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This poor woman just can’t catch a break romantically. First giants, now cocky fauns. It’s tough being a woman, especially in a world where the male-female antics of Jersey Shore are becoming an increasing inevitability in the dating scene. I think she’d take for an orange lunatic over a goat man any day.

The topic of satyr and faun lore is a complicated one as there has been some confusion amongst the two thanks to Roman poets and storytellers. Initially, Satyrs were seen as forest dwelling spirits, often being depicted as old and ugly. The Ancient Greeks added random animal bits to the Satyr spirits in their tales, often giving them horns, animal ears, or other characteristics to distinguish them from humanity, but not the well known and pervasive imagery of the goat legs. These creatures were thought to live in the forested mountains of Greece where they played the pipes, living in harmony with nature and enjoying a carefree lifestyle. Eventually these old and ugly spirits took on younger countenances, beards, and were often depicted with ivy around their heads. It’s pretty clear that Satyrs were initially seen as something to be avoided but, for some reason I have yet to divine, they almost became cultural mascots to the Greeks. As their appearance changed, they began to become more important symbols.

Many playwrights in Ancient Greece would create Satyr Plays. Based on the general concept of the Satyrs’ attitudes, the Greeks would gather around to watch these spectacles of crude humor, overt sexuality, and mock drunkenness. Ancient Greek comedy at it’s finest. These shows proved to be so popular that there were often mini Satyr Plays tacked on to the end of other Greek plays wherein the hero or heroes would deliver their tragic lines only to be mocked and harassed by actors dressed as Satyrs. Needless to say, it added a bit of humor to what would otherwise be rather dark proceedings.

Satyrs, to both the Romans and the Greeks, were seen as potent symbols of virility. The Greeks (being the immodest folk they were) were decidedly more overt in their depictions of the interactions between Satyrs and Nymphs (hint: there are a ton of wangs involved in satyr related art) but the Romans were certainly more obscene than modern folk are used to or expect.

Traditions such as the Satyr Play were picked up by the Romans and Satyrs were mildly altered and made identical in form and nature to the Roman Faun. They continued to be drunken, pipe playing forest dwellers dedicated to the God of Wine, but they also gained the lower half of a goat and a more consistent appearance. Satyrs were still seen as symbols of virility in Ancient Rome, though the Romans were decidedly more modest in the later days of the Empire than the Greeks and this aspect of Satyrs seems to be played down a bit more around that time.

Being such powerful cultural objects, it’s not surprising that the idea of the Satyr/Faun has persisted as long as it has. There are tons of paintings, sculptures, and ceramics all featuring these crude yet sexual man beasts. We run into their images all over the art world and often in popular culture.

I guess we’re just lucky we don’t run into them in real life.

The last thing I need to see out at a bar is a goat-man and his extra horn.

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