25 June 2010

Musical instruments as weapons of war

Illustrated above is the carnyx, a Celtic instrument.
The carnyx (plural: carnyces)... was a Celtic-Dacian variant of the Etruscan-Roman lituus and belongs to the family of brass instruments.  It was an ſ-shaped valveless horn made of beaten bronze and consisted of a tube between one and two meters in length, whereas the diameter of the tube is unknown.  Archaeological finds date back to the Bronze Age, and the instrument itself is attested for in contemporary sources between ca. 300 BC and 200 AD. The carnyx was in widespread use in Britain, France, parts of Germany, eastward to Romania and beyond, even as far as India, where bands of Celtic mercenaries took it on their travels...

The sound of the carnyx was described as lugubrious and harsh, perhaps due to the loosened tongue of the bell...  The carnyx was held vertically so that the sound would travel from more than three meters above the ground...

In addition the bronze jaw of the animal head may have been loosened as well in order to produce a jarring sound that would surely have been most dreadful when combined with the sound of a few dozen more carnyces in battle.  The demoralizing effect of the Gallic battle music must have been enormous: When the Celts advanced on Delphi under Brennus in 279 BC, the unusual echoing effects of the blaring horns completely overawed the Greeks, before even a single fight could commence...

Brass instruments were regularly used as a means of communication during battle, relaying orders for troop positioning, movement and tactics...
Text from Ancient Celtic Music at Citizendium, via Uncertain TimesImage credit.

3 comments:

  1. Can you say vuvuzela?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was thinking the same thing, bigjohn. Wasn't an instrument used in Dune, too?

    ReplyDelete
  3. They have a great collection of musical instruments so I took a few pictures of some older handheld instruments.

    ReplyDelete

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