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Tuba

p1170 Article by William Ramsay, M.A., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow
on pp1170‑1171 of

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

TUBA (σάλπιγξ), a bronze trumpet, distinguished from the cornu by being straight while the latter was curved: thus Ovid (Met. I.98)

"Non tuba directi non aeris cornua flexi."

(compare Vegetius, III.5). Facciolati in his Lexicon (s.v. Tuba) is mistaken in supposing that Aulus Gellius (V.8) and Macrobius (Sat. VI.8), who copies him, intend to affirm that the tuba was crooked. The words of the former do not mean that both the lituus and the tuba were crooked, but that both that kind of trumpet which was called a lituus and also the staff of the augur were crooked, and that it was doubtful which of the two had lent its name to the other [Lituus].

The tuba was employed in war for signals of every description (Tacit. Hist. II.29; Caesar, B. C. III.36; Hirt. B. G. VIII.20; Liv. XXXIX.27), at the games and public festivals (Juv. VI.249, X.214; Virg. Aen. V.113; Ovid, Fast. I.716), also at the last rites to the dead (hinc tuba, candelae, Pers. III.103; Virg. Aen. XI.191; Ovid, Heroid. XII.140, Amor. II.6.6), and Aulus Gellius (XX.2) tells us from Atteiusº Capito that those who sounded the trumpet at funerals were termed siticines, and used an instrument of a peculiar form. The tones of the tuba are represented as of a harsh and fear-inspiring character (fractos sonitus tubarum, Virg. Georg. IV.72; terribilem sonitum aere canoro, Aen. IX.503, which Ennius (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. IX.503); Priscian VIII.18.103, ed. Krehl) endeavoured to imitate in the line

"At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit."

The invention of the tuba is usually ascribed by ancient writers to the Etruscans (Athenaeus, IV c82; Pollux, IV.85, 87; Diodor. V.40; Serv. ad Virg. Aen. VIII.516; Clem. Alex. Strom. I p306, and the epithet ληστοσαλπιγκταί (i.e. robber-trumpeters, Photius and Hesych., s.v. and Pollux, l.c.) would seem to indicate that they had made it famous by their piracies. It has been remarked that Homer never introduces the σάλπιγξ in his narrative but in comparisons only (Il. XVIII.219, XXI.388; Eustath. and Schol.), which leads us to infer that although known in his time it had been but recently introduced into Greece, and it is certain that notwithstanding its eminently martial character, it was not until a later period used in the armies of the leading states. By the tragedians its Tuscan origin was fully recognized: Athena in Aeschylus orders the deep-toned piercing Tyrrhenian trumpet to sound (Eumen. 567), Ulysses in Sophocles (Aj. 17) declares that the accents of his beloved goddess fell upon his ears like the tones of the brazen-mouthed Tyrrhenian bell (κώδωνος, i.e. the bell-shaped aperture of the trumpet), and similar epithets are applied by Euripides (Phoeniss. 1376, p1171Heraclid. 830), and other Greek (Auctor. Rhes. 988; Brunck, Anal. tom. II p142) and Roman writers (Tyrrhenus clangor, Virg. Aen. VIII.526; Stat. Theb. III.650; Tyrrhenae clangore tubae, Silius, II.19). According to one account it was first fabricated for the Tyrrhenians by Athena, who in consequence was worshipped by the Argives under the title of Σάλπιγξ (Schol ad Hom. Il. XVIII.219, e. cod. Vict.; Pausan. II.21 § 3); while at Rome the tubilustrium, or purification of sacred trumpets, was performed on the last day of the Quinquatrus [Quinquatrus]. In another legend the discovery is attributed to a mythical king of the Tyrrhenians, Maleus, son of Hercules and Omphale (Lutat. ad Stat. Theb. IV.224, VI.404; Hygin. Fab. 274; Schol. ad Hom. l.c.), in a third to Pisaeus the Tyrrhenian (Plin. H. N. VII.57; Photius, s.v.), and Silius has preserved a tradition (VIII.483),º according to which the origin of this instrument is traced to Vetulonii (Müller, Die Etrusker, IV.1, 3, 4, 5).


[image ALT: an engraving of a long flaring hollow tube. It is a depiction of an ancient Roman trumpet.]

There appears to have been no essential difference in form between the Greek and Roman or Tyrrhenian trumpets. Both were long, straight, bronze tubes gradually increasing in diameter, and terminating in a bell-shaped aperture. They present precisely the same appearance on monuments of very different dates, as may be seen from the cuts annexed, the former of which is from Trajan's column, and the latter from an ancient fictile vase (Hope, Costumes of the Ancients, pl. 156).


[image ALT: an engraving of an ancient Greek warrior, wearing a short skirt, what appears to be chest armor of the 'muscle' type, and bare-legged and barefoot but wearing greaves. In his obscured left hand, he carries a round shield, from which hangs a drapery with an eye painted on it. With his right hand, he supports a trumpet, the bell of which is about 20 cm beyond his grasp. It is a depiction of an ancient Greek trumpeter.]

The scholiast on the Iliad (l.c.) reckons six varieties of trumpets; the first he calls the Grecian Σάλπιγξ which Athena discovered for the Tyrrhenians, and the sixth, termed by him κατ᾽ ἐξόχην, the Τυρσηνικὴº σάλπιγξ, he describes as bent at the extremity (κώδωνα κεκλασμένον ἔχουσα); but by this we must unquestionably understand the sacred trumpet (ἱερατικὴ σάλπιγξ, Lydus, de Mens. IV.6), the lituus already noticed at the beginning of this article (Compare Lucan, I.431).


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