Ellen Van Keer

Centrum Leo Apostel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Krijgskundestraat 33, B-1160 Brussel.
Phone: +32-2-640.67.37
Fax: +32-2-644.07.44

Research interests
classics - historiography - mythology - religion - cult - sacrifice - Marsyas - imagery - music - Mousikè - aulos - interdiscplinarity


Lic. Kunstgeschiedenis en archeologie, oudheid (Vrije universiteit Brussel)
Aggr. S.O. groep2, Latijn (Vrije universiteit Brussel)
D.E.A. Philosophie et lettres, histoire des religions (Université de Liège)

PhD Project

Μούσαι φιλαύλοι. The role of the aulos in images of myth and cult on Attic vases.

Since ancient Greece has been recognized as a traditional “oral” performance culture rather than the first “literate" society, its pervasive category of Mousike has started to enjoy unprecedented attention and expansion in classical scholarship, reaching beyond the traditional confines of the branch of music history. In line with this new movement, this project approaches the ancient Greek aulos from the viewpoint of the study of ancient Greek religion. The aulos (“double flute") was the predominant wind instrument used throughout Greek history. However, it gained the dubious reputation scholarship of being an outsider and quintessentially Dionysian instrument, that was mostly played by satyrs, slaves, foreigners, prostitutes and the like, but abandoned to the contrary particularly by the Athenian citizen elite, who preferred the 'Apolline' lyres. Admittedly, this polarized musical perception roots largely in a predominant philosophical discours (Plato, Nietzsche) and can be qualified by integrating the visual sources and the religious perspective into this inquiry. Arguable an integrated approach is more adequate.
In the ancient Greek Mousikè (“of the Muses") musical and religious behavior intertwine. However, the musical dimension has largely escaped the view of the specialists of Greek religion, tending to leave it to the separate domain of expertise of ancient Greek music history. This project elaborates a more integrated approach. It concentrates on the place of the aulos in the intersection between music and religion in Athens. More specifically, it focuses on the representations of the aulos in images of myth and cult in Attic vase-painting. The myth of Marsyas and the ritual of animal sacrifice serve as the central cases. In these contexts, this study investigates: 1) the variety of religious associations and functions of the aulos attested in the images, 2) the musical debates concerning the aulos reflected and formed by the imagery, 3) the transforming cultural attitudes to which they were related. This research aims to produce a new and more complex understanding of the role of the aulos in classical Athens, that goes beyond the classical separations of music and religion, myth and history, Apollo and Dionysus, texts and images, object and concept, past and present, etc. They all interrelate in intricate ways and it is ultimately this complexity we aim to understand.


  • “Chanter les dieux grecs. Compte rendu critique de Pierre Brulé & Christophe Vendries (Eds), Chanter les Dieux. Musique et religion dans l' Antiquité grecque et romaine. Actes du colloque des 16, 17 et 18 decembre 1999 à Rennes et Lorient (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2001)”, Kernos 16 (2003), p. 357-363. [text]
  • “De Griekse Marsyasmythe: mythologie en iconografie” Kleio 34 (2004), p.13-24.
  • “The Myth of Marsyas in Ancient Greek Art: musical and mythological iconography”, Music in Art XXIX 1-2 (2004), p. 20-37.[text]
  • “Penelope Murray & Peter Wilson (Eds), Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)”, Kernos 18 (2005), p. 553-357. [text]
  • “Synnove Des Bouvrie (Ed.), Myth & Symbol II. Symbolic Phenomena in Ancient Greek Culture. Papers from the Norwegian Institute at Athens, 7 (Oslo: Paul Astroms Forlag, 2004)”, Kernos 21 (2008), p. 250-252.[text]
  • “Sheramy D. Bundrick, Music and Image in Classical Athens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)”, Imago Musicae XXIII-XXIV (2008/2010), p. 153-157.
  • “Roger D. Woodard (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)”, L'antiquité classique (2009).
  • “Archaeology of Ancient Greek Music: from reconstructing instruments to deconstructing concepts”, in Studies in Music Archaeology 7 (2010), 43-51.[text]
  • “Daniel D. Ogden, Perseus (London - New York: Routledge, 2008)”, The Classical Review 60/2 (2010), p. 624. [text]<
  • “Judith M. Barringer, Art, Myth, and Ritual in Classical Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)”, L'Antiquité Classique (2010).
  • “Jesper Tae Jensen, George Hinge, Peter Schultz, Bronwen Wickkiser (Eds), Aspects of Ancient Greek Cult: Context, Ritual and Iconography. Aarhus Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2010)”, BMCR 2010.08.12. [text]
  • “On Bridging Theory and Practice in the Perspective of History”, in Diederik Aerts, Bart D'Hooghe and Rik Pinxten (Eds), Worldviews, Science and US: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Worlds, Cultures and society (Singapore: World Scientific, 2011), p. 181-220.


