He was a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian, on whose favorite Antinous he is said to have written a panegyric, specifically called a Citharoedic Hymn (Suidas). Two epigrams by him in the Greek Anthology (Anthol. pal. xiv. 63, xvi. 323) are extant, and a hymn to Nemesis. The hymn is one of four which preserve the ancient musical notation written over the text. Two other hymns, one to the muse Calliope and one entitled Hymn to the Sun, formerly assigned to Dionysius of Alexandria, have also been attributed to Mesomedes. In an article published in 2003, Annie Bélis proves that the Berlin musical papyrus (inv. 6870) contains a Paean to Apollo written by Mesomedes. A total of 15 poems by Mesomedes are known.
Prior to the discovery of the Seikilos epitaph in the late 19th century, the hymns of Mesomedes were the only surviving written music from the ancient world. Three were published by Vincenzo Galilei in his Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna (Florence, 1581), during a period of intense investigation into music of the ancient Greeks. These hymns had been preserved through the Byzantine tradition, and were presented to Vincenzo by Girolamo Mei.
See J. F. Bellermann, Die Hymnen des Dionysius und Mesomedes (1840); C. de Jan, Musici scriptores graeci (1899); S. Reinach in Revue des études grecques, ix (1896); Suidas, s.v.
Prayer to the Muse
The dialect of this hymn is different from the others (Ionian rather than Doric), and the style is also slightly different; for this reason J.G. Landels believes that it is probably not by Mesomedes.
?' ? ·
Sing to me, kind Muse,
and begin my song.
Send a breeze from your groves
to stir my mind.
Prayer to Calliope and Apollo
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leader of the delight-making Muses,
and skilful initiator into the mysteries,
son of Leto, DelianPaean,
favor me with your presence.
Mesomedes' Prayer to Calliope transcribed into modern musical notation; adapted from Landels, John G. 1999. Music in Ancient Greece and Rome, p. 255.
Father of the Dawn with her snow-white eyelids,
you who follow in your rose-pink chariot
the track of your flying steeds,
exulting in the gold of your hair,
twining your darting rays
across the boundless vault of sky,
whirling around the whole earth
the thread of your all-seeing beams,
while flowing rivers of your deathless fire
beget the lovely day.
For you the peaceful chorus of stars
dance their measure across Olympos their lord,
forever singing their leisured song,
rejoicing in the music of Apollo's lyre;
and leading them the silvery-grey Moon
marshals the months and seasons,
drawn by her team of milk-white heifers.
And your benevolent mind rejoices
as it whirls around the manifold raiment of the universe.
The music for Mesomedes' Hymn to the Sun, according to Pöhlmann & West (2001), but divided into 2/4 time following Landels (1999).
Vincenzo Galilei, Dialogo Di Vincentio Galilei Nobile Fiorentino Della Musica Antica, Et Della Moderna (Fiorenza, 1581) (google), p. 97
Johann Friedrich Bellermann, Die Hymnen des Dionysius und Mesomedes. Text und Melodieen nach Handschriften und den alten Ausgaben bearbeitet von Dr. Friedrich Bellermann (Berlin, 1840) (google)
Rheinisches Museum für Philologie. Neue Folge. Neunter Jahrgang (Frankfurt am Main, 1854) (google); p. 306-311: Theodor Bergk, Zu den Hymnen des Dionysius und Mesomedes
Karl von Jan (Latin: Carolus Janus), Musici scriptores graeci. Aristoteles Euclides Nicomachus Bacchius Gaudentius Alypius et melodiarum veterum quidquid exstat. Recognovit prooemiis et indice instruxit Carolus Janus. Annexae sunt tabulae (Lipsia, 1895) (google-US), p. 454ff.
Musici scriptores graeci. Recognovit prooemiis et indice instruxit Carolus Janus. Supplementum, melodiarum reliquiae (Lipsia, 1899) (google-US)
Revue des études grecques. Tome IX. Année 1896 (Paris, 1896) (google-US); p. 1-22: Théodore Reinach, L'hymne a la Muse
Pöhlmann, Egert; West, Martin L. (2001). Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments, edited and transcribed with commentary by Egert Pöhlmann and Martin L. West. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN0-19-815223-X.
Anthologia lyrica Anacreontea et Anacreontis aliorumque lyricorum graecorum selecta fragmenta et scolia continens. Edidit cum notis criticis et metrorum expositione Fridericus Mehlhorn (Lipsia, 1827) (google), p. 70f.
Anthologia graeca sive delectus poesis elegiacae melicae bucolicae. Scholarum in usum adornavit Nicolaus Bachius (Hannovera, 1838) (google), p. 128
James Donaldson, Lyra Græca: Specimens of the Greek Lyric Poets, from Callinus to Soutsos. Edited, with critical Notes, and a biographical Introduction, by James Donaldson (Edinburgh & London, 1854) (google), p. 96f.
Theodor Bergk, Anthologia lyrica continens Theognidem, Babrium, Anacreontea cum ceterorum poetarum reliqiis selectis. Edidit Theodorus Bergk (Lipsia, 1854) (google), p. 403f.
Anthologia lyrica continens Theogni[de]m, Babrium, Anacreontea cum ceterorum poetarum reliqiis selectis. Curavit Theodorus Bergk (Lipsia, 1868) (google), p. 522ff.
Ensemble Kérylos a music group directed by scholar Annie Bélis and dedicated to the recreation of ancient Greek and Roman music. Its recording D'Euripide aux premiers chrétiens contains the 5 known works by Mesomedes (tracks 9 to 13).