Yet, despite claims that songs from ancient civilisations have been recovered – found carved into walls or impressed into clay tablets – it is nearly impossible to reconstruct ancient lyrics and melodies.
Arguably the earliest-known song, with both melody and lyrics recorded intact, from antiquity is the ‘Epitaph of Seikilos’, a funerary piece intended for voice and the string instrument, the lyre.
The Ancient Greek composition, thought to have been written in the first century AD, exists on a marble stele, which was discovered in 1883 in modern-day Turkey.
To go along with its melancholic melody (which can be heard here), are these sobering lyrics:
While you live, shine
Do not suffer anything at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands its toll.
This article was first published in the November 2015 issue of BBC History Revealed magazine