Quantcast

The Metropolitan Museum of Art LogoEmail

Type the CAPTCHA word:

Accompaniment to Daily Life: The Syrian Tibia

Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, Associate Curator, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014

Tibia (detail). Syria, ca. 1–500

Tibia. Syria, late Roman, ca. 1–500. Ivory, silver, chalcedony; L. 23 1/8 in. (58.6 cm); Diam. at end 2.5 x L. 58.6 cm (1 x 23 1/16 in.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1958 (58.40)

«An extraordinarily early and rare wind instrument in the Museum's collection is a tibia from the ancient Mediterranean world. Music was abundant in the Roman Republic, to which Syria was annexed as a province, and the tibia, a double-reed instrument, accompanied many events in Etruscan and Roman daily life. Its ubiquitous depictions in mosaics, pottery, and sarcophagi portray tibia players in wedding processions, entertaining at formal meals, and providing music for laborers. Ovid wrote that the tibia "sang" in temples, at gaming events, and during funeral rites. Both Ovid and Livy recounted a legendary strike by tibia players, which underscores the instrument's great importance.»

This example reveals that the design, acoustics, and performance technique of the tibia were highly sophisticated. The instrument was sounded with a double reed, and two pipes would have been played simultaneously. The small tubes, or chimneys, projecting from the side of this instrument and the rings encircling its body were likely part of a complex mechanical system designed to increase the number of notes and modal scales that could be played on a single instrument.

Tibia. Syria, ca. 1–500

Tibia (detail). Syria, late Roman, ca. 1–500. Ivory, silver, chalcedony; L. 23 1/8 in. (58.6 cm); Diam. at end 2.5 x L. 58.6 cm (1 x 23 1/16 in.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1958 (58.40)

Department(s): Musical Instruments
Tag(s): Syria, tibia

Post a Comment

We welcome your participation! Please note that while lively discussion and strong opinions are encouraged, the Museum reserves the right to delete comments that it deems inappropriate for any reason. Comments are moderated and publication times may vary.

*Required fields

Follow This Blog: Subscribe

About the Author

Dr. Bradley Strauchen-Scherer is an associate curator in the Department of Musical Instruments.

About this Blog

The Museum's collection of musical instruments includes approximately five thousand examples from six continents and the Pacific Islands, dating from about 300 B.C. to the present. It illustrates the development of musical instruments from all cultures and eras. On this blog, curators and guests will share information about this extraordinary collection, its storied history, the department's public activities, and some of the audio and video recordings from our archives.