In classical antiquity, a crotalum (Ancient Greek: κρόταλον krotalon) was a kind of clapper or castanet used in religious dances by groups in ancient Greece and elsewhere, including the Korybantes.
The term has been erroneously supposed by some writers to be the same with the sistrum. These mistakes are refuted at length by Friedrich Adolph Lampe (1683-1729) in De cymbalis veterum. From the Suda and the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Nubes, 260), it appears to have been a split reed or cane, which clattered when shaken with the hand. According to Eustathius (Il. XI.160), it was made of shell and brass, as well as wood. Clement of Alexandria attributes the instruments invention to the Sicilians, and forbids the use thereof to the Christians, because of the motions and gestures accompanying the practice.
Women who played on the crotalum were termed crotalistriae. Such was Virgil's Copa (2),
- "Crispum sub crotalo docta movere latus."
Pausanias affirms by way of the epic poet Pisander of Camirus that Heracles did not kill the birds of Lake Stymphalia, but that he drove them away by playing on crotala. Based on this, the instrument must be exceedingly ancient.
The word krotalon is often applied, by an easy metaphor, to a noisy talkative person (Aristoph. Nub. 448; Eurip. Cycl. 104). Though it might be a false cognate, it is interesting to note that one of the Spanish names for "rattlesnake" is crótalo.
- sec. i art. vi fig. 43
- κρόταλον. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Porter, Noah, ed. (1913), Webster's Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts: C. & G. Merriam Co.
- "crotalum". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- i.4, 5, 6
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.
- Pausan. Arcad. lib. viii
- Wilkinson, John Gardner (1878). The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians. Vol 1. London: John Murray. p. 494.
- Diccionario de la lengua española.