Prehistoric Period


Medieval woodcut showing Pythagoras with bells
and other instruments in Pythagorean tuning

Pythagoras introduces octave to music.
Modes appear in music.
Indian Vina appears, two hollow gourds connected by strings and bamboo reed.
Considered the precurser to all hollow instruments.

Pindar, Greek Composer and Poet born.
Pindar begins to write his odes.
Greek Choral music reaches its zenith.
Typical greek instruments aulos, cithara, lyre.
Pythgoras further explores musical theory.
Pindar dies.
Trumpet playing competitions become popular in Greece.
Aristotle lays the foundations of musical theory.
Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century.


Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and has been credited as the founder of the movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him. He was born on the island of Samos, and traveled, visiting Egypt and Greece, and maybe India, and in 520 BC returned to Samos. Around 530 BC, he moved to Croton, in Magna Graecia, and there established some kind of school or guild.

Pythagoras made influential contributions to philosophy and religion in the late 6th century BC. He is often revered as a great mathematician and scientist and is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name. However, because legend and obfuscation cloud his work even more than that of the other pre-Socratic philosophers, one can give only a tentative account of his teachings, and some have questioned whether he contributed much to mathematics or natural philosophy. Many of the accomplishments credited to Pythagoras may actually have been accomplishments of his colleagues and successors. Some accounts mention that the philosophy associated with Pythagoras was related to mathematics and that numbers were important. It was said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher, or lover of wisdom, and Pythagorean ideas exercised a marked influence on Plato, and through him, all of Western philosophy.


Musical theories and investigations 

According to legend, the way Pythagoras discovered that musical notes could be translated into mathematical equations was when he passed blacksmiths at work one day and thought that the sounds emanating from their anvils were beautiful and harmonious and decided that whatever scientific law caused this to happen must be mathematical and could be applied to music. He went to the blacksmiths to learn how the sounds were produced by looking at their tools. He discovered that it was because the hammers were "simple ratios of each other, one was half the size of the first, another was 2/3 the size, and so on".

This legend has since proven to be false by virtue of the fact that these ratios are only relevant to string length (such as the string of a monochord), and not to hammer weight. However, it may be that Pythagoras was indeed responsible for discovering the properties of string length.

Pythagoreans elaborated on a theory of numbers, the exact meaning of which is still debated among scholars. Another belief attributed to Pythagoras was that of the "harmony of the spheres". Thus the planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, which corresponded to musical notes and thus produced a symphony.

Brewer (1894), wrote (page 2614):

"The music or harmony of the spheres. Pythagoras, having ascertained that the pitch of notes depends on the rapidity of vibrations, and also that the planets move at different rates of motion, concluded that the sounds made by their motion must vary according to their different rates of motion. As all things in nature are harmoniously made, the different sounds must harmonise, and the combination he called the “harmony of the spheres.” 


Aristotle (384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidice, on the northern periphery of Classical Greece. 

His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, whereafter Proxenus of Atarneus became his guardian. At eighteen, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC). His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great starting from 343 BC. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "Aristotle was the first genuine scientist in history ... [and] every scientist is in his debt."

Teaching Alexander the Great gave Aristotle many opportunities and an abundance of supplies. He established a library in the Lyceum which aided in the production of many of his hundreds of books. The fact that Aristotle was a pupil of Plato contributed to his former views of Platonism, but, following Plato's death, Aristotle immersed himself in empirical studies and shifted from Platonism to empiricism. He believed all peoples' concepts and all of their knowledge was ultimately based on perception. Aristotle's views on natural sciences represent the groundwork underlying many of his works.

Aristotle's views on physical science profoundly shaped medieval scholarship. Their influence extended into the Renaissance and were not replaced systematically until the Enlightenment and theories such as classical mechanics. Some of Aristotle's zoological observations, such as on the hectocotyl (reproductive) arm of the octopus, were not confirmed or refuted until the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, which was incorporated in the late 19th century into modern formal logic.

In metaphysics, Aristotelianism profoundly influenced Judeo-Islamic philosophical and theological thought during the Middle Ages and continues to influence Christian theology, especially the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. Aristotle was well known among medieval Muslim intellectuals and revered as "The First Teacher" (Arabic: المعلم الأول‎).

His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics. All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues – Cicero described his literary style as "a river of gold" – it is thought that only around a third of his original output has survived.


Pindar (c. 522 – c. 443 BC) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. 

