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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Music and Dance: Forms of Representation in Pictorial and Written Sources

Friederike Fless and Katja Moede

Subject Religion
Classics » Ancient Religion
Ancient History » Roman History

Key-Topics emotion, music, ritual, sources

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405129435.2007.00020.x


Music and dance are central elements of Roman religious rituals. Musicians like flute-players ( tibicines ) and lyre-players ( fidicines ) (figs. 18.1 and 18.3) take part in many processions and sacrifices. Players of brass instruments ( aeneatores ) (figs. 18.2 and 18.3), playing either horns ( cornicines ) or two different kinds of trumpets ( tubicines and liticines ), are in addition participants in both religious and military parades. Moreover, specialized musical instruments are reported for cults that were transferred from the Greek east, like the cult of Magna Mater (Cybele) or Isis: the cymbals ( kymbala ) and shallow drums ( tympana ) of the cult of Cybele and the rattles ( sistra ) of the Isis cult. The instruments dominated the outward perception of these cults so strongly that they came to symbolize the cults both in written and in depicted tradition. Dance performances were also characteristic of many Roman cults. Ancient written sources claimed that especially armed dances had a long tradition dating back to the royal period. This is paralleled by the long tradition of flute-playing in cults. Music and dance were considered by ancient sources as traditional and noteworthy elements of Roman ritual, while being changed over time with the introduction of new cults. The potential of research to describe the specific qualities of music and dance in Roman culture is, however, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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