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Speaking Heads

and Sounding Stones.

(1) Jabel Nagus [mountain of the bell ], in Arabia Petræa, gives out sounds of varying strength whenever the sand slides down its sloping flanks.

(2) The white dry sand of the beach in the isle of Eigg, of the Hebrides, produces, according to Hugh Miller, a musical sound when walked upon.

(3) The statue of Memnon, in Egypt, utters musical sounds when the morning sun darts on it.

(4) The speaking head of Orpheus, at Lesbos, is said to have predicted the bloody death which terminated the expedition of Cyrus the Great into Scythia.

(5) The head of Minos, brought by Odin to Scandinavia, is said to have uttered responses.

(6) Gerbert, afterwards Pope Sylvester II., constructed a speaking head of brass (tenth century).

(7) Albertus Magnus constructed an earthen head in the thirteenth century, which both spoke and moved. Thomas Aquinas broke it, whereupon the mechanist exclaimed, “There goes the labour of thirty years!”

(8) Alexander made a statue of Esculapios which spoke, but Lucian says the sounds were uttered by a man concealed, and conveyed by tubes to the statue.

(9) The “ear of Dionysius” communicated to Dionysius, Tyrant of Syracuse, whatever was uttered by suspected subjects shut up in a state prison. This “ear” was a large black opening in a rock, about fifty feet high, and the sound was communicated by a series of channels not unlike those of the human ear.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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