Material music in ritual soundscapes of Pompeii

Mirco Mungari and Kamila Wyslucha (independent scholars)


Few excavation sites have yielded such meaningful evidence for Roman music culture as the Vesuvian area. What has been unearthed there attests to the extensive use of musical accompaniment in ritual contexts, both of Greco-Roman and Eastern provenance, associated with multiple cults thriving in the region during the first century BCE and the first century CE. The Vesuvian sites are uniquely well-equipped for investigating soundscapes, not only on account of the abundance of iconographic depictions, but also because of the preserved spaces of ritual performances, which enable us to embed musical practices within the topography of the ancient city and recreate, at least partially, a multisensory experience of a ritual in its original setting. Building on the findings of Roberto Melini, this essay attempts to characterise the sonorous reality of cults around Vesuvius with a particular focus on the significance of music and its material manifestations for religious ritual.

Keywords: Pompeii, soundscape, music, religion, processions, sacrifice, mystery cults, votives

Full text: OAJ_ISSUE_10_5_Mirco Mungari and Kamila Wyslucha_final (PDF 1.84MB).


Biographical notes 

Mirco Mungari is an archaeologist, archaeomusicologist and musician, living in Bologna, Italy. He studied Classical Archaeology at the University of Bologna, specialising in Roman Vesuvian sites. He also works on Middle Eastern music, frame drums and lutes. His current research is focused on Roman soundscapes and musical instruments, and on early Bronze Age Italic soundscapes.

Kamila Wyslucha holds a PhD in Classics from the University of Wrocław. She is the author of several articles and chapters on musical motifs in Augustan poetry and Latin rhetorical writing. Her research interests include issues associated with the performance of ancient Greek and Roman music, with a particular focus on aulos making and playing techniques.