Musical Instruments and Sounds From Rome
The culture of ancient Rome often borrowed elements from other lands and music was no exception. Most of the instruments of ancient Rome were borrowed from the Greeks, and it can be assumed that the music of Rome probably sounded similar to that of Greece. While the Greeks gave a deep meaning to their music, the early Romans held no such sentiments. The first musicians were considered to be a lowly class, and music was enjoyed as theater - merely entertainment – not an art. This attitude changed gradually and music became an important part of society. It was used in social rituals such as weddings, religious ceremonies, and funerals. Trumpets were used to communicate on the battlefield and sounded out in military parades. Even regular citizens began to play musical instruments as music took its place in the Roman way of life.
- Sounds of Roman Music - While it is impossible to know exactly what Roman music sounded like, it is reasonable to assume that it may have been similar to the Greek Song of Seikilos (c.100AD) – the oldest known song in existence.
- The Music of Ancient Rome – An overview of the music of ancient Rome
- Images of Roman Music – Ancient images of Rome’s musical instruments
- Musical Instruments of Ancient Rome – Descriptions and clip art images of ancient Roman instruments
- Drums – The drum now known as the tympani was a deep bowl-like drum that was hit with a mallet. It was not common in early Rome, but tambourine-like drum of the same name was often used for Roman music.
- Flute – The Roman flute was called a fistula or tibia. It was a single or double tube instrument, similar to what we call a Shepherd’s Flute today.
- Harp – It is believed that the harp was brought to Rome from the East. Early harps varied in size and tone.
- Lyre – The lyre looked like a hand-held harp. It had a bowed wooden frame and strings that were plucked.
- Kithara – The kithara is the forerunner to the guitar. It was very similar to the lyre, but it had more strings.
- Lute – The lute might be seen as a descendent of the ancient lyre and kithara. It is a stringed instrument with a rounded base and long neck with frets.
- Organ – The Romans used a standing organ with pipes that were pumped with different air pressure to create sound.
- How Did the Roman Organ Work? – An animation and explanation of how the Roman organ worked.
- Panpipes – The panpipes are one of the most ancient and common of instruments. It has pipes of different lengths tied together in a row. It is then played by blowing across the top openings.
- Trumpet – The most common Roman trumpets were the tuba and the cornu. The tuba was a long, straight brass horn and the cornu was curved.
- Tympani- The most common drum in ancient Rome was the tympani. It was a round, flat, tambourine-like drum.
- Vocals – Singers were commonly used as entertainment in the theater, at weddings, and other celebrations. It’s assumed that the vocal arrangement of songs matched the music.