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Cornu


[image ALT: an engraving of two tapering horns, each one curved thru more than 180 degrees, each one held together with a brace. It is a depiction of ancient Roman horns.]

p358 Article by Benjamin Jowett, M.A., Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford
on pp358‑359 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CORNU, a wind instrument, anciently made of horn, but afterwards of brass (Varr. L. L. V.117, ed. Müller). According to Athenaeus (IV p184A) it was an invention of the Etruscans. Like the tuba, it differed from the tibia in being a larger and more powerful instrument, and from the tuba itself, in being curved nearly in the shape of a C, with a cross-piece to steady the instrument for the convenience of the performer. In Greek it is called στρογγύλη σάλπιγξ. It had no stopples or plugs to adjust the scale to any particular mode (Burney's Hist. of Music, vol. I p518); the entire series of notes was produced without keys or holes, by the modification of the breath and the lips at the mouthpiece. Probably, from the description given of it in the poets, it was, like our own horn, an octave lower than the trumpet. The classicum, which originally meant a signal, rather than the musical instrument which gave the signal, was usually sounded with the cornu.

"Sonuit reflexo classicum cornu,

Lituusque adunco stridulos cantus

Elisit aere."

(Sen. Oed. 734)

p359 From which lines we learn the distinction between the cornu and lituus, as from Ovid (Metam. I.98) we learn that between the tuba and cornu —

"Non tuba directi, non aeris cornua flexi."

The following woodcut,º taken from Bartholiniº (De Tibiis, p403) illustrates the above account.


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Page updated: 4 Nov 06