Music and creativity in Ancient Greece – Tim Hansen

Music and creativity in Ancient Greece – Tim Hansen

We live in a society obsessed with music. We use music to worship, tell stories, to celebrate, to work, exercise, declare our love and sometimes our hatred, and, arguably most importantly, to dance. And, of course, we play music ourselves because, well, it’s a pleasant thing to do. Thousands of years ago
in Ancient Greece, when it came to music, things weren’t much different. They might have had lyres and tunics instead of MP3 players and jeans, but the Ancient Greeks
were just as obsessed with music as we are today. In fact, music was such
an important part of Ancient Greek society that it makes us seem
tame by comparison. To really understand just
how integral music was to the Ancient Greeks, let’s begin by acquainting ourselves with a bit of their mythology. In Ancient Greek mythology, it was believed that human creativity was the result of divine inspiration from a group of goddesses
known as the Muses. While scholars have argued
over the years that there are anything
between 3 and 13 Muses, the standard number accepted today is 9. Each Muse oversees her own specific area of artistic expertise, ranging from song and dance to history and astronomy. It might seem strange to categorize history and astronomy
as creative pursuits, but the Ancient Greeks
saw these disciplines as more than just school subjects. These were the hallmarks of civilization in what, to their eyes, was a pretty barbaric world. An educated, civilized person was expected to be proficient in all aspects of creative thought inspired by the Muses, and the common medium through which these
disciplines were taught, studied, and disseminated was music. You see, it’s no coincidence that the word Muse is very similar to the word music. It’s where the word originates. Poetry, be it a love poem or an epic poem about
a dragon-slaying hero, was sung with a musical accompaniment. Dancing and singing, obviously, were accompanied by music. Theater was always a combination of spoken word and music. History was recounted through song. Even the study of astronomy was linked to the same physical principles as musical harmony, such as the belief held
by many Greek thinkers that each of the planets and stars created their own unique sound as they traveled through the cosmos, thrumming like
an enormous guitar string light-years long. However, music pervaded
more aspects of their lives than just education. Ancient Greeks considered music to be the basis for understanding the fundamental interconnectedness of all things in the universe. This concept of connectivity is known as harmonia, and it’s where we get the word harmony. Music was used as a form of medicine to treat illnesses and physical complaints, as a vital accompaniment
to sporting contests, and as a means to keep workers in time as they toiled away on
monotonous or menial tasks. One of the most important applications of music in Ancient Greek society is found in the belief that music can affect a person’s ethos. A word we still use today, ethos is a person’s guiding beliefs or personal ethics, the way that one behaves towards oneself and others. The Greek philosopher Plato, one of the most famous and influential Greek
thinkers of the time, asserted that music had a direct effect on a person’s ethos. Certain kinds of music could incite a person to violence while others could placate a person into a benign, unthinking stupor. According to Plato, only very specific types of music were beneficial to a person’s ethos. One should only listen to music that promotes intelligence, self-discipline, and courage, and all other kinds
of music must be avoided. Furthermore, Plato fervently denounced any music that deviated from established musical conventions, fearing that doing so would lead to the degradation of the standards of civilization, the corruption of youth, and eventually complete
and utter anarchy. While Plato’s fears can seem extreme, this argument has appeared
in modern times to condemn musical trends such as jazz or punk or rap. What do you think Plato would say about the music you listen to? Is it beneficial to your ethos, or will it degenerate you into a gibbering, amoral barbarian?


  • IceQueen975 says:

    Hmm… I think Plato would be confused since 1) my music is a mixture of languages 2) a mixture of genera and 3) a mixture of humans singing and computer programs singing. XD

  • MeLexdy says:

    that was great 😀

  • Mearc says:

    Plato may disagree on my mostly electronic music playlist. But I do have some Mozart and Beethoven on my iPod.

  • Long Tran says:

    Awesome video!

  • notaras1985 says:

    when foreign travelers went to ancient greece as some ancient sources say, they heard people "singing rather than talking". thats how flowish, and musical the ancient greek language was.

