), a lyre, the chief stringed
instrument used in Greek music. Two main varieties are known to us from
ancient art and literature, viz. the lyre
) properly so called, and the
The distinctness of the lyre and the cithara may be shown from
iii. p. 399 D, λύρα δή
σοι, ἧν δ᾽ἐγώ, καὶ κιθάρα λείπεται κατὰ πόλιν
), and from Aristotle, who excludes the cithara from
8.6 = p. 1341, 18, οὔτε γὰρ αὐλοὺς εἰς παιδείαν ἀκτέον οὔτ᾽ ἄαλλο
τεχνικὸν ὄργανον, οἷον κιθάραν κἂν εἴ τι τοιοῦτον ἕτερόν
) Mythologists generally taught that the cithara was
invented by Apollo, the lyre by Hermes (Paus.
). The difference between the two
instruments seems to be sufficiently ascertained from the representations of
them [p. 2.105]
found on ancient monuments, especially
painted vases, on which two well-marked types can
Cithara (Guhl and Koner.)
be traced. One of these answers closely to the description which
the author of the Homeric hymn to Hermes gives of the lyre invented by the
youthful god (H. Merc.
41 ff.). The lower part or body of the
instrument consists of a tortoise-shell, or of a wooden case in which the
original tortoiseshell is more or less faithfully reflected. In this shell
are fixed two curved arms (πήχεις
horns, joined at the upper end by a crossbar (ζυγόν
). The strings pass from the shell, over a bridge or fret
of reeds (δόνακες
), to the ζυγόν.
The instruments of the other type are
larger, and show a decided advance in point of construction. The shell is
replaced by a wooden case, usually square or angular, and instead of
“horns” we find the sides of the case prolonged upwards, so
that the whole framework acts as a resonance box of considerable power. Now,
it is clear from the evidence of the monuments that the first of these was
the instrument of education and of every-day life; while the second was the
“technical instrument,” seen in the hands of professional
), who wear the long
robe proper to musical contests and other festivals. The first, therefore,
must be the lyre, and the second the cithara.
The early history of the lyre and cithara is obscure. In Homer we find a
stringed instrument called the φόρμιγξ,
used especially to accompany singing or epic recitation (ἀοιδή
). We also hear, somewhat less frequently,
of the κίθαρις
: but there is no trace of a
difference between them. The verb (φορμίζω
is used of the κίθαρις
); and conversely we find the phrase φόρμιγγι κιθαρίζειν
(Il. 18.569). The word λύρα
is post-Homeric: it occurs once in the Hymn
to Hermes (50.423), but does not seem to have been in common use before the
time of Pindar. It is worth noticing, as a consequence of the comparatively
late date of the word, that the derivatives λυρίζω,
are unknown in good Greek, κιθαρίζω
being always used of the lyre and cithara alike; just as χαλκεύς,
“bronze-smith,” was applied to workers in iron as well as in
the older metal. It would be rash, however, to infer that the Homeric
instrument resembled the cithara rather than the lyre. We may suppose that
the later form of the cithara was developed gradually, retaining the
original name, which therefore included all varieties, until the new word
came into vogue for the commoner
and more primitive kind. The author of the Hymn to Hermes recognises only
one form, that of the lyre, to which he applies the terms κίθαρις
as well. The identity of the κίθαρις
and the lyre is also maintained by Aristoxenus, the
pupil of Aristotle (Ammon. de diff. Voc.
p. 82, κίθαρις καὶ κιθάρα διαφέρει, φησὶν Ἀριστόξενος ἐν
τῷ περὶ ὀργάνου: κίθαρις γάρ ἐστιν ἡ λύρα κ. τ. λ.
Regarding the original number and tuning of the strings, contradictory
accounts were current. According to one statement in Diodorus (1.16
), Hermes was the author of harmony of sound,
and in that character invented a lyre with three strings, answering to the
three seasons. The same author elsewhere (5.75) says that Hermes invented
his lyre in place of the cithara, which Apollo had laid aside in remorse for
his cruelty to Marsyas. According to the Hymn to Hermes (50.51) the
primitive lyre was one of seven strings: ἑπτὰ δὲ
συμφώνους ὀἱ̈ων ἐτανύσσατο χορδάς.
On the other hand, the increase of the number of strings from four to seven
appears to be claimed by Terpander, in two lines attributed to him: “
σοὶ δ᾽ἡμεῖς τετράγηρυν ἀποστέρξαντες ἀοιδὰν
ἑπτατόνῳ φόρμιγγι νέους κελαδήσομεν ὕμνους.
A different account, however, is given by Aristotle (Probl.
19.32), where he touches on the question why the interval of an Octave is
not called δι᾽ὀκτώ
(as a Fourth is
a Fifth διὰ πέντε
). He suggests by way of answer that
the scale was formerly one of seven notes only, saying that Terpander left
out the note called τριτη,
and added the
at the upper end of the scale (the
octave of the ὑπάτη,
or lowest note). If
this account is the true one, what Terpander did was to raise the scale to
the compass of an Octave, but without increasing the traditional number of
strings. However this may be, the comparative antiquity of a scale of at
least seven notes is proved by their names. The following are the notes of
the central octave in the later system, with the modern notes which show the
intervals on the diatonic scale:--
, lit. “uppermost,” our
“” next to ὑπάτη.
third, viz. from the νήτη.
“lowest,” our “highest.”
