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by Archaeology Newsroom

Musical instruments in ancient Greece

The musical instruments that were in use in ancient Greece and their history are brought to life in entries coming from Solon Michaelides’ Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Music (MIET, Athens 1982). According to how sound is produced, wind instruments are divided into flutes with a tongue (flute, double flute, flageolet, oblique flute) and syringes where the sound is directly blown out. The shepherd’s flute belongs in this category together with other pipes. Strings are divided into three categories depending on the number of chords they had. Instruments having chords of equal length but of different width not surpassing twelve chords were the lyre, the guitar, and related string instruments such as the cytharis, barbitos etc. Many-stringed instruments with chords of differing length that could reach the number of forty chords were the psalterion, an imported instrument, (magadis, pictis, phoenix and others) and the Greek triangles ( cannon, epigoneion, simikeion ) that were strummed on. The lute was a stringed instrument of limited use. In the category of lutes, instruments with an arm are included such as the trichordon ( three-stringed lute). In this article instruments such as the lyre the fominx, the barbitos, the guitar, the samviki, the magadis, the phoenix, the piktis and the pandoura are described. What today are known as percussion were imported instruments and were played at orgiastic feasts. These were the seistron, the cymbals and the drums amongst others.