Music is an important element of the culture of Greece having an incredible diversity owing to the integration of different influences of the Eastern and Western cultures. The long history of music in Greece dates back to ancient times, the period when music, dance, lyrics and poetry were an integral part of life.  After the fall of Ancient Greece and the growth of the Byzantine Empire, music acquired an ecclesiastical approach. In the years of the Ottoman Empire, music was influenced from the eastern sounds and it was reborn with opera compositions of Nikolaos Mantzaros and Spyros Samaras in the 19th century. From this period onwards, Greece shaped talented artists and composers and music became a vital expression of the slavery years, a weapon of opposition against the authorities and a beautiful way to express fear, love and death in the everyday life.


Music was an integral part of life in Ancient Greece. The term music covered the aspects of music, dance, lyrics and poetry while an extensive range of musical instruments were used in order to perform music played in a series of occasions including religious ceremonies, festivals, funerals, weddings and athletic activities. In Ancient Greece, music was seen as a gift of the gods and they considered that music could have a valuable effect on both body and mind of the listener. The invention of musical instruments was attributed to specific deities including the lyre to Hermes, the flute to Athena and the panpipes to Pan. According to mythology, the Muses personified various elements of music and they entertained the Gods on Mountain Olympus with their divine dance and music. The oldest Greek musical instruments are avloi (lyre), which is dating back to the Neolithic Age. The three civilizations of the Aegean, which are the Cycladic, the Minoan and the Mycenaean, provide evidence of the importance of music in their cultures such as Cycladic marble figures representing lyre players. Moreover, music played an intrinsic role in the life of Crete evidenced from the Cretan hieroglyphic script encompassed with three symbols of music instruments, the Palace of Knossos which is decorated with lyres, and the Harvester Vase of the Minoan civilization, which depicts a sistrum (rattle) player. The combination of music and world with melodic systems and musical instruments probably come from the Near East; nevertheless, the Greeks considered the lyre (avlos) as a musical instrument of Greece whilst it was often represented in Greek mythology. Therefore, God Apollo, who was considered to be the master of the lyre, defeated the Phrygian Satyr Marsias with his lyre in a competition of music judged from the Muses. At last, lyre was a musical instrument, which Greek students had to learn in their school, and it was recommended from Plato in his Republic.

According to evidence, Greeks started to study the theory of music from the 6th century BC. The theory of music consisted from acoustic, harmonic and melody studies; besides, the earliest surviving text on music is the Harmonic Elements of Aristoxenos, which was written in the 4th century BC. Written music pieces of Greek music survives in a fragmentary form including the song of Seikilos tombstone found near Efesos from the 2nd century BC and an inscription of music from the Treasury of Athens at Delphi. Furthermore, music developed into an important element in the studies of philosophy by the followers of Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, who supposed that music was a mathematical expression. Moreover, music was believed to have certain therapeutic benefits over physical and mental illnesses.Ancient Greeks made another important contribution to the history of music, arguing that music can have an emotional and moral effect on the listener; for this reason, Plato, the Greek philosopher, banned music instruments able of producing all the scales as he considered them rather decadent. Similarly, music with fast tempo and over complicated rhythms was believed morally dangerous in the philosophers’ ideal republic.  The musicians of Greece, also known as the makers of songs or melopoioi, were often regarded as composers and lyricists of the music they performed.  In Ancient Greece, musicians had an elevated society status, indicated from robes and their presence on the lists of the royal household, while the professional musicians were male. However, art pieces show female musicians dancing with lyre players.Music was also associated with religious occasions in Greek cities including the Panathenaia and the Dionysia festivals in Athens. Hymns and players were sung during processions on the altar provided from choral groups of professional musicians of lyre players including the aodoi in the Sanctuary of Asclepius of Epidaurus and the paeanists in Athens. In the PanHellenic Festivals, dance, drama, music and poetry recitals were a competitive activity, which were held in Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea. Though, the music contests in athletic competitions had a religious nature in honour of the gods and the earliest such competitions were held in Argos, Paros and Sparta. In the Hellenistic years, musical festivities and contests became common and musicians began to organize themselves into associations (Koina). According to Plato, the first school of musical education was founded from the people of Crete followed by the music schools of Athens, where students were taught to sing and play the lyre. In ancient Greece, they believed that music taught order and discipline while allowing the educated to appreciate better the musical performance.


The folklore songs (Dimotika) of Greece are dating back to ancient poetry and music dividing into the movements of akritic and kleftic. The akritic style was created to express the struggles of the frontier guards in the Byzantine Empire while the kleftic style was created from the kleftes, the heroes who led the revolutionary action against the Ottoman domination, composed from songs for love, exile, freedom and death, an important part of the history of Greece in the beginning of the Greek Revolution, which led to the Greek War of Independence of 1821. Another folk type of songs is Kantada, a style of romantic music influenced from the Italian music, which originated in the beginning of the 19th century from the island of Kefalonia. Nisiotika is another popular song style, a general term denoting folklore songs which originated in the islands of Greece, featuring a unique way of dancing accompanied from a wide range of musical instruments. Cretan music is one of the most renowned music styles of Greece accompanied from the folklore instrument of Crete, the Byzantine Lyra.  One of the most renowned Greek music styles is the Rebetiko, which was spread through Greek refugees coming from Asia Minor who settled in the city of Thessaloniki and the district of Piraeus in Athens. Rebetiko spread after the destruction of Smyrna from the Turks from refugees who used this type of songs to express their poverty, hunger, pain and betrayal. These were Greeks who had lost everything and have never lived in Greece expressing their feelings through a music style with Byzantine and Smyrna influences.This genre was followed from the Elafro (Light), a music genre with characteristics of romance and intense feelings. In the 1930, the new music genre of Operetta was founded, a music type of a dramatic structure influenced from the French and Italian models. During the Second World War, the Anti War Songs were created and the Rebetiko was evolved and influenced another form, called Laiko. Laiko (song for the people) is a music genre of urban folk music composed in accordance with the traditions of the Greek people, which followed after the commercialization of the Rebetiko movement.  After the end of the Second World War, cinema, theatre and record companies marked a new path for the Greek music industry and another form of music was introduced called Entehno, This was an orchestral type of music with elements from the folk rhythm and melody of Greece, which arose in the end of 1950. The New Wave was an attempt to balance the Light and Entehno movements which was sung in music halls, which were small rooms with low lighting, low sound and low seating without amplifiers and the walls were decorated with artistic illustrations. During the time of the dictatorship (1967 -1974), Rebetiko was forbidden owing to its uncompromising lyrics and the Political Songs made their appearance owing to the prohibition of expression. However, the creation of the private broadcasters led to the commercialization of music owing to an abundance of supply and options after the dictatorship. Since then, Greek music has introduced a tremendous diversity.


The Hymn to Liberty is a poem written from Dionysios Solomos in May of 1823 in the island of Zakynthos. The hymn combines elements of classicism and romanticism. The poem Hymn to Liberty consists from 158 tetra stiches, and of these only the 24 were established as the national anthem of Greece and Cyprus in 1865. The hymn was first set to music from the composer Nikolaos Manzaros. The anthem is performed in every closing ceremony of the Olympic games paying tribute to Greece as the birthplace of the Olympic Games.The Olympic Anthem is a choral cantata written from the poet Kostis Palamas and the composer Spyridon Samaras. It was first performed in the opening ceremony of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens and it was declared as the Official Anthem of the Olympics from the Olympic Committee in 1958.