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Quintilianus [Aristeidēs
(fl late 3rd and early 4th centuries ce). Author of a substantial
treatise On Music (Peri mousikēs) written in Greek and
arranged in three books.
1. Identity and dating.
There has been considerable debate about the author's
identity and floruit, but the outer limits within which Aristides
Quintilianus's treatise could have been written are clearly
defined: book ii refers to Marcus Tullius Cicero, who died in
43 bce, and book ix of the De nuptiis Philologiae et
Mercurii of Martianus Capella composed between 410 and
439 ce appropriates a substantial section of book i of Aristides
Quintilianus's treatise. The work must therefore date from no
earlier than the 1st century bce and no later than the 4th
century ce.
Various arguments have been advanced for dating the
treatise to the 1st or 2nd centuries ce. First, in some of the
manuscript sources for the treatise the author's name is given
as Aristeidou Koïntilianou, while in others it appears
as Aristeidou tou Koïntilianou. The latter form, considered
together with Aristides Quintilianus's emphasis on rhetoric
and grammar, led to the supposition that Aristides might have
been the son or freedman of Quintilian (30/35–c95 ce), the
author of the Institutio oratoria. Secondly, both the Christian
apologist Marcianus Aristides, who lived during the reign of
Hadrian (117–38 ce), and Aelius Aristides (117/29–c181 ce)
have been proposed as alternative identities for Aristides
Quintilianus, largely on the basis of similar interests in
metaphysics and medicine and the similarity of names.
Thirdly, although Aristides Quintilianus mentions many names
in his treatise, he does not refer to Ptolemy (fl 127–48 ce), the
author of the Harmonics, another extensive treatment of
ancient Greek music theory arranged in three books. Since
Aristides Quintilianus states that he was writing his treatise
because there was no other complete and systematic
treatment of the subject, Meibom, the first editor of the
treatise, proposed that it must predate Ptolemy.
The contents of the treatise itself, however, make a date in
the 1st or 2nd century ce unlikely. First, at the beginning of
the treatise (i.1), Aristides Quintilianus addresses his friends
Eusebius and Florentius, typical Christian names that would
not have been employed in Greek literature before the 3rd
century ce. While it has been tacitly assumed that such an
address was merely a literary device, there are numerous
letters written to Antiochenes named Eusebius and Florentius
between 355 and 393 by Libanius of Antioch (314–c393 ce),
influential rhetorician and literary figure. In a letter of 357 to
Aristainetus (Epistle 591 [W506]), Libanius refers to an
admired fellow citizen Mariades, whom he characterizes as a
rhetorician, agreeing that Aristainetus rightly called him
Aristides. Thus, a Eusebius, a Florentius and the rhetorician
Aristides were all located in Antioch and connected to one
another in the mid-4th century through Libanius. Moreover, in
conservatism, antiquarianism and stylistic terms, there are
numerous similarities between the writings of Libanius and
Aristides Quintilianus. Secondly, the vocabulary of the
invocation of i.3, the several sections dealing with the soul
(especially ii.2, 8 and 17; and iii.7 and 25–7), the
differentiation between the sublunar and ethereal regions
(ii.17 and 19, iii.7, 12 and 20) and the overall vocabulary and
style are decidedly Neoplatonic and reflect specific passages
in the Enneads of Plotinus (205–269/70 ce), the writings
of Porphyry (232/3–c305 ce) and the De communi
mathematica scientia of Iamblichus (c250–c325 ce). Thirdly,
the treatise refers (iii.27) to the doctrine of the soul's escape
from the cycle of reincarnations through the power of
philosophy, a doctrine associated especially with Porphyry
rather than with Plotinus. Fourthly, the ‘helicon’, which was
first described by Ptolemy (ii.2) and explained at greater
length by Porphyry in his commentary, appears in Aristides
Quintilianus's treatise (iii.3): the author refers to ‘those who’
use this type of harmonic canon to demonstrate the various
harmonic consonances, thereby making it clear that his
description was derived from an earlier source. Lastly,
references to the Mysteries (iii.21 and 27) suggest the De
mysteriis of Iamblichus.
