is mentioned by Cic. Ver. 3.44, 105
; Hor. A. P.
574; Liv. 39.10
(Dind.), as being a musical entertainment
at banquets. We hear also of specially-trained slaves, who were called
and were kept by rich men to
provide this music (Cic. Mil. 21
5.25, 64: cf. Gel. 19.3
; Macr. 4
): in Cic. Fam. 6.9
symphonia means a dinner so accompanied. It was one of the luxuries
introduced from Asia about 187 B.C. (Liv. 39.6
181; Becker-Göll, Gallus,
There has been much difference of opinion on the question what the symphonia
was, and even whether it was vocal or instrumental music. Some, as Rich,
hold that it was a sort of drum. This, which is surely highly improbable
when we consider its use at dinner-parties, rests on the authority of
2.21) and the lexicographer Ugutio, who
follows him (see Du Cange, s. v.). It may be remarked on this that Isidore,
writing in the 7th century, is probably interpreting a word which he finds
in older writers, not describing an instrument which he had seen. On the
other hand, Baumeister (Denkm.
p. 563) connects it with the
and considers it to be a sort of
bagpipe: a view which had previously been taken by some commentators on the
passages in Dan. iii., where the LXX. translates by συμφωνία
the similar Hebrew word (see Dict. of the
s. v. Dulcimer). Dr. Pusey, again, in a learned note on
this passage (Lectures on. Daniel,
p. 29), holds positively
that in Greek and Latin the word never meant an instrument at all, but only
chorus singing; and his view might find support in Jerome on St. Luke xv.,
who says that some Latin writers have wrongly taken it to. be an organ,
whereas it means only vocal harmony. We cannot, however, be sure whether
Jerome is speaking generally or only in reference to this passage.
It seems to us at any rate reasonable to demand that whatever sense is given
to pueri symphoniaci
should agree with that
which we accept for symphonia. If the ordinary view is correct, that these
slaves were trained singers (so Marquardt, Privatl.
), then it would follow
that symphonia meant concerted vocal music. But there is, it seems to us,
some evidence against this. In the passages cited above from Cicero, Horace,
Livy, and Macrobius, it may safely be asserted that the sense suits vocal or
instrumental music equally well; and so they bring us no nearer to a
conclusion. But when we read in Cic.
Div. in Caecil. 17
, 55, that a praefectus took
possession of some pueri symphoniaci
fleet, it seems absolutely necessary to suppose that.these were slaves
trained to play the flute and distributed through the fleet, to-act each as
Further confirmation of this
may be gathered from the introduction of the symphonia in naval use by
Prudentius (in Sym.
2.527), where the glosses (as also Ven.
Fortunat. in the 6th cent.) take it to be a wind instrument, whether
Again, in Plin. Nat. 9.24
“delphinus symphoniae cantu mulcetur et praecipue
hydrauli,” it is hard to see how it could be coupled with the
hydraulus, unless it was an instrument. (The passage in H. N.
10.84 is not decisive.) The same deduction may be made from Petron. 34,
where “symphonia” is clearly distinguished from “chorus
cantans,” as it seems to be also in Cic.
. Lastly, in spite of
Dr. Pusey's denial, it seems to us necessary, in the two passages of
Polybius cited at the beginning of this article, to understand συμφωνία
as a band of flute-players (the
being distinguished from it as
a sort of cornet). Whether the flute so used was a special Asiatic pattern,
or whether the point which differentiated it as Eastern consisted in the
flutes being so graduated as to perform concerted music, cannot be
determined: if the latter, the fact of the flutes being arranged for
different parts may have distinguished the symphoniaci from the tibicines.
We gather from Dig. 9
, that the music
was so concerted that the loss of one of the symphoniaci would render the
rest comparatively valueless, and therefore the damage was estimated in
regard to the depreciation of the other “corpora” also, as in
the case of a matched team of horses.
A single member of the συμφωνία
who appears in Martial, 9.77
, as choraules,
to avoid the awkward word symphoniacus.
possible,, and indeed probable, that symphonia signified also a band
composed of different instruments, and not of the flute only, like the
private bands in some great houses at the present day: all the evidence
seems to us against its meaning a-single instrument, except in very: late
writers (see Du Cange), [p. 2.740]
where the word seems to
have been adopted as the term for a flute. In an inscription (Wilmanns,
1344) we find a “Collegium Symphoniacorum” employed for public
The question whether the word συμφωνία
adopted as the nearest Greek approach to a Hebrew or Chaldaic word, or
whether the Hebrew writer borrowed from the Greek, it is beyond our scope to
discuss: reference may be made to Dict. of the Bible,
Dr. Pusey as cited above.