Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Speaking Heads and Sounding Stones.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
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.   1
   (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.   2
   (3) The statue of Memnon, in Egypt, utters musical sounds when the morning sun darts on it.   3
   (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.   4
   (5) The head of Minos, brought by Odin to Scandinavia, is said to have uttered responses.   5
   (6) Gerbert, afterwards Pope Sylvester II., constructed a speaking head of brass (tenth century).   6
   (7) Albertus Magnus constructed an earthen head in the thirteenth century, which both spoke and moved. Thomas Aqui’nas broke it, whereupon the mechanist exclaimed, “There goes the labour of thirty years!”   7
   (8) Alexander made a statue of Escula’pios which spoke, but Lucian says the sounds were uttered by a man concealed, and conveyed by tubes to the statue.   8
   (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.   9



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