Although the treatise shows strong evidence of 3rd- and 4th-
century literature, Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean themes
certainly predate Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus. Both
the Manual of Harmonics, 3 of Nicomachus of Gerasa (fl mid-
2nd century ce) and Ptolemy's Harmonics, iii relate music and
Platonic or Pythagorean cosmology. Their treatments,
however, are very different from Aristides Quintilianus's
treatise, and it cannot be determined whether Aristides
Quintilianus knew these works. It is almost certain that he did
draw on such 2nd-century authors as Theon of Smyrna,
Ptolemy, Plutarch and Hephaestion. Loci paralleli can be
found among the later Greek musical treatises, including
those of Cleonides, Gaudentius and Bacchius, but as
the floruit of these figures remains conjectural, they offer no
evidence useful in dating Aristides Quintilianus.
Aristides Quintilianus remains unmentioned by name in any
datable source earlier than Martianus Capella, or indeed in
any early source at all, with a single exception: his name
appears in connection with a passage from his treatise (i.5)
cited in a scholiumOn Prosody, which is ascribed to Porphyry
in a number of manuscripts (GB-Ob Baroccianus gr.116,
dating from the 14th century, and F-Pn gr.2452, from the 16th
century; the scholium also appears, but without the attribution
to Porphyry in I-Rvat gr.14, from the 13th century). If this
scholium were indeed written by the Neoplatonist, it would
place Aristides Quintilianus between Plotinus and Porphyry
and perhaps as a contemporary of Porphyry in the late 3rd
century. The scholium, however, is also ascribed to George
Choeroboscus (fl 8th century ce) in at least one manuscript
(Dk-Kk gr.1965), and as Choeroboscus was a grammarian,
this attribution may well be correct. In this case, it would not
add to the limitation of Aristides Quintilianus's floruit already
provided by Martianus Capella.
Taken as a whole, the evidence supports the floruit assigned
at the head of this article. Within this range, however, it is not
possible to place a more precise date on the composition of
the treatise itself.
2. The treatise ‘On Music’.
Aristides Quintilianus's On Music is preserved complete in 56
manuscripts; the earliest is I-Vnm gr.app.cl. VI/10 (RISM,
B/XI, 273), dating from the end of the 12th century. Excerpts
appear in nine other manuscripts, and part of the treatise is
embedded in the treatise of Cleonides in six additional
manuscripts (see Mathiesen, 1988). Unlike other treatises in
the tradition, On Music is neither a handbook
(an encheiridion) nor an introduction (an eisagōgē) on the
technique or science of music. Rather, a wide range of
materials – musical, philosophical, medical, grammatical,
metrical and literary – are woven together into an intricate and
elaborately unified philosophical discourse in which music
provides a paradigm for the order of the soul and the
universe. The language of the treatise is rigorous, systematic
and highly complex, enabling the author to develop implicit
and explicit relationships among all the disparate types of
The design of the treatise is stated in the proem (i.1–3): book i
defines the science of music (mousikē) and its parts
(harmonics, rhythmics and metrics); book ii provides an
explication of music's paideutic role; and book iii culminates
with an exegesis of number, the soul and the order of the
universe. The proem concludes with an invocation to Apollo,
who is associated with the Neoplatonic notions of unitary
proportion (logos heniaios) and pure form (eidos euages).
After reviewing traditional definitions of music (i.4), Aristides
Quintilianus formulates his own definition – ‘knowledge of the
seemly in bodies and motions’ – by which he establishes his
approach of Neoplatonist epistemology. He then defines (i.5)
the various subclasses of music (Table 1), each one of which
is explored and interrelated in an ever more complex fashion
as the treatise progresses.
