Talk:Byzantine lyra

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The article needs more images. I don't believe the woodcut of a viol dates from the 11th century, either. Badagnani (talk) 15:57, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Badagnani, You are right I changed teh image with an actual Byzantine iconographty and also added a galery of contemporary liras (Stevepeterson (talk) 17:23, 8 March 2009 (UTC))

The images in the gallery are not "Byzantine lyras" and are thus anachronistic (and don't resemble the bowed instrument in the icon, which looks like a Medieval vielle). Badagnani (talk) 23:02, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

They were moved to the "in use" chapter (Stevepeterson (talk) 09:33, 9 March 2009 (UTC))
Your new main image looks much more representative of the instrument in question than the icon painting shown yesterday -- cool looking instrument though is was and whatever it's true date is . . . Cyclocifra (talk) 21:03, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Cyclocifra! Please help me with the article, its a very important historical instrument with not many things written in wikipedia so far. (Stevepeterson (talk) 03:07, 10 March 2009 (UTC))
Hi Steve. My knowledge really begins more like late Medieval/early Renaissance and my own collect of pix is in storage right now. There are a bunch of sites that specialize in ancient instruments and bowed strings iconography and it does take a lot of time and work to get a handle on it all, by region and time-line. Work backwards and the closer you are. Have you seen Paul Butler's web site and iconography THE REBEC PROJECT Here's some of Paul's text, (go see his "Figure 1" image, Byzantine c. 1000. and see/ask about acquiring a copy if you like) . . . . .
. . . . " By the 11th century, the instrument (rabab/rebec) had found its way into Byzantium and Spain, where its morphology changed but little. The Byzantine instrument that we have illustrated evidence for was held point up, like the Arabic style, though the bow was long and flat, as opposed to curved (though that may simply be an attempt at perspective) [Fig.1] . The Spanish one was more like the Arabic version. Though, as always, we are dealing with pictoral evidence that is always suspect, and artists' details may be only minimally trusted without some other corraberation. The images depicted in these cases are definitely "rabab-like" while the details may be of question. The earliest Spanish example is from the Catalan psalter, ca. 1050 AD. [Fig.2] This instrument is being tuned, in the picture, and shows the characteristic shape and short curved bow that characterize the rabab, but also shows one of the changes that occured as the instrument moved into Europe - a change in the number of the strings. The Byzantine example shows definitively only two strings, but contemporary texts note that this new instrument had anywhere from 2-3, sometimes in courses (upto 6 strings), a note that the Spanish example demonstrates by having clearly three strings. . . "Cyclocifra (talk) 04:04, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Cyclocifra, the site is interesting and also has great images! But I think that it blends all european bowed into one, the rebec. It also calls the Cretan lyra a rebec, something that I haven't seen before. Perhaps its a matter of terminology; the use of the word rebec is definatelly later than the fiddle and lyra. What the first picture of the byzantine calls early version of rebec is the lyra of the Byzantine. sometimes the word rebec refers to lyras and rebabs although it is later. The Byzantine lyra article should consentrate on what he calls "early type, pear-shaped rebec from the byzantine", which in fact was not called rebec but lyra in the byzantine empire. Similarly Turks tend to call all bowed instruments as kemenche and Greeks: lyras. For example check this article which calls lyra, a synonym term to rebec and later calls the byzantine lyra as a pear shaped rebec, introduced into Europe through the Byzantine Empire:
REBEC, or Rebeck (Med. Fr. rubebe, rebelle, rebec, gigue; Ger. Rubeba, Rebek, Geige, Lyra; Ital. ribeba, ribeca, lyra; Sp. rabel, rabeca, rave, ra g),
...The pear-shaped rebec with wide base was in all probability introduced into Europe through the Byzantine Empire, and the narrow boat-shaped by the Moors byway of Spain. The first of these types is represented on one of the sides of an ivory casket of ItaloByzantine workmanship preserved among the Carrand Collection' in the Palazzo del Podesta in Florence. It belongs to the same group as the Veroli casket at the South Kensington Museum, all of which are assigned to the 9th century at the latest....
The use of the term Rebec appeared much later and so did the germanic fiddle, although today someone might call the cretan lyra, a fiddle with the broader use of the word fiddle as it is used today to describe bowed instruments. The terms "lyra" (greek word for string instruments), "rebab" (arabic) and "kamanche" (persian word for bowed instruments) all refer to bowed instruments in each region however they also indicate the local morphological differences of the three instrument families in each region. No question that rebec, kemenche, rebab and lyra are different instruments not only translations of the same instrument in different languages. The lexicographical discussion of instruments of Ibn Khurradadhbih (9th century) was actually about this issue, he described two similar instruments rebab and lyra having different names in the two big worlds of the period: the Islamic Empires and the Byzantine Empire. I personally believe that lyra was developed after rebab and thats what most sources tell, but it can't really be called early versions of rebec, or fiddle as both terms where introduced later and were not used in the Byzantine region. Also our wikipedia article does mention that rebab and lyra spread from two directions spain and byzantine and both gave birth to various instruments.
You can also see the differences in morphology and playing from the first image; it is played on the knee and looks similar to rebab as the persian geographer described byzantine lyra in the 9th century. It is also a much earlier version of the lyra compared to the one found in Russia (1100) which has the shape of todays lyras. I would welcome more people adding their edits. sounds interesting topic. (Stevepeterson (talk) 05:14, 10 March 2009 (UTC))

