1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aristoxenus

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14714131911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2 — Aristoxenus

ARISTOXENUS, of Tarentum (4th century B.C.), a Greek peripatetic philosopher, and writer on music and rhythm. He was taught first by his father Spintharus, a pupil of Socrates, and later by the Pythagoreans, Lamprus of Erythrae and Xenophilus, from whom he learned the theory of music. Finally he studied under Aristotle at Athens, and was deeply annoyed, it is said, when Theophrastus was appointed head of the school on Aristotle’s death. His writings, said to have numbered four hundred and fifty-three, were in the style of Aristotle, and dealt with philosophy, ethics and music. The empirical tendency of his thought is shown in his theory that the soul is related to the body as harmony to the parts of a musical instrument. We have no evidence as to the method by which he deduced this theory (cf. T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Eng. trans. 1905, vol. iii. p. 43). In music he held that the notes of the scale are to be judged, not as the Pythagoreans held, by mathematical ratio, but by the ear. The only work of his that has come down to us is the three books of the Elements of Harmony (ῥυθμικὰ στοιχεῖα), an incomplete musical treatise. Grenfell and Hunt’s Oxyrhynchus Papyri (vol. i., 1898) contains a five-column fragment of a treatise on metre, probably this treatise of Aristoxenus.

The best edition is by Paul Marquard, with German translation and full commentary, Die harmonischen Fragmente des Aristoxenus (Berlin, 1868). The fragments are also given in C. W. Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec., ii. 269 sqq.; and R. Westphal, Melik und Rhythmik d. klass. Hellenenthums (2nd vol. edited by F. Saran, Leipzig, 1893). Eng. trans. by H. S. Macran (Oxford, 1902). See also W. L. Mahne, Diatribe de Aristoxeno (Amsterdam, 1793); B. Brill, Aristoxenus’ rhythmische und metrische Messungen (1871); R. Westphal, Griechische Rhythmik und Harmonik (Leipzig, 1867); L. Laloy, Aristoxène de Tarente et la musique de l’antiquité (Paris, 1904); See Peripatetics, Pythagoras (Music) and art. “Greek Music” in Grove’s Dict. of Music (1904). For the Oxyrhynchus fragment see Classical Review (January 1898), and C. van Jan in Bursian’s Jahresbericht, civ. (1901).