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What are the most ancient stringed instruments


The most ancient instruments of this kind, whose form is known, are those of the ancient Egyptians; among these the harp stands pre-eminent. One of the most celebrated representations of an Egyptian harp was drawn from a painting discovered in one of the caverns in the mountains of Egyptian Thebes, by some travellers: it is called the Theban harp, and has 13 strings; its form is extremely elegant.

This harp is supposed to be one of the kind in use before and at the time of Sesostris, a King of Egypt, who is said to have reigned some ages before the siege of Troy (Troy, anciently called Ilium, was the capital of Troas, in Asia. It became famous for the 10 years' siege it sustained against the Greeks; the history of this event is commemorated in the poems of Homer and Virgil.). He appears to have been celebrated for his conquests, and for the number of edifices he erected to perpetuate his fame.

Remains of Egyptian harps of a more simple construction, with only four strings, have likewise been discovered. Among the monuments of ancient Rome, there are representations of stringed instruments resembling the harp, but not equal in beauty of form to the famous Egyptian harp already mentioned.

The harp was a favorite instrument with the ancient Saxons in Great Britain. The celebrated Alfred entered the Danish camp disguised as a harper, because the harpers passed through the midst of the enemy unmolested on account of their calling. The same deception was likewise practised by several Danish chiefs, in the camp of Athelstan, the Saxon.

The bards, or harpers of old, were the historians of the time; they handed down from generation to generation the history of remarkable events, and of the deeds and lineage of their celebrated chiefs and princes. The harpers of Britain were formerly admitted to the banquets of kings and nobles: their employment was to sing or recite the achievements of their patrons, accompanying themselves on the harp. No nations have been more famous for their harps and harpers than the Welsh and Irish.