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All About The Wine-Loving Satyr

Updated on March 2, 2012

Satyr Playing Pipes

Fantasia Gardens By PidginPea
Fantasia Gardens By PidginPea

All About The Wine-Loving Satyr

Satyr were described as being animal-like men with ears of an ass, tail of a horse, reclining hair-lines, upturned pug noses and erect members. They were companions of Dionysus who was the god of wine, pleasure, vegetation and festivity. Because of this friendship, the satyr were often shown dancing, drinking, playing flutes and tambourines and sporting with nymphai. In mythology they are usually associated with a sex drive and artists most often portray them with an erection.


Silenus was the satyrs' chief. He resembled a man of the forest with ears from a horse and sometimes he would also have the legs and tail of a horse. The later version of him was fat and bald with a squat nose, thick lips and human legs. When Silenus was intoxicated he was said to have power of prophecy.

Mr. Tumnus

Greek and Roman Satyrs

The pottery of ancient Greece depicted fully mature satyrs as very muscular with large pointed ears, flat noses, full beards, long curly hair and either vine or ivy wreaths around their bald heads. They would usually carry a thyrsus which was giant fennel staff covered with leaves and ivy vines with a pine cone on top.

Satyrs were given their characteristics of being goat-like through Roman conflation with the fauns, the horned god of the plains, fields and forests. Therefore, they are most often thought of as having the upper body of a man with the lower body of a goat. In Greek mythology the satyrs' horsetail was replaced with a goat tail which gave then almost an identical appearance as the fauns. Additionally, a mature satyr could also have goats' horns and juveniles had bony nubs found on their foreheads.

Satyr and Satyress

Satyr and Satyress with Urns By krigud
Satyr and Satyress with Urns By krigud

Meet Grover Underwood

Satyrs Attributes

Satyrs were cowardly and shy, dangerous and subversive, faint-hearted yet roguish. They loved women and wine and roamed to music played from pipes, castanets and symbols and they adored dancing with the nymphs. The nymphs were female spirits who the satyrs were obsessed with and they even shared a special dance that is called sicinnus. Because of their friendship with Dionysus and their love for wine, they are most often represented either holding onto a wine cup or they are used as decoration for wine cups.

In very early Greek art, satyrs are displayed as ugly and cold but later they became youthful and graceful. Roman satyrs were displayed as poetic and popular Latin spirits of woodlands. They were both usually shown with the same physical attributes.

Jovial Satyr

Statue of a Satyr, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney By jameshead
Statue of a Satyr, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney By jameshead

Famous Satyrs

  • Ampelos – He was a young satyr, absolutely adored by Dionysus There are two different stories on how he died. One story says that Dionysus trusted him picking grapes from a vine that he had but one day Ampelos fell from a very high height picking the grapes and he died. The other story says that he was riding a wild bull that threw him and gorged him to a bloody death.
  • Seilenos – The old god of dance pertaining to the wine press, is what Seilenos was. He was the foster father of Dionysus and rode with him on his train on the very back of the donkey. He was the grandfather to the Seilenoi tribe and the Satyr tribe and was known as a jovial old man with a potbelly, snub nose, balding and had the tail and ears of an ass.
  • Leneus – He was the god of the wine trough and the dance that was done inside for the treading of the gapes. He was believed to be the father of Lenai.
  • Satyros Aithiopikos – The village at the banks by the Aithiopian Nile was plagued by this violent satyr. For many years they thought it was a spirit bringing them grief until the realized it was indeed a satyr. He was related to the African satyrs who were derived from baboons.
  • Lykos, Pronomos and Pherespondos – These were the three messengers to the god, Dionysus They were entrusted by Dionysus with the responsibility of the staff to the heavenly herald.
  • Satyroi Nesioi – This was a tribe that looked like satyrs but were really beasts that lived on islands right off the African coast. Sailors landed there once and a woman that was on board the ship was terribly violated by the tribe.
  • Marsyas – He was a Phygian satyr and composed music fro the flute. This was Athena's flute but after she saw how her cheeks puffed up when she played , she was disgusted and threw it away. Marsyas picked up the instrument and immediately began to create beautiful music.
  • Komos – He was the god of merrymaking, festivity and revelry. Komos has been described as either a child-satyr or a winged youth and he had the ears of an ass.
  • Astraios – He was a rustic, elderly god who watched over the tribes of Oreiad, Satyroi and Nymphs. He was believed to have raised Dionysus as an infant on an island called Euboia.

Satyrs In Movies

Narnia remakes brought fans of the book Mr. Tumnus, a kind and lovable satyr who befriends Lucy Pevensie in the first movie.

In Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Theif, Percy’s guardian, Grover Underwood, happens to be a satyr disguised as a disabled classmate.

Going farther back, Disney artists gave a musical score in Fantasia a Greek mythology theme. Among the unicorns, centaurs and even Zeus they added in some satyrs along with Silenus who was shown riding a donkey with a single horn on its forehead.

Later, Disney brought another satyr to the big screen in Hercules. His name was Philoctetes, the trainer of past Greek heroes.


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