Seikilos Epitaph

The Seikilos epitaph  is the oldest surviving complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world.  The epitaph has been dated variously from around 200 BC to around AD 100, but the first century AD is the most probable guess.  The song, the melody of which is recorded, alongside its lyrics, in the ancient Greek musical notation, was found engraved on a tombstone (a stele) from the Hellenistic town Tralles near Aydın, Turkey, not far from Ephesus.  It is a Hellenistic Ionic song in either the Phrygian octave species or Iastian tonos.  While older music with notation exists (for example the Hurrian songs), all of it is in fragments; the Seikilos epitaph is unique in that it is a complete, though short, composition.  (More from Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia, the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition is the Seikilos Epitaph (shown above).  Lyrics and melody are both given on this stele; even a form of musical notation is provided.  It is believed to date from around 200 A.D. 


(March 2015)


Last edited: March 22, 2021