Ancient Musical Instruments of Rome I

The ancient Romans surrounded themselves with music. They put on serious musical performances and held military parades. Some of their religious rituals became wild and crazy. Private nightly dining and public celebrations were also a common part of ancient Roman life. Examples of ancient Roman music include:

The Lute and Kithara

Before the lute of medieval times, the ancient Romans played the instrument that came before the Egyptians or the Greeks came in contact with its sound. The lute was much like a guitar and had strings that a player would strum. The ancient Romans also played the kithara, which was another guitar-like instrument of their times , only larger than the lute. It was seen as one of the more prominent of musical instruments and found a place in both serious and playful settings.


During more serious settings, organs powered by bellows were played. They were also used during ancient Roman games. Made out of a row of large pipes, the hydraulus was a water-organ that let out some of the most powerful and softest sounds , depending on the way it was played. A leversand with perforated sliders were used to work the keys in such a way to produce an intended sound. These parts were responsible for opening and shutting the mouths of the pipes, as wind was captured by bellows that they used the pressure of water to make sounds. The pipes of the water organ were made out of bronze and reed. The number of pipe rows on the organ varied from one to eight.  


The panpipes were an instrument that was named after the god Pan. It was a belief during this time that talented musicians were inspired by the god and the muses.


One of the most ancient stringed instruments in ancient Rome was the lyre. It came in many different forms and was used in all settings. The lyre was also popular in Egypt, Greece, Troy, and Persia.


Appearing throughout Greek, Etruscan, and Roman times, the flute was one of the most ancient musical instruments with tone. It was also the most widespread. The earliest form of the flute was comprised of twin reeds. The tibia was a type of flute or pipe that was fashioned out of a hollow cane that had been perforated with holes. Other specimens were made out of wood. The Romans had a habit to play on two pipes at the same time. They measured about 15 inches long and had a separate mouthpiece on each with a hole at the end. Five hole were also positioned along the top with one underneath. The tibia came into play during sacrifices, funerals, and during times of entertainment.


When dancing or performing in the theatre, the tympani was an early form of the tambourine we have today. It also played an important role in ancient celebrations.

Ancient Roman Singers

When singing accompanied music, an operatic style was used with popular songs. All over the Mediterranean, Roman choral music was well known.