A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography

By Egon Wellesz | Go to book overview
Save to active project


THE term 'Byzantine music' has been applied by modern scholars to Eastern ecclesiastical chant, sung in Greek, and to the melodies of a certain group of ceremonial poems in honour of the Emperor, the Imperial family, and high dignitaries of the Orthodox Church. The restriction of the term to these two groups of chants is not quite accurate, for it excludes secular music, to which Christian authors and Byzantine historiographers frequently refer. No trace, however, of this secular music has come down to us, and the only knowledge we have of it is derived from the Fathers of the Church and the Byzantine chroniclers who contrast the evil influence of theatrical music with the purifying spirit of sacred music. Remnants of Byzantine popular songs may still live in Greek popular music of the present day, but no attempt has yet been made to analyse the melodic structure of these songs and to separate the different layers by stylistic analysis, a procedure which would enable us to compare the corpus of secular melodies with ecclesiastical, and to determine whether any relationship can be observed between them. We must, therefore, use the term 'Byzantine music' here in the same restricted sense as our predecessors; but we shall try to add some information from literary sources so as to give a more complete account of the position which both ecclesiastical and secular music occupied in the Eastern Empire.There are three groups of sources on which our knowledge of the subject is based:
1. Manuscripts, containing (a) collections of ecclesiastical hymns, chants from the Ordinary of the Liturgy, and other liturgical melodies; (b) acclamations and Polychronia, sung by alternating choirs in honour of the Emperor, the Empress, and high dignitaries of the State and of the Church.
2. Treatises on musical theory and notation.
3. Descriptions of secular and ecclesiastical ceremonies and feasts accompanied by hymns, chants, and instrumental music.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 474

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?