To cite this article:

Tulley, Christine. "Exploring the “Flute Girls” of Ancient Greece through Multimodality." Classics@ 17. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2019.

Exploring the “Flute Girls” of Ancient Greece through Multimodality

Christine Tulley


The figure of the ancient “flute girl,” once thought to be merely an entertainer-prostitute, is problematic and complex. Flute girls [1] or more accurately, aulêtrides (female aulos players), are often considered mere prostitutes in classics scholarship [2] due to their status as slaves, suggestive dress, and their signification of the presence of Dionysius due to playing at symposia where drunken excesses take place. [3] Surviving material artifacts such as images on red-figure pottery fragments and primary texts such as Plato’s Symposium presuppose flute girls held distracting, if not persuasive powers. In an oft-cited passage from Symposium, the character of Eryxachus proposes that the flute girl entering the symposium with a very drunk Alcibiades be sent away so the men can have a conversation without distraction (Plato Symposium 176e). [4] It was assumed music from the aulêtris reinforced a mind-body split, [5] where women and flute music were distinctly separate from higher order thinking. Plato is not anti-music; indeed in the Republic he argues for future leaders to learn mousikē [6] as part of their ethical training, but he deliberately establishes a hierarchy. Flute girl music was clearly considered low status.
More recent scholarship in fields such as musicology suggests flute girls had a more complicated role at symposia. [7] Because of their status as slaves, it is likely that many were forced into unwelcome sexual activity. Still, it is inaccurate to say all flute girls were prostitutes, particularly when other classes of women such as the hetairai (concubines) and pornai (street prostitutes) were also common in ancient Greek society. It is more likely the aulêtris fall somewhere between these two categories. [8] In addition, during the seventh to fifth centuries when both the aulos and the red-figure pottery that captured its use were popular, two “separate but interactive lyric traditions” existed: “one concerned with the desires and pre-occupations of women, another that was configured in relation to the predilections of men.” [9] Because lyric poetry was frequently accompanied by the aulos, flute girl music should be read in light of both traditions. [10] In short,
the female piper in classical Athens had a far more complex and nuanced set of associations than venal sex, and this raises important methodological questions for how we talk about slave women in classical Athens, the role of prostitution in our reconstructions, and the nature of the symposium. [11]
Because of the flute girls’ disputed nature in the symposia and larger Greek society, as well as their position to communicate multimodally through music at gatherings, they occupy a unique rhetorical position for students studying classic texts and ancient Greece. [12]
The recent digital turn in classics scholarship [13] is especially useful for exploring the multimodal literacies associated with the aulos. Multimodal literacy
focuses on the design of discourse by investigating the contributions of specific semiotic resources (e.g. language, gesture, images) co-deployed across various modalities (e.g. visual, aural, somatic), as well as their interaction and integration in constructing a coherent multimodal text (such as advertisements, posters, news report, websites, films). [14]
Classics has always been a multimodal field because texts communicate in more than one mode (oral lyrics, graffiti, symposia amphora, flute or lyre music, gesture, etc.) and different literacies (for example oral and visual, or visual and written) co-existed simultaneously. Multimodal literacies are exceptionally prominent in the case of the flute girl. During a time when only a tiny fraction of the population was literate, both flute music and Attic vases featuring the flute players were “read” by a far larger population. Flute music meant something specific to listeners of the time; it had a grammar, and had specific rhetorical qualities that would likely be familiar and persuasive to listeners at symposia. Put another way, guests would likely be literate in flute music and its signification on pottery. References to music are prominent in earlier works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey because “music occupied a prominent place in everyday life not only because it was amusing and socially valuable but also because it embodied larger universal principles and was a vehicle for higher understanding.” [15] This prominence of flute music is captured on surviving fragments of Attic pottery used for all kinds of occasions in all levels of society. Artifacts featuring flute girls and flute music include kylix for drinking wine and lekythoi were used to pour libations at symposia. Painted amphora were used to store food. These vessels visually capture the roles of the flute girl and their listeners in ancient Greek society and provide useful intersections with primary texts such as Plato’s Republic and Symposium and the flute music itself.
