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Headword: Phrunis
Adler number: phi,761
Translated headword: Phrynis
Vetting Status: high
A cithara-singer, of Mitylene, who was thought to have been the first to play the cithara among the Athenians and to have won a victory at the Panathenaea in the archonship of Callias.[1] He was a pupil of Aristoclidas.[2] Aristoclidas was in descent from Terpander,[3] and flourished in Greece at the time of the Persian War, a famous cithara-player. Taking Phrynis when the latter was a pipe-singer he taught him to play the cithara. Ister in his work the Songwriters[4] says that Phrynis was a Lesbian, the son of Canops, and that he was a cook for the tyrant Hieron[5] and was given with many others to Aristoclidas. These seem like random inventions, for if he had been born a slave and cook of Hieron, the comic playwrights would not have been silent, often mentioning the innovations he made, bending the harmonics of song from its ancient form.[6]
Greek Original:
Phrunis, kitharôidos, Mitulênaios: hos edokei prôtos kitharisai par' Athênaiois kai nikêsai Panathênaia epi Kalliou archontos. ên de Aristokleidou mathêtês. ho de Aristokleidês to genos ên apo Terpandrou: êkmase de en têi Helladi kata ta Mêdika, eudokimos kitharistês. paralabôn de ton Phrunin aulôidounta kitharizein edidaxen. Istros de en tois epigraphomenois Melopoiois ton Phrunin Lesbion phêsi, Kanôpos huion: touton de Hierônos tou turannou mageiron onta dothênai sun allois pollois Aristokleidêi. tauta de schediois eoiken ei gar ên gegonôs doulos kai mageiros Hierônos, ouk an esiôpôn hoi kômikoi, pollakis autou memnêmenoi eph' hois ekainourgêse, kataklasas tên ôidên para to archaion.
From a scholion on Aristophanes, Clouds 971, where this individual is mentioned in passing.
Phrynis of Mitylene (on Lesbos) ranks high among the inventors of the 'new music' of the 'new dithyramb' in the 5th. Century BC. By cithara is probably meant the new 12-stringed instrument invented by Melanippides of Melos (mu 454) in the mid-5th. Century. Besides being a piper and singer to the cithara Phrynis was known as a writer of dithyrambs; see delta 1029.
[1] This archonship, 456/5, is not a year of the Great Panathenaea; it is unanimously changed to that of Callimachus, 446/5 (J.A. Davison, JHS 78 (1958) 40f.).
[2] For Aristoclidas of Lesbos see RE 2.933 'Aristokleidas(5)'.
[3] Terpander (tau 354, cf. mu 701, nu 478, omicron 475, alpha 1710) invented the older 7-stringed instrument, allowing the 2 tetrachords of the enharmonic scale (the basis of all stringed music until the generation of Phrynis), and the last of the seven canonical modes or nomes, the Mixolydian.
[4] Ister (OCD(4) 749) was an Atthidographer of the 3rd. Century BC. (See FGrH 334, where this item is F50.)
[5] Tyrant of Gela (485-478) and Syracuse (478-466) in Sicily: see OCD(4) 683, s.v. Hieron I.
[6] This last phrase is from Clouds, where Aristophanes writes in derogatory fashion of his modifications of the enharmonic attunement or harmony (alpha 3977) of music and song in the traditional fashion of Terpander. We cannot be certain of the exact modifications implied by the verb here katakla/w or the related ka/mptw, but they may refer to the innovative notes of the chromatic and diatonic scales and the greater vocal range allowed by 12-stringed instruments (cf. kappa 2647, beta 488, delta 1650, chi 296).
M.L. West, Ancient Greek Music (Oxford 1992) 360-1 and index s.v.
Keywords: biography; chronology; comedy; food; geography; historiography; meter and music; poetry
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 26 February 2002@04:46:01.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords) on 26 February 2002@05:10:03.
David Whitehead (restored lost keywords) on 26 February 2002@09:50:41.
David Whitehead (added keyword and bibliography; cosmetics) on 16 June 2002@07:46:08.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics) on 18 December 2013@06:36:29.
David Whitehead (updated some refs) on 2 August 2014@10:35:41.


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