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Author Topic: Marsyas  (Read 7364 times)
Jochen
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« on: August 02, 2005, 06:19:17 am »

Hi!

Here I have a coin from L. Censorinus with Apoll and Marsyas I want to share with you.

L. Censorinus, gens Marcia
AR - Denar, 3.68g, 24.17mm
Rome 82 BC
obv. (no legend)
bust of Apollo, laureate, r.
rev. L. CENSOR l.
Marsyas walking l., gazing upwards, raising r. Hand, with wineskin above
shoulder; tall column behind, surmounted by a draped figure (Minerva?)
Crawf. 363/1d; Syd. 737; Kestner 3155; BMCR Rome 2657; Marcia 24

This coin is interesting because it alludes to the myth of Marsyas. He was a Silen or Satyr who found the flute which Athene had invented some times before. But when Athene saw in a mirror how awful her face was looking when she played on the flute, she throw it away with the curse, that everyone who found the flute should have the worst fate. Marsyas then learned to play the flute better and better and when he was at top of his art he challenged Apollo to a contest. The Muses should be the arbiters. But when Apollo starts to play on his cithara he outsmarts Marsyas by singing to the cithara what Marsyas was not able to do with his flute. So he lost the contest and Apollo hung him up in a tree and let him skinned by a Skyth alive. By his blood or by the tears of the Muses the river Marsyas should be created.
(Ovid, Metamorphoses, lib.VI, 382-400)

Here I have a pic of a sculpture from the Musei Capitolini in Rome whe have visited 1962 as schoolclass. It shows a Roman copy of a lost hellenistic original from the 2nd century BC. This theme was the only time that a hanging man was depicted in ancient art whereas in Christian time it was one of the main themes of art: the crucified Christ.

Best regards
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2005, 06:36:34 am »

It is a very interesting and evocative type: one extra thing I have always found compelling about this and many other Republican coins is the evident allusion between Marsyas and the moneyer's nomen, Marcius.

Steve
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2005, 12:26:08 pm »

Where he was native (not peninsular Greece) Marsyas was considerably more than the hybristic satyr of the Ovidian stories.  Some of the modern (post-Renaissance) speculative literature may be too bold, but so far as I have been able to tell (a life-long curiosity) he will have been one of the nature deities of his homeland, whereas a satyr is only a generic semi-human nature entity.  There is also the Marsyas created by Myron of Eleutherai, who worked in Athens.  The best copy is Vatican, ex Lateran collection, but for the head Rome, Museo Barracco.  However, if you go to the garden of the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt am Main, you can see the excellent bronze cast off molds of the best copies with extremities restored on the basis of a 5th-century vase-painting of the original.  I never go to Germany without stopping to see it.  Patricia Lawrence
Your denarius is the most enviable Republican denarius I ever have seen!
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Jochen
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2005, 01:09:18 pm »

Thanks, Patricia, for your profound information! I have seen your sculpture in the web but haven't mentioned that it stands in Frankfurt!
During preparation of this post I have read that in ancient times the flute was the main musical instrument in Greece. Then the cythara or maybe the lyre, was invented and the flute was obsolet. The fact behind the myth of Marsyas is said to be a reflection of this cultural revolution. Could this be possible, or is it only the attempt of a rationalization post hoc as so many others?

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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2005, 01:28:23 pm »

As you know, in Fr/M the museums are all in a row along the river.  When you approach the front entrance of the Liebieghaus, in the park, under the trees, to your right (and not immediately by the pathway) is the bronze cast (their copy of the Athena is of course indoors).  The reason it is so shiny in my photo is that, as frequently, it was raining.  They also have inset eyes.  Since a photograph is in the old edition of the Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, as I recall, I think it was one of those made, in this case under the supervision of Johannes Sieveking, in the late 1920s or 1930s.
Since it was a Scythian that was said to have flayed him, I have thought that he is native to nortthern Asia Minor.  A guess.  Pat
P.S. Like you, I suspect that the idea of the lyre supplanting the flute is ex post facto and a rationalization.  The flute and the lyre / harp are both age-old instruments.  The tortoise-shell lyre would be the rustic instrument, like a ukelele or a banjo; the cithara, like the classical guitar or the sitar and its Chinese and Japanese kin, the concert instrument.  Two Cycladic marble statuettes in the Athens NAM play, respectively, a pair of flutes and a small harp, 3rd millennium BCE.  The Classical and Hellenistic stories in formal literature are about Apollonian values supplanting natural values (ego supplanting libido, cerebral and ethical supplanting brain-stem and mammalian, so to speak).  Greeks were working out the reconciliation of those claims on humanity (still not resolved, of course).  P.
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Jochen
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2005, 03:03:33 pm »

Patricia, thanks so much!

