The fiddle (German: fidel) is an instrument that most
likely derived from Arab stringed instruments (rabab).
It can be shown to have existed in Europe possibly as
early as the 9th and with certainty in the 11th century.
After arriving it Spain, it quickly spread to the rest of
Europe. The most frequent forms were elliptical or guitar-
shaped. In contrast to the modern violin, the back and
the belly were always flat. While the earliest instruments
were made from a single piece of wood (with the belly
glued on), they were later made of individual parts with
a separate back and belly that were connected with ribs.
The strings were attached to a peg-disk that was often
heart-shaped and frequently expanded to a peg-box
that was turned back and fitted with lateral pegs. The
number of strings varied between two and five. The
material used for the strings also varied considerably:
various kinds of animal gut, horse-hair, bronze, gold and
even silk. From earliest times there must have been
several ways of holding and playing the instrument. But
in pictorial material and in sculpture (notably the Portico
della Gloria in Santiago de Compostela) they can be seen
held on the knees or transversely across the abdomen,
supported by the shoulder, and played with a bow or
plucked with the fingers.