He was a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian, on whose favorite Antinous he is said to have written a panegyric, specifically called a Citharoedic Hymn (Suidas). Two epigrams by him in the Greek Anthology (Anthol. pal. xiv. 63, xvi. 323) are extant, and a hymn to Nemesis. The hymn is one of four which preserve the ancient musical notation written over the text. Two other hymns, one to the muse Calliope and one entitled Hymn to the Sun, formerly assigned to Dionysius of Alexandria, have also been attributed to Mesomedes. In an article published in 2003, Annie Bélis proves that the Berlin musical papyrus (inv. 6870) contains a Paean to Apollo written by Mesomedes. A total of 15 poems by Mesomedes are known.
Prior to the discovery of the Seikilos epitaph in the late 19th century, the hymns of Mesomedes were the only surviving written music from the ancient world. Three were published by Vincenzo Galilei in his Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna (Florence, 1581), during a period of intense investigation into music of the ancient Greeks. These hymns had been preserved through the Byzantine tradition, and were presented to Vincenzo by Girolamo Mei.
See J. F. Bellermann, Die Hymnen des Dionysius und Mesomedes (1840); C. de Jan, Musici scriptores graeci (1899); S. Reinach in Revue des études grecques, ix (1896); Suidas, s.v.
The dialect of this hymn is different from the others (Ionian rather than Doric), and the style is also slightly different; for this reason J.G. Landels believes that it is probably not by Mesomedes.
Father of the Dawn with her snow-white eyelids,
you who follow in your rose-pink chariot
the track of your flying steeds,
exulting in the gold of your hair,
twining your darting rays
across the boundless vault of sky,
whirling around the whole earth
the thread of your all-seeing beams,
while flowing rivers of your deathless fire
beget the lovely day.
For you the peaceful chorus of stars
dance their measure across Olympos their lord,
forever singing their leisured song,
rejoicing in the music of Apollo’s lyre;
and leading them the silvery-grey Moon
marshals the months and seasons,
drawn by her team of milk-white heifers.
And your benevolent mind rejoices
as it whirls around the manifold raiment of the universe.