Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Britt Hartenberger

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Cowan


This thesis combines anthropology and music to approach the topic of how ancient society was affected by mythological stories focusing on musical heroes and the role of music in general. The essay begins with providing introductions to important divine figures such as the Muses, Apollo and others. These figures appear throughout the research and analysis further in the thesis, and it is important to understand their relation between each other and to the world as a whole before going any further. The prevalence of festivals and contests is another point discussed as they provided much more than just entertainment to the people of ancient Greece and Rome. These events were important as they were not only religious ceremonies dedicated to some of the figures previously mentioned, but helped keep time similar to the modern weekly structure, and for the context of this research, were the most common time and place to perform music. The main research portion of the thesis was focused on finding and analyzing mythological heroes whose focus of their stories was related in some capacity to music. Through this analysis, many similarities and differences appeared and the topic and focus of the thesis evolved. Many of the stories involved the presence of a divine figure enacting their will on the heroes beneath them, whether for good or bad. Common heroes like Midas and Orpheus are portrayed in a new light through some of their lesser-known stories. Minor heroes such as Amphion, Linus, Arion and Marsyas are analyzed and discussed, and even a minor mythological hero Olympus is given thorough attention to provide another perspective on the stories and relations previously mentioned. Through these findings, this thesis compares the effects that these stories and figures had on each other and on ancient Greek and Roman society through the prevalence of the power hierarchy and ironic purpose of music compared to the social classes and balance of power that is so prominent today.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Honors Thesis Presentation.pdf (1159 kB)
Defense Presentation

Included in

Anthropology Commons