The Musical Modes (Octave Structures) of Ancient Greece
In music, a mode is an ordered series of musical intervals. The music of ancient Greece described musical scales in the context of scalar modes containing eight notes called an octave; each octave had seven intervals between the notes. Only seven modes are known to have been in use by the Greeks of the classical era -- the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. These modes or scales were named after the geographic region that had traditionally preferred that mode, i.e., Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc. Each of the modes was associated with the celestial spheres of one of the seven planets (or wandering stars) of ancient astronomy/astrology. By Roman times, an eighth mode, the Hypomixolydian, had been added; it was associated with the realm of the Fixed Stars. These eight modes were now associated with the four elements and the four humors as well. Also, each mode was placed under the patronage of a Muse: Clio, Calliope, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Urania (according to the Chaldean order). The ninth Muse, Thalia, was assigned the Terrestrial Sphere and governed "Silence." The god Apollo governed all the nine Muses, their celestial spheres, and their modes including "Silence."
The above correspondences, as used during the European Renaissance, are summarized by the following table:
To learn the order of the correspondences, you might memorize these verses written by the famous Renaissance occultist, Henry Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) as follows:
The modes differ from each other in their respective patterns of tones and semitones; these differences were thought to determine the character of the mode and was of central importance in applying musical therapy to the individual soul.
The following table describes the octave intervals for the original seven classical Greek scales (names are those used in Classical times) as compared to the modern-day, twelve semi-tone, equal temperament tuning measured in Cents. The scale customarily used by the Pythagoreans in classical times was the Lydian scale. It should be noted that each scale has two semi-tone "critical intervals," but they occur in different positions for each scale. For the most part, modern music makes use of only two of these scales -- the Lydian (Major) and Aeolian (Minor).