Song of Seikilos

I’ve fallen in love with this song. It’s the oldest complete musical composition known. (There are older fragments but this is the oldest complete song.) It’s an epitaph on a gravestone, about 2000 years old.

Prefacing the tune are the words: “I am a tombstone, an icon. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

The translation Wikipedia gives, which is pretty good as far as my Greek can tell after all these years since school, is:

Hoson zes, phainou
Meden holos su lupou;
Pros oligon esti to zen
To telos ho chronos apaitei
While you live, shine
Don’t suffer anything at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll.

I first found out about it though on the Amaranth publishing site, which has a really haunting midi of the song.

Via the Wikipedia article I found a good mp3 of the song (including singing), and a youtube video of a fellow performing it on a harp. I tried to learn how to play it on my ukulele (and sing along). After a lot of attempts I never got one without significant mistakes, so I posted one with significant mistakes as a response on youtube. Here ’tis.

3 thoughts on “Song of Seikilos”

  1. Hi Ed,

    I’m not sure if you know me , but I had an old friend from the university of north carolina at chapel hill with the same name as yourself.

    I was feeling a little nostalgic – so started looking up my old friends on google and came across this blog.

  2. What the heck are you up to these days? Drop me a line at edheil at fastmail dot fm!

Comments are closed.