Of these names there is only one that is admittedly later than the rest, viz.
which probably dates from the
time when the heptachord of Terpander acquired an eighth string, and
consequently a complete diatonic scale of the compass of an Octave. If we
may trust a passage quoted from Philolaus (Nicom.
p. 17), the
gap then filled up was not that between μέση
the name τρίτα
(he writes in Doric) to the
the note which was a tone
above the μέση.
The change, therefore,
consisted in inserting a note half a tone above the τρίτη
of Philolaus, which new note then became the
“third,” and made it necessary to find a new name--παραμέση
--for the old τρίτη.
But the language of Aristotle himself
19.7, 32, 47) shows that the exact steps of this
progress were no longer known. According to Nicomachus, the eighth string of
the scale was added by Pythagoras. Probably, however, this is a mere
inference from the Pythagorean discovery of the numerical ratios on which
the musical intervals--the Octave, Fifth, Fourth, and Tone--are based.
Another notice (Boeth. de Mus.
the improvement to a certain Lycaon of Samos.
The lyre was originally played without the [p. 2.106]
aid of a
plectrum; and each string seems to have been sounded by a particular finger.
Thus the lixano\s
or “forefinger” was
so called, according to Nicomachus (p. 22), because it was sounded by the
forefinger of the left hand. It follows, as has been pointed out by Gevaert
(ii. p. 254), that the left hand was used for the lower tetrachord, and that
the little finger was not used to touch the strings. When the plectrum came
into use, it was held in the right hand, and perhaps was specially employed
for the air, while the softer tones produced by the fingers. of the left
hand served for the accompaniment. This is suggested (though by no means
proved) by the epigram of Agathias (Anth. Pat.
by Gevaert: “
τὸν σοφὸν ἐν κιθάρῃ, τὸν μουσικὸν Ἀνδροτίωνα,
εἴρετό τις τοίην κρουματκὴν σοφίην:
δεξιτερὴν ὑπάτην ὁπότε πλήκτροισι δόνησας,
ἡ λαιὴ νήτη πάλλεται αὐτομάτως.
The phenomenon here referred to is the “sympathy” by which a
sounding body excites the vibration of another whose note is in unison with
it, or with one of its harmonics.
Anacreon playing the Lyre. (Vase-painting in the British Museum.)
The seven-stringed lyre was still in use in the time of Pindar, unless we
suppose that the epithets ἑπτάκτυπος
2, 70) and ἐπτάγλωσσος
5, 24) are due
to mere poetical tradition. On the other hand, we are told that Lasus of
Hermione, who was an older contemporary of Pindar, introduced new notes, by
which he broke up (διέρριψεν
) the existing
scale (Plut. Mus.
cc. 29, 30) A passage quoted
by Plutarch (l.c.
) from the comic poet Pherecrates
denounces a series of similar innovators--Melanippides, Phrynis, Cinesias,
Citharista with Lyre. (Dennis's Etruria.）
finally Timotheus of Miletus, who “outraged music with his
twelve strings.” The object of the additional strings seems to
have been not so much to obtain greater compass as to make it possible to
combine different modes or keys, perhaps also different genera (see the art.
), on the same
instrument, and to pass easily from one to another. It is the
“multiplicity of keys or scales” (πολυαρμονία
) which is always ways associated with
“multiplicity of strings” (πολυχορδία
) in the minds of those who, like Plato, regarded
such changes as dangerous and corrupting.
It is characteristic of the lyre and the cithara that the strings are all of
the same length, so that the difference of pitch is entirely due to
different thickness. In this respect they differed from instruments such as
the harp, which have strings of different length, and again from those in
which the length of the string is varied by the player, as in the case of
the violin. The woodcuts above show the method of holding the lyre, in
playing with the right hand only or with both. It was also played sitting,
and supported on the knees. The cithara was held in the same manner. The
harp type was represented in Greek music by the τρίγωνον
or triangular harp, a Phrygian instrument, with
which we find associated the Lydian πηκτίς.
Both are condemned by Plato (Rep.
iii. p. 399) for the
excessive number of their strings. They are also mentioned together in a
fragment of Sophocles, fr.
πολὺς δὲ Φρὺξ τρίγωνος ἀντίσπαστά τε
Λυδῆς ἐφυμνεῖ πηκτίδος συγχορδία.
which was closely akin to the
was so called from the bridge
or fret (μαγάς
), by which a string could be
divided by the player, so as to yield a higher note. It had twenty strings,
and admitted of playing the same tones simultaneously in different octaves
(hence called μαγαδίζειν
). This is also
attributed by Aristotle (Probl.
19.14) to an instrument
called the φοινίκιον
or Phoenician lyre.
The most perfect of all these instruments seems to have been the ἐπιγονεῖον,
called after its inventor, Epigonus
of Ambracia, which had forty strings. Besides these, we hear of the βάρβιτος,
which is thought to have been nearly
related to the lyre, also the νάβλα
(Strab. x. p.471
). Several of these names are confessedly
barbarous, and all the instruments now in question lay under the imputation
of being more or less alien to genuine Greek art. They evidently enjoyed
much popularity, but were never regarded as of equal dignity with the lyre
(Compare Carl von Jan, De fidibus Graecorum,
Berolini, 1859; Westphal, Geschichte der alten und mittelalterlichen
Breslau, 1864; Gevaert, Histoire et
Théorie de la Musique de l'Antiquité,