What this Russian instrument actually looks like is a Pandura. I don't think I would describe that as "Byzantine" as the instrument dates back to ancient Greece. Badagnani (talk) 23:56, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

Nobody said that the instrument dates back to ancient Greece. The instrument developed in the 9th century as a version of rebab and influenced most bowed instruments such as the Pandura since Byzantine Empire was probably the most powerful empire at that times. Check the sources ( i have added the source describing the findings of the excavations. (Stevepeterson (talk))

Is there no iconography of this instrument dating to the period of the Byzantine Empire? How is that possible? Badagnani (talk) 02:57, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

I cant tell about that. Perhaps it was not a religious instrument or I haven't found any iconography yet. Lyra was mainly used to accompany songs. We have written descriptions on the instrument though. (Stevepeterson (talk) 02:58, 10 March 2009 (UTC))

I got permision by Paul Butler to use the image of the lyra. Thank you Cyclocifra for indicating the site.
Glad you found the site useful. And yes, you may use the image for the site.
Paul Butler"
(Stevepeterson (talk) 14:14, 10 March 2009 (UTC))
Groovy -- a man of passion, tenacity, and action. Get-er-done as they say.
BTW, I'm Roger, this is my site, , and you're welcome to any of those pix in future too. There's six icon-heavy pages in that early-viol/bowed-guitar section you might scroll through some day.Cyclocifra (talk) 21:18, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
Thank you Roger! I'm impressed by your very informative and well-designed website! Good collection of images too! (Stevepeterson (talk) 13:48, 11 March 2009 (UTC))
Thanks Cyclocifra (talk) 20:09, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

I cannot find more information on the age of the ivory casket and its exact Byzantine origin (as Badagnani has noted and I agree). I have added the "9th century" which I found on the britanica1911 but I dont really trust this source. Can anyone help me on that with more reliable sources? (Stevepeterson (talk) 13:41, 11 March 2009 (UTC))

It's such an important and one-off image it's probably in Grove's too (along with current dating and origins info). You might check the next time you're at the library. Google-ing a bit I just saw any number of similarly-aged Byzantine ivory's ball-park dated c.900-1100. Ball-park dating is common, safe, honest, respectable, understandable, and necessary with most such objects, antiquities, even by the experts and scholars. "Circa 1000 plus or minus 100 years" is another example of such age-estimation language -- communicating much the same thing and time-span. Cyclocifra (talk) 20:09, 11 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Roger, Unfortunately I don't have an Grove account yet. This might be the first known illustration of European bowed instruments. If anyone has account there can please check for it? Regards, (Stevepeterson (talk) 08:38, 12 March 2009 (UTC))
Online Grove doesn't have images. You have to go to a library. Badagnani (talk) 22:33, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Badagnani, However we could find information on the age of the ivory casket.If this is the first known depiction of European bowed instruments, perhaps it is mentioned. I live in Malaysia and have limited access to physical libraries. In any case, the 900-1100 should be safe until we find something more accurate. (Stevepeterson (talk) 04:47, 14 March 2009 (UTC))


We need information on the instrument's origins. It probably originated from bowed instruments from the East. Badagnani noticed that the morphology looks similar to the pandura. Any sources? (Stevepeterson (talk) 13:41, 11 March 2009 (UTC))

