “Lucian” may be Philostratus; see Whitmarsh 1999.
[ back ] 398. I note that the Hellenistic historian Neanthes of Cyzicus wrote on the invention of the barbitos, ascribing it to Anacreon (FGrH 84 F 5 by way of Athenaeus 4.175e); Lucian mentions the barbitos at the end of his account. Could Neanthes have referred to our mûthos in the presentation of his antiquarian research, inspiring somehow the Neanthus in Lucian?
[ back ] 399. The barbitos remained a primary signifier of the Lesbian lyric tradition well after the Archaic period. Cf. Part III.15.
[ back ] 400. For barmos cf. Sappho fr. 176; West 1992:58.
[ back ] 401. Page 1955:235–237.
[ back ] 402. I translate Liberman’s supplement in line 5, ἐπα[νδάνει ‘it is pleasing’. On the meaning of φίλων as ‘braggart’, see Kurke 1994:73n11. Stehle 1997:235 notes the pun on φίλων ‘friends’ (in the genitive plural form).
[ back ] 403. On the issue of decorum in this fragment, see the discussion of Kurke 1994:73–75. Cf. Stehle 1997:234–236.
[ back ] 404. On the semantics of gluttony in daptô, see Page 1955:167.
[ back ] 405. Fifth-century populist politicans in Athens would find themselves victims of similar elitist sociomusical critique. Aristocratic Cimon attacks the amousia of Themistocles (Plutarch Themistocles 2.4–5, Cicero Tusculan Disputations 1.4; cf. Harmon 2003). The demagogue Cleon is unsurprisingly derided as a bad lyre player by the chorus of old-school elites in Aristophanes Knights 989–990. Sappho may attack the combined lyric and moral-ethical decorum of her aristocratic rivals by claiming that they use dildos (olisboi) instead of plectra to play their lyres (fr. 99.5 L-P), but the fragmentary nature of the text makes that interpretation uncertain. Cf. n130 above. In fr. 55, however, Sappho explicitly attacks a wealthy rival for her lack of musical culture. Williamson 1995:86 observes, “If poetic skill was a badge of aristocratic accomplishment for aristocratic women as it certainly was for men, then this poem [fr. 55] may be as intimately bound up in the politics of Lesbos as any of Alcaeus’ tirades, pitting aristocratic culture against mere wealth.”
[ back ] 406. “Pittakos has revealed himself to be base—and yet, he is now ruler of Mytilene, elected by the equally degraded damos. Alkaios exposes him for what he is, brands him as a ridiculous, incongruous pretender.” This is Kurke 1994:85, on Alcaeus fr. 129, whose themes dovetail with those of fr. 70.
[ back ] 407. Nicomachus Excerpts 1 = T 53b Gostoli.
[ back ] 408. His wish to become “truly blessed,” makarios, may contain a punning reference to Macareus or Macar, the first settler and ruler of Lesbos (Iliad 24.543–545, with scholia). Macar ruled the island as a whole before the advent of its separate city-states, so it is as if Neanthus is angling to become tyrant not only of Mytilene, but of all of Lesbos. Might the same pun lie behind Timotheus’ claim that he, a Milesian, was makarios when his victory against the Lesbian citharode, Phrynis of Mytilene, was announced (PMG 802)?
[ back ] 409. Page 1955:288, who acknowledges that this reconstruction is entirely speculative. If the anonymous lyric text from the Cologne “Sappho Papyrus” (P.Köln col. II, 9–21) in any way draws upon Sapphic themes (cf. Gronewald and Daniel 2005), then its mention of the magical lyre of Orpheus (19–20) could suggest that Sappho knew and related the story of its transit to Lesbos.
[ back ] 410. We will return to this question in Part III.11.
[ back ] 411. Lucian’s account would seem to reflect an Alcaean assumption that, as aristocratic excellence inheres in the blood, so does the essence of lyric musicality, and its transmission from generation to generation, heirloom-style, presumes wealth but necessarily transcends it. Thus the tekhnê and the song of Orpheus are the only riches he inherited “from his mother [the muse Calliope].” This idea is implicit in Pindar, e.g. Olympian 1.14–15, Nemean 4.13–16. On the mentality of essentialism in Archaic lyric, see Kurke 1994:83. For Alcaeus, that Pittacus supposedly is κακοπατρίδαις ‘base born’ (fr. 348.1) surely makes him unmusical as well. Of course, this is pure slander. We should expect Pittacus, who was ranked as one of the Seven Sages of Greece, to have been “in real life” just as much a mousikos as any other Mytilenean elite, despite the critique of his musicality presented in fr. 70, and to have used music and poetry, as Alcaeus did, to further his political goals. Suda s.v. Πιττακός says that elegiac verse was attributed to him.