18 February 2009
This is a collection of material about Marsyas.
External link: Marsyas at theoi: "The fable evidently refers to the struggle between the citharoedic and auloedic styles of music, of which the former was connected with the worship of Apollo among the Dorians, and the latter with the orgiastic rites of Cybele in Phrygia." Interesting also the observation that Apollo won as he added his voice to his playing of his lyre, a feat that Marsyas could not accomplish since his mouth was already occupied. Elsewhere near the top of this page, we read that "the Satyr inevitably lost, when, in the second round, the god demanded they play their instruments upsidedown—a feat ill-suited to the flute."
These two versions of the myth versions seem mutually exclusive.
On the left: Section of the original oil painting by the baroque painter Andrea Sacchi (1599–1661) depicting an allegorical scene praising an Italian castrato singer Pasqualini famous at that time (for more about the painting, see the JSTOR entry on Andrea Sacchi's 'Apollo crowning the singer Marc Antonio Pasquaini'–alas, only the first page can be read free of charge). The castrato is given the laurel by Apollo, who, according to the Greek myth, had won a musical competition with the satyr Marsyas and then flayed him alive (see the Marsyas entry in Lempriere's Classical Dictionary). Marsyas is relegated to the background, tied to a tree and writhing in agony (or anticipation of agony).
On the right: An etching, frontispice in a book by? about? William Shenstone (1714–1763), poet and landcape gardener (Leasowes), based on the painting. In this variant, Shenstone takes the place of the Italian singer. Marsyas has been left out. Notice the cloth (its original red reminding of Marsyas' skin) has been extended leftwards to hide Apollo's genitals.
(Placeholder): A diagram of the versions of the myth, from the origin of the flute to the welling up of the red river Marsyas. Check different versions, map out where they differ and agree? (surely has been done somewhere already?)
The myth of Apollo and Marsyas intersects with another Greek myth, that of Daphne. (A) cupid strikes Apollo with a golden arrow that turns him on, and Daphne with the leaden one that turns her off. She spurns all her admirers and, fleeing Apollo, asks her father, the river god Peneus, to turn her into a laurel tree, which the frustrated Apollo in turn appropriates as his symbol of public triumph. So you have a love that shall not be, an asymmetry of desire, and sublimation in art, with an Ersatz-object (laurel) resulting from Daphne's transformation signifying the fame rewarding artistic endeavour.