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In Greek mythology, Satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus that roamed the woods and mountains. The word Satire, meaning human follies or mistakes, comes from the word Satyr.

The word Silenus can either be another name for Satyrs, or the name of their chieftain and minor deity of fertility.

Characteristics

As Dionysiac creatures, they are lovers of wine, women, and boys, and are ready for every physical pleasure. They roam to the music of pipes (auloi), cymbals, castanets, and bagpipes, and love to dance with the Nymphs (with whom they are obsessed, and whom they often pursue), and have a special form of dance called sikinnis. Because of their love of wine, they are often represented holding winecups and appear often in the decorations on winecups.

Satyrs are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. They are also often depicted as fumbling, joking, and careless creatures.

Appearance

Satyrs are male goat-human hybrids with the torso and head of a man, and in Greek tradition with the legs, and tail of a horse. Originally, Satyrs also had human feet before Roman alterations. They are often depicted with flat noses, large pointed ears, long curly hair, and full beards, with wreaths of vine or ivy circling their balding heads.

  • "Satyresses" were a late invention of poets, and female Satyrs are rare to uncommon even in more modern depictions.

Satyrs acquired their goat-like aspect through later Roman conflation with Faunus, a carefree Italic nature spirit of similar temperament. Hence satyrs are most commonly described in Latin literature as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat. In Roman art, ature Satyrs have long goat's horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads.

Differences between Satyrs and Fauns

Although Roman Fauns are the counterpart to the Greek Satyrs, they are quite different creatures. Satyrs are wild and orgiastic and drunken, while Fauns tend to be depicted as calmer and more innocent. Additionally Satyrs were originally more horse-like, while Fauns have always been more goat-like. Also, originally Satyrs had human feet before being depicted with hooves like fauns.

In Greek Culture

Greek Theater "Satyr Plays"

The satyr play was a lighthearted follow-up attached to the end of each trilogy of tragedies in Athenian festivals honoring Dionysus. These plays would take a lighthearted approach to the heavier subject matter of the tragedies in the series, featuring heroes speaking in tragic iambic verse and taking their situation seriously as to the flippant, irreverent and obscene remarks and antics of the satyrs.

The only remaining satyr plays are "Cyclops" by Euripides, and the fragments of "The Tracking Satyrs (Ichneutae)" by Sophocles. The groundbreaking tragedy playwright Aeschylus is said to have been especially loved for his satyr plays, but none of his have survived.

Greek Art

On painted vases and other Greek art, satyrs are represented in the three stages of a man's life: mature satyrs are bearded and are shown as fat and balding, both a humiliating and unbecoming disfigurement in Greek culture. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

In Popular Culture

Film

  • Philoctetes ("Phil") is a Satyr in Disney's Hercules.

Literature

  • Satyrs as well as Fauns appear in the Chronicles of Narnia

Video Games

  • In Spyro: Ripto's Rage, one of the races in a world are Satyrs
  • Satyrs appear in God of War II

Gallery

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