Like many humanities fields, classics has experienced interest in digital humanities where multimodal texts such as those described above are studied using digital tools and taught using digital pedagogy. Digital humanities can be defined as a broad humanities-based interdisciplinary field that where projects from a variety of sectors, including classics, explore how computing methods can research textual materials where even the term “text” itself is defined broadly. [16] Methods to study humanities texts digitally include digital searches (like the type described later in this essay) across large scores of data previously not possible. [17] Digital humanities research also includes study of “born digital” texts such as social media pages and websites. Study of such sites within humanities fields such as classics is especially relevant because these sites are “all expressions of culture that we cannot ignore if we want to study culture or culture change seriously.” [18] Non-textual artifacts such as the flute music and Attic pottery used for meals and celebrations capture the culture of the flute girl alongside references in plays and written texts. Because these artifacts are already multimodal, they lend themselves to teaching about the role of the flute girl, and by association women’s roles in ancient Greece, using digital pedagogy. Digital pedagogy is the heart of the field of digital humanities because both research and teaching using technology to enhance study “are founded on collectivity and collaboration in the pursuit and creation of new knowledge.” [19] To illustrate how digital pedagogy can capitalize on the intersection between text and these ancient, non-text literacies of sound and image of the flute girl, I first describe the multimodal qualities associated with the aulos and the related opportunities for exploring the role of the flute in ancient Greek texts such as Plato’s Symposium. By problematizing Plato and others’ supposed disdain for the music of flute girls, and by association the persuasive multimodal qualities music uses to persuade, the literacy practices of these instruments are brought to the forefront. Next, I describe how specifically digital literacies continue study of the emerging subject of the flute girl within classics scholarship. Websites devoted to artifacts with representations of flute girls offer image study and podcasts and YouTube videos showcase musical fragments reconstructed by ancient Greek music scholars with many available for digital downloading. Because the image and sound transcend language, these multimodal elements provided by digital spaces are useful whether or not a course is taught in translation. I conclude this greater pedagogical attention to ancient multimodality through digital spaces provides a more robust conception of literacy in Ancient Greece for students.

The Multimodal Literacies Associated with the Aulos

The aulos is a common reference point within ancient Greek and Roman texts which makes it useful to study wider issues such as literacy practices, gender roles, and educational norms. Frequent references within classical texts are present because the aulos was pervasive in Athenian society. It was played at funerals, athletic events, weddings, and sacrificial rituals in addition to symposia. [20] Musical instruments such as the aulos also figured heavily in education, as the paideia of fifth century Athens, the cultural, ethical, and civic education, emphasized that mousikē was key to cultivating both a student’s mind and soul, and by the early fifth century vase paintings depicted male citizens learning to play the aulos. [21] Music in general was a key component of literate education for aristocratic boys, as they were expected to compete in choruses and memorize Homeric poetic texts. [22]
Because music and literary culture were tightly intertwined within Greek society, the prevalence of the aulos is a useful point of reference through many classical texts with multimodal and digital opportunities. Within primary texts, a recent search using the word “flute” within the Perseus Digital Library yields 15 specific reference points in English translations from the Greek. [23] For texts that undergraduate students would be likely to read, there are several mentions of the aulos and each offers an opportunity to complicate the role of flute music. One message that emerges through a broad digital search is the aulos is not a neutral instrument or mere background. Though Plato “ascribes to music the power to model the soul according to ethical contents,” [24] music could also corrupt “the psyches of listeners.” [25] Music, in this case, could be a double-edged sword and suspicion of the rhetorical possibilities of the flute girl is often attributed to Plato. In the Republic for example, Plato claims
when someone gives music an opportunity to charm his soul with the flute and pour those sweet, soft, and plaintive tunes we mentioned through his ear…if he keeps at it unrelentingly and is beguiled by the music, after a time his spirit is melted and dissolved until it vanishes, and the very sinews of his soul are cut out.
Plato Republic 411a–b
This reference to the ability of the aulos to charm or distract from higher-level thinking illustrates Plato’s view that mousiké is only valuable when it reinforces moral values versus vulgarity. [26] If we can assume listeners were literate in flute music (i.e. they could listen to it and know what it meant) the musical text of the flute (and its player) could be read as a competing conversation. For this reason, in Plato’s Symposium Socrates establishes an ideal of an aulêtris-free symposium where flute girls are sent away so the male symposiasts can focus on conversation without distraction. [27]
A similar conversation is referenced in Plutarch, where Alcibiades rejects the flute for any symposium participants since it was impossible to play the flute and talk at the same time for “the flute closed and barricaded the mouth, robbing its master both of voice and speech” (Plutarch Alcibiades 2.6). He goes on to note:
Flutes, then…for the sons of Thebes; they know not how to converse. But we Athenians, as our fathers say, have Athena for foundress and Apollo for patron, one of whom cast the flute away in disgust, and the other flayed the presumptuous flute-player.
