Wooden Lyre

We have this beautiful wooden lyre in our Classics Department collection.

Lyres were known to be used by the ancient Greeks, and were in many ways like miniature harps. A classical lyre has a hollow body which was made out of turtle shell. Bards and poets are often described or depicted in ancient Greek and Roman art and literature as playing a lyre while reciting poetry.

In Greek myth, Hermes stole a herd of sacred cows from Apollo. In order not to be followed, he made shoes for the cows so that they could only walk backwards. Apollo could not follow where the cows were going. Hermes slaughtered one of the cows and using the entrails and a tortoise or turtle shell, he created the lyre. Apollo worked out that it was Hermes, and was very angry, but after hearing the sound of the lyre, he was soothed. Apollo traded the herd of cattle for the lyre.