Wednesday, November 6, 2013

History mystery: Apollo’s Numbers – Part I

Many stories are told about the Greek scholar, Richard Porson who was born in 1759 and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and held the Regius Professorship of Greek till his death in the year 1809. He invited anecdotes and at times was ridiculed for his Dipsomaniacal conduct. Porson had a wonderful sense of humor which was invoked by the Trinity Combination Room which had the custom of permitting smoking during the twelve days of Christmas and one of the wittiest stories in connection with him was his habit of always taking toddy to bed.

Plato too enjoyed intellectual witticisms and Plato’s Ion dialogue is full of intellectual witticisms, with many references and allusions to Apollo, though his name is not mentioned. Ion in its eponymous term in connection to Ionians is related to Apollo. The dialogue Ion composed by Plato was about joke and riddle and in ancient Hellenic world it was assumed that every learned person would be familiar with the lyre and its basic theory and its tune. The rhapsode Ion had come from a festival of Asklepios, a city of Epidaurus which had a shrine of Apollo while Asklepios was another son and both were born out of wedlock. The festival had all the arts of music and Apollo presided over it.

Ion after winning the first prize in the competition got engaged with Socrates in a philosophical discussion where he admitted when asked by Socrates that his skill in performance recitation was limited to Homer and all other poets bore him. This puzzled Socrates which led him to solve the riddle of Ion’s limited expertise and informed him that art critics and judges of sculpture do not limit themselves to judge the work of single artist but criticize the art irrespective of the artist. To understand the dialogue Ion, one needs to read it which is a continual reminder of Apollo though he is not mentioned in it and the understanding is in the ancient tuning theory where the comprehension could probably be in the present acoustics or harmonics, though it is not concerned with composition or performance, on the contrary, it deals instead with arithmetical structure of the tones, scales and intervals connected in music.

Present musical instruments are made in terms of the historically developed tuning theory which is described with regards to the terms associated with it though the instrument does not explain the theory but embody and illustrate it. Modern musical terminology is the result of the long complicated history, details of which are not understandable. For those interested in tuning theory, the following brief preliminary details could be helpful. Platonist, Plutarch, who for twenty years of his life was a priest at Delphi and had taken an oath of secrecy, wrote with knowledge on what he could not reveal though he provided us with his helpful hints.

His most relevant hints are found in Isis and Osiris wherein he informs that sixty is the first of measures related to the heavenly bodies that is with science, astronomy and harmonics. Second being The E at Delphi, he goes on to tell us that Pythagoreans called five, the marriage number, stating that it is an attribute of the god Apollo and that it is confirmed by the importance of the number in music. He states that the right angled triangle – 3, 4, 5 is used in the Republic in formulating marriage number and 3 is the male number while 4 is the female number. The number 5 is in some ways like its father and mother since they are made up of 3 and 2 making 5 the human number.

The number sixty derived from the ancient Babylonian use of sexagesimals, is the base of all scientific work. The number five, an attribute of Apollo, an importance in music, together with sixty is the human number which is also designated with the letter E in the Greek alphabetized system of numerals and carved in wood, stone, metal in Apollo’s temple at Delphi. The combination of sixty and five results in 60 to the 5th power, 605 or 777,600,000, regarded as Apollo’s number, intimated by Plutarch though it is not certain and may have been known at Delphi.

This number is most important in tuning theory being the least number needed in tuning with spiral of fifths and coordinating the sexagesimal as well as decimal expression of tones involved and hence it is given the title of Apollo’s number. As per the ancient practice, the zeros have been omitted and we have 6 to the fifth power 65 or 7776.

The Ion has 7776 syllabus as per Plato’s joke and since Apollo being the whole of it, is not needed to be named in the dialogue and the joke is in the form of an enigma. People often became famous by solving and making up riddles which were obscene and Plato was obscure and could not be obscene. Apollo was thus connected with riddles while riddles were philosophy. Having musical knowledge, Plato knew the number 605 though it is not mentioned in the dialogues but 604 is mentioned in the Republic- Book VIII, the sovereign of better and worse births in the Critias – the foundation of the mathematical model of Atlantis. Dating back to ancient Greek tuning theory, the most clearly associated name is Pythagoras, born on the Ionian island of Samos, migrated to Crotona and later died in Metapotum in Magna Graecia (Italy) around 497.

 He was the first Greek who provided a scientific basis for music theory. Musical performers did not need the development of theory. Performers played either on aulos which were translated as flute, which was an impossibility, since it was a reed instrument and could be a single or a double reed or a form of the lyre. The greatly preferred instrument was the lyre by amateurs since it had the advantage over the aulos where the player could sing to one’s accompaniment and besides this it was also Apollo’s instrument who had accepted this as a gift from his younger brother, Hermes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rajesh, I am really astounded for your search of knowledge. I really value these share. One can learn something new. Now, I am going to find more about Apollo numbers through researching google :)


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