III sec. d.C.


Traduzione tratta da: Aristides Quintilianus, On Music in three books, a cura di Mathiesen T.J., Yale University Press, Londra 1983, pp. 154-157

18. What is the marvel ifthe soul, after taking by nature a body similar to the things moving the instruments-strands and breath, is moved at the same time as these are moved; and when the breath sounds harmoniously and rhyth­mically, the soul is affected at the same time as the breath beside it; and when a strand is struck harmoniously, the soul sounds and intensifies at the sa me time as the specific strands, since indeed such a correspondence is observed in the kithara? For if anyone should pIace one of two unison strings inside a small and light straw and should strike the other stretched out at a distance, he will most palpably see the straw-bearing string moved at the same time. It is strange how the divilile art seems to operate and to do something even through inanimate things. Indeed, by how much more in the case of things moved by the soul is it necessary for the cause of similarity to operate? Of instruments, those fitted together of strands closely resemble the ethe­real, dry, simple region of the cosmos and part of spiritual nature, being more without pass on, immutable, and hostile to wetness, and displaced from their proper settin by damp air; the wind instruments closely resemble the windy, wetter, changeable region, making the hearing overly feminine, being adapted for changin from the straightforward, and taking their constitution and power by wetness. The better instruments are similar to the better things, and the lesser instruments are the others. These things also demonstrate the legend, they say, that esteemed the instruments and mele of Apollo over those of Marsyas. The Phrygian, having been hung over the river in Celaenae after the manner of a wineskin, happens to be in the aerial, full-windy, and dark-colored region, since he is on the ne hand above the water and on the other hand suspended from the ether; but Apollo and his instruments happen to be in the purer and ethereal essence, and he is the leader of this essence.

19. In their discourse about the use of instruments, the ancients gradually reveal the following things to us. Harmful melody and that to be avoided as gradual1y leading to evil and destruction, they bestowed as a figure on the brutal and mortal women, the Sirens, whom the Muses conquer and wise Odysseus with headlong speed avoids. Since useful musical creation is twofold (one type is useful for the benefit of serious men, the other for the harmless indulgence of the common herd, even if some of these are quite lowly), the educational type on the kithara, which happens to be manly, they dedicated to Apollo; and the type necessarily pursuing delight because it aims at the multitude, they bestowed on the feminine of the gods, on one of the Muses, on Polyhymnia. And of musical creation in accord with the lyre, the type useful for paideia, as suitable for men, they appointed to Hermes; the other type adapted to softening, as often appeasing the feminine and epithymetic part of the soul, they fastened upon Erato. Again, in the case of the auloi, the melody flattering the quantity of men and part of the soul desiring pleasure, they assigned to the one advising that the sweet vie with the beautiful, in accord with her appellation, to Euterpe; the other type, able occasionally to benefit through much science and discretion but not however departing absolutely from its natural femininity, they allot no longer to the masculine of the gods, but rather to the one feminine in genus, discrete and warlike in ethos, to Athena. So then, in displaying that the benefit through auletic melody is short and advising the wise to avoid for the most part the facility of it, they say that the goddess threw away the auloi as not adding suitable pleasure for those desiring wisdom; but this type of melody is utilized for those of mankind worn out and exhausted because of continuous work and labor. They also brought up how a penalty pursued Marsyas, who dignified his music beyond its worth: whose instruments fell behind those of Apollo by so much as handicraftsmen and ignorant men fall behind wisemen and Marsyas himself behind Apollo. That is why Pythagoras, too, counselled his disciples who heard the aulos to cleanse their hearing as defiled by breath and to thoroughly purify the irrational impulses of the soul with righteous mele to the accompaniment of the small lyre. For the aulos cultivates what is the leader of the worse portions, but the lyre because it takes care of the rational nature is friendly and welcome. The learned in every group of mankind confirm my view that not only our souls but also that of the universe used such a constitution: those persons cultivating the region under the moon, which is full windy and of a wet constitution but which procures its actuality from ethereal life, are soothed by both kinds of instruments – wind and stranded; and those persons cultivating the pure and ethereal region on the one hand deprecated every wind instrument as defiling the soul and dragging it down to the things here and on the other hand hymned and held in honor the kithara and lyre alone of the instruments as the purer. Of this latter region, surely, wise men are imitators and emulators, on the one hand divorced from the disorder and variety of the things in this world – ­at least in inclination, even if present in body – and on the other hand holding on to the unbroken simplicity and reciprocal concord of the beautiful things of that place through a likeness to virtue.