The treatment of harmonics (i.6–12) largely follows the
Aristoxenian model, perhaps derived in part from the treatise
of Cleonides, but many points differ in specifics. Various
notational diagrams are included, one of which (i.9) purports
to preserve scales of ‘the exceedingly ancient peoples’ (it is a
matter of debate among scholars whether Aristides
Quintilianus said that these are the scales of Plato's Republic,
although they are often described as such in the scholarly
literature). Another diagram (i.11) illustrates the
fifteen tonoi laid out ‘akin to a wing’, a description and pattern
preserved in the parapteres in a number of Latin music
treatises of the 9th to 11th centuries. The treatments of
rhythmics (i.13–19) and metrics (i.20–29) once again draw on
Aristoxenus, but there are also apparent loci paralleli with
Hephaestion's Handbook and Dionysius of
Halicarnassus's On Literary Composition. In his vocabulary
and development of definitions, Aristides Quintilianus carefully
conjoins harmonics, rhythmics and metrics.
In the second book, which was conceived in three sections,
Aristides Quintilianus applies the definitions of the first book to
larger considerations. The first section (ii.1–6) includes a
treatment of the soul, an explanation of the views of ‘the
ancients’ on the influence of music on character and a
demonstration of the validity of these notions based on ethnic
stereotypes and the use of music in the Roman empire.
Aristides Quintilianus identifies Cicero as one of his sources,
but close parallels can also be identified
with Plato (especially Phaedrus, Timaeus, Republic and Laws
), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics and Politics), Plutarch
(Table-Talk) and the Neoplatonic school. The second section
(ii.7–16) deals with the way in which ethical notions can be
developed through the proper union of text, pitches, rhythm
and instrumental accompaniment, thus supporting the
paideutic value of music throughout life, as the disciples
of Damon, which certainly included Plato, are credited (ii.14)
with proving. The section is much concerned with the
relationship of souls and bodies (human and otherwise) and
the association of masculine, feminine and medial natures
with each detail of the technical subclass of music as
described in book i. The third section (ii.17–19) expands on
the affective power of instruments, gained through their
conjunction with the soul and their association with the Muses
and the gods.
The third book of the treatise is devoted to the two subclasses
of music that remain unexplored: the arithmetic (iii.1–8) and
the natural (iii.9–27). These are now related to all the others,
revealing music as a paradigm for cosmic order. The review
of the traditional mathematical-musical affinities is probably
drawn from Plutarch (On the Generation of the Soul in the
Timaeus), Porphyry's commentary on
Ptolemy's Harmonics and Theon of Smyrna (Exposition of
Mathematics Useful for Reading Plato), but Aristides
Quintilianus expands it with material that may have been
derived from Plotinus, Galen, Pliny (Natural History) and
perhaps Plato (Phaedrus, Republic and Laws) and Aristotle
(Physiognomics). The final section is intended, Aristides
Quintilianus states, to ‘work through the particulars of what is
discussed in music, making quite plain the similarity of each
particular to the universe altogether’. Nearly every particular
of the preceding material is now related in a grand
Neoplatonic cosmology based not only on Plato
(especially Republic and Timaeus) and Aristotle (On the
Heavens, Physics, Metaphysics and History of Animals) but
also on Plotinus, Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos), Porphyry and Theon
of Smyrna.
After Martianus Capella, the treatise of Aristides Quintilianus
was used by later writers, including Georgios Pachymeres,
Manuel Bryennius, Franchinus Gaffurius, Giorgio Valla,
Conrad Gesner, Francisco de Salinas, Vincenzo Galilei,
Girolamo Mei, G.B. Doni, Marin Mersenne, Athanasius
Kircher and others in the Greek, Latin and Arabic traditions.
With the publication of Meibom's edition in 1652, the author
and the treatise became widely known.
M. Meibom, ed. and trans.: ‘Aristidis Quintiliani De musica
libri tres’, Antiquae musicae auctores
septem (Amsterdam, 1652/R), ii, 1–164 [with parallel Lat.
