Marsyas was a satyr from Phrygia. He challenged Apollo to a flute-playing contest, using a double flute that Athena had discarded. Both players were doing equally well until Apollo defied him to play the instrument upside down. This could be done on the lyre, but not the flute, and Marsyas lost.

Apollo thereupon flayed him alive and hung him from a pine tree (an unnecessarily grim fate, one would have thought, for merely failing to make music). In view of the contest, an appropriate name for Marsyas might therefore be 'battler', from marnamai, 'to fight'.