Damon of Athens


Damon (Greek: Δάμων, gen.: Δάμωνος), son of Damonides, was a Greek musicologist of the fifth century BC. He belonged to the Athenian deme of Oē (sometimes spelled "Oa"). He is credited as teacher and advisor of Pericles.


Damon's expertise was supposed to be musicology, though some believed this was a cover for a broader influence over Pericles' political policy. For instance, Damon is said to have been responsible for advising Pericles to institute the policy of paying jurors for their service; this policy was widely criticized, and Damon is said to have been ostracized for it (see the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia), probably sometime in last third of the 5th century BCE.

Plato invokes Damon many times in the Republic as the musical expert to be deferred to concerning the details of rhythmical education. In Plato's Laches, Damon is said to have been a student of Prodicus and of Agathocles. The former was an unabashed sophist, while the latter is said (in Plato's Protagoras) to have used musical expertise as a front for being a sophist.

Some of Damon's research certainly concerned the features of ancient rhythms, their metrical counterparts and their ethical character;[1] he also worked on specific modes (harmoniai), classifying and describing especially the so-called 'loose Lydian' mode (cf. Ps.Plut. De Mus. 1136e, with Lynch 2018, 312). Beyond these technical aspects, Damon's work also focused on the social and political consequences of music – what modern scholars call 'ethos theory' (a term which, however, does not appear in ancient sources).[2] According to Robert Wallace it was Pericles' interest in using this research for controlling the people that led to Damon's ostracism.[3]


The extant texts of the Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians mention Damonides as an advisor to Pericles. The mention there of "Damonides" is now almost universally considered an editorial slip of pen, where the original text read "Damon, son of Damonides" instead.[4] This seems to be confirmed by ostraka that have been recovered and that bear the name "Damon son of Damonides".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lynch, Tosca A.C. A Sophist ‘in disguise’: Damon of Oa in early Plato, Medium 2020, https://medium.com/ancient-greek-music-the-art-of-the-muses/a-sophist-in-disguise-damon-of-oa-in-early-plato-60612e17fa?source=linkShare-8d432b09cbb9-1583059094;
  2. ^ See Lynch, T. (2017) Book Review – Wallace, R. W. Reconstructing Damon: Music, Wisdom Teaching and Politics in Perikles’ Athens, Oxford, Oxford University Press. 2015, Greek and Roman Musical Studies 5.2: 273–278 https://www.academia.edu/34240047/Lynch_T._2017_Book_Review_Wallace_R._W._Reconstructing_Damon_Music_Wisdom_Teaching_and_Politics_in_Perikles_Athens_Oxford_Oxford_University_Press._2015_Greek_and_Roman_Musical_Studies_5.2_273_278?source=swp_share
  3. ^ Robert W. Wallace, The Sophists in Athens, Harvard University Press, 1998
  4. ^ P. Rhodes, 1981, Commentary on the Aristotelian "Athenaion Politeia", p. 341
  • A. J. Podlecki, 1997, Perikles and His Circle, Routledge.
  • Robert W. Wallace, The Sophists in Athens, Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Robert W. Wallace, Reconstructing Damon: Music, Wisdom Teaching, and Politics in Pericles' Athens, Oxford 2015.
  • Tosca A.C. Lynch, A Sophist ‘in disguise’: Damon of Oa in early Plato, Medium 2020, https://medium.com/ancient-greek-music-the-art-of-the-muses/a-sophist-in-disguise-damon-of-oa-in-early-plato-60612e17fa?source=linkShare-8d432b09cbb9-1583059094 (revised and updated extract from Lynch, T. (2013) ‘A Sophist “in disguise”: a reconstruction of Damon of Oa and his role in Plato’s Dialogues’, Études Platoniciennes 10, Paris. http://etudesplatoniciennes.revues.org/378 )
  • Tosca A.C. Lynch, 2018,' "Without Timotheus, much of our melopoiía would not exist; but without Phrynis, there wouldn’t have been Timotheus": Pherecrates’ twelve strings, the Stróbilos and the harmonic paranomía of the New Music', Greek and Roman Musical Studies 6.2 https://www.academia.edu/34100714/Lynch_T._2018_Without_Timotheus_much_of_our_melopoi%C3%ADa_would_not_exist_but_without_Phrynis_there_wouldn_t_have_been_Timotheus_Pherecrates_twelve_strings_the_Stróbilos_and_the_harmonic_paranom%C3%ADa_of_the_New_Music_Greek_and_Roman_Musical_Studies_6.2