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Satyrs

The Satyrs are a humanoid race featured in Greek mythology. Accounts of their appearance and behavior have changed considerably throughout history.

Originally, the Satyrs were an all-male race and looked like hairy human beings with the tail and ears of a horse or donkey. They were companions and followers of the god Dionysus, and therefore associated with sex, wine, music and festiveness. It was commonplace to represent them with a permanently erect phallus, and they were typically seen drinking, dancing and playing pipes or lyres.

In later traditions, Satyrs started being represented with goat features, rather than horse features. While their legs were originally human, they eventually acquired goat legs and horns, making them practically indistinguishable from the bucolic Fauns who were viewed as spirits of the untamed woodlands. Eventually, the Romans would conflate the two species. When translating Greek texts to Latin, the word "Satyr" could be replaced with "Faunus". With that change, the Satyrs also moved away from Dionysus and closer to the Faun-like pastoral god Pan.

Notes

  • In Greek theater traditions, it was common to feature trilogies of tragic plays followed by a comical "Satyr play" which had the actors dressed as these creatures and was, appropriately enough, a satire. Cyclops, by Euripides, is the only complete "Satyr play" known to have survived.

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