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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The lyre (Greek: λύρα, lýra) is a string instrument known for

its use in Greek classical antiquity and later periods. The lyre Lyre
is similar in appearance to a small harp but with distinct
differences. The word comes via Latin from the Greek;[1] the
earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-
ta-e, meaning "lyrists" and written in the Linear B script.[2]
The lyres of Ur, excavated in ancient Mesopotamia (modern
Iraq), date to 2500 BC.[3] The earliest picture of a lyre with
seven strings appears in the famous sarcophagus of Hagia
Triada (a Minoan settlement in Crete). The sarcophagus was
used during the Mycenaean occupation of Crete (1400
BC).[4][5] The recitations of the Ancient Greeks were
accompanied by lyre playing.

The lyre of classical antiquity was ordinarily played by being

strummed with a plectrum (pick), like a guitar or a zither, Greek vase with muse playing the phorminx, a type
rather than being plucked with the fingers as with a harp. The of lyre
fingers of the free hand silenced the unwanted strings in the
String instrument
chord. However, later lyres were played with a bow in
Europe and parts of the Middle East. One example from Hornbostel–Sachs 321.2
Wales that has been resurrected recently is the crwth. classification (Composite chordophone
sounded with a plectrum)
"Lyre" can either refer specifically to an amateur instrument,
which is a smaller version of the professional cithara and Developed Sumer, Iraq
eastern-Aegean barbiton, or "lyre" can refer generally to all Related instruments
three instruments as a family.
In organology, lyres are defined as "yoke lutes", being lutes
Chang (instrument)
in which the strings are attached to a yoke which lies in the
same plane as the sound-table and consists of two arms and a
cross-bar. Crwth
The term is also used metaphorically to refer to the work or Konghou
skill of a poet, as in Shelley's "Make me thy lyre, even as the
forest is"[6] or Byron's "I wish to tune my quivering lyre,/To
deeds of fame, and notes of fire".[7]

1 Construction
2 Number of strings
3 Central and Northern Europe
4 Global variants
4.1 Europe
4.2 Asia
4.3 Africa
5 Classification
5.1 Other instruments called lyres
6 See also
7 References
8 Bibliography
9 External links

A classical lyre has a hollow body or sound-chest (also known as soundbox or
resonator), which, in ancient Greek tradition, was made out of turtle shell.[8]
Extending from this sound-chest are two raised arms, which are sometimes
hollow, and are curved both outward and forward. They are connected near the
top by a crossbar or yoke. An additional crossbar, fixed to the sound-chest,
makes the bridge which transmits the vibrations of the strings. The deepest note
was that farthest from the player's body; as the strings did not differ much in
length, more weight may have been gained for the deeper notes by thicker
strings, as in the violin and similar modern instruments, or they were tuned by
Lyre with tortoiseshell body
having a slacker tension. The strings were of gut. They were stretched between
(rhyton, 480–470 BC)
the yoke and bridge, or to a tailpiece below the bridge. There were two ways of
tuning: one was to fasten the strings to pegs which might be turned; the other
was to change the place of the string upon the crossbar; probably both
expedients were used simultaneously.

According to ancient Greek mythology, the young god

Hermes stole a herd of sacred cows from Apollo. In order not
to be followed, he made shoes for the cows which forced them
to walk backwards. Apollo, following the trails, could not
follow where the cows were going. Along the way, Hermes
slaughtered one of the cows and offered all but the entrails to
the gods. From the entrails and a tortoise/turtle shell, he
created the Lyre. Apollo, figuring out it was Hermes who had
his cows, confronted the young god. Apollo was furious, but
after hearing the sound of the lyre, his anger faded. Apollo
offered to trade the herd of cattle for the lyre. Hence, the
creation of the lyre is attributed to Hermes. Other sources
The Hagia Triada Mycenaean sarcophagus, 14th credit it to Apollo himself.[9]
century BC, depicting the earliest lyre with seven
strings, held by a man with long robe, third from the Locales in southern Europe, western Asia, or north Africa
left. have been proposed as the historic birthplace of the genus.
The instrument is still played in north-eastern parts of Africa.

Some of the cultures using and developing the lyre were the Aeolian and Ionian Greek colonies on the coasts of
Asia (ancient Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) bordering the Lydian empire. Some mythic masters like
Musaeus, and Thamyris were believed to have been born in Thrace, another place of extensive Greek
colonization. The name kissar (cithara) given by the ancient Greeks to Egyptian box instruments reveals the
apparent similarities recognized by Greeks themselves. The cultural peak of ancient Egypt, and thus the
possible age of the earliest instruments of this type, predates the 5th century classic Greece. This indicates the
possibility that the lyre might have existed in one of Greece's neighboring countries, either Thrace, Lydia, or
Egypt, and was introduced into Greece at pre-classic times.

