Definitions

satyr

satyr

[sey-ter, sat-er]
satyr, in Greek mythology, part bestial, part human creature of the forests and mountains. Satyrs were usually represented as being very hairy and having the tails and ears of a horse and often the horns and legs of a goat. An important part of Dionysus' entourage, they were lustful, fertile creatures, always merrily drinking and dancing. The satyr was similar in appearance to the silenus and Faunus.
In Greek mythology, satyrs (Satyroi) are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus – "satyresses" were a late invention of poets – that roamed the woods and mountains. In mythology they are often associated with sex drive and vase-painters often portrayed them with uncontrollable erections.

Mythology

The satyrs' chief was called Silenus, a minor deity associated (like Hermes and Priapus) with fertility. These characters can be found in the only remaining satyr play Cyclops by Euripedes and the fragments of Sophocles' The Tracking Satyrs (Ichneutae). 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 groundbreaking tragic playwright Aeschylus is said to have been especially loved for his satyr plays, but none of them have survived.

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.

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, with a goat's tail in place of the Greek tradition of horse-tailed satyrs. Mature satyrs are often depicted in Roman art with goat's horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads.

Satyrs are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. As Dionysiac creatures they are lovers of wine and women, and they are ready for every physical pleasure. They roam to the music of pipes (auloi), cymbals, castanets, and bagpipes, and they 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 they appear often in the decorations on winecups.

Some satyrs are depicted as 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 older ones are shown as fat and balding, both a humiliating and unbecoming disfigurement in Greek culture.

In Greek mythology and art

In earlier Greek art, satyrs appear as old and ugly, but in later art, especially in works of the Attic school, this savage characteristic 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. The compassionate representation of the Satyrs in a work of Praxiteles known as the "Resting Satyr" shows the level of Greek civilization and their desire to accept all types of people.

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 or bacchants.

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.

In Roman mythology and art

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

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 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.

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 שעירים, hairy ones. In Hebrew folklore, שעירים are a type of demon or supernatural being which inhabits waste places. There is an allusion to the practice of sacrificing to the שעירים (often translated as "devils") in Leviticus 17:7. They correspond to the "shaggy demon of the mountain-pass" (أزب الاكب) of old Arab legend.

The savant Sir William Jones often refers to the Indian mythological Vānaras as satyrs/mountaineers in his translations of Sanskrit works.

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).

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 period 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.

Satyrs and orangutan

In the 17th century, the satyr legend came to be associated with stories of the orangutan, a great ape now found only in Sumatra and Borneo. Many early accounts which apparently refer to this animal describe the males as being sexually aggressive towards human women and towards females of its own species. The first scientific name given to this ape was Simia satyrus.

In popular culture

  • The Satyr is an oft-made reference to the Dionysian in Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy.
  • The Pastoral Symphony section of Disney's Fantasia features baby satyrs, sometimes called Fauns.
  • In Guillermo del Toro's 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, a young girl encounters a faun at the entrance to a magical kingdom. He gives her three challenges to determine if she is the long-lost princess of the Underworld.
  • In Disney's 1997 film Hercules, the character Phil is an amalgamation of the 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.
  • In Ridley Scott's Legend, the villain Darkness bears many similarities to a satyr (both in appearance and in nature). Scott said that he wanted Darkness to be "very sexual", so wanted him to be a satyr.
  • The Satyr is the name of a satirical newspaper written by students of Manchester University.
  • Satyr is the name of the union of the four revues at the faculty of science of the university of Copenhagen.
  • Gnostic satyrs of both genders appear in Umberto Eco's Baudolino.
  • In the computer game series Warcraft, Satyrs appear as a race of Demonic creatures, as corrupted Night Elves
  • Satyrs appear occasionally throughout the Chronicles of Narnia series, by C. S. Lewis.
  • Grover Underwood in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians book series is a satyr.
  • Satyr is the pseudonym of Sigurd Wongraven, one of the founding members of black metal band Satyricon
  • Satyr is also the title of an award winning adult film starring Jenna Jameson.
  • Satyr is one of many species of mutated creatures found on Earth in Roger Zelazny's 1966 Hugo award winning novel This Immortal.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Shepherdess and the Sweep" (1845), a bearded and horned satyr carved into the mahogany door of a curio cabinet is known as "Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy goat's legs" and threatens a porcelain shepherdess on a nearby table top with taking her for his wife. The shepherdess shudders in horror and flees the house with her lover, a porcelain chimney sweep with a princely face "as fair and rosy as a girl's".
  • The Christian antagonist, Satan, is often depicted as a satyr, the link being pagan religions and the 'sinful' pleasures that satyrs enjoy.
  • In the video game God of War, the satyr is an enemy found towards the end of the game. They are depicted as extremely skilled fighters and are some of the toughest enemies found.
  • In Brian Keene's Dark Hollow (previously published as The Rutting Season) a satyr is living near a small town and originally thought to be a serial killer.
  • In the game Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the centaur Motaro, along with his entire race, have been cursed. In the game, the centaurs are said to have been turned into minotaurs, however, they resemble satyrs.

See also

References

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

External links

 

 

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