  • “The Ancient Greek Myth of Marsyas: the curse of the music of the aulos and the blessings of mythological iconography in the study of music history” Paper. Music in Art: Iconography as a Source for Music History. 9th Conference of the Research Center for Music Iconography, commemorating the 20th anniversary of death of the Austrian-American musicologist Emanuel Winternitz (1898-1983). New York, CUNY, 5-8 November 2003 (abstracts p. 39).
  • “Marsyas in de Griekse Iconografie” Paper. “In zee met Zeus” Over de Griekse mythen en mythologie. K.U. Leuven, 30 March 2004 (abstracts p. 3).
  • “Olympus the Musician in ancient Greek art” Paper. Metamorphoses of Orpheus. Musical Images from Greek Mythology and their revivals in European art. Corfu, Ionian Academy, 26-29 June 2008 (abstracts p. 69).
  • “Integrating Music and Religion in the Study of the Ancient Greek aulos and Mousikè.” Poster. Musical Perceptions - Past and Present. On Ethnographic Analogy and Experimental Archaeology in Music Archaeological Research. 6th Symposium of the International Study Group on Music Archaeology. Berlin, Ethnological Museum, September 9-13, 2008 (abstracts p. 27-28).[poster]
  • “On the 'archeology of knowledge' of the ancient Greek aulos and Mousikè” Paper, 8th BIRTHA Postgraduate Conference: What we do, and why: interpretation and methodology in Classics. Bristol, 9 September 2009 (abstracts p. 9-10).
  • “Integrating Texts and Images in the Study of the Ancient Greek aulos-myths” Poster and presentation. 3d Annual Meeting of MOISA: International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and its Cultural Heritage. Moisa Epichorios: Regional Music and Musical Regions. Theory and Practice in Text and Image in Ancient Greece. Ravenna, 1-3 October 2009.[poster]
  • “The music of the aulos and its myths in ancient Greece” Presentation. IIIrd crosstalks sessions, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 20 October 2009.
  • "Musicians in Greek Images of sacrificial processions" Paper. Sound and Ritual in Music Archaeology: Bridging Material and Living Cultures. ICTM Study Group for Music Archaeology, University of Valladolid, Spain, 19-24 September 2011 (abstracts p. 14-15).
  • "Aulos-players in images of animal sacrifice on Attic vases" Paper. Aspects of Ancient Greek Cult II. Architecture – Context – Music. An International Colloquium in Honor of Erik Hansen. Copenhagen, 4-6 May 2012 (abstracts p. 7).

Stays abroad

  • Ancient Greek Summer School, Classics department, University College Cork, Ireland, July-August 2003.
  • Summer School on Ancient Greek Music 2008, Ionian Academy, Corfu, 30 June-6 July.
  • Archive of Greek music iconography, Aristotle university, Thessaloniki, June 2010.
  • Summer School on Ancient Greek Music 2010, Ionian Academy, Corfu, 5-10 July.
  • Summer School on Ancient Greek Music 2011, Ionian Academy, Corfu, 3-9 July.

In Preparation

  • “Olympus the Musician in Ancient Greek Art: Mythology and Music History”. Article
  • "Musicians in images of animal sacrifice on Attic Vases" Article.

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen
Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels
Last update Oct. 22, 2012