Sep 24

The Tragic Tale of Marsyas

In mythology, we often find numerous tales of tragedy wherein the fate of the victim was left in the hands of the gods. The story of Marsyas , a satyr, comes from Greek Mythology. He is said to have thought that his talents rivaled those of the gods. He openly boasted of his tremendous musical skills and, though it is unclear who challenged whom to the contest, Marsyas was doomed to fail. No mere mortal could ever hope to outdo any of the gods. His hubris was his downfall. Apollo, the god of music, won the contest and the fate of Marsyas was sealed. As agreed to by both contestants, the loser would suffer the torture of the victor.

Some believe that it was actually Athena who punished Marsyas for having the audacity to pick up an instrument that she had discarded. Other mythological tales explain that Athena put down the aulos because she claimed that when she played it, her facial features and natural beauty were distorted.




Marsyas as depicted by Balthasar Permoser (1651 – 1732) is another of the many pieces on display at the MET. The artist successfully portrays Marsyas suffering the wrath of Apollo. His squinting eyes and mouth wide open, one can almost hear his screams of agony.



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