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A faun, as painted by Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse
A faun, as painted by Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei Merse

The faun (Latin: faunus, Ancient Greek: φαῦνος, phaunos, pronounced [pʰaunos]) is a half-Human half-goat mythological creature appearing in Greek and Roman mythology.

The faun, more commonly affiliated with the Satyrs of Greek mythology than the fauns of Roman, are bipedal creatures with the legs and tail of a goat and the head, torso, and arms of a human, and are often depicted with a goat’s horns and pointed ears. These mythological creatures borrowed their appearance from the satyrs, who in turn borrowed their appearance from the god Pan of the Greek pantheon. They were symbols of peace and fertility, and their chieftain, Silenus, was a minor deity of Greek mythology.[1]


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

Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places. They were also capable of guiding humans 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 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 had more knowledge.

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

In art

The Barberini Faun (located in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany) is a Hellenistic marble statue from about 200 BC, 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 BC, 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 famous 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

See also


  1. ^ Canadian Oxford Dictionary, second ed., Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 541.
  2. ^ "Theoi Greek Mythology - Phaunos". Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  3. ^ "faun | mythical character". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  4. ^ "View online". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  5. ^ "View online". Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  6. ^ Roger Fry's translation can be read online
  7. ^ There is a performance on YouTube
  8. ^ The work and its connection with the statue are discussed online Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Wells (1961, p. 246)