Sound and the Ancient Senses  book cover
1st Edition

Sound and the Ancient Senses

ISBN 9781138481664
Published October 9, 2018 by Routledge
300 Pages

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Book Description

Sound leaves no ruins and no residues, even though it is experienced constantly. It is ubiquitous but fleeting. Even silence has sound, even absence resonates. Sound and the Ancient Senses aims to hear the lost sounds of antiquity, from the sounds of the human body to those of the gods, from the bathhouse to the Forum, from the chirp of a cicada to the music of the spheres.

Sound plays so great a role in shaping our environments as to make it a crucial sounding board for thinking about space and ecology, emotions and experience, mortality and the divine, orality and textuality, and the self and its connection to others. From antiquity to the present day, poets and philosophers have strained to hear the ways that sounds structure our world and identities.

This volume looks at theories and practices of hearing and producing sounds in ritual contexts, medicine, mourning, music, poetry, drama, erotics, philosophy, rhetoric, linguistics, vocality, and on the page, and shows how ancient ideas of sound still shape how and what we hear today. As the first comprehensive introduction to the soundscapes of antiquity, this volume makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning fields of sound and voice studies and is the final volume of the series, The Senses in Antiquity.

Table of Contents

List of figures and audio

List of contributors


Introduction: Sounding Hearing

Shane Butler and Sarah Nooter


Part I. Ancient Soundscapes

1. The Sound of the Sacred

Timothy Power

2. Hearing Ancient Sounds Through Modern Ears

Armand D’Angour

3. Sounding Out Public Space in Late Republican Rome

Erika Holter, Susanne Muth, and Sebastian Schwesinger

4. Vocal Expression in Roman Mourning

Valerie Hope


Part II. Theories of Sound

5. Sound: An Aristotelian Perspective

Stephen Kidd

6. Greek Acoustic Theory: Simple and complex sounds

Andrew Barker

7. The Soundscape of Ancient Greek Healing

Colin Webster

8. Lucretius on Sound

Pamela Zinn


Part III. Philology and Sound

9. Gods and Vowels

Joshua T. Katz

10. The Song of the Sirens Between Sound and Sense

Silvia Montiglio

11. Auditory Philology

Sean Gurd

12. Sounds of the Stage

Sarah Nooter

13. The Erogenous Ear

Pauline LeVen

14. Principles of Sound Reading

Shane Butler




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Shane Butler is Nancy H. and Robert E. Hall Professor in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of Classics at Johns Hopkins University, USA. He is the author, most recently, of The Ancient Phonograph (2015), and editor of Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception (2016). He is also co-editor, with Mark Bradley, of this series, as well as being co-editor, with Alex Purves, of its first volume, Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses (2013).

Sarah Nooter is Associate Professor of Classics, and of Theater and Performance Studies, at the University of Chicago, USA. She is the author of When Heroes Sing: Sophocles and the Shifting Soundscape of Tragedy (2012) and The Mortal Voice in the Tragedies of Aeschylus (2017).


"A superb guide to the burgeoning field of sound studies and a fitting capstone to the hugely successful series, The Senses in Antiquity. The range covered is as wide as classical antiquity itself: from embodied, urban, and literary soundscapes to noises emitted by objects to animal cries and intelligible voices to numinous and cosmic echoes, all of this at various pitches and decibel levels, likewise running from the sound of silence to silencing sounds. Antiquity will never sound the same again." - James Porter, University of California, Berkeley, USA


"The volume will be important to scholars and students of the ancient senses, especially those that have been following this series and those with special interests in the acoustical past... the cumulative effect of the volume is quite dazzling as it amplifies the sonorous registers of our textual remains and recovers the acoustical residues of ancient experiences of sound." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review 


"An essential read for all those interested in the ‘soundscape’ of Antiquity – from rites to the human body, the physiology of hearing, myth, music on the stage, ancient emotions and contemporary attempts to reconstruct ancient sounds –, the volume offers a broad perspective on sounds and hearing... Thanks to the rich variety of views on sound and the ‘soundscapes’ in ancient Greece and Rome, this volume establishes itself as a staple in future research on sounds and their perception, and on acoustics and society in the Graeco-Roman world." - Greek and Roman Musical Studies