Music, an invention of the gods

Lécito de la diosa Aurora Pulse para ampliar Lécito de la diosa Aurora. Sala 36, vitrina 36.9


This lekythos depicts an image of the goddess Aurora abducting young Tithonus, who is holding a lyre, quite possibly the musical instrument most frequently associated with Greek culture. It is made out of a frame in the shape of an abacus with strings that were played with two hands. The Greek lyre, whose earliest models date back to the Mycenaean Period, originates from Egyptian and Phoenician harps. According to myth, Hermes invented this instrument. In order to make it, he used a turtle shell, similar to the one on young Tithonus´ lyre, and he tied twelve strings crafted from the intestines of twelve cows he stole from Apollo. The latter complained to Zeus, who in turn ordered that the cattle be returned. Given that it was impossible for him to carry out his punishment, Hermes paid by giving the instrument to Apollo. Ever since then, it has been associated with Apollo, who is usually depicted holding the instrument in his hands. Later, he was also portrayed playing the zither, a more robust instrument than the lyre, which produced a louder sound. Whenever Apollo played either of these string instruments, he managed to soothe the spirits of his listeners, for in ancient civilizations music was considered to have a tremendous influence on men and the gods.