Would you be mad if someone called you a liar? Of course, you would! But what if you simply misunderstood? What if they weren't calling you an L—I—A—R? What if, instead, they were calling you an L—Y—R—E? Well, as you'll soon learn, that shouldn't necessarily make you mad, but it would be pretty weird.

What are we talking about? The subject of today's Wonder of the Day is the lyre, and that's no lie! It's an old musical instrument that got its start in ancient Greece.

In fact, ancient Greek legends hold that the first lyre was made out of a turtle shell by the god Hermes when he was just a baby. He then supposedly gave the lyre to his brother, Apollo, as an apology for stealing 50 of his oxen as a prank.

In Greek mythology, Apollo is often pictured holding the lyre. Apollo was the god of reason and logic, so the lyre has come to be associated with the ideas of peace and order.

The lyre is a stringed instrument that somewhat resembles a harp, although it sounds more like a guitar. Ancient lyres, some with seven or fewer strings and others with eight or more strings, have been found that date back to 2,500 B.C.

Ancient lyres were usually played by strumming the strings like a guitar, rather than plucking the strings like a harp. The other hand was used to silence certain strings, so that strumming would create chords using only certain strings at a time.

Over the years, the word “lyre" has been used to describe other instruments, too. Smaller, common folk instruments, such as the kithara and the lute, have sometimes been called lyres. To further confuse matters, it seems that the exact number of strings and overall size of the lyre has varied throughout history. So if someone claims they're playing a lyre, just go with it and don't call them a liar!

Throughout history, the lyre has been used in many different cultures. It was particularly popular, for example, in northern Europe amongst Germanic tribes. Some believe the lyre used to be played to accompany the reading of epic poems.

Today, the lyre is still played in northeastern Africa. Historians believe its popularity in areas such as Egypt may stem from the instrument's introduction to those cultures by the ancient Greeks.

The lyre can be seen in other areas of the world, as well. For example, the lyre has long been the official symbol of the New York City Ballet. It was chosen for its representation of the traits of harmony, form, balance, and purity.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a peek at the future of transportation!