Agon (music)

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All competitions in all musical competitions are referred to as musical agons . In ancient Greece , they included competitions in music , poetry , dance , rhetoric, and other arts such as painting. However, this definition of the musical agon is not restricted by any time or location, which means that the “ Eurovision Song Contest ” can be cited as an example of contemporary history . The best-known example of ancient agons in musical disciplines was the panathenaic .

In ancient times, in the field of music, there was agone in the singing of songs , hymns , dithyrambs and victorious chants. The kithara or the aulos in particular could serve as musical accompaniment.

Origin and spread

It is likely that in the early period, when the Greeks committed their first ritual acts, they began to be performed with music. The first musical agons probably developed from the worship choirs of the oldest cult acts. The musical agon soon found its way into Greek mythology . But in contrast to the musical agon between gods and mortals in myth, which is mostly caused by hubris, honors (for deities, guests, dead, victories, etc.) were used as an occasion for the artistic trial of strength between people. The first recorded musical agons were held at the funeral games in honor of the Amphidama in Chalkis . They date to around 700 BC. According to his own statements, none other than Hesiod won the prize with a hymn. This award, a tripod, was fittingly dedicated to the Muses on the Helicon.


Reciting (epic) poetry. Poems of praise are often recited. They honor, for example, the festival god, the ruler or the venue where the agons are held. There are also lectures in the epigram, including competitions in prose lectures. Musical and poetic art Instrumental music Orchestral Dramatic agon

Musical agon in myth


Nothing was more blasphemous to the Greeks than the hubris that makes a mortal feel like or superior to a god. Accordingly, hubris was cruelly and brutally punished by the gods. And so it happened to poor Marsyas, who presumptuously and boastfully got involved in an imprudent competition with the divine Apollo, in which he inevitably had to lose. They agreed that the winner could deal with the loser at his own discretion. Apollo entered with the kithara, Marsyas with the flute. The former, wounded in his vanity, turned his instrument over and demanded that the challenger do the same with his flute. Alternatively, it could also one akkordierenden song for Kitharaspiel sing. But Marsyas couldn't do either. An immeasurably cruel spectacle followed: first the victor hanged the victim on a tree and then pulled his skin off while he was still alive.


Another agon recalls the myth of the previous competition: His showing off was also undoing for the talented Thamyris, one of the most gifted musical personalities in ancient mythology. He, himself the son of the nymph Argiope, challenged the muses to a musical competition. He could only lose this kitharody agon triggered by hubris, and with it his outstanding musical abilities. Like the previous legend, the fate of Thamyris can also be found immortalized on numerous vase pictures and warns of hubris.

Individual evidence

  1. Hesiod: Werke und Tage , 654–656.


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