Ancient Roman music had a lot of influence from the Ancient Greek Music. This was the norm in contemporaneous civilizations. However, the music was also influenced by ethnic groupings like Etruscans, Veneti, Latins, Samnites as well as other commercial partners like Celts, Phoenicians, and Egyptians (Landels, 1999). The influence culminated into the formation of the Gallo-Roman Music.
The Ancient Roman Music served several purposes in the Roman culture. According to the Roman music (2008), the main areas included entertainment, power and propaganda. Rome was known as a powerful state and it borrowed many musical traditions from the conquered tribes. The Romans assimilated customs and ideas from societies and cultures they encountered. This shows that Rome failed to develop a unique tradition of its own.
Looking at the Roman society, music was essential in religious practices, the Roman theater, military ceremonies, and in most public functions. The public functions included games at the Colosseum, weddings, funerals, and other public performances. The Roman Empire was so diverse and rich. However, Ancient Roman music has failed to survive to the present day.
The Greek influenced the musical instruments used by the Romans. Instruments of Roman music consisted of a cithara and a Roman lute among the string instruments. The cithara is considered to be the first musical instrument in the ancient Rome. Its larger size and the ability to produce loud sounds made it popular in all forms of music. The instrument’s tuning ability was precise, and some claimed it had the ability to cry. The instrument evolved to the present-day guitar. This instrument originated from the Greek.
The Roman lute was easier to play compared to the cithara. However, it was not as popular as the cithara or the lyre. Similar to the cithara, the lyre was borrowed from the Greek. It had a wooden or tortoise shell frame with a number of strings trenching to the sounding body. The instrument developed into the modern- day harp. Playing the instrument involved holding it in one arm and plucking it with the other arm.
The Ancient Roman music also had a collection of wind instruments. The tibia was among of the common musical instruments. It fits the description of a flute as it consisted of a hollow cane with perforations. The Romans made the instrument with two pipes, each having a separate mouthpiece, and played simultaneously. The tibia was common in entertainments, funerals and sacrifices.
Another wind instrument was the lituus. This instrument was mainly used by the military during religious rites. It was considered to be the sacerdotal trumpet. The cornu is yet another wind instrument that was initially made of horn. Thereafter, the cornu was made of brass. The instrument was large and curved in a C shape. It produced different notes through the player’s modification of breath and lip position at the mouthpiece.
There were also a variety of percussion instruments. This included metallic sistrum and scabellum. The sistrum originated from Egypt and was a bronze rattle composed of a curved plate with a few rods. The instrument was at times made of silver or gold and produced a loud shrill sound. The scabellum was used to beat time. It was composed of the hinged metal devices or wooden devices. There were also other percussions like tambourines and bells. The bells were used in sacrifices and as attachment to the horses’ collars. Apart from percussions, organs also formed part of the musical instruments. The most popular was the hydraulis that was played by water pressure.
The Ancient Roman music collapsed after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Christians were very hostile to the developments made by the Romans leading to the destruction of the old musical sources and scores. This explains why there are disparities in the Ancient Greek Music (Landels, 1999).