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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In Greek mythology, Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a contest of music. He was purportedly born in Celaenae (or Kelainai) in Phrygia (today, the town of Dinar in Turkey) at the main source of the Meander (the river Menderes). Marsyas was an expert player on the double-piped reed instrument pipe known as the aulos. He found the instrument on the ground where it had been tossed by its inventor Athena, after the other gods made sport of how her cheeks bulged when she played.

In later art

In the art of later periods, allegory is applied to gloss the somewhat ambivalent morality of the flaying of Marsyas. Marsyas is often seen with a flute, pan pipes or even bagpipes. Apollo is shown with his lyre, or sometimes a harp, viol or other stringed instrument. The contest of Apollo and Marsyas is seen as symbolizing the eternal struggle between the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of human nature.

Paintings taking Marsyas as a subject include "Apollo and Marsyas" by Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1492 - c.1554), "The Flaying of Marsyas" by Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), "The Flaying of Marsyas" by Titian (c. 1570-1576) and "Apollo and Marsyas" by Bartolomeo Manfredi (St. Louis Art Museum).

James Merrill based a poem, "Marsyas", on this myth; it appears in The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace (1959). Zbigniew Herbert and Nadine Sabra Meyer each titled poems "Apollo and Marsyas".

In 2002, British artist Anish Kapoor created and installed an enormous sculpture in London's Tate Modern called "Marsyas". The work, consisting of three huge steel rings and a single red PVC membrane, was impossible to view as a whole because of its size, but had obvious anatomical connotations.

There is a bridge built towards the end of the Roman period on the river Marsyas that is still called by the satyr's name, Marsiyas.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Marsyas" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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