Panes, Seilenoi, Tityroi, Fauns (Roman)
Ovid's Metamorphoses, Nonnus's Dionysiaca
Sons of the Hekaterides
In Greek mythology , satyrs were half-man, half-beast creatures that lived in forests and hills. Usually pictured as human above the waist and as horse or goat below the waist, satyrs had pointed ears or horns on their heads.
According to some sources, satyrs were the children of goats and mountain nymphs , or female nature deities who lived in the mountains. They were sometimes described as the sons of the Hekaterides (pronounced hek-uh-tee-RYE-deez), five nymphs associated with a dance popular in rural areas. However, the Greek poet Hesiod identifies satyrs as brothers of the nymphs, while also calling them “good-for-nothing” and “mischievous.” Followers of Dionysus (pronounced dye-uh-NYE-suhs), the god of wine and ecstasy, satyrs had a reputation for drunkenness and bad behavior.
There are different categories of satyrs. Panes (pronounced PAN-eez) are satyrs with the legs of goats and are usually considered to be embodiments of the god Pan. Though they do not differ dramatically in appearance from satyrs, they are sometimes considered to be separate from satyrs. The Seilenoi (pronounced SAY-luh-noy) are elderly satyrs with white hair and fat bellies, usually found in the company of Dionysus and skilled in the art of winemaking. The Tityroi (pronounced Tl-tuh-roy) are satyrs who play a musical instrument called a shepherd's pipe. They may have been local to the island of Crete (pronounced KREET).
Satyrs in Context
Satyrs reflect two ideal views of life in ancient Greek tradition. The life of a satyr—with its constant drunkenness, passion, and pursuit of women—would be considered Dionysian (named after Dionysus), while a life of restraint, logic, and law would be considered Apollonian (named after Apollo). The Greeks did not view these as separate philosophies, but as equally necessary parts of a fulfilling life. A life lived solely according to one ideal and not the other was not considered successful, at least for humans.
Key Themes and Symbols
Satyrs were considered symbols of fertility, and were frequently portrayed chasing nymphs. Just as nymphs represented the most feminine qualities of women, satyrs represented the rough-edged, crude, and boisterous aspect of men, especially those from rural areas. Their animal characteristics—horns, furry ears, hoofed legs—symbolize both their closeness with nature and their basest animal desires for food and sex.
Satyrs in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
Satyrs were popular figures in ancient Greece, especially among people in rural areas. During the festival of Dionysus in ancient Athens, plays featuring a chorus of boisterous satyrs were performed along with the usual tragedies. More recently, fauns and satyrs have appeared in many works of literature and films. The character of Tumnus in C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) is described as being a faun, and Grover Underwood, from the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, is a satyr. In film, satyrs appear in the Disney animated film Hercules (1997). Even today, satyrs are still remembered for their lewd antics: the medical condition defined as excessive sexual thoughts or behavior in men is known as satyriasis (pronounced say-tur-EYE-uh-sis).
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
Satyrs in ancient times were associated with sex, wine, and music—the ancient equivalent of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” In what ways do satyrs resemble modern “party people”? Is the other ideal in Greek society—the restrained intellectual life—also represented in contemporary society? On which ideal do you think modern society places more value?
sa·tyr / ˈsatər; ˈsātər/ • n. 1. Greek Mythol. one of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods. In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse's ears and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat's ears, tail, legs, and horns. ∎ a man who has strong sexual desires. 2. a butterfly with chiefly dark brown wings. DERIVATIVES: sa·tyr·ic / səˈtirik/ adj.
In Greek mythology, satyrs were half-man, half-beast creatures that lived in forests and hills. Usually pictured as human above the waist and as horse or goat below the waist, satyrs had pointed ears or horns on their heads.
nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful
According to some sources, satyrs were the children of goats and mountain nymphs. However, the Greek poet Hesiod* identifies satyrs as brothers of the nymphs, while also calling them "good-for-nothing" and "mischievous." Followers of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy, satyrs had a reputation for drunkenness and lewdness. They were considered symbols of fertility and were frequently portrayed chasing nymphs. During the festival of Dionysus in ancient Athens, satyr plays featuring a chorus of boisterous satyrs were performed along with the tragedies.
In English translations of the Bible the word is applied to the hairy demons or monsters of Semitic superstition, supposed to inhabit deserts, as in Isaiah 13:21.
So satyric epithet of the Gr. drama in which the chorus were habited as satyrs. XVII. — L. — Gr.