The Oldest Known Greek Song

Greek vase painting showing four of the nine Greek muses playing musical instruments

Music doesn’t play a notable role in my two novels, A Rooster for Asklepios and A Bull for Pluto, but I imagine that some people who visit my Website for the books ( wonder about the music that plays when you go to the home page. The music is a modern recording of the Song of Seikilos, a composition that was inscribed on a funeral column in western Asia Minor between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE. The column was erected in honor of a woman named Euterpe who may have been the wife of Seikilos, the presumed composer of the tune.

A photograph of the Seikilos inscription, currently housed in the National Museum of Denmark

The rather terse Greek, which echoes sentiments found on many Greek tombstones, can be translated somewhat poetically as follows.

Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ πρὸς ὀλίγον ἔστι τὸ ζῆν τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.

Shine as long as you live, Never let anything grieve you, For life lasts only a short while, And time demands its toll.

The recording on my Website was made by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble and is used by permission. To hear more songs from the album, see A CD of the album is available on–see

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