Playing The Cithara


Playing the cithara was arguably the most popular, most geographically widespread, and longest-running performance genre in Antiquity. From the Archaic Period to the Late Roman Imperial Era, citharode enjoyed star status, playing their songs to vast crowds at festivals, competitions, and concerts throughout the Mediterranean world.

In fact, they have been accused of contributing toward the atmosphere of violence in Miriam’s Alexandria with their effeminate songs to incite the greedy, drunken audiences who were addicted to their bawdy performances.


Miriam and Phoebe would go to The Flamingo’s Tongue to celebrate the spring festival of Isis. In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam describes the after-dinner entertainment:


The vulgarity of the entertainment would spike for an audience now held aloft by food and wine. The citharode would chant their potpourri of lewd songs accompanied by the zestful guffaws of revelers, and the mimes would perform their sketches about prostitutes and pimps or adulterous wives and truant schoolboys for the lustful patrons leaping to their feet like hired dancers.


Miriam’s Aunt Hannah aspired to be a citharode. Just before Shabbat, she would play the cithara in their home. Aunt Hannah explains: “I always wanted to be a musician, to play the cithara professionally like the citharode do today, but your grandparents thought being an entertainer was too degrading, especially for a woman.” So, Aunt Hannah encouraged Miriam to pursue her own dream.


I encourage you to do the same if it means reading THE DEADLIEST LIE. The first book in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series, the book will give you an authentic picture of Alexandrian life and, at the same time, immerse you in “one of the nine most riveting adventures set in the distant past [Wiki Ezvid].” Just click here.

Featured Posts