1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Marsyas
MARSYAS, in Greek mythology, a Phrygian god or Silenus, son of Hyagnis. He was originally the god of the small river of the same name near Celaenae, an old Phrygian town. He represents the art of playing the flute as opposed to the lyre—the one the accompaniment of the worship of Cybele, the other that of the worship of Apollo. According to the legend, Athena, who had invented the flute, threw it away in disgust, because it distorted the features. Marsyas found it, and having acquired great skill in playing it, challenged Apollo to a contest with his lyre. Midas, king of Phrygia, who had been appointed judge, declared in favour of Marsyas, and Apollo punished Midas by changing his ears into ass’s ears. In another version, the Muses were judges and awarded the victory to Apollo, who tied Marsyas to a tree and flayed him alive. Marsyas, as well as Midas and Silenus, are associated in legend with Dionysus and belong to the cycle of legends of Cybele. A statue of Marsyas was set up in the Roman forum and colonies as a symbol of liberty. The contest and punishment of Marsyas were favourite subjects in Greek art, both painting and sculpture. In Florence there are several statues of Marsyas hanging on the tree as he is going to be flayed (see Greek Art, fig. 54, Pl. II.); Apollo and the executioner complete the group. In the Lateran museum at Rome there is a statue representing Marsyas in the act of picking up the flute, a copy of a masterpiece by Myron (Hyginus, Fab. 167, 191; Apollodorus i. 4, 2; Ovid, Metam. vi. 382–400, xi. 145–193), for which see Greek Art, fig. 64 (Pl. III.).