Music for Life: Embryology, Cookery and Harmonia in the Hippocratic On Regimen

In: Greek and Roman Musical Studies
Francesco Pelosi Scuola Normale Superiore Palazzo della Carovana, Piazza dei Cavalieri, 7 56126, pisa Italy

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The first book of the Hippocratic treatise On Regimen includes two interesting references to music. Somewhat obscurely, musical notions are evoked in the explanation of embryological processes (1.8) and in a comparison between technai and human nature (1.18). The paper analyses both the passages, mainly focusing on the interplay between philosophical and musical notions. It is argued that the musical analogies drawn in these passages are permeated by some of the philosophical concepts widely exploited in Book 1, in Heraclitean fashion. In particular, it is claimed that in Vict. 1.8 harmonia conveys the notion of ‘organised structure’, rather than numerical concepts, and that Vict. 1.18 hinges on harmonia as composition of unlike elements, which lies at the basis of cookery and the possibility for the tongue to appreciate its creations.

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