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Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Faunus

Genus: Satyrus

Species: Satyrus Hircinus

In Greek mythology, a satyr is one of a troop of ithyphallic male companions of Dionysus with goat-like features. Early artistic representations sometimes include horse-like legs, but in 6th-century BC black-figure pottery human legs are the most common. In Roman Mythology there is a concept similar to satyrs, with goat-like features: the faun, being half-man, half-goat, who roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing. Greek-speaking Romans often used the Greek term saturos when referring to the Latin faunus, and eventually syncretized the two. Mature satyrs are often depicted in Roman art with goat’s horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads.

The faun is a mythological half human–half goat, from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns, manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim. They are often associated with the satyrs of Greek mythology.

Attic painted vases depict mature satyrs as being strongly built with flat noses, large pointed ears, long curly hair, and full beards, with wreaths of vine or ivy circling their balding heads. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

In earlier Greek art, Silenos appear as old and ugly, but in later art, especially in Hellenistic art, he is softened into a more youthful and graceful aspect. This transformation or humanization of the Satyr appears throughout late Greek art. Another example of this shift occurs in the portrayal of Medusa and in that of the Amazon, characters who are traditionally depicted as barbaric and uncivilized. A humanized Satyr is depicted in a work of Praxiteles known as the “Resting Satyr”.

Praxiteles gives a new direction to the satyr in art. Instead of an elf with pointed ears and goat hooves, we see a child of nature, pure, tame and fearless, but with the brutal instincts necessary to enable it to defend itself against threats, and surviving even without the help of modern civilization. Above all, the Satyr with flute shows the deep connection with nature, the soft whistle of the wind, the sound of gurgling water, of the crystal spring, the birds singing, or perhaps the melody of a human soul that feeds higher feelings.

READ:  Albert S. Cook Library


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