One of the most important instruments of Greek antiquity and the one that had the greatest respect from the inhabitants of Ancient Greece is the Ancient Greek lyre. Its predominant and earliest form is the called Chelis, which, as its name explains, is related to the turtle. Chelis in the ancient Greek language means turtle. This correlation is made because, in this particular lyre, a turtle shell was used as a soundbox. There is a description, in the Homeric hymn to Hermes, of how this instrument was constructed that is, how god Hermes made a lyre from a turtle shell, ox skin and gut strings to give it as a gift to Apollo.
As we understand, the lyre was associated with God Apollo worship. It is the musical instrument that all citizens in ancient Greece learned, and not just the professional musicians, whose instrument was the kithara (guitar). Therefore, the lyre is an instrument that introduces the young people of that era, in musical education, as well as in the study of mathematics and even planetary systems. The number of the strings, according to the sources, of the Ancient Greek lyre, varies depending on the period we are studying. We have information for three, five, seven strings or more, but the most prevalent for many centuries is the seven-stringed ancient Greek lyre. On the representations we see upon vases we find, mainly, wooden pecheis(arms), but there are also some references in musical texts of that time about horn pecheis(arms), instead of wooden.
The ancient Greek instrument possessed a soundbox made by tortoise shell, covered by oxen leather. Two wooden arms, the pecheis, were riveted upon the soundbox. These arms, on their top, were connected with each other via a crossbar, the “zygos”. The upper ends of the strings were tied upon zygos with tuning keys, the “collopes”. The lower ends of the strings were riveted upon the lower part of the resonator, via a metallic part, the “chordotonon”. The strings were made by sheep intestine or guts and were put in an ascending order regarding the frequency, with the string of the lower tonic height to be the closest to the player. The vibrations of the strings were transmitted to the resonator through a wooden bridge, the magadion, whose lower part was totally tangent with the leather. Even though there is no written evidence regarding the existence of internal reinforcement of the instrument so that the shell could withstand the pressure applied to it by the leather, the specialists insist that this role was played by a piece of wood, the “donax”.