Number of strings
The number of strings on the classical lyre varied at different epochs, and possibly in different localities—four,
seven and ten having been favorite numbers. They were used without a fingerboard, no Greek description or
representation having ever been met with that can be construed as referring to one. Nor was a bow possible, the
flat sound-board being an insuperable impediment. The pick, or plectrum, however, was in constant use. It was
held in the right hand to set the upper strings in vibration; when not in use, it
hung from the instrument by a ribbon. The fingers of the left hand touched the
lower strings (presumably to silence those whose notes were not wanted).

There is no evidence as to the stringing of the Greek lyre in the heroic age.
Plutarch says that Olympus and Terpander used but three strings to accompany
their recitation. As the four strings led to seven and eight by doubling the
tetrachord, or series of four tones filling in the interval of a perfect fourth, so
the trichord is connected with the hexachord or six-stringed lyre depicted on
many archaic Greek vases. The accuracy of this representation cannot be
insisted upon, the vase painters being little mindful of the complete expression
of details; yet one may suppose their tendency would be rather to imitate than
to invent a number. It was their constant practice to represent the strings as
being damped by the fingers of the left hand of the player, after having been
struck by the plectrum which he held in the right hand. Before Greek
civilization had assumed its historic form, there was likely to have been great
freedom and independence of different localities in the matter of lyre stringing, Pothos (Desire), restored as
which is corroborated by the antique use of the chromatic (half-tone) and Apollo Citharoedus during the
enharmonic (quarter-tone) tunings pointing to an early exuberance, and perhaps Roman era (1st or 2nd century
AD, based on a Greek workca.
also to a bias towards refinements of intonation.
300 BC); the cithara strings are
not extant
Central and Northern Europe
Other instruments known as lyres have been fashioned and used in Europe
outside the Greco-Roman world since at least the Iron Age.[10] The remains of
what is thought to be a 2300-year-old lyre was discovered on the Isle of Skye,
Scotland in 2010 making it Europe’s oldest surviving stringed musical
instrument.[10][11] Material evidence suggests lyres became more widespread
during the early Middle Ages, and one view holds that many modern stringed
instruments are late-emerging examples of the lyre class. There is no clear
evidence that non-Greco-Roman lyres were played exclusively with plectra,
and numerous instruments regarded by some as modern lyres are played with

Lyres appearing to have emerged independently of Greco-Roman prototypes

were used by the Teutonic, Gallic, Scandinavian, and Celtic peoples over a
Pushkin lyre as a symbol of thousand years ago. Dates of origin, which probably vary from region to region,
poetry cannot be determined, but the oldest known fragments of such instruments are
thought to date from around the sixth century of the Common Era. After the
bow made its way into Europe from the Middle-East, around two centuries
later, it was applied to several species of those lyres that were small enough to make bowing practical. There
came to be two broad classes of bowed European yoke lyres: those with fingerboards dividing the open space
within the yoke longitudinally, and those without fingerboards. The last surviving examples of instruments
within the latter class were the Scandinavian talharpa and the Finnish jouhikko. Different tones could be
obtained from a single bowed string by pressing the fingernails of the player's left hand against various points
along the string to fret the string.

The last of the bowed yoke lyres with fingerboard was the "modern" (ca. 1485 – ca. 1800) Welsh crwth. It had
several predecessors both in the British Isles and in Continental Europe. Pitch was changed on individual
strings by pressing the string firmly against the fingerboard with the fingertips. Like a violin, this method
shortened the vibrating length of the string to produce higher tones, while releasing the finger gave the string a
greater vibrating length, thereby producing a tone lower in pitch. This is the principle on which the modern
violin and guitar work.
While the dates of origin and other evolutionary details of the European bowed yoke lyres continue to be
disputed among organologists, there is general agreement that none of them were the ancestors of modern
orchestral bowed stringed instruments, as once was thought.

Global variants

Scotland: gue, cruit

England: rote, crowd
Wales: crwth
Continental Europe:
Germanic or Ango-Saxon
lyre (hearpe), rotte, crotte
Norway: giga
Estonia: talharpa
Finland: jouhikko
Armenia: քնար (knar)
Poland: lira
Lithuania: lyra
Latin: chorus
Greece: λύρα(lira)


Israel: kinnor
Nepal: sarangi Left image: Silenus holding a lyre, detail of afresco from the Villa of the Mysteries,
Iraq: sammu, tanbūra, Pompeii, Italy, c. 50 BC
zami, zinar Right image: Cupids playing with a lyre, Roman fresco fromHerculaneum
Arabian peninsula: tanbūra
Yemen: tanbūra,
Pakistan: barbat, ektara, tanbūra
India: ektara
Bangladesh: ektara
Siberia: nares-jux
Iran: chang

