This paper contemplates the various means by which the Ancient Greeks preserved information about their musical history, highlighting oral/aural tradition and the transition to literacy when inscriptions could capture information in roughly datable contexts. Music history sources and motives are also examined.
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This paper contemplates various ways that the ancient Greeks preserved information about their musical past. Emphasis is given to the earlier periods and the transition from oral/aural tradition, when self-reflective professional poetry was the primary means of remembering music, to literacy, when festival inscriptions and written poetry could first capture information in at least roughly datable contexts. But the continuing interplay of the oral/aural and written modes during the Archaic and Classical periods also had an impact on the historical record, which from ca. 400 onwards is represented by historiographical fragments. The sources, methods, and motives of these early treatises are also examined, with special attention to Hellanicus of Lesbos and Glaucus of Rhegion. The essay concludes with a few brief comments on Peripatetic historiography and a selective catalogue of music-historiographical titles from the 5th and 4th centuries.