Quintilian wrote, "Of the nine lyric poets, Pindar is by far the greatest, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich exuberance of his language and matter, and his rolling flood of eloquence, characteristics which, as Horace rightly held, make him inimitable." His poems however can also seem difficult and even peculiar. The Athenian comic playwright Eupolis once remarked that they "are already reduced to silence by the disinclination of the multitude for elegant learning". Some scholars in the modern age also found his poetry perplexing, at least until the 1896 discovery of some poems by his rival Bacchylides; comparisons of their work showed that many of Pindar's idiosyncrasies are typical of archaic genres rather than of only the poet himself. His poetry, while admired by critics, still challenges the casual reader and his work is largely unread among the general public.

Pindar was the first Greek poet to reflect on the nature of poetry and on the poet's role. Like other poets of the Archaic Age, he has a profound sense of the vicissitudes of life, but he also articulates a passionate faith in what men can achieve by the grace of the gods, most famously expressed in the conclusion to one of his Victory Odes:

Creatures for a day! What is a man?
What is he not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days.

(Pythian 8)

His poetry illustrates the beliefs and values of Archaic Greece at the dawn of the classical period.

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronzebust of Aristotle by Lysippus, c. 330 BC.

Bust of Pythagoras of Samos inthe Capitoline Museums, Rome.

Pindar, Roman copy of Greek 5th century BC bust (Museo Archeologica Nazionale, Naples)



Aurelius Ambrosius (Italian: Sant'Ambrogio [ˌsantamˈbrɔːdʒo]), better known in English as Saint Ambrose (/ˈæmbroʊz/; c. 340 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was the Roman governor of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374. Ambrose was a staunch opponent of Arianism, and has been accused of fostering persecutions of Arians, Jews, and pagans.

Traditionally, Ambrose is credited with promoting "antiphonal chant", a style of chanting in which one side of the choir responds alternately to the other, as well as with composing Veni redemptor gentium, an Advent hymn.

Ambrose was one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. He is notable for his influence on Augustine of Hippo.

Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family about 340 and was raised in Gallia Belgica (present-day Trier, Germany). His father is sometimes identified with Aurelius Ambrosius,] a praetorian prefect of Gaul; but some scholars identify his father as an official named Uranius who received an imperial constitution dated 3 February 339 (addressed in a brief extract from one of the three emperors ruling in 339, Constantine II, Constantius II, or Constans, in the Codex Theodosianus, book XI.5).

His mother was a woman of intellect and piety. Ambrose's siblings, Satyrus (who is the subject of Ambrose's De excessu fratris Satyri) and Marcellina, are also venerated as saints. There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint's symbology.

After the early death of his father, Ambrose followed his father's career. He was educated in Rome, studying literature, law, and rhetoric. Praetorian Prefect Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus first gave him a place in the council and then in about 372 made him governor of Liguria and Emilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was then (beside Rome) the second capital in Italy.

Ambrose was the Governor of Aemilia-Liguria in northern Italy until 374, when he became the Bishop of Milan. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Governor in the effective capital in the Roman West, he was a recognizable figure in the court of Valentinian I. Ambrose never married.

In April 393 Arbogast, magister militum of the West and his puppet Emperor Eugenius marched into Italy to consolidate their position in regard to Theodosius I and his son, Honorius, whom Theodosius had appointed Augustus to govern the western portion of the empire. Arbogast and Eugenius courted Ambrose's support by very obliging letters; but before they arrived at Milan, he had retired to Bologna, where he assisted at the translation of the relics of Saints Vitalis and Agricola. From there he went to Florence, where he remained until Eugenius withdrew from Milan to meet Theodosius in the Battle of the Frigidus in early September 394.

Soon after acquiring the undisputed possession of the Roman empire, Theodosius died at Milan in 395, and two years later (April 4, 397) Ambrose also died. He was succeeded as bishop of Milan by Simplician. Ambrose's body may still be viewed in the church of Saint Ambrogio in Milan, where it has been continuously venerated — along with the bodies identified in his time as being those of Saints Gervase and Protase.

Saint Ambrose with scourge and book, a painting in the church of San Giuseppe alla Lungara, Rome


 The battle of Arbela (Gaugamela) between Alexander and Darius, the latter being in flight. On read a Latin inscriptions on the bottom margin: "Proelium ad Arbelam inter Alexandrum et Darium et fuga ejus")


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