The ''varvitos'' (barbitos)

Previous exhibit                                                                                                                   Next exhibit

EXHIBITS    >    The musical instruments of ancient Greeks    >   

The ''varvitos'' (barbitos)


It was a stringed instrument which accompanied symposiums and Dionysian rituals.

The soundbox was of tortoise shell as the lyre. The arms, however, were much longer with longer strings (5 until 7) and consequently had a deeper pitch and a softer tone than that of the lyre. Its straight wooden arms rose outward from its base and curved inward at the top with a bent end which carried the cross-bar.The elasticity of the arms allowed them imperceptible vertical motion thus creating a wave-like resonance. The player balanced the barbitos upright against the left side of his body pressing it leterally against his belly (with the help of a sling which went through the left arm of the instrument and his left wrist). The free fingers pressed or plucked its strings while the right hand struck them with the "plectrum".

Anacreon, Sappho and Alcaeus established the barbitos ("varmos") between the 6th and 5th century B.C.

SOURCES: "M.L. West, Ancient Greek Music", "Athenaeus of Naucratis, Deipnosophistai".