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The ethics of music have been an issue of intense discussion throughout classical antiquity, as manifested by Damon’s early research on the moral influence of music (5th cent. B.C.). However, Plato significantly contributed to the subject in his Republic, as he imposed strict and severe regulations about music and specific harmonies that were considered good for morals and pedagogy. Furthermore, Aristotle, in his Politics, studied the ethics of music, with a different attitude towards the aulos, the main musical instrument of his era, from his predecessor.
Pseudo-Plutarch’s De Musica was written within the Neoplatonic movement. The dialogue, in which the banqueters discuss the origins and evolution of music is heavily influenced by the Platonic ones. There is substantial praise, from both Lysias (a practicing musician) and Soterichos (a theoretician and early critic of music), for the era when music was harmonic, simple and not connected to theatre. Early Ancient Greek musicians and lyric poets had a rather conservative approach to music, often subtracting notes from musical scales. However, as music progressed and got correlated with the theatrical action, more complex scales and harmonies, such as the Lydian and Phrygian ones, were mostly used; the banqueters did not have a high opinion of those, due to the passive morals they were associated with. As a result, the contemporary musical scales were considered harmful for the morals that were to be instilled in people, especially children.
In summary, this late-antiquity dialogue, of which the real author is yet to be convincingly identified, can be considered a very good example of the Ancient Greek attitude about progress, especially in the changing, uncertain times of the early centuries CE.