The Roman historian Livy tells this interesting tale of what happened on one occasion when musicians in the city went on strike en masse. The condescending tone towards musicians is obvious at the outset, when Livy says this story is of little consequence, and would not even merit consideration, were it not connected with some public religious ceremonies, and the status of musicians as employees with a somewhat necessary function.
My questions are these:
(1) Has the status of musicians, composers, and performers changed very much since this era, well over 2,000 years ago? (The events described occur during the period of the early Roman Republic, circa 312 B.C., when the polity had hardly expanded beyond being a city state).
(2) Is it conceivable today, that musicians, composers and performers, could pursue a "strike action" like the one described below, and successfully get any of their demands met?
I am asking about musicians as a class of people. (Put aside the fact that some few musicians, either in the popular culture, or in the elite musical culture, may have a certain amount of clout).
(3) Might it be the case that music, as an art, or as a beneficial pursuit, is LESS esteemed today, than it was in ancient Rome? Or is the "situation" for most musicians, composers, and performers better today?
Here is the short tale.
Livy's History of Rome: Book 9
"An incident of a somewhat trifling character occurred this year which I should have passed over did it not appear to be connected with religious customs. The guild of flute-players had been forbidden by the censors to hold their annual banquet in the temple of Jupiter, a privilege they had enjoyed from ancient times. Hugely disgusted, they went off in a body to Tibur, and not one was left in the City to perform at the sacrificial rites. The senate were alarmed at the prospect of the various religious ceremonies being thus shorn of their due ritual, and they sent envoys to Tibur, who were to make it their business to see that the Romans got these men back again.
"The Tiburtines promised to do their best, and invited the musicians into the Senate-house, where they were strongly urged to return to Rome. As they could not be persuaded to do so, the Tiburtines adopted a ruse quite appropriate to the character of the men they were dealing with. It was a feast day and they were invited to various houses, ostensibly to supply music at the banquets. Like the rest of their class, they were fond of wine, and they were plied with it till they drank themselves into a state of torpor. In this condition they were thrown into wagons and carried off to Rome. They were left in the wagons all night in the Forum, and did not recover their senses till daylight surprised them still suffering from the effect of their debauch.
"The people crowded round them and succeeded in inducing them to stay, and they were granted the privilege of going about the City for three days every year in their long dresses and masks with singing and mirth; a custom which is still observed. Those members of the guild who played on solemn occasions in the temple of Jupiter had the right restored to them of holding their banquets there. These incidents occurred while the public attention was fixed on two most serious wars." [ ... with the neighboring Samnites and Etrurians ... ]