BC

1st Millennium AD>

All dates are approximate

41000

  • The Divje Babe flute is made out of a cave bear femur in Slovenia, and is claimed as the oldest known musical instrument

35000

  • Earliest three holed flutes appear carved from mammoth tusks

33000

  • The Hohle Fels Flute is made out of a vulture’s wing bone in Germany

7000

  • Earliest Gudi or bone flute found in China
Collection of 8000 year old Gudi or Chinese bone flutes

Collection of 8000 year old Gudi or Chinese bone flutes

4000

  • Earliest depictions of harps in Egypt

3500

  • Lyres and Double Clarinets appear in Egypt

2852

  • Period of Fu Hsi (Fu Xi) begins in China, the first of the Five Divine Rulers and legendarily the inventor of music. The first bamboo pipes appear around this time. The first is said to have been cut by court musician Ling-Lun who, in the process, invented the notes of the Chinese five-tone scale: gong, shang, jiao, zhi and yu.

2500

  • The Queen’s Lyre from the tomb of Queen Pu-abi in Ur made. It is now in the British Museum

2000

  • Trumpets are reportedly played in Denmark
  • Percussion instruments added to Egyptian orchestral music

1500

  • Hittites use guitar, lyre, trumpet and tambourines
  • The Rigveda written in India, a collection of around 1000 Sanskrit hymns (dated  between 1700 and 1100 BC)

1400

  • The Hurrian Songs are written, discovered in Ras Sharma, Syria. Included among them is the Hurrian hymn to Nikkal, the oldest surviving (near) complete work of notated music in the world.

1000

  • Professional musicians provide background for religious ceremonies in Israel
  • The Samaveda written in India, a collection of hymns and verses
  • Shih Ching (The Book of Songs) compiled in China, consisting of 305 poems

800

  • Pentatonic and heptatonic scales appear in Babylonian music
  • Choral and dramatic music develops in Greece; intinerant musicians called Rhapsodes travel from city to city

700

  • New art forms for songs appear. The flute and lyre become popular as accompanying instruments.
  • The seven string lyre introduced (invention credited to Terpander of Antissa)
  • The Pan flute common in Greece

680

  • Archilochus born (Paros, Greece) Greek lyric poet. Died c.645 BC
Fresco of a muse tuning two lyres c.460 BC from the Louvre Museum, Paris (image: Jastrow)

Fresco of a muse tuning two lyres c.460 BC from the Louvre Museum, Paris (image: Jastrow)

650

  • Terpander of Antissa [Lesbos] writes for solo voice with instruments.

645

  • Archilochus (c.35) dies, reportedly killed in battle by a warrior from Naxos

640

  • Stesichorus born (Greece) Greek lyric poet. Died c.555 BC

630

  • Terpander of Antissa dies in Sparta (approx – dates unknown) Greek poet, lyre player. Regarded as the founder of Greek classical music, he is said to have choked to death on a fig.

625

  • Sappho born (Lesbos, Greece) Greek lyric poet. Died c.570 BC

620

  • Alceus born (Lesbos, Greece) Greek lyric poet. Died c.580 BC

600

  • Modes appear in music
  • The Indian Vina appears, two hollow gourds connected by strings and bamboo reed

586

  • Sakadas of Argos (dates unknown) wins the prize for aulos playing at the Pythian games, his first of three victories

580

  • Pythagoras born (Samos, Greece) Greek polymath, mathematician, philosopher, cult leader. Died c.500 BC
  • Alceus (c.40) dies

570

  • Anacreon born (Teos, Greece) Greek lyric poet. Died 488 BC
  • Sappho (c.55) in Sicily

555

  • Stesichorus (c.85) dies in Sicily

551

  • Confucius aka Kongzi born (Zou, Lu State) Chinese philosopher, politician. Philosophical works include concepts of the ritual role of music. Died 479 BC

