The Oral Tradition of Ancient Greece

The oral tradition found in Ancient Greek culture is related to a theme of belonging and identity in that for centuries it was how the Greeks retained both their wisdom and distinctive society.  Although my research will also look at the techniques used by the Greeks for remembering so much, it focuses on the great esteem that orality was held to. The way orality was viewed both before and after the introduction of writing displays just how important it was to the Greek culture, which is shown in the writings of philosophers like Socrates and stone inscriptions found within the ancient courthouses. The great Homeric Epics that were passed down for generations through the oral exchange of ancient minstrels reflect the Greeks ability to remember great amounts of data, and how such data can change its meaning through centuries of playing telephone.

Coming from two Austrian classics professors, this audio file exemplifies how Homer’s epics would have likely been performed. Although very little survived to show us how exactly the poems were meant to be performed, this clip displays their work figuring out the likely instrumentation, melody and¬†pronunciation of the works that are central to the idea of Greek oral tradition. The painting¬†The School of Athens, by Raphael, also demonstrates the idea of knowledge and identity within the Ancient greek culture. The work depicts the great minds of Greece, with the central figures of Plato and Aristotle.




One thought on “The Oral Tradition of Ancient Greece

  1. Did the emphasis on oral tradition extend to other forms of sound, such as a specific music genre or ceremonial soundscape? It would be interesting to look at the connection between oral traditions and music, and to see how emphasis on oral tradition changed Greek perceptions of music.

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