R. Schäfke, ed. and trans.: Aristeides Quintilianus von der
Musik (Berlin, 1937)
R.P. Winnington-Ingram, ed.: Aristidis Quintiliani De musica
libri tres (Leipzig, 1963)
R. Schäfke, ed.: Des Aristeides Quintilianus
Harmonik (Tutzing, 1976) [issued by E. Schäfke from his
father's unpubd MS; incl. only i.1–12]
T.J. Mathiesen, trans.: Aristides Quintilianus on Music in
Three Books (New Haven, CT, 1983) [incl. numerous
addns and emendations to the critical text and extensive
bibliographic annotations]
A. Barker, trans.: ‘Aristides Quintilianus, the De
musica,’ Greek Musical Writings, ii: Harmonic and
Acoustic Theory (Cambridge, 1989), 392–535
H. Abert: Die Lehre vom Ethos in der griechischen
Musik (Leipzig, 1899/R)
R.P. Winnington-Ingram: Mode in Ancient Greek
Music (Cambridge, 1936/R)
A.J. Festugière: ‘L’âme et la musique d'après Aristide
Quintilien’, Transactions of the American Philological
Association, lxxxv (1954), 55–78
H. Potiron: ‘Les notations d'Aristide Quintilien et les
harmonies dites Platoniciennes’, RdM, xlvii (1961), 159–
W. Anderson: Ethos and Education in Greek
Music (Cambridge, MA, 1966)
J. García López: ‘Sobre el vocabulario etico-musical del
griego’, Emerita, xxxvii (1969), 335–52
W.H. Stahl and others: Martianus Capella and the Seven
Liberal Arts (New York, 1971–7)
J. Chailley: ‘La notation archaïque grecque d'après Aristide
Quintilien’, Revue des études grecques, lxxxvi (1973),
R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘The First Notational Diagram of
Aristides Quintilianus’, Philologus, cxvii (1973), 243–9
U. Duse: ‘Das Scholion zu Aristeides Quintilianus 3, 2 S. 98,
8–21 W.-I.’, Philologus, cxx (1976), 309–13
L. Zanoncelli: ‘La filosofia musicale di Aristide
Quintiliano’, Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica, xxiv
(1977), 51–93
C. Lord: ‘On Damon and Music Education’, Hermes, cvi
(1978), 32–43
R.P. Winnington-Ingram: ‘Two Studies in Greek Musical
Notation’, Philologus, cxxii (1978), 237–48
A. Barbera: The Persistence of Pythagorean Mathematics in
Ancient Musical Thought (diss., U. of North
Carolina, 1980)
J. Solomon: ‘Ekbole and Eklusis in the Musical Treatise of
Bacchius’, Symbolae osloenses, lv (1980), 111–26
J. Solomon: ‘The Diastaltic Ethos’, Classical Philology, lxxvi
(1981), 93–100
C.M. Atkinson: ‘The Parapteres: Nothi or Not?’, MQ, lxviii
(1982), 32–59
T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Aristides Quintilianus and the Harmonics of
Manuel Bryennius’, JMT, xxvii (1983), 31–47
T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Harmonia and Ethos in Ancient Greek
Music’, JM, iii (1984), 264–79
T.J. Mathiesen: ‘Rhythm and Meter in Ancient Greek
Music’, Music Theory Spectrum, vii (1985), 159–80
J. Solomon: ‘The Manuscript Sources for the Aristides
Quintilianus and Bryennius Interpolations in
Cleonides' eisagōgē harmonikē’, Rheinisches Museum für
Philologie, cxxx (1987), 360–66
T.J. Mathiesen: Ancient Greek Music Theory: a Catalogue
Raisonné of Manuscripts, RISM, B/XI (1988)
M.L. West: ‘Analecta musica’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und
Epigraphik, xcii (1992), 42–6
T.J. Mathiesen: Apollo’s Lyre: Greek Music and Music
Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln,
NE, 1999), 521–82