Egypt: kissar, tanbūra, simsimiyya
Sudan: kissar, tanbūra
Ethiopia and Eritrea: begena, dita, krar
Uganda: endongo, ntongoli
Kenya: kibugander, litungu, nyatiti, obokano
Tanzania: litungu

Lyre from various times and places are sometimes regarded by organologists as a branch of the zither family, a
general category that includes not only zithers, but many different stringed instruments, such as lutes, guitars,
kantele, and psalteries.
Others view the lyre and zither as being two
separate classes. Those specialists maintain that
the zither is distinguished by strings spread
across all or most of its soundboard, or the top
surface of its sound chest, also called soundbox
or resonator, as opposed to the lyre, whose
strings emanate from a more or less common
point off the soundboard, such as a tailpiece.
Examples of that difference include a piano (a
keyed zither) and a violin (referred to by some
as a species of fingerboard lyre). Some
specialists even argue that instruments such as
the violin and guitar belong to a class apart
from the lyre because they have no yokes or
uprights surmounting their resonators as "true"
lyres have. This group they usually refer to as
the lute class, after the instrument of that name,
and include within it the guitar, the violin, the
Dimensions of a lyre from banjo, and similar stringed instruments with
Ancient Egypt, found in fingerboards. Those who differ with that
Thebes Reproduction of the lyre from
opinion counter by calling the lute, violin,
the Sutton Hoo royal burial
guitar, banjo, and other such instruments
(England), late 6th/early 7th
"independent fingerboard lyres," as opposed to
century AD
simply "fingerboard lyres" such as the Welsh crwth, which have both
fingerboards and frameworks above their resonators.

Other instruments called lyr es

Over time, the name in the wider Hellenic space came to be used to
label mostly bowed lutes such as the Byzantine lyra, the Pontic lyra, the
Constantinopolitan lyra, the Cretan lyra, the lira da braccio, the
Calabrian lira, the lijerica, the lyra viol, the lirone.

See also

A lyrist on the Standard of Ur, believed
1. λύρα (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3 to date to between 2600–2400 BC
Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dlu%2Fra), Henry George
Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
Digital Library
2. Palaeolexicon (http://www.palaeolexicon.com/), Word study tool
of ancient languages
3. Michael Chanan (1994). Musica Practica: The Social Practice of
Western Music from Gregorian Chant to Postmodernism. Verso.
p. 170. ISBN 978-1-85984-005-4.
4. Image of Hagia Triada Sarcophagus (http://www.uark.edu/campu
s-resources/dlevine/Hagia-Triada.jpg), University of Arkansas
5. J.A. Sakellarakis. "Herakleion Museum. Illustrated Guide to the
Museum." p.113,114. Ekdotike Athinon. Athens, 1987.
6. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, I, 57–61.
7. Lord Byron (1807), Hours of Idleness: To His Lyre.
8. Lyre | Define Lyre at Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.c
om/browse/lyre). Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved on 2012-
9. For example, the Annales Cambriae (B Text).
10. BBC News - Skye cave find western Europe's 'earliest string
instrument' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-is
lands-17537147). Bbc.co.uk (2012-03-28). Retrieved on 2012-
11. 'Europe's oldest stringed instrument' discovered on Scots island |
Highlands & Islands | News | STV (http://news.stv.tv/scotland/hig
ered-on-scots-isle/). News (2012-03-28). Retrieved on 2012-09-

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lyre". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Andersson, Otto. The Bowed Harp, translated and edited by
Kathleen Schlesinger (London: New Temple Press, 1930).
Bachmann, Werner. The Origins of Bowing, trans. Norma Deane
(London: Oxford University Press, 1969).
Jenkins, J. "A Short Note on African Lyres in Use Today." Iraq 31 (1969), p. 103 (+ pl. XVIII).
Kinsky, George. A History of Music in Pictures (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1937).
Sachs, Curt. The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, East and West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1943).
Sachs, Curt. The History of Musical Instruments (New York: W.W. Norton, 1940).

External links
Anglo Saxon Lyres at Yahoo!Groups
Ensemble Kérylos a music group directed by scholar Annie Bélis, dedicated to the recreation of ancient
Greek and Roman music, and playing instruments reconstructed on archaeological reference.
"The Universal Lyre - From Three Perspectives" Article by Diana Rowan: a survey of three current lyre
practitioners and builders - Temesgen Hussein of Ethiopia, Michalis Georgiou of Cyprus and Michael
Levy of the United Kingdom.

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This page was last edited on 18 June 2017, at 23:59.

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