Plutarch Alcibiades 2.6
Because the instrument prevented conversation, it was not useful when spoken dialectic was the central (i.e. most valued) activity. The aulos was also negatively perceived outside the symposium. Aristotle argues for banning the aulos in the classroom specifically in Politics, where he warns that auloi “produce a passionate rather than an ethical experience in their auditors and so should be used on those occasions that call for catharsis rather than learning.” (Aristotle Politics 8.6 1341 17–24) In short, Aristotle sees the aulos as an instrument not fit for the classroom because the type of music listened to affects the educational development of the soul. [28] Like Plato and Plutarch, Aristotle recognized that flute music, and all of its bodily and emotional associations, competed with intellectual thought.
Beyond specific textual mentions of the aulos and flute girl, the figure of the flute girl is useful for teaching the culture of the symposia, and more specifically how the symposia emphasized the trajectory between oral and literate culture. Though oral and written culture developed roughly on a continuum, during the time period of Homer through 300 BCE, oral, visual, aural, and written literacies were intricately connected and existed simultaneously. Thus it is understandable that the flute girl figures into oral, visual, musical, and print texts during this time. Orally composed texts such as Homer’s Iliad, gave way to lyric poets such as Sappho, whose songs were accompanied by the lyre, and Pindar, who wrote choral works for religious festivals. These texts existed alongside oratory (initially oral speeches later written down for posterity by an elite few who could write). Even when writing emerged more prominently, Greek cultures remained heavily oral in nature. [29]
Ancient Greek culture was also heavily visual. During the Archaic Period (800–480 BCE), human figures first became evident on pottery and were used to tell stories about Greek culture including symposia. The symposium is a useful reference point for students reading ancient Greek texts and understanding Greek literacy practices because these events weren’t limited by social class—merchants, peasants, and artists all took part and material artifacts such as amphora decorated with flute girl imagery were frequently used. [30] Moreover, there is a clear tie between the oral literacy practices of ancient Greece and the aulos through red-figure vase painting which began around 520 BCE. Greek epics and archaic Athenian vase painting share narrative composition similarities through use of repeated iconography (elements that characterized a certain person or deity), formulaic figure patterns to structure the vase image or oral composition, and scene patterns (scenes with the same subject repeated in vase and oral composition). [31] As a result, “this visual tradition [of vase painting] conveys meaning in the same way as do oral traditions.” [32] Because both vases and oral compositions were prominent in ancient Greek society, it is fair to say that both were early multimodal traditions and valuable literacies that carried cultural currency.
Painted vases of classical Athens offer an especially useful multimodal entry point for students to learn about the culture of the symposium, and more specifically, the flute girls’ role and literacy practices within that culture. Though such vases tend to be the province of archeology and not necessarily read as “texts” contributing to literacy of the time, images were read widely during a time when most of the Greek population was not literate. Put another way, “As objects that were sometimes used by the symposiasts themselves, and that are often decorated with scenes of symposia and related activities, the vases are commonly treated as a form of direct access to ancient life, a status that is not usually claimed for other kinds of evidence. [33] From the archaic Attic vases that remain, symposia feature intimate gatherings of “14–22 participants” seated on klinai (couches) that faced “head to head, keeping all symposiasts in full view of one another and creating an intimate communal atmosphere” where participants watched plays, drank, and “discussed important topics of the day.” [34] Vase paintings combined with primary texts offer a more robust picture of the role of the symposium in education, typical behavior at the symposia and the role of the flute girl in it. Pottery such as this red figure bell kraeter  (c. 430–420 BCE) [35] and this red-figure column krater (c. 420 BCE) [36] illustrate a frequently viewed image of the flute girl and pottery featuring similar scenes may have offered images that reinforced or competed with the role of the flute girl in society.

What Can the Study of the Aulos Via Digital Tools Teach Us about Ancient Non-Textual Literacies?