  • fanofjoestrummer says:

    I must be an amoral barbarian, since my favourite genres are bebop jazz and punk rock, but both genres complies with the principles of music set by Plato. Creating limitations for musicality is one thing, but to exclude certain genres on basis of lack of intelligence is simply not good enough, creating music must be a sign of intelligence. Since popular music is carefully crafted to score both many Youtube-views but also sell, the ethos of popular music is just a much as selling and sending a universal message – love or love related songs. But shouldn't the world be a more loving place, when a large quantity of songs are about love? I don't think so, but yes some songs and artist may be, more in favour of a less loving place.

  • Cherry Blossom says:

    He will hate my music choices

  • Elena Vargas says:

    Maybe at the first he will be confuse 😛 but will closure with a bad ethos…

  • Gaudentic says:

    Plato was so right in what he believed of the music.

  • jbz3 says:

    We need a school house rock reboot. Ancient greek style.

  • MrPizzaMax says:

    more like this thank u tim hansen

  • Johny Kidd says:

    I'm pretty sure he wouldn't agree with how sexualised music is for children.

  • stardelic says:

    0:33 In the map of Ancient Greece, you forgot Ionia.

  • Pablo Ramirez says:

    Plato nailed the coffin. Music has fucked up society. Thank you Beatles. 

  • Raspberry Pie says:

    Jake Chudnow
    Empyrean by John Frusciante

  • No Face Killah says:

    I'm sure Plato would love Death Grips

  • deutschesmaedchen says:

    Haha is that lord Byron?

  • P E D R O says:

    I wish I could hear a sample of their music. But I guess its like asking to listen to a sample of any conversation today. They just lived music

  • Xenure Calipsuaor says:

    The music you love, reflects your personality. There is no causal relationship, but there is very high correlation between them.
    The music you listen to, depends on your personality, which then augments it further and then the snowball grows bigger and bigger.
    Ever seen a rock and roll star dressed like a lawyer? No, because the music fits a certain culture, and culture leads to difference in thoughts and actions. Music not only affects ethics, it affects cultures, it can empower, it can destroy.

  • mahafreed says:


  • San J King says:

    What's that song at 0:11

  • Martín Della Rotta says:


  • fineartist says:

    Excellent intro into the ethos in the music of the ancient Greeks!
    Articulate text with imaginative animated illustrations. 
    Please create more on other subjects. I have begun presenting them to my studio art students here in Chelsea, New York City.

  • Chris Hansen says:

    Bravo Tim

  • Kostas Antonopoulos says:


  • Pierre Ramirez says:

    really interesting, (y)

  • Alejandro Hoyer says:

    i'm sure he'd be scared, thinking a race of more civilized aliens are coming to destroy his civilization

  • Annie Yu says:

    I was expecting to see Justin Bieber mentioned in the comments about how it destroys humanity!

  • 鄭順禾 says:


  • Hlm WITHANL says:

    I think plato would find my test in music interesting "rain drops , river showers and death music

  • Tavga Hawramy says:

    music was used by greeks to treat illnesses.this is impressive video

  • broken king says:

    great video!Ancient greeks used also music before battles the so called paenas(greek:"παιάνας").

  • juanito506 says:

    Secret Audio Technica ATH-M50X product placement :v

  • tropicana Sister says:

    Do you guys know that Biebs is the unit of how bad the music is?

  • spark300c says:

    well we live in age of music relativism. which start in 1970s. now music has no meaning than food. in a since music does its own ethos. heavy metal is war like and there plato would reject it for promotion of negative. 50 precent is about kill people, 35 precent is about satanism 7 percent is Suicide. on other side of the coin pop punk has up beat sound and promote good things. it surprising that came from hardcore punk but focusing positively changes the sound angry to happy. so give time musical changes to fit the lyrics.

  • Vlada Ivanova says:

    Ancient Greeks were cool.

  • Ryder the First says:

    It's official. I'm a gibbering, immoral, barbarian.

  • goldguns says:

    This was apart of my English exam lol

  • Arastoomii says:

    I find it pretty stupid that people believe that the ancient greek civilization is the ancestor of the modern western civilization. It is like saying ancient sumerian civilization is the basis of modern iraq. Am i the only one who thinks this way? I mean each ethnic group in the modern west, has their own specific ancient ancestors and history. Culturally speaking, not even the modern greeks resemble much with the ancient greeks. Yet we tend somehow to connect ourselves to an ancient past that is not necessarily ours.

