According to sourcemakeup, the nomic melodies (νόμοι), transmitted by tradition, and kept by the priests in the archives of the major sanctuaries, where they were performed in the practices of worship, initially limited to a small number, became the subject of a series of transformations and elaborations to which each composer brought his own contribution. The nómos received its most powerful impulse in Delphus, the intellectual center of the Doric race, where Apollo himself had, according to popular belief, established his favorite sanctuary. Here was founded the oldest musical institution in Greece, the agoni or competitions for the composition and performance of the citharodic nómos. Here the famous “nómos pitico” sounded for the first time, destined to celebrate the victory of the god of light over the snake Python,
Later the legislators stopping, for pedagogical purposes, their attention on the peculiarities characterizing the rich melodic heritage that the civilized world offered to them, believed they could divide it into three groups, corresponding to the three great constitutions of the ancient world around the Aegean: the Doric, Hellenic church; Phrygian, Hellenic but intimately permeated with oriental elements; the lydian, more purely oriental.
In order to reproduce the characteristic features of these three melodic types, and in particular the cadences, in which the voice and the instrument had to more closely coincide, the heptacord lyre was not enough and the three different tunings were devised, which are the basis of the Greek musical system.. With this triple modal constitution, which is the most ancient of which we can remember, and already in force at the time of Polymnesto di Colofone, the Greeks demonstrate that they have preceded with practice the distinctions and classifications further established by the theory, by virtue of which the mode became a systematically ordered succession of sounds, capable of reproducing certain melodic types.
The major achievements of Greek music go hand in hand with those of poetry. Archilochus of Paro (mid-7th century BC), the iambic poet, with his agile rhythms marked by popular dances and his attempts at heterophonic accompaniment, announces a more varied and freer art.
In this period begins the flowering of lyric proper, in which the poets express their sensitivity with song and are therefore called melic. The lyrics can be divided into monodic and choral. The first group includes Sappho and Alceo of Lesvos (7th century BC), representatives of the Aeolian opera; and Anacreonte di Teo (6th century BC). Choral poets were Alcmane, Stesicoro, Ibico, Simonides di Ceo, Pindaro and Bacchilide. The typical forms of choral lyric were the prosodî (προσόδια), solemn choirs for processions and parades; the embaterî (ἐμβατήρια), martial songs; the hyporchemi (ὑπορχήματα), danced songs; the epitalamî (ἐπιϑαλάμια), wedding songs; the scholî (σκόλια), songs peculiar to the choir including the encomiastic hymns (songs of praise); and the epinics (ἐπινίκια), songs of victory; trains (ϑρῆνοι), funeral songs.
With the development of a real choral song there were more complex musical forms, resulting from the union of music, poetry and dance (orchestica, ὀρχηστική). The collective dance was organized by Thales of Crete until the mid-century. VII a. C.
Alongside the two national instruments, zither (κιϑάρα) and flute (αὐλός), musical practice in this era welcomed a certain number of exotic instruments, often of an ephemeral vogue. Furthermore, the beginnings of acoustic researches, promoted by the philosopher-mathematician Pythagoras of Samo (about 582-500 BC), with the aid of the monochord, which came to establish the principle of the existence of a relationship, also belong to this period. fixed between the length of the string and the pitch of the sound.
From the middle of the century. V at the end of the IV theatrical and popular style predominates. The choral hymn, of a religious nature, is gradually replaced by the singing and instrumental virtuosity of professional musicians. The musical part of the tragedy also changes. In Aeschylus, poetry and music have clearly limited tasks; the actors express themselves in imaginative and winged verses and between the episodes the broad waves of choral songs stretch out. Afterwards, the music tends to invade all the drama. Traces of such an orientation appear in Sophocles, but the musical element becomes overwhelming in Euripides and from the parodies of Aristophanes it is clear that, in the performance of Euripidean monodies, the actors freely abandoned themselves to singing virtuosity. Many innovations are attributed, in this period, to Timothy,
Parallel to the technical development of music, that of theory and teaching took place. The Aristoxenus polygraph of Taranto (about 360 BC) left us the definitive codification of the musical system of the Greeks, which, given the scarcity and confusion of the few passages of Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Pollux and Athenaeus where the history is treated of the musical practice of antiquity, can be considered as the authentic testament of Greek music.
With the century III opens the period of decadence also for music, as for every other creation of the Greek spirit. In the Hellenistic-Roman period, music did not cease to be cultivated, especially in Rome and Alexandria, but it was not enriched with new contributions. The only remarkable fact of this period is the invention of the h ý draulos, ancestor of the organ, due to Ctesibius of Alexandria. But the development of this instrument was reserved for the Middle Ages.