90427 - Musical Heritage of the Ancient World

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course regards one of the most significant aspects of the wide cultural heritage inherited from antiquity: music. After completing the course students are able to contextualize the documents which transmitted the ideas and representations of the music of antiquity, to recognize the processes of transmission and modalities of reception from the Middle Ages to today. Students will also be able to manage a bibliography for a research project.

Course contents

First part

The general contents of the course will cover: the concept of sound event, the concept of musical knowledge, the musical heritage of the ancient world and its traces, in particular how this heritage was transmitted to the listeners and reading public of the Medieval and Modern Ages, the methodologies of research and textual analysis and the main bibliographical tools.

Second part

In the specific part, aspects of sound and musical events and their significance in the Alexander's Romance attributed to pseudo-Callisthenes and in its vulgarizations, with particular attention to the Italian ones, will be explored.

Furthermore,  students will be guided in an individual exercise to recognize and focus on the aspects of the transmission of a text, manuscript or printed, recognizable as a witness of the musical heritage of the ancient world. The oral examination for students who have attended the lessons will start with the presentation of this individual textual research project.


F. A. Gallo, Introduzione, in: Musica e Storia dal Medio Evo all'Età moderna, Bologna, il Mulino, 1985, pp. 9-29.

D. Restani, L'eredità musicale del Mondo antico, in Musica e società, I, a cura di Paolo Fabbri e Maria Chiara Bertieri, LIM, 2019, pp. 229-297.

Vita di Alessandro il Macedone, a cura di C. Franco, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001; or: Il romanzo di Alessandro seguito da "Vita" di Alessandro, a cura di M. Centanni Milano, SE, 2018; or: ll romanzo di Alessandro, Testo greco e latino a fronte, Vol. 2, a cura di R. Stoneman - T. Gargiulo, Lorenzo Valla-Mondadori, 2012.

D. Restani, Il canto di Alessandro, in D. Restani, Musica per governare, Ravenna, Longo, 2004, pp. 11-29.

D. Restani, Listening between lines: Alexander’s musical legacy in Italy (13th-15th centuries), in The Music Road.Interculturality and Regional Traditions from the Mediterranean to India, ("Proceedings of the British Academy: Themed Volumes”), ed. by Reinhard Strohm, London, 2019, pp. 87-100.

At the end of the course, all the bibliography will be available on the Virtuale platform, where the specific exam preparation methods are also available, for both attending and non-attending students.

Attending students will receive specific reading indications during lessons and can be tutored in an individual research project.

Non-attending students are not required to prepare the research project on the specific text, but they will read all the compulsory bibliography and will add one more reading from the below list:

Rediscovering Ancient Music: the Cultural Heritage of Mousike, in A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music, edited by T. Lynch and E. Rocconi, Blackwell-Wiley 2020, pp.447-488: articoli di C. Panti, D. Restani, D. Castaldo.

D. Restani, Musica per governare, Ravenna, Longo, 2004, 106pp.

F. A. Gallo, Musica nel castello, Bologna, il Mulino 1992, 140pp.

D. Restani, L'itinerario di Girolamo Mei, dalla "Poetica" alla musica, Firenze, Olschki, 1990.

Optional reading to know more:

C.V. Palisca, Humanism in Italian Renaissance Musical Thought, Yale University Press, 1985.

Alessandro nel Medioevo occidentale, a cura di P. Boitani, C. Bologna, A. Cipolla, M. Liborio, Milano, Lorenzo Valla-Mondadori, 1997.


Teaching methods

Teaching can be personalized and attending students will be able to practice an individual exercise that will allow them to combine "knowledge" with " know-how". In particular, the Malatestian library in Cesena will be visited if the situation allows it.

To take up the challenge of Education for Sustainable Development (ESS), methods that stimulate skills through active learning will be favored. Therefore, the student will be put in contact with different research strategies which imply interdisciplinary knowledge.

Assessment methods

The exam consists in an interview to assess the student’s critical and methodological skills. Both "First part" and the "Second part" will be considered during the exam.

Attending students will carry out an individual exercise, including the relevant bibliography, to be presented at the beginning of the examination. The content of the textual research project will be individual and agreed with the professor. It will concern a theme to be analysed in the light of the methodological indications provided during the lessons. 

