For the Greeks music had an ethical dimension. Plato thought that music not only aroused the emotions temporarily but permanently influenced a man's character. Aristotle too accepts that music expresses moral qualities and thus has an effect on the soul: for education (though not for relaxation, for which all kinds of music are suitable) he would admit only the Dorian.

A few small fragments of Greek music survive, on papyri, on stone, and in manuscripts. It is apparent that the Greeks used two kinds of alphabetic notation, one for the voice and another for musical instruments. Interpretation of the fragments is very uncertain.