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Theophrastus of Eresus: Commentary Volume 9.1

Sources on Music (Texts 714–726C)

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Massimo Raffa

Among the many subjects on which Theophrastus wrote, music is one of the most fascinating, as is testified by the sources discussed in this volume. Although scanty, the material we have—sixteen texts altogether, most of which are indirect testimonies—gives an idea of the originality and modernity of Theophrastus’ thought on music, and makes us regret that we do not know more. Our philosopher conceives of music as something that originates from a movement in the soul caused by passions and comes into existence through the body. Accordingly, he is interested in performance—i.e. the way in which musical expression is brought to the listener—and its effects on the soul and the body—e.g. musical therapy.
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Massimo Raffa

Abstract

Introducing his commentary on Ptol. Harm. I.5, Porphyry discusses at length the vocabulary of musical intervals and in particular the question whether the words λόγος and διάστηµα should or not be used as synonyms. This paper aims, on the one hand, at analysing the way in which he chooses and arranges his sources; on the other hand, at restoring them to the original debate to which they belong—a debate in which a seminal role seems to have been played by Plato’s Timaeus and the contributions of its early commentators (Eratosthenes, Aelianus, Panaetius) in the framework of post-Aristoxenian harmonics.