Katolophyromai (Greek: κατολοφύρομαι), is the headword in a musical fragment from the first stasimon of Orestes by Euripides (lines 338-344, Vienna Papyrus G 2315). It means "I cry, lament so much." In 1892, among a number of papyri from Hermopolis, Egypt, in the collection of Archduke Rainer Ferdinand of Austria, a fragment was discovered and published[1] by the papyrologist Karl Wessely, containing a mutilated passage with musical notation. Although Vienna Papyrus G 2315 dates to the third century B.C., the melody recorded on it may have been written much earlier.[2]

Musical fragment from the first stasimon of Orestes by Euripides (lines 338-344, Vienna Papyrus G 2315)


The full text of the musical fragment reads as follows:

κατολοφύρομαι, κατολοφύρομαι
ματέρος αἷμα σᾶς, ὅ σ’ ἀναβακχεύει,
ὁ μέγας ὄλβος οὐ μόνιμος ἐν βροτοῖς,
ἀνὰ δὲ λαῖφος ὥς τις ἀκάτου θοᾶς τινάξας δαίμων
κατέκλυσεν δεινῶν πόνων ὡς πόντου
λάβροις ὀλεθρίοισιν ἐν κύμασιν

[I cry, I cry, your mother’s blood that drives you mad, great happiness in mortals never lasting, but like a sail of a swift ship, which a god shook up and plunged it with terrible troubles into the greedy and deadly waves of sea.]

The arrangement of the fragmentary text differs from the traditional editions, in which the lines begin with ματέρος αἷμα (mother’s blood) and κατολοφύρομαι appears after βροτοῖς (mortals). Unlike other fragments, however, the text and musical notations are quite well preserved.

Poetic featuresEdit

The metre of the song is mainly dochmiac. The preserved vocal notes coincide with the ancient Dorian or Phrygian harmoniai transmitted by Aristides Quintilianus,[3] the Damonian harmoniai, in enharmonic genus, which was usual in tragedy of fifth century BC.


Whether this fragment represents the original music Euripides composed in 408 BC is an open question, given the absence of 5th century BC musical inscriptions. The fragment accords with observations by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Aristophanes about the complexity of Euripidean style.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mitteilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer vol. 5 part 3
  2. ^ Thomas J. Mathiesen (1999) places it about 125 years after the death of Euripides. Cambridge University Press (1928) in the Augustan age.
  3. ^ Aristides Quintilianus. On Music 1.18 and 2.80. https://books.google.com/books?id=8xS_ky1OhqAC&pg=PA392&lpg=PA392&dq=Aristides+Quintilianus+On+Music&source=bl&ots=wx0nTNxSRn&sig=os9mEJO5UimjIGM7Qx4oMhaiiwM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihv6zJ5eXRAhXs24MKHfhhCoYQ6AEISDAJ#v=onepage&q=Aristides%20Quintilianus%20On%20Music&f=false

Further readingEdit

  • Apollo’s lyre: Greek music and music theory in antiquity and the Middle Ages By Thomas J. Mathiesen Pages 116-124 (1999)
  • The Orestes of Euripides Excursus B, the Musical Fragment, Pages 203-204 Cambridge University Press (1928).

External linksEdit

External video
  Euripides - Stasimon ('Orestes')
  Euripedes, "Stasimon Chorus" from Orestes (enharmonic)
  Orestes Stasimon (Greek Lyre)
  Coro del Orestes de Eurípides