PHILO AND PHILODEMUS ON MUSK;
Of all the cultural expressions of the early Jewish and Christian world, perhaps the least heard by modern scholars has been music. But music was all around in the classical world—from the streets to the imperial salon. It was also the subject of extensive technical discussions, especially among philosophers. Two of these, those of Philodemus and Philo, will be the focus of this study. Both give attention to music: Philodemus by a treatise on the subject and Philo by numerous scattered references, but neither author’s treatment has attracted extensive analysis. While Abe Malherbe has professed little affinity for Philo, I hope he will accept this study as a melodius tribute, by allowing the tenor of Philo to harmonize with the bass of Philodemus, one of the favorites in his classical chorus.
The neglect of music by scholars may be a result of where one typically encounters it in the extant literary sources. Music, like medicine, grammar, and rhetoric, was considered aa learned “skill” or “art.” From the classical Greek tradition it was given stature by its connection to the poetic composition of odes and hymns. Even so, by the Roman period it was not considered an appropriate profession for a person of noble birth. Poetry was now a separate literary art, and music had largely become the province of slaves or women. Unlike rhetoric, elite men were not expected to study music for use in daily life, even though many show substantial awareness of its technical aspects. Jewish and Christian texts give even less attention usually, perhaps because music was often associated with less wholesome activities of the after-dinner entertainment at a symposium. Such carousing with female musicians was to be avoided. Among the moralist philosophers, however, one frequently finds allusions to music and its technical skills as a metaphor or illustration of the precision and practice of pursuing a harmonius moral life. In the arts, skill and training are required to become proficient, as Musonius Rufus said: