The Romans & Musical Instruments

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Aug 15, 2020.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Rome’s hills were alive with the sound of music, and it played an important role in worshipping the gods and in general culture. In temples and ceremonies and also in the city’s theatres, streets, and humble homes, music was everywhere . Nobody knows what Roman music sounded like. No Roman compositions have survived and scholars don't even know what their system of notation was. All efforts to recreate what Roman music might sound like have been based on archaeological remains of instruments, references in historical texts and depictions in frescoes, mosaics and sculpture. Historians of Antiquity have left us details about Emperors who appreciated music :

    On Hadrian Aelius Spartianus wrote: “In poetry and in letters Hadrian was greatly interested. In arithmetic, geometry, and painting he was very expert. Of his knowledge of flute-playing and singing he even boasted openly.(Life of Hadrian XIV)

    On Titus (ruled A.D. 79–81), Suetonius wrote:“Titus, He was besides not unacquainted with music, but sang and played the harp agreeably and skillfully. (De Vita Caesarum viii, 3)

    On the great games hosted by Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), Suetonius wrote: “At the plays with which he dedicated the new stage of the theater of Marcellus he revived the old musical entertainments.(De Vita Caesarum viii, 19)

    During his monotonous lyre recitals, it was said that Nero locked the audience in the theater. No one was all owed out for any reason. Once a woman reportedly gave birth in the middle of a performance and Nero kept on playing as if nothing had happened !
    Lately we had an interesting thread about lyre on coins by @ominus1 and I asked myself if we could go further with musical instruments. So here are some examples found on Roman coins :
    Lyre: had a sounding body of wood or a tortoise shell covered with skin, and arms of animal horn or wood, with strings stretched from a cross bar to the sounding body.
    Hadrian with Lyre :
    Fresco in Pompeii

    Cithara: was the premier musical instrument of ancient Rome and was played both in popular and elevated forms of music. Larger and heavier than a lyre, the cithara was a loud, sweet and piercing instrument with precision tuning ability.
    Antoninus Pius holding Cithara
    Apollo with a Cithara

    Tympanum(hand drum) : a type of hand drum or tambourine. It was circular, shallow, and beaten with the palm of the hand or a stick.
    Cybele resting hand on Tympanum
    And here's Cybele again with her famous hand drum

    And now other coins not in my collection :

    Tuba: a long, straight bronze trumpet with a detachable, conical mouthpiece. Extant examples are about 1.3 metres long ;since there were no valves, the tubawas capable only of a single overtone series.
    A character playing Tuba on a Valentinian coin
    Monnaies d'antan picture

    Tuba players on Trajan's column

    Sistrum: was a rattle consisting of rings strung across the cross-bars of a metal frame, which was often used for ritual purposes.

    Hadrian with Aegyptos holding a Sistrum
    The New-York Sale picture

    Isis with Sistrum

    Tibiae[Aulos] : usually double, had two double-reed (as in a modern oboe) pipes, not joined but generally played with a mouth-bandcapistrumto hold both pipes steadily between the player's lips.
    Domitian with Tibiae player
    CNG picture

    What a battle : Lyre VS Tibiae !

    Now the challenge for the week-end : Please search your collection and show us your nicest coins with musical instruments!
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    great write up , thanks.

    My favourite:

    P1160606  best.JPG
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  4. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    We do, however, have examples of Greek music.

    Fascinating and very melodious.
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  5. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

    a second thanks, interesting write-up !
    flute/tibiae and lyre players

    Domitian As. AD 88. RIC 623
    IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P VIII CENS PER P P, laureate head right /
    COS XIIII LVD SAEC FEC, Domitian standing left, sacrificing from patera over garlanded altar, two attendants standing right, playing lyre and flute before him, hexastyle temple in background, with wreath in pediment. SC in ex.
    domit saec.jpg
    the scene with tuba players is from Trajan's column
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  6. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the correction !
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  7. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    Tortoise shell lyre during time of Nero.

    Clipboard16~0.jpg Syria, Seleucis and Pieria. Antioch. Pseudo-autonomous issue. Time of Nero (54-68). Obv: Laureate and draped bust of Apollo right.
    Rev: ANTIOXE ET HP. Tortoise shell lyre.
    RPC 4293.
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  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Isis and her sistrum:

    Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-270.
    Roman billon antoninianus, 4.07 g, 22.4 mm, 5 h.
    Antioch, officina 5, issue 1, end 268-end 269.
    Obv: IMP C CLAVDIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: SALVS AVG, Isis standing left, holding sistrum and situla; Є in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 217A; MER/RIC temp 1024; Cohen 256; RCV 11370; Huvelin 1990, 10; Normanby 1109.

    Cybele and her tympanum:

    Faustina II, AD 147-175/6.
    Roman copper alloy as or dupondius, 12.24 g, 26.1 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, AD ca. 174-176.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: MATRI MAGNAE S C, Cybele seated right, holding drum in left hand on left knee; to left and right of throne, lions, seated right.
    Refs: RIC 1664, BMCRE 990; Cohen 170; RCV 5301; MIR 25.

    Apollo and his lyre:

    Trebonianus Gallus, AD 251-253.
    Roman AR antoninianus, 3.60 g, 19.2 mm, 6h.
    Rome, 6th officina, 4th emission, early AD 253.
    Obv: IMP CAE C VIB TREB GALLVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: APOLL SALVTARI, Apollo standing left, holding branch with right hand and resting left hand on lyre set on rock.
    Refs: RIC 32; Cohen/RSC 20; RCV 9627; Hunter 21.
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  9. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great post!

    Apollo resting his arm on his lyre:

    Gordian III, Antoninianus (22 mm, 4.61 g), Rome, circa 242. IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian to right. Rev. P M TR P V COS II P P Apollo seated left on throne, holding branch with his right hand and resting his left elbow on lyre. RIC 89.
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  10. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Some say this is Nero disguised as Apollo Citharoedus on the reverse, twanging the old lyre. Or just Apollo Citharoedus. I don't know, but Apollo might be a tad more portly here than is usually seen on ancient coins:

    Nero -Apollo Playing July 2018(4).JPG

    Nero Æ As
    (62-68 A.D.)
    Lugdunum Mint

    NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG [GERMA]NICV, bare head left; small globe at point of neck / PONTIF MAX [T]R PO[T IMP PP] S C , Nero (?) as Apollo Citharoedus advancing right.
    RIC 385 (?) (GERMANICV)
    (10.74 grams / 28 mm)
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  11. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..if music be the food of on...:) lyre coins 006.JPG lyre coins reverse 002.JPG
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  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Another Gordian III featuring Apollo and lyre.


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  13. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    My nicest coin with an instrument on it is my Hadrian with a lyre on the reverse. You posted it in your write up so I won't double tap :)
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  14. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    Roman Republic
    L. Scribonius Libo
    AR Denarius, Struck 62 AD, Rome mint
    Obverse: Diademed head of Bonus Eventus right; LIBO behind; BON•EVENT before.
    Reverse: Puteal Scribonianum (Scribonian Well), decorated with garland and two lyres; anvil at base; PVTEAL above; SCRIBON in exergue.
    References: Crawford 416/1c; Sydenham 928; Scribonia 8b
    Size: 20mm, 3.74g

    Pseudo-autonomous issue, Nero 54-68 AD AE Dichalkon, Syria, Antioch Mint
    Struck 62/63 AD (114 of the Caesarean era)
    Obverse: Laureate and draped bust of Apollo (or Artemis) right.
    Reverse: ANTIO-XE•ET, lyre; ΔIP (date) above. (P=100, 1=10, Δ=4)
    References: McAlee 108; RPC I 4294; Butcher 136
    Size: 17mm, 3.0g

    Anonymous Pagan “Persecution” Issue
    Time of Maximinus II Daia, 310-313 AD
    AE 1/4 Follis, Struck 312 AD, Antioch Mint
    Obverse: GENIO AN-TIOCHENI, Tyche seated facing on rock, river-god Orontes swimming below.
    Reverse: APOLLONI SANCTO, Apollo standing facing, pouring libation from patera and holding lyre, Є / Δ in field right.
    Exergue: SMA
    References: McAlee 170i, Vagi 2954
    Size: 16mm, 1.11g

    Notes: This coin is from the 9th workshop, but rather than use Θ (theta), which is Greek for nine, the engraver used delta (Greek for 4) and epsilon (Greek for 5) which add up to nine. Theta was the first letter of the word death in Greek and was considered by some to also be the symbol of death, so it was best to avoid using it.