Non-attending students will be tested on the full bibliography  indicated in the programme and will add one more reading from the appropriate list.

Foreign students which will not attend to the lessons will be required to keep in contact with the Professor by email, phone call, office appointment, etc., to chose the examination texts one month before the exams at least.

The assessment will be based on: knowledge of the subject matter; concept analysis and synthesis; clarity of expression, proper terminology. Particular emphasis will be given to the students ability to manage sources and bibliography in order to obtain the necessary information and to illustrate topics and issues finding connections between them.

Students who show proficiency in knowledge and critical perspective, as well as proficiency in expression and technical vocabulary will be granted the highest marks.

Students who show they have studied, but in a mnemonic way, and are able of synthesis and analysis expressed adequately, will be granted of medium marks.

Students who show basic knowledge, but inadequate vocabulary, will have a pass.

Students who show insufficient knowledge, inadequate vocabulary and don't know appropriately the bibliography, will not pass the exam.


Teaching tools

Audiovisuals, pc, films and stereo.

Students with DSA are requested to contact the Professor for the activation of adequate support tools provided for the exam.

Students can take 2 more CFU attending the DIDACTIC LABORATORY OF MUSIC ARCHAEOLOGY (MusicArcheoLab).

Responsible: prof. Donatella Restani, in collaboration with prof. Daniela Castaldo (Università del Salento), PhD Paolo Bonora, PhD Giovanna Casali.

Content: The didactic project of the MusicArcheoLab proposes the realisation of scientific projects, of an educational nature, for the valorisation and fruition of musical heritage of ancient times, mainly preserved in museums of various types: archaeological, of musical instruments or generalist.

This year's activities will concern the implementation of the database "Repertorium Instrumentorum Musicorum Antiquorum (RIMAnt) / Repertoire of ancient musical instruments", on the Heurist platform, "a free, open-source database platform", set up at the CNRS in Strarsbourg, through the RIMAnt sheet.

The RIMAnt sheet, modulated on the basis of the sheets on Archaeological finds (RA sheet) and Musical instruments (SM sheet) of MIBACT, takes into account other Italian experiences, e.g.: Museo del paesaggio sonoro (https://museopaesaggiosonoro.org/ ), and European experiences, e.g.: "Musique et de danse de l'été" (Museum of the Soundscape). Musique et danse de l'Antiquité" (MEDDEA) designed by Sibylle Emerit (CNRS, HiSoMA, Lyon) within the activities of IFAO (see, for example: https://www.ifao.egnet.net/actus/manifestations /ma682/), concerning the Egyptian environment.

So far, about fifty artefacts have been identified from the first census of ancient musical instruments in Italian museums, launched in 2013, which covered a sample of museums in the central and southern regions and Sicily.

These have been joined by around a hundred others, thanks to the TeMA project: Testimonianze Musicali dell'Antichità in Triveneto, a project of the Department of Cultural Heritage of the University of Padua, by Professor Paola Dessì. At the moment, the results are provisional and it is thought that a more in-depth investigation will enable other finds to be traced. In particular, the following have been catalogued so far: bronze bells and cymbals, terracotta and bone rattles, fragments of wind instruments made of bronze, wood, bone and ivory, and a few tortoise shells, used as sounding boards for stringed instruments.

The annual objectives of the Laboratory will be:

- a reflection on the need to take into account a hitherto unrecognised musical heritage for musicology and archaeology, but also for other cultural heritage studies;

- a reflection on the problems related to the terminology of instruments and their classification;

- a reflection on the fields of the RIMAnt card for instrument cataloguing;

- the knowledge of Zotero and (eventual) cleaning of the collected thematic bibliography;

- the use of the Heurist-based catalogue, data entry and functional verification;

- the data entry into database and functional verification.

Max number of students: 10

Running period: February, March, April, May 2022

Laboratory teaching: there will be at least 3 meetings (one per month) of 2 hours each and a final seminar, for a total of 8/10 hours. The dates will be communicated by December.

How to access: send an email to: donatella.restani@unibo.it

Piano Primo Ammezzato
Palazzo Corradini
Via Angelo Mariani, 5 - Ravenna;

possible online and in presence teaching.


Office hours

See the website of Donatella Restani