An Oldie But Goodie

In 1883 in Aydin, Turkey (40 km inland from Ephesus in ancient Ionia), a grave pillar was found with a Greek inscription and song that appear to be from the first century, plus or minus a century. The song was accompanied with a special notation that allows a reconstruction of the actual tune of the song. This is the oldest complete song with musical notation in existence. The author of the gravestone was In the first century this name would have been pronounced

As long as you live, shine,
Grieve over nothing at all
Life is for a little while
Time asks as repayment the toll-tax
(=”time takes its toll”, with a pun on “time asks back ‘the end'”)

Seikilos Song – MP3 file

This recording here uses an Imperial Koine pronunciation to the accompaniment of a modern bouzouki. Enjoy the song and the virtual time trip back 2000 years.

Randall Buth

Please note: This recording is copyrighted by Randall Buth and may not be distributed without written permission. Interested persons are requested to download the song on their own from this website

Other versions are available, too:

For a recital of the song with an ancient flute-organ, see

For the muscial notation see: