Statua Marsyae

Richardson, L. jr

Statua Marsyae: a statue of the Phrygian satyr that stood in close conjunction with the Rostra Caesaris (Horace Sat. 1.6.120, Ps.-Acron ad loc., Porph. ad loc.) and Rostra Augusti (Seneca Ben. 6.32.1), possibly at one time even on the Rostra Caesaris (Pseudo Acron ad Hor. Epod. 5.100), and was intimately associated with the Tribunal Praetoris Urbani. It is shown on coins of L. Marcius Censorinus of ca. 82 B.C. (B. M. Coins, Rom. Rep. 1.338 nos. 2657-59 and pl. 40 nos. 3-4; Crawford 363) and on the Plutei Traiani (q.v.). It was a somewhat grotesque figure, a little smaller than life size, nude except for slippers, carrying a full wineskin on the left shoulder, the neck of which he squeezed with his left hand. The legs were slightly bent, the bearded head was thrown back, and the right arm and hand were lifted high in a gesture of uncertain import. On the coins he stands in front of a slender column that carries a draped figure variously thought to be Minerva or Victoria, possibly Libertas. On the Plutei he stands on a plinth in front of an artificial (bronze?) fig tree mounted on a plinth of its own. The location of these in the Forum Romanum depends on our reading of the other buildings shown on the Plutei, but it is clear that they are not in close association with any rostra; a place in, or near, the Lacus Curtius (q.v.) seems likeliest. The tree has generally been identified as the Ficus Ruminalis (q.v.) of the Comitium, or the fig of the Ficus, Olea, Vitis group (q.v.), but it is unlikely to be either, because it is clearly artificial.

The statue of Marsyas came to be the symbol of libertas, and in the civitates liberae of the empire a statue of Marsyas was regularly set up in the forum in witness of this (Servius ad Aen. 3.20, Servius ad Aen. 4.58; CIL 8.4219 = ILS 6849, 16417, 27771). Such a Marsyas has been found at Paestum, unfortunately out of context, a bronze figure about half life size, similar to, but probably not a close copy of, the Roman Marsyas. On the basis of this evidence, M. Torelli has persuasively argued that the Marsyas in Rome was orginally set up by C. Marcius Rutilus Censorinus, the first plebeian to become pontifex and augur (300 B.C.), and, with his father or grandfather, one of the first plebeians to become censor (294 and 265 B.C.). Because C. and Q. Ogulnius, curule aediles of plebeian origin, had put a group of the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus under the Ficus Ruminalis in 296 B.C. (Livy 10.23.12), the first censorship of Censorinus seems an appropriate time for the dedication of the Marsyas, probably in the Comitium, along with other statues dedicated there, and close to the Tribunal Praetoris. Thereafter, the Marsyas moved with the tribunal from rostra to rostra until sometime late in the first century, when it found a place somewhere in the middle of the forum.

The Marsyas was apparently regularly garlanded with flowers. On one occasion a certain P. Munatius was jailed for stealing these to crown himself (Pliny HN 21.8-9), so the statue must have been regarded as sacred, and Augustus publicly deplored that his daughter Julia crowned the satyr during her nocturnal revels, so the gesture must have had ulterior significance.

Nash 2.399-400; M. Torelli, Typology and Structure of Roman Historical Reliefs (Ann Arbor, Mich. 1982), 89-118, especially 98-106; F. Coarelli 1985, 91-119.

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