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p1088 Syrinx

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p1088 of

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

SYRINX (σύριγξ), the Pan's Pipe, or Pandean Pipe, was the appropriate musical instrument of the Arcadian and other Grecian shepherds, and was regarded by them as the invention of Pan, their tutelary god (Virg. Buc. II.32, VIII.24), who was sometimes heard playing upon it (συρίζοντος: see Theocrit. I.3.14, 16; Schol. in loc.; Longus, IV.27), as they imagined, on mount Maenalus (Paus. VIII.36 § 5). It was of course attributed to Faunus, who was the same with Pan (Hor. Carm. I.17.10). When the Roman poets had occasion to mention it, they called it fistula (Virg. Buc. II.36, III.22, 25; Hor. Carm. IV.12.10; Ovid. Met. VIII.192, XIII.784; Mart. XIV.63; Tibull. II.5.20).º It was also variously denominated according to the materials of which it was constructed, whether of cane (tenui arundine, Virg. Buc. VI.8; Hom. Hymn. in Pana, 15; ποιμενίῳ δονάκι, Brunck, Anal. I.489), reed (calamo, Virg. Buc. I.10, II.34, V.2; κάλαμος, Theocrit. VIII.24; Longus, I.4), or hemlock (cicuta, Virg. Buc. V.85). In general seven hollow stems of these plants were fitted together by means of wax, having been previously cut to the proper lengths, and adjusted so as to form an octave (Virg. Buc. II.32, 36); but sometimes nine were admitted, giving an equal number of notes (Theocrit. VIII.18‑22). Another refinement in the construction of this instrument, which, however, was rarely practised, was to arrange the pipes in a curve so as to fit the form of the lip, instead of arranging them in a plane (Theocrit. I.129). A syrinx of eight reeds is shown in the gem figured on page 846. The annexed woodcut is taken from a bas-relief in the collection at Appledurcombe in the Isle of Wight (Mus. Worsleyanum, pl. 9). It represents Pan reclining at the entrance of the cave, which was dedicated to him in the Acropolis at Athens. He holds in his right hand a drinking-horn [Rhyton] and in his left a syrinx, which is strengthened by two transverse bands.

[image ALT: A woodcut depicting a satyr — a fat old man, bald but bearded, with the lower quarters of a goat, wearing a cloak over his shoulders although leaving his chest bare, seated on a cloud. In his right hand he holds a drinking horn, in his left a Pan pipe. It is an illustration of this pipe, or syrinx, as further explained in the text of the webpage.]

The ancients always considered the Pan's Pipe as a rustic instrument, chiefly used by those who tended flocks and herds (Hom. Il. XVIII.526; Apoll. Rhod. I.577; Dionys. Perieg. 996; Longus, I.2, I.14‑16, II.24‑26); but also admitted to regulate the dance (Hes. Scut. 278). The Lydians, whose troops marched to military music, employed this together with other instruments for the purpose (Herod. I.17). This instrument was the origin of the organ [Hydraula].

The term σύριγξ was also applied to levels, or narrow subterranean passages, made either in searching for metals, in mining at the siege of a city (Polyaen. V.17), or in forming catacombs for the dead (Aelian, H. A. VI.43, XVI.15).

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Page updated: 4 Oct 08