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ὕδραυλος). A water-organ. According to Athenaeus, it was the invention of Ctesibius of Alexandria (q.v.), who evidently took the idea of his organ from the syrinx or Pandean pipes, a musical instrument of the highest antiquity among the Greeks. His object being to employ a row of pipes of great size, and capable of emitting the most powerful as well as the softest sounds, he contrived the means of adapting keys with levers (ἀγκωνίσκοι), and with perforated sliders (πώματα) to open and shut the mouths of the pipes (γλωσσόκομα), a supply of wind being obtained, without intermission, by bellows, in which the pressure of water performed the same part which is fulfilled in the modern organ by a weight (Hero , Spirit. 228). On this account the instrument invented by Ctesibius was called the water-organ (ὕδραυλις, ὑδραυλικὸν ὄργανον, Heron, Spirit.; hydraulica machina, Vitruv. x. 13; hydraulus, Pliny , Pliny H. N. ix. 24; Cic. Tusc. iii. 18.43). It is described in an epigram by the emperor Julian (Brunck, Anal. ii. 403 =Anth. Pal. ix. 365), who mentions the swift fingers of the performer, but not the water-bellows; and more clearly in the lines of Claudian (De Manl. Theod. Cons. 316-319). We have here the keys, the innumerable pipes of metal, the lever as large as a beam which sets the water in motion. Its pipes were partly of bronze (χαλκειὴ ἄρουρα, Julian ; seges aëna, Claudian), and partly of reed (δόνακες, Julian ). The number of its stops, and consequently of its rows of pipes, varied from one to eight, so that Tertullian (De Anima, 14) describes it with reason as an exceedingly complicated instrument. We are still in the dark as to the exact part played by the water, which, besides, must have rendered the instrument much less portable. As invented by Ctesibius, the organ was doubtless hydraulic: but the epigram of Julian omits all mention of the water, and probably, in later times, the mechanism was simplified and the bellows blown directly by the pedal, as in the modern harmonium.

The organ was well adapted to gratify the Roman people in the splendid entertainments provided for them by the emperors and other opulent persons. Nero was very curious about organs, both in regard to their musical effect and their

Organ, from a coin of Nero. (British Museum.)

mechanism (Suet. Ner. 41, 54). A contorniate coin of this emperor in the British Museum (see illustration) shows a small organ with a sprig of laurel on one side and a man standing on the other. The general form of the organ is also clearly exhibited in a poem by Publilius Porphyrius Optatianus, describing the instrument, and composed of verses so constructed as to show both the lower part which contained the bellows, the wind-chest which lay upon it, and over this the row of twenty-six pipes. These are represented by twenty-six lines, which increase in length each by one letter, until the last line is twice as long as the first (Wernsdorf, Poetae Lat. Min. vol. ii. pp. 394-413).

There can be little doubt that ὑδραύλης, hydraula or hydraules, denotes the organist (Suet. Ner. 54; Sat. 36). See Musica.

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Suetonius, Nero, 41
    • Suetonius, Nero, 54
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 9.24
    • Petronius, Satyricon, 36
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 3.18
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