Pan Flute

Definition

Mark Cartwright
by
published on 17 June 2012
Panpipes (by Mark Cartwright)

The pan flute or panpipes (syrinx) was a musical wind instrument first used by the ancient Greeks. Most commonly played by shepherds, the earliest use was in the Cycladic islands in the third millennium BCE, and representations of the instrument run right through the history of Greek art.

Although in some accounts the invention of the instrument was attributed to Cybele or Hermes, the deity most closely associated with the panpipes and widely credited with its invention was the pastoral god Pan. In Greek mythology, Pan, the patron of shepherds, fell in love with the Nymph Syrinx, daughter of Ladon the river-god. Fleeing his attentions, Syrinx pleaded with Zeus to save her and just when Pan captured her, Zeus turned the Nymph into reeds. Enraged, Pan smashed the reeds into pieces but on reflection he was struck with remorse and wept and kissed the broken reeds, all that remained of his beloved. As he kissed the reeds, he discovered that his breath could create sounds from them, and so he made the musical instrument that would carry the lost Nymph’s name.  

Remove Ads

Advertisement

Greek Pan flutes were constructed Using 4 to 18 cane tubes.

Panpipes were constructed from four to eighteen cane tubes (without any lateral holes) which were fastened together using cane, flax, or wax. Played by holding the instrument in both hands and blowing across the top end of each tube, different notes were produced with different lengths of tubes or by equal length tubes blocked at different points by wax. The sound produced was deep and rich.

The instrument is depicted both in sculpture, such as small marble Cycladic statues and clay figurines, and also on decorated ceramics, particularly red- and black-figure pottery from Attica. Representations of Pan, Hermes, Attis, Satyrs, and more rarely Eros (only in late Antiquity, 2-3rd century CE) often depict them playing the instrument.
 

Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.


About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.

Remove Ads

Advertisement

Help us write more

We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Each article costs us about $50 in history books as source material, plus editing and server costs. You can help us create even more free articles for as little as $5 per month, and we'll give you an ad-free experience to thank you! Become a Member

Recommended Books

 

Bibliography

Add External Link

External Links

Cite This Work

APA Style

Cartwright, M. (2012, June 17). Pan Flute. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Panpipes/

Chicago Style

Cartwright, Mark. "Pan Flute." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 17, 2012. https://www.ancient.eu/Panpipes/.

MLA Style

Cartwright, Mark. "Pan Flute." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 17 Jun 2012. Web. 26 May 2019.

Remove Ads

Advertisement

Remove Ads

Advertisement

Powered by Mailchimp

Newsletter

Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week:

Are you a...?




Our Videos

You can also follow us on Youtube!

Medieval Magazine

The Medieval Magazine
Remove Ads

Advertisement