    Julia Domna, Wife of Septimius Severus who ruled 193-211 AD
    AR Denarius, Struck 196-211 AD, Rome Mint
    Obverse: IVLIA AVGVSTA, bust of Julia Domna, hair waved and coiled at back, draped, right.
    Reverse: MATER DEVM, Cybele, towered, draped, seated left on throne, holding branch in extended right hand and sceptre in left hand, resting left arm on drum set on left knee; to either side of throne, lion.
    References: RIC IV 564
    Size: 18mm, 3.04g

    Oh com'on, we need some double (or even triple) taps! :headphone::hilarious:
    Hadrian, Ruled 117-138 AD
    Orichalcum As, Struck 125-128 AD
    Minted in Rome for circulation in Syria
    Obverse: HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, bust of Hadrian, laureate, draped, right.
    Reverse: COS III, Lyre, S-C across field.
    References: Butcher 25, RIC II 684
    Size: 23mm, 7.07g
    Ex: H. D. Rauch, Auction 82 (4/23/2008), #329

    Gordian III, Ruled 238-244 AD
    AR Antoninianus, Struck 240 AD, Rome Mint
    Obverse: IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, Radiate draped bust right.
    Reverse: PM TRP III COS II P P, Apollo seated left holding branch & resting on lyre.
    References: RIC IV 87, Cohen 237
    Size: 23mm, 4.0g
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  15. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Here's a provincial AE of Elagabalus, issued at Berytus (Beirut, Lebanon). The reverse shows the satyr Marsyas in a temple, holding a wineskin over his shoulder and a flute in front of his head. Marsyas famously challenged the god Apollo to a music contest. It did not end well for Marsyas...
    Elagabalus Berytos.jpg
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  16. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Super write-up, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix .... I know nothing of music, totally tone deaf, but I do enjoy listening. :)

    I beleive I only have some Lyres on my coins...

    RImp P Clodius Mf Turrinus AR denarius 20mm 3.6g Rome 42 BCE Laureate hd Apollo R lyre - Diana Lucifera torches Cr 494-23 CRI 184 Syd 1117

    RImp Octavian 32-31 BCE AR Den Rome mint Bare CAESAR DIVI F Mercury lyre RIC 257 Sear 1550

    RI Commodus 177-192 CE AR Denarius 17.7mm 2.42g Apollo Plectrum Lyre RIC 218 RSC 25 BMCRE 292 Rare Type

    RI Trebonianus Gallus 251-253 CE Ant 20mm 3.0g Apollo Lyre RIC 32 RSC 20
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  17. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I just found this on google (Roman water organ)

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  18. Here's some ancient Roman music. Enjoy.

  19. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    You are a bad influence @Justin Lee :p

    Here is my Hadrian. Not as handsome as Justin's or @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix 's but he is ready to rock out with his...lyre out.

    125-128 AD
    Orichalcum As
    Obverse: HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, bust of Hadrian, laureate, draped, right
    Reverse: COS III, Lyre, S-C across field

  20. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    It's got a real nice two-tone sandy-like patina! I dig it!
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  21. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    The Roman republicans were apparently too busy fighting with everyone around them and each other to enjoy much music (or at least were quiet about it on their coins)...all of my Roman coins with musical instruments are Imperial or provincial.
    Trajan Lycia Lyres.jpg
    Roman Provincial, Lycia,Trajan (98-117), drachm (although I really want to call this a denarius), struck 89-90
    Obv: AYT KAIC NЄP TPAIANOC CЄB ΓЄPM, laureate head right.
    Rev: ΔHMЄΞ-YΠATB, two lyres; above, owl standing right, head facing.
    Size: 3.13g, 18mm
    Note: Butcher & Ponting in their 2015 book on "Metallurgy of Roman Silver Coinage", found compositional similarities between these coin and contemporary denarii minted in Rome, along with stylistic similarities, suggesting that this provincial coinage could have been minted in Rome, although compositional similarity could also be explained by common silver source i.e. recycled coins.
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