The multimodal nature of the aulos lends itself especially well to study using digital tools. Students now have the ability to view pottery and listen to music not widely available via Internet sites devoted to these topics curated by both scholars and grassroots humanities scholars alike. Unlike traditional classics scholarship which focuses on research within the fields of classical philology, philosophy, history, and archaeology, digital humanities scholarship within and outside the field of classics offers alternative methods for thinking about data curation and creation. When looking at social media collections of aulos music and pottery images of flute girls in addition to large scale digital search tools such as Perseus for textual references, digital humanities data curation offers opportunities for elevation (“curation [to identify] a larger trend or insight”), mashup (“unique curated juxtapositions [to merge and use existing content] to create a new point of view”), and distillation (“the act of curating information into a more simplistic format”). [37] A growing subculture on the Internet seeks to recapture the loss of art of ancient Greek musical instruments and several lectures exist on how to play the aulos and what it can do (here is one example). For example, contemporary musicians use digital spaces to recreate ancient recordings of the aulos. These spaces enhance our understanding of how the aulos many have promoted ancient literacy because we can hear what it may have sounded like. [38] While it is true that student listeners will not experience a live musical performance, and therefore are actually missing part of the multimodal nature of oral recordings (such as crowd response, posture, reverberation of the aulos, and the like), they can hear the pace and rhythm of the music and see when aulos players pause to take a breath. Digitally enhanced videos also show what the aulos looked like, how it was built, and how loud it sounds. Understanding the sonic nuances of the aulos provides a richer context for reading references to “flute girls” in ancient texts. Using recordings such as the one above, instructors can ask students to listen to these digital recordings prior to discussing Plato’s Symposium to determine why Socrates (via Plato) might ask the flute girl to leave. Questions might be posted such as: What qualities does the aulos possess? Was the banishment of the flute girl necessary to quiet the room for conversation? Was the aulos a symbol of seduction or did it offer other subjective effects that would cloud rational thinking? Who were typical guests at symposia exposed to the aulos? Posing these questions in combination with digital access to flute “texts” allows instructors to reinforce the point that Plato’s Symposium guests were far more familiar with certain hymns or songs from the aulos than any printed word or text, and flute music was just one of the literacies ancient Greeks encountered with rhetorical powers.
Digital videos also highlight another reason why Plato may have viewed the aulos with suspicion. Unlike instruments such as the lyre where words could be sung along, videos illustrate the aulos could not simultaneously convey words, though its player might communicate in other ways multimodally (gesture, eye contact, body movement, seductive dress, setting, etc.). Digital tools allow students to actual experience the communicative nature of the aulos to better understand Plato’s objection. As the sample video above represents, digital recordings restore the possibilities of ancient sounds and allow for pausing recordings to isolate passages and hear sections where notes are drawn out or sped up. The concept of mousikē, which included the composition of sung poetry and the culture of the symposium (which necessarily included musical performances), were core elements of the paideia in the age of oral Greece and still persisted during Plato’s age even as written literacy began to take shape. [39] Working from the assumption that music is a form of literacy, i.e. it has communicative qualities, is persuasive, and has rules, then the fact that more people in ancient Greece were musically versus textually literate offers another avenue for understanding ancient literacy practice that digital tools can enhance.
