), a mystical
instrument of music, used by the ancient Egyptians in their ceremonies, and
especially in the worship of Isis (Ovid, Ov. Met.
2.13, 11, 3.9, 34; de Ponto,
1.1, 38). It was held in the right hand (see
woodcut), and shaken, from which circumstance it derived its name (aera repulsa manu,
). Its most
common form is seen in the right-hand figure of the annexed woodcut, which
represents an ancient sistrum (cf. Micali, Mon. ined.
xvii.; Plut. de Is. et Osir.
pp. 670, 671). Apuleius
xi. pp. 119, 121,
ed. Aldi) describes the sistrum as a bronze rattle (aereum crepitaculum
), consisting of a narrow plate
curved like a sword-belt (balteus
which passed a few rods, that rendered a loud shrill sound. He says that
these instruments were sometimes made of silver or even of gold.
The introduction of the worship of Isis into Italy shortly before the
commencement of the Christian era made the Romans familiar with this
instrument. The “linigeri calvi, sistrataque turba” (Mart. 12.29
), are most exactly depicted in two
paintings found at Portici (Ant. d'Ercolano,
vol. ii. pp.
309-320), and containing the two figures of a priest of Isis and a woman
kneeling at her altar, which are introduced into the preceding woodcut. The
use of the sistrum in Egypt as a military instrument to collect the troops
is probably a fiction (Verg. A. 8.696
Propert. 3.11, 43).
is sometimes used for a child's rattle
; Pollux, 9.127).