The Ancient Kithara


The kithara was a large performance lyre, a stringed instrument which the performer held in the left hand, and strummed with the right. The left hand probably did not "stop" the strings in the manner of a modern guitar, but more likely was used to pull away strings which were not to sound when strumming. Though famously of seven strings (the "seven-tone lyre") in the archaic and classical periods, the performance kithara could have 11 or 12 strings by the Roman era, a practice which probably began as early as the fourth century B.C.