The Myth of Marsyas in Ancient Greek Art: Musical and Mythological Iconography

Music in Art XXIX 1-2 (2004), p. 20-37

18 Pages Posted: 12 May 2013

See all articles by Ellen Van Keer

Ellen Van Keer

Centrum Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA); Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB); Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (Royal Museums of Art and History)

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

This paper explores the iconographical approaches to the ancient Greek aulos and its myths. The general aim is two-fold: (a) to demonstrate the relative autonomy and complementary value of textual and visual sources in study of ancient Greek myth and music; (b) to establish the reciprocity of the disciplines involved in studying visual representations of musical myths, notably musical and mythological iconography. In particular, this paper integrates approaches researchers can take in studying the Greek myth of Marsyas. In classical mythology, with its primary literary orientation, the myth of Marsyas is widely regarded as an ultimate mythical expression of typical "Greek" dichotomies such as of aulos-kithara, Apollo-Dionysos, Greece-barbarians, etc. However, we can achieve a more nuanced picture by taking a closer look at the iconography, because visual sources are more numerous and specified in time and pace. The Italiote vases are quite independent of the Attic ones. Even the Attic vases in themselves display a variety of traditions. They do not simply depict Marsyas as the doomed opponent of Athena and Apollo. Images of the contest mostly show the satyr performing. Moreover, he plays not only the aulos but other instruments too, even the kithara. Furthermore, he also occurs in less irreputable musical contexts, notably with Olympos. In this, his myth reflected and shaped the debate over the rise of aulos and the "new music" known from music history in all its complexity.

Keywords: Marsyas, iconography, ancient Greek music

Suggested Citation

Van Keer, Ellen, The Myth of Marsyas in Ancient Greek Art: Musical and Mythological Iconography (2003). Music in Art XXIX 1-2 (2004), p. 20-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2263830

Ellen Van Keer (Contact Author)

Centrum Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA) ( email )

Krijgskundestraat 33
Brussels, 1160
Belgium

HOME PAGE: http://www.vub.ac.be/CLEA/people/Ellen/

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) ( email )

Pleinlaan 2
http://www.vub.ac.be/
Brussels, 1050
Belgium

Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (Royal Museums of Art and History) ( email )

Reuvensplaats 2
Leiden, 2300
Belgium

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