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A faun, as painted by Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse in 1867
A drawing of a Faun.

The faun (Latin: Faunus, pronounced [ˈfäu̯nʊs̠]; Ancient Greek: φαῦνος, romanizedphaûnos, pronounced [pʰâu̯nos]) is a half-human and half-goat mythological creature appearing in Greek and Roman mythology.

Originally fauns of Roman mythology were ghosts (genii) of rustic places, lesser versions of their chief, the god Faunus. Before their conflation with Greek satyrs, they and Faunus were represented as naked men (e.g. the Barberini Faun). Later fauns became copies of the satyrs of Greek mythology, who themselves were originally shown as part-horse rather than part-goat.

By the Renaissance, fauns were depicted as two-footed creatures with the horns, legs, and tail of a goat and the head, torso, and arms of a human; they are often depicted with pointed ears. These late-form mythological creatures borrowed their look from the satyrs, who in turn borrowed their look from the god Pan of the Greek pantheon. They were symbols of peace and fertility, and their Greek chieftain, Silenus, was a minor deity of Greek mythology.[1]


Nymph and Faun (cast in lead) in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Romans believed fauns stirred fear in men traveling in lonely, faraway or wild places. They were also capable of guiding men in need, as in the fable of The Satyr and the Traveller, in the title of which Latin authors substituted the word Faunus. Fauns and satyrs were originally quite different creatures: Whereas late-period fauns are half-man and half-goat, satyrs originally were depicted as stocky, hairy, ugly dwarves or woodwoses, with the ears and tails of horses. Satyrs also were more woman-loving than fauns, and fauns were rather foolish where satyrs tended to be sly.

Ancient Roman mythological belief included a god named Faunus often associated with bewitched woods, and conflated with the Greek god Pan[2][3] and a goddess named Fauna who were goat people.

In art[edit]

The Barberini Faun (located in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany) is a Hellenistic marble statue from about 200 BCE, found in the Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian (the Castel Sant'Angelo) and installed at Palazzo Barberini by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII). Gian Lorenzo Bernini restored and refinished the statue.[4]

The House of the Faun in Pompei, dating from the 2nd century BCE, was so named because of the dancing faun statue that was the centerpiece of the large garden. The original now resides in the National Museum in Naples and a copy stands in its place.[5]

The French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé's well-known masterpiece L'après-midi d'un faune (published in 1876) describes the sensual experiences of a faun who has just woken up from his afternoon sleep and discusses his encounters with several nymphs during the morning in a dreamlike monologue.[6] The composer Claude Debussy based his symphonic poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894) [7] on the poem, which also served as the scenario for a ballet entitled L'après-midi d'un faune (or Afternoon of a Faun) choreographed to Debussy's score in 1912 by Vaslav Nijinsky.

In fiction[edit]

Faun (satyr) of Praxiteles in the Capitoline Museum, Rome

See also[edit]

Media related to Fauns at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 541.
  2. ^ "Phaunos". Greek Mythology. Theoi.com. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  3. ^ "faun (mythical character)". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  4. ^ Barberini Faun. Introduction to Greece lecture 34 (image). University of Texas. Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  5. ^ Dancing faun statuette. Edgar L. Owen, Ltd. (gallery) (image). Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  6. ^ Mallarmé, S. (n.d.) [1876]. L'après-midi d'un faune. Translated by Fry, Roger. Retrieved 2022-10-22 – via angelfire.com.
  7. ^ composer Claude Debussy, Leopold Stokowski conducting the London Symphony Orchestra (16 May 2009). Debussy – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (orchestral audio recording illustrated with images of classical paintings) – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "Online discussion of The Marble Faun (1860) and its connection with the statue". English Department. San Louis Obispo, CA: California Polytechnical University. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27.
  9. ^ Wells, H.G. (1961) [1895]. The Time Machine (reprint ed.). New York, NY: Dolphin Books. p. 246.