Why Was Music Important in Ancient Greece?

Music has been an integral part of human history since ancient times. Ancient Greece, in particular, valued music greatly and considered it to be a vital aspect of their culture. The Greeks incorporated music into almost every aspect of their lives and believed that it had the power to influence people’s moods, emotions, and even behavior.

The Role of Music in Ancient Greek Society

The Greeks believed that music had the power to connect humans with the divine. In fact, many of their myths and legends involved musical elements.

For example, the god Apollo was known as the patron of music and played a golden lyre. The famous musician Orpheus was said to have been able to charm even the gods with his music.

Music was also an important part of religious ceremonies in ancient Greece. Choral performances were a common feature in festivals honoring the gods. The Pythian Games, which were held every four years in Delphi, included musical competitions along with athletic events.

The Instruments Used

The Greeks used a wide variety of instruments in their music, some of which are still used today. The lyre was a common stringed instrument with seven strings and was often played by poets who recited their works accompanied by its melody. Another popular instrument was the aulos, which was a double-reed instrument similar to an oboe.

The Modes Used

The Greeks developed a sophisticated system of modes or scales that formed the basis of their musical compositions. These modes were based on specific patterns of whole tones and half-tones and were associated with different emotions or moods.

For example, the dorian mode was said to evoke feelings of courage and heroism while the phrygian mode was believed to induce feelings of passion and excitement.

The Influence on Western Music

The legacy of ancient Greek music can still be felt today in Western music. The Greeks introduced the concept of harmony, which involves the use of two or more notes played simultaneously to create a pleasing sound.

The use of modes also had a significant impact on Western music. Many composers, including Mozart and Beethoven, used Greek modes in their compositions.


In conclusion, music played a crucial role in ancient Greek society. It was believed to have the power to connect humans with the divine and influence their emotions and behavior.

The Greeks developed a complex system of modes and used a wide variety of instruments in their music. Their legacy can still be felt today in Western music, making ancient Greek music an important part of human history that continues to be celebrated and appreciated.