See this source. Badagnani (talk) 15:25, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Badagnani. Good site indeed. Also mentions that its only recently that the lyra of instabul (politiki lyra" was renamed to "Classical kemenche" a political move of Turkey to relate the instrument to the persian kemanche. Greeks had done the same with their Pontic kemenche, renaming it to pontic lyra. reminds what happens then a married couple splits up and both parts divide their belonging: Greeks took the term lyra which had greek origin and refered to a Christian tradition and Turks took the kemenche relating to an Islamic. However kemanches and lyras although both bowed intruments are tywo different families of instruments, both in terms of origin, morhology, period of creation, repertory, playing style etc.
It is intresting what he mentions about rebecs: Organologists consider these instruments, which are known generically as rebecs, to have developed from either the Byzantine lyra or the Moroccan rebab (the root of the word ‘rebec’ is ‘rebab’). No light has yet been shed on the relationship between the lyra and the Moroccan rebab.No light has yet been shed on the relationship between the lyra and the Moroccan rebab. I think that rebec was general term in Western Europe refering to bowed instruments rather than a particular instrument just like the term fiddle. I also agree that lyra and rebab were different instruments, both borrowing the bowing style from Asia, but applying it to already existing instruments. Some writters of the 9th and 10th century were translating rebab to lyra but this might be because they were the only bowed instruments of that time. (Stevepeterson (talk) 03:52, 16 March 2009 (UTC))
The rebec was pear-shaped while the vielle had a proto-violin-or guitar-like shape. There's also the Black Sea kemence type which was called "kit" in the British Isles. Each of these shapes has its own history. Badagnani (talk) 05:27, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, Some sources use the term rebec as a general for all medieval fiddles both pear-shaped but also narrow boat shape), including Lyra: "The pear-shaped rebec with wide base was in all probability introduced into Europe through the Byzantine Empire, and the narrow boat-shaped by the Moors byway of Spain. " britanica 1911" However there is no reference on teh use of the term rebec in Eastern Europe, they rather use lyra instead. So I find the use of the therm rebec more accurate for the western instrument, as it also shows the origin for this family of bowed instruments which is the Moor rebab. The Black Sea kemence is the Pontic kemenche (black sea= Pontos in greek) played by Pontics (Greeks and Turks and Kurds). It is related to the Persian kemanche and not the lyra and hence the name. Over the last decades Greeks call it lyra for political reasons (Stevepeterson (talk) 08:02, 16 March 2009 (UTC))
Hi Badagnani, I Just checked the Kit instrument, indeed looks very similar to the Black Sea kemenche. It must be related to rebec though I dont know. Very inresting (Stevepeterson (talk) 11:26, 16 March 2009 (UTC))
The skinny Black sea kemence isn't related morphologically to the Persian kamancheh, as you state, because the latter has a hemispherical body covered with skin. In my experience, the Pontic kemenche played by Pontic Greeks is slightly larger than the Black Sea one played by the Laz. Badagnani (talk) 15:59, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Look at the shape of the fiddle in this image. Badagnani (talk) 04:02, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

I see, however the name relates though, although the Pontic Greeks never used the term lyra for their instrument. We need to do some research on that and edit the kemenche article. The fiddle in this image looks like a lira from the the a braccio family (Stevepeterson (talk) 10:10, 17 March 2009 (UTC))

Arabic name[edit]

Article currently reads: "Ibn Khurradadhbih...cited the lyra (lūrā)...". It's interesting that he cited it as a lūrā (presumably لورا), since the Greek name in that period would have been pronounced lira, not lura. Was this how Ibn Khurradadhbih wrote it in Arabic? Or is this the modern edition using ancient Greek transliteration for the Greek (not Arabic) word λύρα? --macrakis (talk) 19:50, 21 March 2009 (UTC)


The intro to the article reads "(pronounced /lɪrrə/)". This can't be either the Greek (modern or Byzantine) pronunciation nor the standard English pronunciation: Greek doesn't have schwa, gemination of /r/, or /ɪ/; English (except some dialects) doesn't have /r/, let alone /rr/. What /lɪrrə/ looks like is a failed attempt to tell English-speakers how to approximate the Greek pronunciation (like "gyro -- pronounce it yee-roh"), though /'lɪɹə/ or /'liːɹə/ seem more likely. According to the OED, the English pronunciation is /'laɪərə/. Though I find that pronunciation ugly, unless we can find reliable sources that English-speaking organologists use the Greek pronuncation (/'lira/), I think we have to stick with the OED, or (better, I think), not mention the pronunciation at all. WP is, after all, an encyclopedia, not a dictionary. --macrakis (talk) 20:22, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

It's clearly pronounced "lira" in Italian, and also in the original Greek. The term originally referred to the lyre, one of the most prevalent instruments in Ancient Greece. Badagnani (talk) 21:20, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

