A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities/Tintinnabulum

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TINTINNA´BULUM or Aes (κώδων), a bell. Handbells were used among Greeks and Romans for signals of various kinds: e. g. for the opening of the market (Plut. Symp. 4.4, 2; Strab. xiv. p.658), for the opening of the baths (Mart. 14.163); to arouse or summon together slaves (Lucian, de Merc. Cond. 24, 31; to this use perhaps refers the “tinnitus aeris” in Sen. de Ira, 3, 35); for purposes of sentry duty at night, sometimes passed from post to post, as a proof of wakefulness (Thuc. 4.135; Aristoph. Birds 841); [for the same purpose a staff, σκυτάλη, or a lantern was sent round: cf. Aen. Tact. 22; Droysen, Gr. Kriegsalterth. 264;] and similarly for the use of night watchmen (D. C. 54.4); for the necks or harness of animals, as at the present day (Eur. Rhes. 307; Aristoph. Frogs 963).

From the passage in Suet. Aug. 91, there is some indication of bells being attached to housedoors; but, from the constant mention of knocking, never ringing, for admission, we cannot suppose that such bells were for the same purpose as our door-bells: perhaps, as Man thinks, they were rung by the janitor to announce to the slaves within that a visitor was entering (Marquardt, Privatleben, 236; cf. Becker-Göll, Gallus, 2.236).

Besides the above practical uses, bells had a religious significance which appears in different forms, starting in all probability from the general idea that they were a preventive against evil influences. Hence we find them in connexion with the worship of Rhea (Wieseler, Denkm. 2.813) and of Dionysus (Nonnus, Dionys. 30.213), and thus represented in the hands of a Bacchante (Wieseler, Denkm. 2.539), or attached to the thyrsus or tympana (as in a relief in the Vatican), or to a tree sacred to Bacchus (see cut on p. 304): the bell round the neck of the ass on which Silenus rides, as seen on a sarcophagus in the British Museum, may possibly have this significance, though it is also possible that it belongs only to the general custom, mentioned above, of hanging bells round the necks of various animals. The same idea caused them to be used as amulets: cf. Chrysost. in Ep. ad Cor. 12.7, τὰ περίαπτα καὶ τοὺς κώδωνας τοὺς τῆς χειρὸς ἐξηρτημένους . . . δέον μηδὲν ἕτερον τῷ παιδὶ περιτιθέναι ἢ τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ φυλακήν. Such, no doubt, was the purpose of the bell on a necklace from the Crimea, now in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg (for this and other similar bell-amulets, see Stephani, Compte Rendu, 1865, p. 174). A votive hand, such as Chrysostom mentions, is described by Bonnstetten (Rec. d'antiq. Suisses, pl. 20.2, 3). A similar prophylactic use suggested the bells attached to shields (Aesch. Theb. 385); and it is not impossible that the bells on the tomb of Porsena may have been intended to [p. 2.845] avert evil (Plin. Nat. 36.92; Labrynthus p. 2 a).

The forms of bells were various in proportion to the multiplicity of their applications. In the Museum at Naples are some of the form which we call “bell-shaped;” others are more like a Chinese gong. The bell, fig. 1 in the following woodcut, is a simple disk of bell-metal; it is represented in a painting as hanging from the branch of a tree (Bartoli, Sep. Ant. 13; cf. Bötticher, Baumcultus, 37). Two bells are shown hanging to a tree on the left in the cut under OSCILLA on page 304. Figure. 2 represents a bell of the same form, but with a circular hole in the centre, and a clapper attached to it by a chain. This is in the Museum at Naples, as well as the bell, fig. 3, which in form is exactly like those still commonly used in Italy and attached to the necks of sheep, goats, and oxen. Fig. 4 is represented on one of Sir W. Hamilton's vases (1.43) as carried by a man in the garb of Pan, and probably for the purpose of lustration (Theoc. 2.36; Schol. in loc.). Fig. 5 is a bell, or rather a collection of twelve bells suspended in a frame, which is preserved in the Antiquarium at Munich. This jingling instrument, as well as that represented by fig. 6 (from Bartoli, Luc. Sep. 2.23), may have been used at sacrifices, in Bacchanalian processions, or for lustration. Fig. 7 is a fragment of ancient sculpture, representing the manner in which bells were attached to the collars of chariot-horses (Ginzrot, Ueber Wägen, ii. pl. 57; Compte Rendu, 1876, p. 115). The example in the latter work is a bell of a more ornate kind with a scalloped edge, somewhat resembling the “bell” of a hyacinth (see Atlas of Compte Rendu, 1876, Taf. 2.22).[J.Y] [G.E.M]