  • diet shazta says:

    I'm hot like a sauna

  • You says:

    Well I listen to a lot of black metal, melodic metal and Industrial metal in which all lyrics are well thought out and intelligent but has a very fast beat and an aggressive rhythm… So my question is would Plato like Cradle Of Filth, Rammstein, Amon Amarth or Behemoth?

  • Oscar Fernando Perez says:

    Wow!! animation and music are amazing!! amazing!!

  • Code S says:

    Tim Hansen the Muppet guy narrated this?

  • kirby march barcena says:

    They never had a chance to know MTV…

  • RufoTamales says:

    Hello there TED Ed, first, thank you very much for an enojyable an informative video regarding music, can you pleas eprovide a reference for this assertions Plato supposedly said? Thanks! n____n

  • Apostolis F says:

    Since christianity came to Greece all fucked up…

  • Mansoor Walid says:

    Aslamo Alikum, peace and blessings of God be upon you. We are all brothers and sisters and children of one man Adam and one woman Eve. All people belong to God and God belongs to all of them. All people come from God and go back to God, so all are One. We are all in same boat and in same train which starts from God and ends at God. One of the God’s name is Ahsan-al-Khaliqeen which means whatever God created is extremely beautiful and excellent. So we are all beautiful and excellent. The beautiful girls and guys all around us in this world are nothing but our beloved sisters and brothers. Not only we humans are just one family but all the angels, all the devils, all the plants, all the animals, all the mountains, all the winds, all the oceans, all the insects, all the birds, earth, sun, moon, all the stars, all the planets, all the galaxies, all this universe and everything inside it is just one family created by God and there is nothing like God and none equals to God in anyway. He is All-Loving, All-Forgiving, All-Knowing, All-Merciful, All-Gracious, All-Wise and All-Powerful. So we have a very big family. May God forgive all of us and unite all of us in His love and mercy and in His obedience. If we will be thankful to God and obey Him, this world will become a paradise. And on Day of Judgment, God will give us even a bigger paradise so beautiful and lovely that we cannot imagine where all of us will live in joy and pleasure forever. Please never forget to say many thanks to God and praise Him all your days and nights and ask for His forgiveness all the time. God wants we love others like we love ourselves. Ameen. Jazak Allah. 🙂

  • kozhi mutta says:

    also in tamizhan culture ppl only used to sing and never spoke in ancient times.whatever they wanted to speak they used to singwith high n lows

  • Anna Schaeffer says:

    Of course Apollo directed the 9 muses as he is the God of music. Just thought I should point that out 😎 #cabin7

  • reimond vincent says:

    Love the visuals!

  • JonatasAdoM says:

    It's sad that the planets can't enjoy music, they live in a complete silence.
    Maybe… they're LIBRARIANS.

  • JonatasAdoM says:

    So ethos = Ethics?

  • Shiloh Schwartz says:

    What would the Undertale OST do to me?

  • Sanika Barve says:

    Where does creativity come from?

  • cheng adelaide says:


  • Julie Nakazi says:

    what i love the most is the motion graphics in this video <3
    well done!

  • Angel Diane says:

    Plathos sounds like a grandfather or a mother

  • Tasnim Hassan says:

    Pardon me if I am wrong and correct me so, the idea of like in a certain type of music happens to be one of the most happening yet relative of fact now a days. If I may do the audacity, then definitely in the Indian subcontinent what ever the cultural degradation has been happening, I personally have this opinion that may be the word that is been chosen these days as the lyrics of certain type of music or any music that is related to the movie and the promotional catchy phrases….. I kinda think that most probably these are the very frequently heard type of song that really have a direct effect on people who are constantly listening to them. while we are focusing on the fact that this particular song that particular song has been number 1 in the top musical charts, we keep forgetting about one thing that, one way or the other the music and lyrics and it is having an effect in our behaviour and that is somehow happening to shape the idea of our youth. now one way we are saying that we should do good and we should be good but the other way, our entertainment form which is the frequent form we know as song we are not being careful enough to choose the words in the lyrics so the dichotomy of the painful series is that we are trying to do good but at the same time we are not being able to send the message through the songs…. I don't know… Its just my opinion…

