The tympanum was a round, shallow, hand-held drum with a wooden
or metal rim around which was stretched oxhide, on which a player beat with
open palm or stick; some tympana had bells embedded in their rim, others
had a deeper shape (see
dictionary). The instrument came to Rome from Greece and the East, probably
in association with the cult of Cybele (see Catullus, Carmina
) and the
of Dionysus. The tympanum was used for various public and private
entertainments, in funeral and religious processions, and in the military (see
instruments of ancient Rome).
Widespread and long-term as its use, Umbricius' non gentilia dismisses the instrument as non-Roman.