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CRO´TALUM (κρόταλον, κρέμβαλον), a kind of castanet, rattle, or clapper used by dancers, but distinct from the CYMBALUM and the SISTRUM with which it has sometimes been confused. All three were used by the Egyptians, and specimens of all have been found on the monuments or in the tombs (Woods, on Hdt. 2.60; Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2.318). The simplest form was probably a couple of shells or potsherds pierced with holes and strung together (λεπάδας δὲ πετρῶν ἀποκόπτοντες κρεμβαλιάψουσι, [p. 1.565]Hermipp. fragm. 29 Meineke; κογχύλια καὶ ὄστρακα, Didymus ap. Ath. 14.636 d, quoted also by the Scholiast on Aristoph. Frogs 1305 [1340]; testarum crepitus, Juv. 11.170; σκεῦός τι ἐξ ὀστράκου, Eustath. ad Il. 11.160). Some writers explain ὄστρακα as though the crotalum were actually moulded in earthenware ; but this seems less likely. Brass and wood are also mentioned as materials (κρόταλα χαλκοῦ, Eur. Cycl. 204, cf. Mart. 11.16; cava buxa, Propert. 5.8, 42; Eustath. l.c.); and a split reed or

Crotala. (Borghese Vase now in the Louvre.)

cane (δ σχιψόμενος κάλαμος, Schol. Aristoph. Cl. 260; Suidas). Altogether the crotalum cannot have differed much from the castanets now so often heard as an accompaniment to certain kinds of vocal music. It was used by the Egyptians in the worship of Pasht or Artemis'(Hdt. 2.60), by the Greeks in that of Cybele ([Hom.] Hymn. 14.3; Pind. fragm. 48=79 Bergk4; Apul. Met. viii. p. 170) and Dionysus (Eur. Hel. 1308; Cycl. l.c.).

Women who danced to the crotalum were called crotalistriae (Propert. 5.8, 39; cf. Macr. 3.14.7). Such was the Virgilian Copa (v. 2), “Crispum sub crotalo docta movere latus.” The above cut exhibits both the style of dancing and the mode of holding the crotala.

The κρέμβαλα (Ath. 14.636 c; cf. [Hom.] Hymn. Apoll. Pyth. 162) are no doubt to be reckoned with the crotalum rather than with the cymbalum (Liddell and Scott, s. v. ; Fernique, in D. and S.). There is no evidence that κροῦμα or κροῦσμα, “the sound produced by striking,” was also the name of an instrument; and the Baetica crusmata of the Spaniard Martial (6.71) are almost certainly the clatter of Spanish castanets, not a particular kind of castanet.


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 1305
    • Euripides, Cyclops, 204
    • Euripides, Helen, 1308
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.60
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 260
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 11.16
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 6.71
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