"Considered by many"[edit]

Article reads: "The Byzantine considered by many as the ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin." The phrase "considered by many" is a sort of weasel word. Can we be clearer here? Who are these "many"? Is it the consensus among organologists that it is? Is that a minority opinion? And the "History" section seems to say that it was not the lyra, but its Arab form, the rabab, that was the ancestor of the European bowed instruments. All very confusing. --macrakis (talk) 20:39, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

The Byzantines, being Greeks based in western Anatolia in the early Christian era, were living on the edge of the Middle East, and thus it makes sense that they would have gotten the bowed lute from the east, most likely the Arabs, before the Turks occupied Anatolia--who had probably gotten bowed instruments from the horse cultures of Central Asia. But many Crusaders spent some of time in Anatolia and it also makes sense that they would have brought musical instruments (including bowed lutes) back to Europe from there. Badagnani (talk) 21:19, 21 March 2009 (UTC)
Apparently the rabab was transmitted to Europe both from the east (Byzantine lyra) and from the west (North Africa -> Spain). I haven't seen the crusader story before, but sure, I suppose it's possible. Anyway, that's neither here nor there, we need reliable sources for the ancestry of the violin.
As for the ultimate origin of the rabab, the WP article mentions the Sassanid court, not Central Asia. --macrakis (talk) 03:24, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
The rabab of North Africa is not the same instrument in construction as the one we're talking about. And we aren't talking about the ancestry of the violin, which was invented at least 500 years later. Badagnani (talk) 03:26, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I removed the "by many" as the statement has a reference (Grillet, Laurent (1901), Les ancetres du violon v.1, Paris) and many other reliable references can be found. regarding the relationship between rabab and lyra, there is no evidence yet about the relationship between the two instruments. Being the only bowed instruments of that period, Byzantines called rabab a type of bowed lyra and Arabs called lyra a type of rabab. This is what the Persian geographer explained in his lexicographical discussion (Stevepeterson. (talk) 04:15, 22 March 2009 (UTC))

Also having no established organology in the medieval period makes lyra appear with different names outside the Byzantine, in most cases categorised it in their local category of bowed instruments: Arabs: Byzantine rebab, Western Europeans: pear-shaped rebec, or a medieval fiddle, Turks: Classical Kemenche, Slavs: Ancient Gudok. There is no doubt though that all these categories represent different families of instruments. İbn Hurdazbih stated in the 10th century that the counterpart to the rebab is pear-shaped; lyra has always been pear-shaped. (Stevepeterson (talk) 16:22, 22 March 2009 (UTC))
Since there were many predecessors both in time and in variety, wouldn't it be more accurate to call the Byzantine lyra an ancestor of European bowed instruments rather than the ancestor. Several of the cited sources talk about transmission of bowed instruments both via Muslim Spain and via Byzantium. --macrakis (talk) 16:28, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Good point macrakis, I've changed it already. Your commends and support to our effort are very much appreciated. (Stevepeterson (talk) 06:06, 23 March 2009 (UTC))
The Crusaders also visited Palestine, Jordan, and Syria, which were not part of the Byzantine Empire at that time, so the fiddles they would have encountered in those places would be Arabic ones. Badagnani (talk) 15:06, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
It would be interesting to find some sources on the instruments of the Crusaders. Were they influenced by the Byzantine tradition and music? (Stevepeterson (talk) 01:20, 25 March 2009 (UTC))
I believe the Crusaders (and their entourages) are the ones who brought back the lute, shawm, cymbals, tabor, harp, rebec, dulcimer, and all manner of other instruments back to Europe with them in the early 12th century. Badagnani (talk) 04:47, 25 March 2009 (UTC)



Redheylin (talk) 20:20, 8 May 2009 (UTC)

hi Redheylin, thanks for the image, it actually shows an instrument similar to the (narrowboat shapped) rebec rather than the a lyra. it is also played 'da braccio' and not "da gamba" Stevepeterson (talk) 07:52, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Some questions about Ibn Khordadbeh's work.[edit]

Wondering if Ibn Khordadbeh referred to this instrument as lura indeed, or it's any chance to refer to some other instrument, do he made any description of it or draw something...

And also how did he mentioned the people who played this instrument? it's no way to named them byzantines... so how he named them?

Also the picture of the carved ivory, what is the name of the object? do we have any more photos of the rest of its sides and more info about it ?

ThenksW5ry3 (talk) 09:11, 2 July 2016 (UTC)