Appendix C. Horace, Cinara, and the Syrian Musiciennes of Rome

Horace alludes several times to a certain Cinara whom he loved in his youth, and her untimely death. She may of course be partly or largely poetic fiction, like other lover-muses of Roman elegy. This role she most clearly fulfils at the start of Odes 4.1, when the poet, returning to lyric after a hiatus, pretends to have lost what power he had “in the reign of good Cinara.” [1]
The name, most uncommon, has been connected with Gk. kínara (‘artichoke’) and its aphrodisiac properties. [2] Without excluding this as a possible secondary association, a musical interpretation is ineluctably urged by Cinara’s counterparts in the elegiac corpus. These are modeled on foreign courtesan-musicians, thus conveniently embodying romance, poetic inspiration, and neoteric exoticism in a single source. A lyric identity is implied for Catullus’ Lesbia, who evokes the tenth muse Sappho; while Tibullus’ Cynthia and Propertius’ Delia allude to the lyre-loving Apollo and Artemis. Horace himself elsewhere mentions a certain “Chia, trained in plucking” and a “Thracian Chloe, expert on the cithara” (who nevertheless pales beside Lydia, who made him happier than a Persian king). [3]
While Cinara lacks a straightforward geographical name, the required foreign association is vividly supplied by the Syrian lyre that she must incarnate. Compare the musiciennes called sambŷkai (‘arched harps’, cf. Aram. ṣabbekā, Akk. sammû) who entered Greco-Roman life in the Hellenistic period. [4] Horace’s interest in Syrian music-girls is otherwise attested by the ambubaiarum collegia (“colleges of pipers”) who head his appealing list of artistic low-lifes to whom the late piper Tigellius was so generous; that the ambubaiae certainly took their name from an ancient Semitic word for double-pipes (Akk. embūbu, Ebl. na-bu-bù-um) is a strong parallel for seeing ‘Cinara’ as also embodying a Syrian instrument. [5] Another Cinara is found in Propertius and mentioned by his Babylonian Horus in the context of poetic inspiration. [6] Even if this is no more than an allusion to Horace, it confirms both the generic nature of ‘Cinara’ herself, and the proposed eastern interpretation. Recall the kinyrístriai who were said to be resident in the temple of the Babylonian Hera. [7]
Such musiciennes must have come to Rome especially after Pompey’s annexation of Syria in 64 BCE. Juvenal, a century after Horace, looks back on the flood of Syrian music-girls who prostituted themselves around the Circus, playing the very instruments that are illustrated in the ensembles (‘colleges’) of ninth/eighth-century Syrian and Cypro-Phoenician art (Figures 29, 31): double-pipes, frame-drums, and “horizontal strings” (obliquas / chordas)—an unambiguous allusion to Syro-Levantine playing technique. [8] One should recall Isaiah’s kinnōr-playing ‘harlot’ of Tyre, the ‘lyre-of-lust’ (kinar šiha) in Mandaean tradition, and so on. [9] Another Syro-Levantine lyre known in Roman life at this time was the nablium (‘little nábla’), which Ovid advised would-be courtesans to take up. [10]
Thus, while the ‘biography’ of Cinara remains obscure, a Syrian lyric identity accords perfectly with the poetic conventions and cultural realities of Horace’s time.


[ back ] 1. Horace Odes 4.1.3–4 (bonae
 / sub regno Cinarae), cf. 4.13.21–23, Epistles 1.7.28, 1.14.33. See Johnson 2004:29; more generally Putnam 1986:33–42 for the ‘loving-muse’ motif, but focusing on the invocation of Venus.
[ back ] 2. Or still more obscurely the tiny island of Kinaros in the Dodecanese: for both see Coletti 1996–1998 and Johnson 2004:229n88 with references. A paedagogus called Cinarus is epigraphically attested at the second-third century CE Rhegium: Buonocore 1989:65–66; Hutchinson 2006:78. One of Aeneas’ companions appears variously as Cinyrus, Ciniris, or Cunarus at Vergil Aeneid 10.186: see Roscher Lex. s.v. Kinyros.
[ back ] 3. Horace Odes 4.13.7 (doctae psallere Chiae); 3.9.9–10 (Thressa Chloecitharae sciens).
[ back ] 4. AGM:75–77.
[ back ] 5. Ambubaiae: Horace Satires 1.2.1; cf. Suetonius Nero 27; Petronius Satyricon 74.13. For the Akk. and Ebl. forms, see p55n44, 201n145. A Mandaean legend features a group of six ambūbi, maidens raised as a piping ensemble in the palace of Hirmiz Shah: Drower 1937:394–396.
[ back ] 6. Propertius 4.1.99–102. Cf. Hutchinson 2006 ad loc.
[ back ] 7. See p216.
[ back ] 8. Juvenal Satires 3.62–65: iam pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes 
/ et linguam et mores et cum tibicine chordas
 / obliquas nec non gentilia tympana secum /
 vexit et ad circum iussas prostare puellas (“The Syrian Orontes has long since descended the Tiber / And with it hauled its language and customs and its / Strings Aslant, with the piper, its native drums too / And girls compelled to sell themselves around the Circus”).
[ back ] 9. Isaiah 23:15–16; cf. p60, 302.
[ back ] 10. Ovid Art of Love 3.315–316.