Byzantine Musical Theory (Harmonics)


  • Linos G. BENAKIS



Byzantium, greek music, Harmonics, Quadrivium, pythagoreans, canonists, harmonists


Harmonics was one of the four mathematical sciences in the Byzantine higher education curriculum, together with Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy (what was called quadrivium in the Latin West). Our knowledge of Byzantine harmonics is rather limited, as only two or three of the relevant treatises have been published in new editions. In this paper a systematic approach is attempted, while, at the same time, keeping distances from the well-studied practical aspect of Byzantine music, i.e. ecclesiastical music. Furthermore, the tradition of Greek musical theory (both Pythagorean and Aristoxenian), which the Byzantines developed further from a dual, both textual and educational, interest, presenting us at the same time with some original contributions.


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Author Biography


Linos G. BENAKIS (Dr., Dr.h.c.) is a Greek historian of philosophy and researcher. He is the former Director of the “Centre for the Research of Greek Philosophy of the Academy of Athens”, has taught at the Princeton University, University of Crete; was Vice-President of the Ionian University in Corfu; was member of the Board of “International Society for the Study of Medieval Philosophy” (1982-1992); was chairman of the “Byzantine Philosophy Committee” of the same Society.  He is a member of the International Academy for Philosophy. Areas of interest: Ancient Greek, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine philosophy. Benakis is the author of eight books and more than 100 articles. Recent publications: “Michael Psellos: Kommentar zur Physik des Aristoteles”, “Byzantine Philosophy, vols. A-B”, “Theodore of Smyrna: Epitome of Nature and Natural Principles According to the Ancients”, “Byzantine Philosophy - an Introductory Approach”.


Troelsgard, Ch. (1988). Ancient Musical Theory in Byzantine Environments. In Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin, 56 (pp. 228-238).
Hagiopolites (1983). The Hagiopolites, A Byzantine Treatise on Musical Theory. In J. Raasted (Ed.), Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin, 45.
Tannery, P. (Ed.) (1940). Quadrivium de Georges Pachymère. (E. Stephanou, Ed.). Vatican City.
Bryennios, M. (1970). Manu?l Bryenniu Harmonika: The Harmonics of Manuel Bryennius (G. H. Jonker, Ed.). Gronige.




How to Cite

BENAKIS, L. G. (2018). Byzantine Musical Theory (Harmonics). WISDOM, 10(1), 98–104.




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