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Satyr

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WILDMAN of Southern Europe. In its 
earliest form, it was a Greek elemental spirit of 
the forests and mountains. Later, it came to represent 
the undeveloped, bestial state of humanity 
or, alternatively, an idyllic past. Satyrs were 
the companions of the wine god Dionysus.

Etymology: From the Greek sátyros, of uncertain 
origin, though possibly derived from the 
Hebrew se’ir (“hairy demon”).

Variant names: Fatui ficarii, FAUN, PAN, 
SILENUS.

Physical description: Covered with hair. Low 
forehead. Small horns. Monkeylike face. 
Pointed ears. Snub nose. Full lips. Long beard. 
Legs, hooves, and tail of a goat or horse.

Behavior: Found in small groups. Lascivious. 
Loves to dance. Plays music on reed pipes (syrinx) 
or cymbals. Terrorizes shepherds and travelers.

Habitat: Woodlands.

Distribution: Northern Greece; Egypt; 
Turkey; India; other remote islands and lands.

Significant sightings: In the fifth century B.C., 
the hide of a Satyr named Marsyas was a famous 
tourist attraction near the source of the 
Menderes River in south-central Turkey.

In 86 B.C., a Satyr was found sleeping in a 
meadow called the Nymphaeum, near Durrës, 
Albania, and taken to the Roman general Lucius 
Cornelius Sulla, who was passing through 
the area after sacking Athens in the First 
Mithridatic War. The Satyr’s speech could not 
be understood and sounded like a neighing or 
bleating.

Euphemus the Carian was blown off course 
to an unknown island in the Mediterranean that 
was populated by Satyrs. The creatures had red 
hair and horse’s tails, and as soon as Euphemus 
landed, they tried to rape the women on board 
his ship.

St. Jerome reported that in the early fourth 
century, Emperor Constantine traveled to Antakya, 
Turkey, to view the remains of a Satyr 
that had been preserved in salt.

Possible explanations: 
(1) A symbol of precivilized, Neolithic 
Greece. 
(2) Early Greek tribal groups who followed 
the god PAN and revered goats as their 
totem animals. 
(3) Folk memory of Neanderthals (Homo 
neanderthalensis) or archaic Homo sapiens. 
(4) An imaginative explanation for fossils of 
large vertebrates that are occasionally found 
in Greece and Turkey. 
(5) Indian Satyrs may have been based on 
monkeys. 
(6) As early as the fifth century B.C., cleverly 
manufactured Satyr masks for Greek 
dramatic performances were made from hair 
and skins. Fake Satyrs were probably created 
as tourist attractions out of human 
mummies fitted with such masks and other 
stage props.

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