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Why the Ancient Arcadians Turned to Music

Now the object of the ancient Arcadians in introducing
The object of the musical training of the Arcadians.
these customs was not, as I think, the gratification of luxury and extravagance. They saw that Arcadia was a nation of workers; that the life of the people was laborious and hard; and that, as a natural consequence of the coldness and gloom which were the prevailing features of a great part of the country, the general character of the people was austere. For we mortals have an irresistible tendency to yield to climatic influences: and to this cause, and no other, may be traced the great distinctions which prevail amongst us in character, physical formation, and complexion, as well as in most of our habits, varying with nationality or wide local separation. And it was with a view of softening and tempering this natural ruggedness and rusticity, that they not only introduced the things which I have mentioned, but also the custom of holding assemblies and frequently offering sacrifices, in both of which women took part equally with men; and having mixed dances of girls and boys: and in fact did everything they could to humanise their souls by the civilising and softening influence of such culture. The people of Cynaetha entirely neglected these things, although they needed them more than any one else, because their climate and country is by far the most unfavourable in all Arcadia; and on the contrary gave their whole minds to mutual animosities and contentions. They in consequence became finally so brutalised, that no Greek city has ever witnessed a longer series of the most atrocious crimes. I will give one instance of the ill fortune of Cynaetha in this respect, and of the disapproval of such proceedings on the part of the Arcadians at large. When the Cynaethans, after their great massacre, sent an embassy to Sparta, every city which the ambassadors entered on their road at once ordered them by a herald to depart; while the Mantineans not only did that, but after their departure regularly purified their city and territory from the taint of blood, by carrying victims round them both.

I have had three objects in saying thus much on this subject. First, that the character of the Arcadians should not suffer from the crimes of one city: secondly, that other nations should not neglect music, from an idea that certain Arcadians give an excessive and extravagant attention to it: and, lastly, I speak for the sake of the Cynaethans themselves, that, if ever God gives them better fortune, they may humanise themselves by turning their attention to education, and especially to music.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CYNAETHA
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