What Is The Music Of Ancient Rome Part Of

Rome is one of the oldest and most enduring cities in the world.

Constantine the Great is credited with transforming the city into a major European centre. This expansion shaped the development of the city’s culture, and subsequently the music, which this article will explore.

The Ancient Romans had their music and instruments, and although the Antiquity era passed centuries ago, it is still surprisingly easy to find traces of it in the present.

A key musical element of Ancient Rome was the distinctive instruments used in their musical performances. Archeologists have found a variety of flutes and lyres, but the most important, and iconic, was the lyre – an instrument with seven strings. Played with a plectrum, or pick, the lyre was used to accompany poetry, and was popular in the courts of the Roman aristocracy.

Music During the Roman Empire

The Golden Age of Rome, which began when Julius Caesar unified the Mediterranean, also included the rise of Roman Music. The greatest Roman composer – Sextus Pompeius – wrote 11 books of music, which still exist today. His works encompass a variety of styles, from march music and paeans to more abstract pieces, as well as drinking songs.

The music of Ancient Rome was performed in a variety of venues, from the elaborate palace of Augustus, to the coliseum. The coliseum hosted some of the most popular musical performances in the Roman Empire, but the private concerts of the nobles were considered the most prestigious.

During this period the musical instruments used by the Romans became very sophisticated. Besides the lyre, other popular instruments included the flute, the aulos and the tambourine. Byzantine music was also highly influential during this time, as the Eastern Roman 5 Empire was a powerful cultural force.

Another important aspect of the music of the Roman Empire was the development of the opera. This was a popular form of entertainment in the court of Nero, and it featured a variety of entertainers, including singers, dancers, actors and acrobats.

Late Roman Music

The decline of the Roman Empire marked the beginning of the Late Roman Music period. Music during this period was more varied, and popular music such as church music and folk songs began to dominate. This was due to a shift in power from the courtly aristocracy to the more democratic Church.

The instrumentation of the late Roman era was more varied, with many new instruments being developed. These included lutes, harps and trumpets, as well as the more exotic instruments like the organ and the hurdy-gurdy.

The popularity of church music was a product of the new religious pluralism that emerged in the late Roman Empire. This resulted in a variety of religious sects, each with its own music. Christian churches in particular adopted their own styles of music, which eventually led to the development of Gregorian Chant.

The decline of the Roman Empire also saw the decline of opera. As the courtly aristocracy faded away, so too did their patronage of the arts, and opera was largely replaced by other forms of musical entertainment.

Modern Revival of Ancient Roman Music

Since the fall of Roman Empire, there has been a surge of interest in ancient Roman music. A number of modern composers and performers have sought to recreate the sounds of Ancient Rome. This includes popular bands such as Rome in a Box, who even have their own romanticized interpretation of the style.

The modern classical scene has also embraced Ancient Roman music, with several prominent conductors and ensembles, such as the Boston Camerata, having reinterpreted some of the great works from the Roman golden age.

Ancient Roman music has also been brought to the stage, with productions such as the Broadway hit, A Roman Holiday, demonstrating the continuing popularity of the works of Ancient Rome.

The Cultural Influence Of Ancient Roman Music

The influence of Ancient Roman music on modern culture is undeniable. Not only has it been recreated in popular music, but it also has had a profound influence on our understanding of the music of the ancient world.

Modern music historians agree that without understanding the music of Ancient Rome, our knowledge of the music of the ancient world would be incomplete. In an age where the art of music is increasingly appreciated, it is worth remembering that the music of Ancient Rome is still relevant today.

Popular Music Inadvertently Drawing from Ancient Roman Music

Popular music often draws from Ancient Roman sounds. This is due to the fact that many of the instruments used in modern popular music are derived from those of Ancient Rome. For example, the electric guitar was suggested to have originated from the Roman lute and the trumpet was derived from the Roman tuba.

It is also worth noting that Ancient Roman musical influence is still seen in modern musical styles. Many popular genres have been linked to Ancient Roman music, such as heavy metal, punk, and rap. Some genres, such as jazz, are believed to contain elements of Ancient Roman music, albeit in a more subtle way.

Why Ancient Roman Music is Important Today

The music of Ancient Rome is not only important for its historical value, but it also has a tremendous cultural significance. It reflects the advanced level of artistic sophistication that was present in Ancient Rome. The music of Ancient Rome was advanced for its time and still continues to influence music today.

For its educational value, Ancient Roman music is an important part of the way we learn about the ancient world. It provides us with insights into the culture and beliefs of the Ancient Romans and how they interacted with the world around them. It is also an important way of understanding the development of music throughout the ages.


The music of Ancient Rome is not simply an historical curiosity, but a vital part of our cultural history that continues to have a profound influence on the music we listen to today. Whether it is the electric guitar in heavy metal, or the trumpet in classical, the music of Ancient Rome is still very much alive and well in the modern world.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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