with a rigid plectrum. Loudness of accent and great brilliancy of tone, however, can only be obtained by the use of the plectrum.
Quotations from the classics abound to show what was the practice of the Greeks and Romans in this respect. The plectrum was held in the right hand, with elbow outstretched and palm bent inwards, and the strings were plucked with the straightened fingers of the left hand. Both methods were used with intention according to the dictates of art for the sake of the variation in tone colour obtainable thereby.
|Fig. 3.—Apollo Citharoedus, showing|
Cithara with box tail-pieces.
The strings of the cithara were either knotted round the transverse tuning bar itself (zugon) or to rings threaded over the bar, which enabled the performer to increase or decrease the tension by shifting the knots or rings; or else they were wound round pegs, knobs or pins fixed to the zugon. The other end of the strings was secured to a tail-piece after passing over a flat bridge, or the two were combined in the curious high box tail-piece which acted as a bridge. Plutarch states that this contrivance was added to the cithara in the days of Cepion, pupil of Terpander. These boxes were hinged in order to allow the lid to be opened for the purpose of securing the strings to some contrivance concealed therein. It is a curious fact that no sculptured cithara provided with this box tail-piece is represented with strings, and in many cases there could never have been any, for the hand and arm are visible across the space that would be filled by the strings, which are always carved in a solid block.
Like the lyre the cithara was made in many sizes, conditioned by the pitch and the use to which the instrument was to be put. These instruments may have been distinguished by different names; the pectis, for instance, is declared by Sappho (22nd fragment) to have been small and shrill; the phorminx, on the other hand, seems to have been identical with the cithara.
The Greek kithara was the instrument of the professional singer or citharoedus (κιθαρῳδός) and of the instrumentalist or citharista (κιθαριστής), and thus served the double purpose of (1) accompanying the voice—a use placed by the Greeks far above mere instrumental music—in epic recitations and rhapsodies, in odes and lyric songs; and (2) of accompanying the dance; it was also used for playing solos at the national games, at receptions and banquets and at trials of skill. The costume of the citharoedus and citharista was rich and recognized as being distinctive; it varied but little throughout the ages, as may be deduced from a comparison of representations of the citharoedus on a coin and on a Greek vase of the best period (fig. 4). The costume consisted of a palla or long tunic with sleeves embroidered with gold and girt high above the waist, falling in graceful folds to the feet. This palla must not be confounded with the mantle of the same name worn by women. Over one shoulder, or hanging down the back, was the purple chlamys or cloak, and on his brow a golden wreath of laurels. All the citharoedi bear instruments of the type here described as the cithara, and never one of the lyre type. The records of the citharoedi extend over more than thirteen centuries and fall into two natural divisions: (1) The mythological period, approximately from the 13th century B.C. to the first Olympiad, 776 B.C.; and (2) the historical period to the days of Ptolemy, A.D. 161. One of the very few authentic Greek odes extant is a Pythian ode by Pindar, in which the phorminx of Apollo is mentioned; the solo is followed by a chorus of citharoedi. The scope of the solemn games and processions, called Panathenaea, held every four years in honour of the goddess Athena, which originally consisted principally of athletic sports and horse and chariot races, was extended under Peisistratus (c. 540 B.C.), and the celebration made to include contests of singers and instrumentalists, recitations of portions of the Iliad and Odyssey, such as are represented on the frieze of the Parthenon (in the Elgin Room at the British Museum) and later on friezes by Pheidias. It was at the same period that the first contests for solo-playing on the cithara (κιθαριστύς) and for solo aulos-playing were instituted at the 8th Pythian Games. One of the principal items at these contests for aulos and cithara was the Nomos Pythikos, descriptive of the victory of Apollo over the python and of the defeat of the monster.
|Fig. 4.—Cithara or Phorminx, from a vase|
in the British Museum.
The Pythian Games survived the classic Greek period and were continued under Roman sway until about A.D. 394. Not only were these games held at Delphi, but smaller contests, called Pythia, modelled on the great Pythian, were instituted in various provinces of the empire, and more especially in Asia Minor. The games lasted for several days, the first being devoted to music. To the games at Delphi came musicians from all parts of the civilized world; and the Spaniards, at the beginning of our era, had attained to such a marvellous proficiency in playing the cithara, an instrument which they had learnt to know from the Phoenician colonists before the conquest by the Romans, that some of their citharoedi easily carried off the honours at the musical contests. The consul Metellus was so charmed with the music of the Spanish competitors that he sent some to Rome for the festivals, where the impression created was so great that the Spanish citharoedi obtained a permanent footing in Rome. Aulus Gellius (Noct. Att.) describes an incident at a banquet which corroborates this statement.
The degeneration of music as an art among the Romans, and its gradual degradation by association with the sensual amusements of corrupt Rome, nearly brought about its extinction at the end of the 4th century, when the condemnation of the Church closed the theatres, and the great national games came to an end. Instrumental music was banished from civil life and from religious rites, and thenceforth the slender threads which connect the musical instruments of Greeks and Romans with those of
- See Plutarch, Apophthegm. Lacon.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines, No. 10, “Amphion,” and Philostratus the Younger, Imagines, No. 7, “Orpheus,” p. 403.
- Tibullus, Eleg. iii. 4. 39.
- Le Antichità de Ercolano, vol. iii. p. 5.
- Idem, vol. iv. p. 201.
- Thomas Hope, Costumes of the Ancients, vol. ii. p. 193; also Edward Buhle, Die musikalischen Instrumente in den Miniaturen des frühen Mittelalters (Leipzig, 1903), frontispiece.
- See De Musica, ch. vi.
- See Visconti, Museo Clementino, pl. 22, Erato’s cithara, and in the same work that of Apollo Citharoedus (fig. 3 above).
- See Od. i. 153, 155; Il. xviii. 569-570. In Homer the form is always κίθαρις.
- See Pausanias x. 7, § 4 et seq.
- For a description of the Nomos Pythikos in its relation to Greek music see Kathleen Schlesinger, “Researches into the Origin of the Organs of the Ancients,” Intern. Mus. Ges. Sbd. ii. (1901), 2, p. 177, and Strabo ix. p. 421.