Music has been a part of every land known to mankind. The ancient civilizations had their own music which was independent of any influence and was usually an extension of their history and the nature around them. The Greeks set the bar very high with regards to culture and folklore, but the Romans weren’t too far behind. Let’s look at the music in the life of the ancient Romans.
Musical Instruments of Ancient Rome
Despite having been a powerful empire, it is quite unfortunate that as compared to the ancient Greeks, there is not much evidence of the history of Roman music. One possible explanation could be the suppression of music and musical instruments due to its presence in everything pagan by Christianity, once the Roman empire embraced it as its official religion. It is said that the Romans were not as creative as the Greeks when it came to music, nor did it form an integral part of their life, culture, and education. The evidence that we have been able to discover suggests a few instruments that the Romans fancied.
Nevertheless, music was used in military, civil, and religious ceremonies when they were performed by the State or for entertainment purposes. Though not original, the Romans did admire the music of other cultures, that of the Greeks in particular. Influence of the Etruscans and also the Mid-Eastern and African regions, when the Roman empire expanded to embrace these regions can also be seen in ancient Roman music.
It is believed that music accompanied comedies and pantomimes. However, there is no evidence if music was composed for epics and poetry as it was for the Greeks. Music was used in the wars, for funerals, and during public gatherings and performances. Musical competitions would be regularly held during the Roman rule, and they had a large audience too.
The Roman tuba was a long, straight horn, about four feet in length. It was made of bronze and had a detachable bone mouthpiece. It was borrowed by the Romans from the Etruscans and it assumed an important place in military activities sometime around 500 BC. The Romans used the tuba to make bugle calls to signal commands like ‘charge’, ‘retreat’ and changing of guard in battles.
It was a semicircular, ‘G’ shaped musical instrument that was made out of bronze. It had a cross bar across the widest part that helped the player to rest the instrument on his shoulder. It had a conical bore and a mouthpiece made out of bone. It had great wartime utility.
It consisted of two reed pipes that were not joined other than at the mouth band that the player used to blow into. It is believed that there was a less popular version of the tibia that had a single pipe. This instrument has a mythological association. Its ancient Greek equivalent was aulos. It is said that the aulos was found by the satyr Marsyas after Athena threw it away when she realized that her face became contorted whenever she tried to play the Aulos. The less popular single pipe aulos has today come to be known as the flute and is used extensively in local folklore. It produces a simple and soothing musical experience. It is easier to make and tune than the Aulos.