550

  • Pythagoras supposedly introduces octaves to music

531

  • Pythagoras emigrates to Croton, Italy where he creates an academy

522

  • Pindar born (Boeotia, Greece) Greek lyric poet. Author of 17 books of poems only four of which survive. Died c.438 BC

500

  • Pythagoras (c. 80) dies in Metapontum, Italy

488

  • Anacreon (c.82) dies in Athens

480

  • Euripides born (Salamis, Greece) Greek playwright. Died 406 BC

479

  • Confucius (c.72) dies in Qufu, Shandong, China

446

  • Aristophanes born (Athens?) Greek playwright, poet. Died c.386 BC
  • Timotheus of Miletus born (Greece) Greek poet, musician, composer, lyre player. Died c. 357 BC

443

  • Pindar (79) dies while attending a festival in Argos

435

  • Philoxenus of Cythera born (Kythira, Greece) Greek dithyrambic poet. Died c.380 BC

433

  • The earliest extant transverse flute made – a chi flute from China

428

  • Plato born (Athens) Greek philosopher, polymath, founder of the Academy in Athens. Died 348 BC

408

  • Euripides writes Orestes, a play that includes one of the earliest surviving fragments of Greek music

406

  • Euripides (c. 74) dies after being accidentally attacked by the King of Macedonia’s hunting dogs (according to legend)

400

  • Trumpet competitions become popular in Greece

386

  • Aristophanes (c. 60) dies in Athens

384

  • Aristotle born (Stageira, Greece) Greek polymath. Died 322 BC
Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Aristotle (384-322 BC)

380

  • Philoxenus of Cythera (c.55) dies in Ephesus

370

  • Aristoxenus born (Taranto, Italy) Greek philosopher, writer on music and rhythm, pupil of Aristotle. Died c.300 BC

357

  • Timotheus of Miletus (c.89) dies

347

  • Plato (c.84) dies in Athens

335

  • Aristotle’s Poetics written, the earliest existing work of dramatic theory

330

  • Euclid born (Alexandria, Egypt) Greek mathematician. Described the connection between mathematical ratios and musical intervals. Died c.260 BC

322

  • Aristotle (c. 62) dies in Chalcis, Greece

320

  • Aristoxenus’ Elements of Harmony written

300

  • Aristoxenus (c. 50) dies
  • Euclid’s Katatome kanonos written

285

  • Ctesibius born (Alexandria) Greco-Egyptian scientist, inventor, mathematician. Inventor of the hydraulis, a water-powered organ. Died c.222

260

  • Euclid (c.70) dies in Alexandria

239

  • The Lü shih ch’un ch’iu [Mister Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals] compiled under the patronage of Lü Buwei in China, a 26 volume encyclopaedia that includes the earliest existing writing on Chinese music

222

  • Ctesibius (c.63) dies in Alexandria

213

  • Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang orders the burning of all but a proscribed list of books and hundreds of scholars who own them are buried alive. The banned material includes The Book of Songs

200

  • The Natya Shastra, a treatise on theatre, dance and music, written in India and attributed to Bharata Muni (dates unknown)
  • Earliest estimated date of the Seikilos epitaph, the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including notation, in the world. It is engraved on a tombstone near Aydın, Turkey. (It has been estimated as late as AD 100)

138

  • The First Delphic Hymn written by Athenaeus, son of Athenaeus (dates unknown). It is the earliest surviving fragment of notated music from the western world whose composer is known by name

128

  • The Second Delphic Hymn written by Limenius of Athens (dates unknown)

The Second Delphic Hymn

112

  • Yuefu set up in China, a government department charged with collecting and administrating music

50

  • The earliest form of the oboe used in Rome

38

  • The Chinese octave is subdivided into 60 notes

12

  • The Emperor Augustus establishes a collegium symphoniacorum (guild of official musicians) in Rome

1st Millennium AD>

One response to “BC

  1. Thank you for doing this. It is something I have often wondered about and thought that someday I would research. You have saved me the task. For this I am most grateful.

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