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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2005, 07:42:39 pm »


Here I have a pic of a sculpture from the Musei Capitolini in Rome whe have visited 1962 as schoolclass. It shows a Roman copy of a lost hellenistic original from the 2nd century BC. This theme was the only time that a hanging man was depicted in ancient art whereas in Christian time it was one of the main themes of art: the crucified Christ.

Best regards

They didn't talk about it either; there are surprisingly few non-Christian references to crucifixion or hanging, given that it was so common. There was no set method, and that pic of the guy hanging is just as surely crucifixion as any Christian version. There are Christian document, the Gospel of Thomas is a well-known one, which don't mention the crucifixion when they might be expected to; they could well be following some convention of avoiding reference to it, perhaps out of embarrassment, while Paul and the canonical Gospels were written in a Roman environment where they were probably forced, originally, to explain it away somehow, and ended up starting something they never anticipated!
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2005, 09:09:16 pm »

I no longer have a copy of Walter Lowrie's Art in the Early Church, but I'm sure that there and elsewhere someone can check whether I'm right that the earliest surviving representation of Jesus on the cross is on the doors of Santa Sabina, Rome, in the 5th c.  It became  more acceptable to represent it when the trinitarian questions were rife, and whether Jesus actually suffered in an actual human body and whether that suffering impaired his divinity (the Question was, of course, What IS divinity) exercised communities, politically as well as spiritually.  Indeed, the attempt to show what such a death was like and how it may have looked, say, to Mary and John, is only made in the Gero crucifix at Köln and in the crucifixion mosaic in the monastery church at Daphni, in the suburbs of Athens, respectively late 10th and 11th centuries.
Perhaps it is significant, too, that Marsyas strung up to be flayed was the subject for the Hellenistic age, the more playful music contest with Athena for Athens in the middle of the Fifth Century.
Pat L.
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Jochen
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2005, 10:16:55 am »

From the 'Catholic Encyclopedia: Archaeology of the cross and crucifix':

It is certain, then, that the custom of displaying the Redeemer on the Cross began with the close of the sixth century, especially on encolpia, yet such examples of the crucifix are rare. As an example, we have a Byzantine encolpion, with a Greek inscription, which was erroneously thought to have been discovered in the Roman Catacombs in 1662, and about which the renowned Leo Allatius has written learnedly (cf. "Codice Chigiano", VI; Fea, "Miscellanea filol. critica', 282). The little metal vases at Monza, in which was carried to Queen Theodolinda the oil from the Holy Places, show clearly how the repugnance to effigies of Christ lasted well into the sixth century. In the scene of the Crucifixion thereon depicted, the two thieves alone are seen with arms extended, in the attitude of crucifixion, but without a cross, while Christ appears as an orante, with a nimbus, ascending among the clouds, and in all the majesty of glory, above a cross under a decoration of flowers. (Cf. Mozzoni, op. cit., 77, 84.) In the same manner, on another monument, we see the cross between two archangels while the bust of Christ is shown above. Another very important monument of this century, and perhaps dating even from the preceding one, is the Crucifixion carved on the wooden doors at S. Sabina on the Aventine Hill, at Rome. The Crucified Christ, stripped of His garments, and on a, cross, but not nailed to the cross, and between two thieves, is shown as an orante, and the scene of the Crucifixion is, to a, certain extent, artistically veiled. The carving is roughly done, but the work has become of great importance, owing to recent studies thereon, wherefore we shall briefly indicate the various writings dealing with it: (now a long list of literature)

To this same period belongs a crucifix at Mount Athos (see Smith's "Dictionary of Christian Antiquities", London, 1875, I, 514), as well as an ivory in the British Museum. Christ is shown wearing only a loin-cloth: He appears as if alive; and not suffering physical pain. To the left, Judas is seen hanged; and below is the purse of money.

