This substantial fragment of ancient Greek music, written mostly in the ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode, was discovered inscribed on a slab of marble in May 1893, in the ruins of the Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi. The Hymn is now preserved in the Museum of Delphi: Delphi Inv. No. 517, 494, 499.
There are two Delphic Hymns that have been discovered, and they were dedicated to the god Apollo. The two Delphic Hymns have sadly not survived in their complete form. However, they do survive in substantial fragments...giving just a tantalizing taste of the glory of the tragically lost, magnificent musical culture of ancient Greece.
The two Delphic Hymns were traditionally dated c.138 BC (the year of the Pythian Games, dedicated to the god Apollo) and 128 BC (The year of the Pythian Festival, dedicated to the god Apollo). However, more recent musicological research may indicate that both Hymns were actually written in 128 BCE, the year of the Pythian Festival:
"They were long regarded as being dated circa 138 BCE and 128 BCE, respectively, but recent scholarship has shown it likely they were both written for performance at the Athenian Pythaides in 128 BCE (Pöhlmann and West 2001, 71–72). If indeed it dates from ten years before the second, the First Delphic Hymn is the earliest unambiguous surviving example of notated music from anywhere in the western world whose composer is known by name." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphic_Hymns
According to this more recent scholarship, the composer’s name of the First Delphic Hymn was "Athénaios Athenaíou" (Athenios son of Athenios)
The First Delphic Hymn is written in the unambiguous alphabetical musical notation system used in ancient Greece, whereby alphabetical notation describing the pitch of the melody, is written above the text of the song. The rhythm can easily be inferred from the syllables of the text.
This ancient Greek musical notation can be clearly seen in the image below, of the actual First Delphic Hymn, as it was found, inscribed in marble:
The translation of the fragment of text which has survived of the First Delphic Hymn to Apollo is as follows:
"Hear me, you who posses deep-wooded Helicon,
fair-armed daughters of Zeus the magnificent!
Fly to beguile with your accents your brother,
golden-tressed Phoebus who, on the twin peak of this rock of Parnassus,
escorted by illustrious maidens of Delphi,
sets out for the limpid streams of Castalia, traversing,
on the Delphic promontory, the prophetic pinnacle.
Behold glorious Attica, nation of the great city which,
thanks to the prayers of the Tritonid warrior,
occupies a hillside sheltered from all harm.
On the holy alters Hephaestos consumes the thighs of young bullocks,
mingled with the flames, the Arabian vapor rises towards Olympos.
The shrill rustling lotus murmurs its swelling song, and the golden kithara,
the sweet-sounding kithara, answers the voice of men.
And all the host of poets, dwellers in Attica, sing your glory, God,
famed for playing the kithara, son of great Zeus,
beside this snow-crowned peak, oh you who reveal to all mortals
the eternal and infallible oracles.
They sing how you conquered the prophetic tripod
guarded by a fierce dragon when, with your darts
you pierced the gaudy, tortuously coiling monster,
so that, uttering many fearful hisses, the beast expired.
They sing too, . . . ."