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Musical Remedies for Deadly Problems. Music Therapy in the Homeric Poems

  • Autori: Provenza, A
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2009
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • Parole Chiave: Musicoterapia; Omero; peana; incantesimo (epode).
  • OA Link:


The attempt to cure illnesses by having recourse to music is one of the most interesting phenomena of ancient Greek culture, but also one of the most controversial, because of the complex relations between religion, magic, medicine and music constituting its background. Beginning from the Iliad (I, 472-474), the paean represents the song par excellence, “that puts an end to the plague”. Wholly different from this is healing through the epode, the “sung charm”, in Book XIX of the Odyssey, which gives us the first testimony of this remedy.The fundamental intent of such treatment seems to be to remedy the physical pain: in this sense, the epode, as a sung magic formula, in my opinion was intended to produce a sort of “anaesthetic” effect, preventing the mind of the sick person from concentrating on his or her physical feelings through a musical combination of rhythm and words that served to act on the evil itself. Apart from these differences, we nevertheless find a fundamental aspect common to the two circumstances, the element of the rite, that, though according to different modalities, in both cases is the background to the treatment. These two testimonies thus sum up the fundamental aspects of “traditional”, pre-Hippocratic medicine and put Greece of the Homeric poems on the same wavelength as the other civilizations in the ancient Mediterranean, for which there are abundant testimonies of the therapeutic use of prayers and magic formulas, that is to say of the inseparable bond between medicine and religion.