Beyond the aulos fragments available, the large numbers of websites devoted to ancient red and black Attic pottery allow students to see how female aulos players were figured into society. Because pottery was not considered a valuable artifact, and therefore not stolen or destroyed in war, a wide range of fragments exist and the theme of the flute player is repeated on a variety of eating utensils and storage vessels likely used at symposia. Pottery served wide utilitarian functions at all levels of society and therefore many ancient Greeks had access to the images featured on the pottery. Thus cultural messages were widely transmitted via image. While ancient pottery artifacts are common and are accessible as primary texts in museums, digital searches allow for a wide scope for comparison. A quick Google Image search of “female aulos player on vase” yields more than 100 unique red and black vases. [40] Entire pages on Pinterest are devoted to the flute girl on pottery such as this page featuring Greek instruments [41]  and this page featuring the aulos [42]  specifically. A digital search of vases also reveal that there were many male aulos players who performed in Greek dramas [43] as well as male aulos players at the Symposia [44] which also provides for a study and discussion of gender. Questions may be asked such as who was playing the aulos and under what contexts? In examples noted previously, the aulos may be viewed as a seductive instrument whether men or women or playing it that allows a discussion of the term flute girl and gender issues associated with that term. Viewing pottery also helps to problematize the role of the female flute player. While references in classical literature primarily show her playing for men, the women in the kylix are posed in similar positions to the men in this Attic red-figure bell-krater (c. 420 BC) where a female aulos player entertains reclined men who are listening as in this one. [45]
The emergence of such pages offers important lessons in the intersection between feminism and digital humanities curation. Because Pinterest sites about flute girls are curated by both classics scholars and non-specialists, these sites offer a model for “grassroots cyberfeminism”: where an “alternative method to reading the archive, through a re-organisation and reselection of knowledge” is possible. [46] As the flute girl is recovered as a useful figure for teaching students about gender roles and literacy practices, such digital alternatives offer new ways of thinking about previous scholarship on gender roles within the field of classics. This is essential as traditional scholarship on women from the classical area, with the notable exception of Sappho, [47] tends to focus on women’s status or position in society “in isolation from work on every other aspect of the ancient world.” [48] In contrast, Pinterest, YouTube, and crowdsourced spaces such as Wikimedia commons provide a quick snapshot [49] of painted representations of female aulos players that can be used to explore who was listening and under what context.
The ability to view digitally a wide span of red-figure aulos fragments at once also problematizes the term “flute girl” in classical works and gender issues associated with that phrase. Though many artifacts such as the Attic red-figure figure bell-krater described above feature a female aulos player entertaining reclined men who are listening, [50] and thus reinforce textual references to the flute girl as an entertainer for men, artifacts such as the Kylix of the Symposium of the Hetairai (c. 510 BCE) suggest she played for women as well. This same kylix also features a boy running on reverse side, as “a deliberate contrast to the hypersexuality of the women playing and listening to the flute.” [51] There are also examples that the male aulos player may have a position of rhetorical power or persuasion, including male aulos players who performed in Greek dramas or at athletic events, [52] providing a direct contrast to female aulos players. For example, in this dinos attributed to the Dinos Painter, a youth playing a flute in long robes provides music for athletic training. [53] Moreover, the flute is often associated with Dionysius, as on this krater where a young satyr plays the double aulos for Dionysius. [54] Digital searches also offer a pattern of examples that the flute was present in a culture of homosexuality where young boys, not flute girls, served as the entertainment. In this example, [55] the culture of homosexuality can been seen where a young boy is playing the aulos for a male patron. When a wide range of pottery fragments is studied digitally, the aulos may be viewed as a seductive instrument whether men or women are playing it. The combined visual and aural nature of flute girl culture available on material artifacts prompts richer study of textual references to these multimodal literacies.

Pedagogical Implications for Digital Classics: What Can Multimodal Literacies of Flute Girls Offer?

What does studying the flute girl through a digital classics pedagogy offer for the field of classics in general? First, Plato’s complex relationship with music, [56] and the associated literate qualities it provides, offers a useful starting point for undergraduates entering into classical study. Digital tools that capture the multimodal literacies of flute girls illustrate that references to music in primary texts are not secondary or supplemental literacy conventions—music was part of the cultural language and thus part of the literacy of ancient Greek populations. Music held rhetorical power to persuade, and those who played musical instruments were shaping a context for understanding what it meant to be a citizen (or not) in Athenian society.
Studied through a digital lens, flute girls also illustrate gender roles in Athenian society were not as fixed as they first might seem through study of primary texts only. With longstanding attention paid to the body-mind split in ancient Greece, the flute girl offers a complex figure beyond a prostitute. While both the hetairai and the pornai are clearly used for sex, the flute girl brings a skill set to the table which makes her role and presence more nuanced at best (i.e. as she is playing it is unlikely she having sex), as in this image, where she is fully clothed and her listener appears to be listening to the music and not looking at her. [57] Her music may have been pleasurable but not necessarily sexual. This image is a deliberate contrast to references that suggest that flute girls were typically subject to sexual abuse. For example, Xenophon’s Symposium describes the flute-girl as playing on demand to the whims of Phillip who seeks to entertain the guests (Xenophon Symposium 2, 24) [58] highlighting her status as a slave. Aristophanes frequently references the abused nature of flute girls in five plays, including Frogs, where a flute girl is offered to Xanthias for his entertainment (Aristophanes Frogs Line 517) and Wasps (Aristophanes Wasps 1344–1364) where the character of Philoclean abducts a flute girl from a party and tries to persuade her to have sex. When these passages are read in conjunction with red-figure pottery fragments that featured flute girls in more nuanced positions, and alongside male flute players, flute girls have the potential to be refigured. Because of the classical focus on the printed word, and the fact that many ancient texts by women survive only as fragments or embedded in texts authored by men, offering the flute girl as a gendered person regularly featured in primary multimodal texts offers another way to read how both genders were figured in ancient Greek society. Digital pedagogy specifically offers study of image galleries of pottery fragments and searchable texts to see how and where flute girls are referenced and that contributes to a broader discussion of women’s roles in symposia in Homeric, Archaic, and Hellenic Greece. [59]
Digital technologies also raise new questions about the aulos and gender. For example, though ancient Greek pottery pictures some men playing the aulos, new YouTube videos of aulos players such as Conrad Steinmann [60] frequently feature male players and the context surrounding these videos is a revival of the instrument. This modern day example offers the opportunity to explore how the aulos as a gendered instrument has transitioned through time and context.
Flute girls, and the auloi they play, are one aspect of Greek culture already captured broadly in digital space offering a useful link between ancient multimodal literacies and a turn to digital classics. Digital humanities research methods allow for an expanded understanding of the many literacies present in ancient Greek culture. For example, ancient flute music played on a digital tool such as Audacity or viewed as a live performance on YouTube allows the music to be stopped, started, listened to and repeated easily and quickly. Vases can be searched and sorted by contents with 50 vases featured side by side on a screen. Viewers can easily compare facial expressions, who is playing the aulos, where the aulos is being played, and who is listening among the wide variety of pottery fragments that exist. All of these strategies can enhance student understanding of classics.
Finally, and most importantly, a deliberate digital pedagogical approach beyond text initiatives offers a way to attract students and interest them in issues classicists study. Many of our students will not go on to be our professional colleagues but an exposure to classics using the study of flute girls might teach them alternative ways of thinking about concepts such as literacy, culture, power, rhetoric, etc. Flute girls also offer the additional attraction of music. Music has been shown to affect mood in several studies, [61] so students can discuss how Plato’s suspicions may or may not have been correct. Ultimately, one of the longstanding goals of classics is to teach students how the ancient texts apply to the context of today and music is an engaging topic to show connections.
Attracting students has always been important to the field of classics, [62] but scholars such as Crane (2016) advocate for thinking even more broadly about cultivating a culture of citizen-scholars. It is here that a link between digital humanities and classics is distinctly useful. Digital spaces featuring flute girls and the aulos make a citizen-scholar culture immediately evident to students. For example, there is a whole YouTube subculture devoted to showcasing musicians playing historic Greek instruments such as the aulos and pop up Pinterest sites devoted to showcasing the aulos on Attic pottery fragments. Many of these sites were not created by classics scholars, but instead by musicians, artists, and gender activists and yet the increase in these sites teaches us to look at classical study beyond what the experts can teach us and our students. Such citizen-scholars are essential to the next phase of classical studies in the digital age
because opening up the field transforms the contributions that Greco-Roman studies can make to society: insofar as our fellow citizens can join us, not just as anonymous members of a crowd, but as individuals who can develop increasingly sophisticated skills as they contribute over time, we thus advance the intellectual life of society beyond academia. [63]
Put another way, not only do these scholars contribute to a richer intellectual and more adaptable classics culture woven into everyday life, but they also help classics scholars process the vast array of emerging data to process. There aren’t enough scholars to do it all alone and the ongoing shift to digital tools in the classics can be capitalized upon to provide a richer educational experience for our students. Blackwell and Crane (2009) suggest
The digital medium offers new methods with which to make Greco-Roman culture and classical Greek and Latin physically and intellectually accessible to audiences vastly larger and more diverse than was ever feasible in print
and this includes the student audience. [64]
In a classroom context, calling on a digital pedagogy may mean students curate digital artifacts using a social networking platform such as Pinterest or an open access tool such as Omeka. Digital mediums offer links between art museums where material artifacts are housed and student response. In one example of what this might look like, Dartmouth University’s Hood Museum of Art features this example of a bell krater alongside a student essay about the vase by Elizabeth Neil, which includes digitally mapped on sightlines of who is looking at whom on the vase, and a video of the vase. [65] The combination of the digital image hypertextually linked to an essay about the artifact takes advantage of digital technologies that make the undergraduate student reception of the artifact part of a larger conversation. If one of the longstanding goals of classics is to teach students how the ancient texts apply to today’s contexts, studying the flute girl through digital tools provides an easily accessible entry point.


