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For the genus of gastropods, see Idiomela.

Idiomelon (Greek: ἰδιόμελον from idio-, "unique" and -melon, "melody"; Church Slavonic: самогласенъ, samoglasen)—pl. idiomela—is a type of hymn found in the liturgical books used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.[note 1] Unlike the avtomela (or aftomela—sing. avtomelon or aftomelon (αὐτόμελον)), idiomela are not used to create another hymn—called prosomoion (προσόμοιον)—in content, metre or melody.

Definition of idiomelon, avtomelon and prosomoion[edit]

An idiomelon is a sticheron which became assigned to one of the eight tones of Byzantine chant during the Studites reform. The hymn category idiomelon can only be understood in comparison with avtomelon and prosomoia. Among Orthodox hymns the repertory of the notated or unnotated chant book Sticherarion is the most heterogenous, but it is usually a collection idiomelic hymns, which means stichera which can be identified by their own (idiomatic) melodies. But the idiomela are also hymns which belong now to the book Oktoechos mega, which had once been part of the book sticherarion according to the Studite reform.

Avtomela and prosomoia as categories of the Studites reform[edit]

There are other hymns called "prosomoia" (Sl. podobny) which do not have own melodies. As hymns they were composed on the base of an existing melodic model called avtomelon (Sl. samopodobny)—a melody which generates hymns on the base of its metrical structure (the same technique of composing poetry was used in the heirmologion, but here the model represents a very strict and complex metrum, the ode).

The avtomela can be the daily resurrection hymns (apolytikia anastasima), but today as well melodies which are no longer specified by a text. In some Orthodox traditions these textless melody models can be found in the Voskresnik, while the texts of the prosomoia, as far as they belong to the fixed cycle or sanctoral, are in the text book Menaion. Their echos or glas and the incipit of the avtomelon are indicated at the beginning, while the chant book Menaion belongs to the Sticherarion. It usually contains only the stichera idiomela with their melody represented by Byzantine neumes (see the list of the fixed Menaion cycle of the editors of the Musica Monumenta Byzantinae).


Originally the avtomela had been hymns with their own melodies like the idiomela, which had been used during the 9th-century hymn reform to compose new hymns according to the needs of a local liturgy—the prosomoia.

But with the Slavic reception in the medieval chant book "Voskresnik", it was not possible to create the same complex relation between chant and text, when the prosomoia had been translated. So they created a system of simple avtomela melodies which could be easier adapted to the translated prosomoia.

In the monodic tradition of Byzantine chant, the reform of the 18th century, which created a new definition of the troparic, heirmologic, and fast sticheraric melos with simple melodies of the two fastest tempo levels, it was partly based on a living tradition of simple recitation out of text books without musical notation.

Example: avtomelon with prosomoion[edit]

The following avtomelon has lines with 15, 15, 13, 13, 13, and 7 syllables and the prosomoion shown with it has the same number of lines, each with the same number of syllables; therefore, the prosomoion can be sung with exactly the same melody, syllable by syllable, as the avtomelon it is patterened after. For reference, the Greek text is followed by English text in the same word order. The avtomelon is the kontakion for Christmas and the prosomoion is from the octoechos for a Sunday of tone 3.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Whole line Type
Παρ θέ νος σή με ρον τὸν πε ρού σι ον τίκ τει Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον, τὸν ὑπερούσιον τίκτει,
The Virgin today to the Transcendent One gives birth
‘Εξ α νέσ της σή με ρον πὸ τοῦ τά φου Οἰκ τίρ μον ‘Εξανέστης σήμερον, ἀπὸ τοῦ τάφου Οἰκτίρμον,
Out-resurrected today from the grave O Compassionate One
καὶ γῆ τὸ Σπή λαι ον τῷ προ σί τῳ προ σά γει καὶ ἡ γῆ τὸ Σπήλαιον, τῷ ἀπροσίτῳ προσάγει.
and the earth a cave to the Unapproachable One offers
καὶ μᾶς ἐξ ή γα γες ἐκ τῶν πυ λῶν τοῦ θα νά του καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐξήγαγες, ἐκ τῶν πυλῶν τοῦ θανάτου,
and us out-lifted from the gates of death
Ἄγ γελ οι με τὰ Ποι μέ νων δο ξο λο γοῦ σι Ἄγγελοι μετὰ Ποιμένων δοξολογοῦσι.
Angels with shepherds glorify
σή με ρον δὰμ χο ρεύ ει καὶ χαί ρει Εὔ α σήμερον Ἀδὰμ χορεύει, καὶ χαίρει Εὔα,
Today Adam exults, and rejoices Eve
Μά γοι δὲ με τἀ ἀσ τέ ρος δοι πο ροῦ σι Μάγοι δὲ μετὰ ἀστέρος ὁδοιποροῦσι·
Magi with a star journey
μα δέ καὶ οἱ Προ φῆ ται σὺν Πατ ρι άρ χαις ἅμα δέ, καὶ οἱ Προφῆται, σὺν Πατριάρχαις,
together both the prophets with patriarchs
δι' μᾶς γὰρ γεν νή θη Πα δί ον νέ ον δι' ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγεννήθη, Παιδίον νέον,
For to us is born an Infant young
νυ μνοῦ σιν κα τα παύ στως τὸ θεῖ ον κρά ἀνυμνοῦσιν ἀκαταπαύστως, τὸ θεῖον κρά-
sing unceasingly, the divine mighti-
πρὸ αἰ ώ νων Θε ός ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων Θεός.
The pre-ages God
τος τῆς ἐξ ου σί ας σου τος τῆς ἐξουσίας σου.
ness of power yours.

Caveat about north Slavic music[edit]

While the Bulgarians and Serbs use Byzantine Music, adapted as explained above, Russians and other northern Slavs use western music and for them the "tones" are simply melodies in the same scale. In their case, all ideomela (Church Slavonic: самогласны) for a given "tone" are sung to the same melody and an avtomelon (Church Slavonic: самоподобенъ) and its prosomoia (Church Slavonic: подобны) are simply other melodies, again, all in the same scale, not actually in different tomes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite

External links[edit]