REH Word of the Week: sistrum Essay

A Roman statue of Isis holding a sistrum


1. A percussion instrument of ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Rome consisting of metal rods or loops attached to a metal frame.

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[origin: Middle English, from Latin sistrum, from Greek seistron, from seiein, to shake]


Mylitta’s girdle stolen
From Punic lecterns high,
A golden fruit from Atlas
Who once upheld the sky.

Astarte’s silver sistrem [sic]
Fair Ishtar’s virgin zone,
Priapus’ phallic signet,
A gem from pharaoh’s throne

A verse from Capri’s island
Upon a shield of gold
Once decked Troy’s campaniles
By Sappho’s hand enscrolled.

[from “The Road to Babel”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 305 and Shadows of Dreams, p. 67]