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[ back ] 1. Even the term flute is technically incorrect in this case. The aulos is a reed instrument while the flute is a pipe instrument. Mathiesen (1999) notes that comparison with modern day instruments is fundamentally incorrect because “the aulos is an aulos and sounds nothing like any modern Western musical instrument.” I use the term “flute” and “flute-girls” here to link to references points in other literature. See ABC for a more detailed level of this discussion. See pp. 182–183 in Mathiesen for a structural discussion of how the aulos works.
[ back ] 2. Anderson 1994; Davidson 1997, Dillon 2002; Fischer 2013.
[ back ] 3. Goldman 2015:33.
[ back ] 5. Gilhuly 2009.
[ back ] 6. Music or mousiké—for the Greeks, a term that embraced poetry, literature, and drama as well as music and dancing, all of which fell under the aegis of the Muses. D’Angour 2013:299.
[ back ] 7. Gilhuly 2009; Goldman 2015.
[ back ] 8. Goldman 2015:65.
[ back ] 9. Wilson 1996:2.
[ back ] 10. West 1993:vii.
[ back ] 11. Goldman 2015:30.
[ back ] 12. Burton notes that women’s roles are often discussed within the context of classical Athens “where women’s roles seem to have been more restricted than elsewhere in the Greek world,” so evidence does not provide the full picture on gender roles for women (Burton 1998:159). She goes on to note that outside Athens respectable women (i.e. not flute girls) were participating in “philosophical communities” in Southern Italy and Sparta, as well as Sappho’s dinner parties in Lesbos in the sixth century.
[ back ] 13. Babeu 2014; For a useful overview of where classics has been influenced by digital tools, see
[ back ] 14. O’Halloran 2011.
[ back ] 15. Mathesien 1999:27.
[ back ] 16. Fitzpatrick 2012.
[ back ] 17. Digital humanities methodology also includes a broad span of other research methods such as data visualization and text encoding. For a useful overview, see:
[ back ] 18. Van Dijik 2016:9–10.
[ back ] 19. Hirsch 2012:16.
[ back ] 20. Wilson 1999.
[ back ] 21. See Wallace 2003 for a description of his study of vases.
[ back ] 22. Robb 1994.
[ back ] 23. Search conducted July 8, 2016.
[ back ] 24. Pelosi 2010:29.
[ back ] 25. Robb 1994:195.
[ back ] 26. Wohl 2004:343.
[ back ] 27. Harmon 2005:353.
[ back ] 28. Ford 2004.
[ back ] 29. Harris 1991.
[ back ] 30. Pellizer 1990.
[ back ] 31. Mackay 1996.
[ back ] 32. Mackay 1996:45.
[ back ] 33. Topper 2012:2.
[ back ] 34. Glazebrook, 2015:161.
[ back ] 37. Sabharwal 2015, n.p.
[ back ] 39. Robb 1994:35.
[ back ] 43. Taplin 1993.
[ back ] 46. Ashton 2016.
[ back ] 47. Wilson 1996:1.
[ back ] 48. McManus 1997:5.
[ back ] 50. Attirbuted to Nicias c. 420 BCE.
[ back ] 51. Glazebrook 2015:170.
[ back ] 52. Taplin 1993.
[ back ] 56. Robb 1994; Pelosi 2010.
[ back ] 59. For a useful overview, see Burton 1998.
[ back ] 61. Though many studies have cited the effects music has on the emotions, two recent and useful studies for students focus on the link between memory and sad music (Eerola, Tuomas, and Henna-Riikka Peltola 2016) and the relationship between tempo and positive reactions (McConnell, Meghan M., and David I. Shore 2001). The second study used Mozart’s sonatas in an exercise that could be replicated in class to teach students a richer understanding of why Plato felt music had an effect on emotions.
[ back ] 63. Crane 2016:131.