  • KirkGR G4 says:

    Κοροϊδεύεις την Ελλάδα

  • Chris Foe says:

    That bit about Plato and his conception of music is a little misleading. The ideas you attribute to him come, strictly speaking, from his account of Socrates' teaching in a dialogue called 'The Republic'. And that teaching takes place in a larger context where Socrates and his interlocutors try to imagine what an ideal society might hypothetically look like, solely as a means of crystalizing a larger point about justice and individual ethics. It's true that his ideas regarding music probably looked something like what's presented here, but they were almost certainly more sophisticated.

  • Sele S says:

    now i can't avoid to imagine Plato listening to Reggaeton LOL!!!!

  • Johann Bach says:

    Completely agree with Plato!

  • TehGnomeh says:

    Can't decide what this does for a persons ethos

  • Augusto Camargo says:

    Very interesting, but today I see we all can understand this differently: it's not the music that influenciate us, but the way we feel that drag us into a certain musical style. A musical taste could be represented as a version of one's reality interpretation of the world. So, liking certain styles of music means you are already that way, you already feel like that, and that's because you like it, because it represent's you. It's like, it's the music that is lined up with your "soul" , not you getting influenced by it. Or maybe you get influenced a little bit, but this happens because of one's curiosity of absorbing that specific information contained in that.

    I think the same goes to games, the so called "violent game that influence people to violence", actually the people are already that way, and the game is just a representation of how they feel…

  • Tasnia Choudhury says:

    I wonder what Plato would say about kpop lmao

  • Savage User says:

    I think Plato would love Cannibal Corpse 🙂

  • Creative Writer says:

    Um…*looks at all the music I listen to* I don't know I listen to both!

  • Abc Abc says:

    People are right about music affecting you. I used to like hop hop and I wanted to smoke weed and do drugs. Then I stopped listening and I don't want to smoke or do drugs anymore and never will.

  • What says:

    plato was correct

  • Michela Caruso says:

    so helpful thx so much

  • Ben Quinney says:

    Music of the spheres

  • Evan490BC says:

    Plato was right! (Once again!)

  • τσος λου says:

    According to Plato what is the music that promote your intelligence,self discipline and courage?

  • Roman KFM says:

    This is a great video for Kanye West.

  • Sami Siddiqi says:

    Music is probably the reason why the ancient Greeks memorised better than we do.

  • Golden Dreams says:

    Let's play some disco and boogie!

  • My parents named me Martin says:

    I'm definetly a gibbering amoral barbarian in the eyes of plato.

  • Konstantinos Stefis says:

    Awesome work guys! Συγχαρητήρια !!

  • Big Turf says:

    I´m pretty sure he would love despacito and despacito 2

  • TsunadeXBBL says:

    Who cares

  • Underwatersecret29 says:


  • Vinil Gupta says:

    Anyone's got any idea what type of music is being talked upon over here?

  • Britt Pomales says:

    imagine ancient Greece twerking lmao

  • SWUGG says:

    Nice work…He would love my music….SWUGG

  • Fuel Tek says:


  • D. Snelson says:

    Thanks for all the modes and muses, Ancient Greece. Much appreciated 🙂

  • eVoX cY says:

    Am keep wondering why we ended up like this today…

  • Julia Kramer says:

    hi bro!

  • fowling snicker says:

    I like Greek folk so I guess I'm in the clear with Plato 😅

  • seqingnicole says:

    saved this on my watchlater 5 years ago lmao

  • parzival says:

    Who made the musical greek modes?

  • phoenixsong38 says:

    Wasnt jazz punk and rock all pioneered by African Americans?

  • Jesus Marquez says:

    Isn’t Tim Hansen a zombies youtuber

  • Donna Lee says:

    i think plato would absolutely condemn my current playlist

  • El Moist Taco says:

    There’s a lot we can learn from Ancient Greece

  • Ivan Vallejo says:


  • Nuziburt says:

    Plato was a boomer lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *