Satyr

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For Satyr, the singer of black metal band Satyricon, see Sigurd Wongraven

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Image from a Greek chalice depicting a satyr with a tail and erect penis, Euphronios, 510500 BC, Athens

In Greek mythology, satyrs (in Greek, ΣάτυροιSátyroi) are young humans, possibly with horse ears, that roamed the woods and mountains, and were the companions of Pan and Dionysus. In mythology they are often associated with male sex drive and Greco-Roman art often portrays them with erections.

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[edit] Mythology

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Pan, The Greek Satyr God

Satyrs were originally imagined as small, human-like creatures with exaggerated appetites who accompanied Dionysus. Their chief was called Silenus, a minor deity associated (like Hermes and the later Roman god Priapus) with fertility. These characters can be found in the remaining Satyr plays: Cyclops by Euripedes and Sophocles' The Searching Satyrs. 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 "straight men" to the flippant, irreverent and obscene remarks and antics of the satyrs.

The groundbreaking tragic playwright Aeschylus is said to have been especially loved for his satyr plays, but none of them survived.

Satyrs acquired their goat aspect through later conflation with the Roman Faunus, a carefree nature spirit of similar temperament. Hence satyrs are most commonly described as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat. They are also described as possessing a long thick tail, either that of a goat or a horse. Mature satyrs are often depicted with goat's horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads. Attic painted vases depict 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 heads. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

In some recent works satyrs have become more human, with fewer animal characteristics, until only the tail remains to show that they are satyrs. In most books, drawings, etc., however, they still have their general half-goat, half-man appearance.

They are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. 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 not immortal, but grow old. 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 balding, a humiliating and unbecoming disfigurement in Greek culture.

[edit] In Greek mythology and art

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Satyr and maenad, shown on a red-figure Attic cup, ca. 510 BC–500 BC., Louvre, Paris, France

In earlier Greek art, satyrs appear as old and ugly, but in later art, especially in works of the Attic school, this savage character is softened into a more youthful and graceful aspect. There is a famous statue said to be a copy of a work of Praxiteles, representing a graceful satyr leaning against a tree with a flute in his hand.

Older satyrs were known as sileni, the younger as satyrisci. The hare was the symbol of the shy and timid satyr. Greek spirits known as Calicantsars have a noticeable resemblance to the ancient satyrs; they have goats' ears and the feet of donkeys or goats, are covered with hair, and love women and the dance.

Although they are not mentioned by Homer, in a fragment of Hesiod's works they are called brothers of the mountain nymphs and Kuretes, strongly connected with the cult of Dionysus, and are an idle and worthless race. In the Dionysus cult, male followers are known as satyrs and female followers as maenads.

In Attica there was a species of drama known as the legends of gods and heroes, and the chorus was composed of satyrs and sileni. In the Athenian satyr plays of the 5th century BC, the chorus commented on the action. This "satyric drama" burlesqued the serious events of the mythic past with lewd pantomime and subversive mockery. One complete satyr play from the 5th century survives, the Cyclops of Euripides.

A papyrus bearing a long fragment of a satyr play by Sophocles, given the title 'Tracking Satyrs' (Ichneutae), was found at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, 1907.

[edit] In Roman mythology and art

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A Satyr depicted on a Roman mosaic in Villa Romana del Casale, an archeological site near Piazza Armerina in Sicily, Italy

Roman satyrs were conflated in the popular and poetic imagination with Latin spirits of woodland and with the rustic spirit Pan, called the Panes.

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This satyr gargoyle, affixed to the Cathedral of St. Vincent (Bern, Switzerland), is posed in the act of choking a mermaid.

Roman satyrs were described as goatlike from the haunches to the hooves, and were often pictured with larger horns, even ram's horns. Roman poets often conflated them with the fauns.

Roman satire is a literary form, a poetic essay that was a vehicle for biting, subversive social and personal criticism. Though Roman satire is sometimes thoughtlessly linked to the Greek satyr plays, satire's only connection to the satyric drama is through the subversive nature of the satyrs themselves, as forces in opposition to urbanity, decorum, and civilization itself.

[edit] Other references

In the King James Version of the Bible, Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14, the English word "satyr" is used to represent the Hebrew sh'lrlm, "hairy ones". In Hebrew folklore, sh'lrlm are a type of demon or supernatural being which inhabits waste places. There is an allusion to the practice of sacrificing to the sh'lrlm (often translated as "devils") in Leviticus 17:7. They correspond to the "shaggy demon of the mountain-pass" (azabb al-akaba) of old Arab legend. Christian mythology demonised all pagan nature spirits such as satyrs by associating them with demons and devils, though they do resemble the Jewish goat-man demon Azazel to whom the scapegoats were sent. The herdsmen of Parnassus also believed in a demon of the mountain who was said to be the lord of hares and goats. CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia mentions several Satyrs by name, albeit with their Roman title of faun. One of these, Tumnus, features prominently in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a close and ever-loyal friend. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet describes his father to his uncle as "hyperion to a satyr". (Act 1, Scene 2)

[edit] Baby satyr

Baby satyrs, or child satyrs, are mythological creatures related to the satyr. They appear in popular folklore, classical artworks, film, and in various forms of local art.

Some classical works depict young satyrs being tended to by older, sober satyrs, while there are also some representations of child satyrs taking part in Bacchanalian/Dionysian rituals (including drinking alcohol, playing musical instruments, and dancing).

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A child satyr (center) depicted in Titian's painting Bacchus and Ariadne c.1520-1523

The presence of a baby or child satyr in a classical work, such as on a Greek vase, was mainly an aesthetic choice on the part of the artist. However, the role of a child in Greek art might imply a further meaning for baby satyrs: Eros, the son of Aphrodite, is consistently represented as a child or baby, and Bacchus, the divine sponsor of satyrs, is seen in numerous works as a baby, often in the company of the satyrs. A prominent instance of a baby satyr outside ancient Greece is Albrecht Dürer's 1505 engraving, "Musical Satyr and Nymph with Baby (Satyr's Family)". There is also a Victorian-era napkin ring depicting a baby satyr next to a barrel, which further represents the perception of baby satyrs as partaking in the Bacchanalian festivities. See Revivals, Reveries, and Reconstructions: Images of Antiquity in Prints from 1500 to 1800, an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

There are also many works of art of the rococo period depicting child or baby satyrs in Bacchanalian celebrations. Some works depict female satyrs with their children; others describe the child satyrs as playing an active role in the events, including one instance of a painting by Jean Raoux (1677–1735). "Mlle Prévost as a Bacchante" depicts a child satyr playing a tambourine while Mlle Prévost, a dancer at the Opéra, is dancing as part of the Bacchanal festivities. [1]

Baby satyrs can be found in some modern art collections[2]. There are also examples on the internet of baby satyrs being represented in garden sculpture [3].

Speculative accounts of baby satyrs have cropped up in various local folklores and contemporary mythologies. Some Greek-oriented college parties may include Bacchanalian characters, including baby satyrs.

[edit] Trivia

  • Satyrs were some of the enemies that Ares had placed in Pandora's Temple to stop Kratos from getting Pandora's Box in the video game God of War.
  • In the Warcraft Universe, Satyrs are Night Elves transformed by demonic corruption; they appear in both Warcraft III and World of Warcraft.
  • In Disney's 1997 film Hercules, the character Phil is an amalgamation of the Greek hero Philoctetes and the stereotypical satyr; his circumstances are those of the classical Philoctetes, but he looks like a satyr and exhibits satyr-like desires for wine and women.
  • Jenna Jameson starred in a 1998 movie entitled Satyr.
  • A satyr is featured in Cremaster 4, a sequence in Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle films.
  • A satyr is a playable character in the game Gladius. It is a light class warrior and is fairly weak.
  • In Guillermo del Toro's new film Pan's Labyrinth, a young girl must brave a treacherous maze guarded by the satyr Pan, who also gives her three challenges.
  • Mr. Tumnus from Narnia by C.S. Lewis is also of the same species. He is referred to as a "faun" along with Greek counterparts in the book.
  • Satyr is also used in the name of a black metal band called Satyricon.
  • The Satyr is an oft-made reference to the Dionysian in Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy.
  • The Satyr is the name of a satrical newspaper written by students of Manchester University.
  • In the Age of Mythology game, a satyr is one of the mythical creatures that can be created when the minor god Dionysus is chosen

[edit] See also

Look up satyr in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] References

  • Harry Thurston Peck Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, 1898: "Faunus", "Pan", and "Silenus".
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Satyr

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