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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2005, 09:44:43 pm »

 Roll Eyes A good reference on this is 'Cacus and Marsyas in Etrusco-Roman Legend' by Jocelyn Penny Small, published 1982 by Princeton University Press. A search on abebooks might turn up a copy. The remainders were released cheap about 15 years ago.
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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2006, 09:30:58 pm »

Those interested in the Marsyas coin will I think find this article interesting:

http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu:8080/projects/Forum/resources/Richardson/Statua_Marsyae

(The attachment is the scene as shown on the Pluteus Traiani, from Nash, Ernest, The Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome , p 399.  Nash's text seems to have been made obsolete by Richardson's, so I won't quote from it.)

Steve
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2006, 03:38:23 am »

This is one of my dream coins because of the interesting mythological connections and the fact that Myron's most famous sculptural group included.
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2006, 10:15:12 am »

Interesting discussion. Only to show my censorinus below...
Plinius
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Jochen
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2006, 12:06:59 pm »

Very nice specimen! And you can see the statue on top of the column. I have read that it should be Minerva. On the Forum Romanum a statue of Marsyas was standing. I think that is the reason why many coins of Roman colonies have Marsyas on the reverse.

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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2006, 02:08:22 pm »

What is the relationship between the satyr Marsyas and the river Marsyas?

Attached is a coin from the British Museum depicting four river gods including Marsyas.

http://www.snible.org/coins/hn/phrygia.html#Apameia

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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2006, 03:29:54 pm »

To the best of my knowledge, practically no difference: in Anatolia, I think, Marsyas is to the Marsyas river as Acheloos is to his river.  Marysas is extremely interesting, but most of what we'd like to know is lost, owing to very few Greeks being so bookish as the Athenians.  Why, even Corinthian tales are not known quite so well as Athenian ones are.  But, the thing is, Myron's statuary group is to Marsyas, perhaps, as the Dionysos of Eurypides is to his pre-Classical cult.  So many have rightly observed that the Parthenon sculptures have 'escaped the bonds of traditional religion' (that is not a direct quotation from a single author, though); it was, after all, the generation of Anaxagoras.  These Republican denarii, apart from the name Marcius, raise another question: from which tradition(s) did the Latin-speaking Romans get him, and what, exactly, did they, in their turn, make of him?
Now we can all go and look in everything from Imhoof-Blumer to Wikipedia!  Tomorrow I'm going to campus and can check LIMCPat L.
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Jochen
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2006, 03:38:59 pm »

I can add: Originally Marsyas was a Phrygean river god or well daimon of the river Marsyas which originated in the valley of Aulokrene near Kelainai. Therefore he was protector of Kelainai and played a role in the defense against the Galati. Very early he came to the circle of Kybele. It were the Greeks which made him a Silen or Satyr (Der kleine Pauly).

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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2006, 05:30:27 pm »

Have a look at this site of the plaster cast collection Basel:
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Reading this interesting thread at this late hour, I remember vaguely two things. There is a marble copy of the hanging Marsyas group (including theScythian) somewhere in a Syrian museum. I took a photograph, but I can't find it right now. Maybe anyone else has seen this group.
And, possibly more interesting in numismatic terms, some years ago I've read an article on the meaning and importance of the famous Roman Marsyas statue depicted on the coin for the faction of the populares ... can't remember exactly what it said, but it is: B. Kapossy, Marsyas und die Politik der Populares, SchwMüBl 15 (1965) 74-79.

Frank
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« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2006, 08:17:33 pm »

The crouching Scythian slave is in the Uffizi (and stored on my other computer); there are several copies of the hanging Marsyas; here is the one in the Louvre; this group (see the reco Frank posted) is Hellenistic, maybe about 200 BCE.  It shows a taste for feelings (sheer pain and the Scythian's supposed psychology) very different from the Myron group of c. 450 (see bronze reconstruction above).  Pat L.
P.S. And here is the rather wonderful Scythian honing his skinning knife, a detail from a different angle.
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« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2006, 07:49:04 am »

In the above mentioned article Karpossy argues that the coin could not have been minted in 82 because the moneyer was the brother of an enemy of Sulla. It should therefore be put in 84, the high time of anti-Sullan propaganda, and the depiction of the famous Marsyas statue should remind the Marsi, who considered Marsyas as their ancestor, of the common aim they shared with the Roman populares: To fight against Sulla.

The statuette I mentioned before is not in a Syrian Museum, but in that of Manisa, the ancient Magnesia on-Sipylos. It is unpublished as far as I know, but I took a clandestine and very bad photograph. Height is about 80 cm.

Frank
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