Fauna [ˈfau̯na] is a Roman rustic goddess said in differing ancient sources to be the wife, sister,[1] or daughter of Faunus (the Roman counterpart of Pan).[2] Varro regarded her as the female counterpart of Faunus, and said that the fauni all had prophetic powers. She is also called Fatua or Fenta Fauna.



The name Fauna is a feminine form of Latin Faunus, the deity of the countryside. Faunus itself is generally thought to stem from Proto-Italic *fawe or *fawono, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *bʰh₂u-n ('favourable').[3] Consequently, Georges Dumézil translated her name as "the Favourable."[4]

In his conceptual approach to Roman deity, Michael Lipka sees Faunus and Fauna as an example of a characteristically Roman tendency to form gender-complementary pairs within a sphere of functionality. The male-female figures never have equal prominence, and one partner (not always the female) seems to have been modelled on the other.[5] An Oscan dedication naming Fatuveís (= Fatui, genitive singular), found at Aeclanum in Irpinia, indicates that the concept is Italic.[6] Fauna has also been dismissed as merely "an artificial construction of scholarly casuistics."[7]

Ancient interpretations

Varro explained the role of Faunus and Fauna as prophetic deities:

Fauni are gods of the Latins, so that there is both a male Faunus and a female Fauna; there is a tradition that they used to speak of (fari) future events in wooded places using the verses they call 'Saturnians', and thus they were called 'Fauni' from 'speaking' (fando).[8]

Servius identifies Faunus with Fatuclus, and says his wife is Fatua or Fauna, deriving the names as Varro did from fari, "to speak," "because they can foretell the future."[9] The early Christian author Lactantius called her Fenta Fauna and said that she was both the sister and wife of Faunus; according to Lactantius, Fatua sang the fata, "fates," to women as Faunus did to men.[10] Justin said that Fatua, the wife of Faunus, "being filled with divine spirit assiduously predicted future events as if in a madness (furor)," and thus the verb for divinely inspired speech is fatuari.[11]

While several etymologists in antiquity derived the names Fauna and Faunus from fari, "to speak," Macrobius regarded Fauna's name as deriving from faveo, favere, "to favor, nurture," "because she nurtures all that is useful to living creatures."[12] According to Macrobius, the Books of the Pontiffs (pontificum libri) treated Bona Dea, Fauna, Ops, and Fatua as names for the same goddess, Maia.

See also



  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fauna" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 209.
  2. ^ Joseph Clyde Murley, The Cults of Cisalpine Gaul (Banta, 1922), p. 28 (noting that Fauna appears in no inscriptions in Cisalpine Gaul)
  3. ^ de Vaan 2008, pp. 205–206.
  4. ^ Georges Dumézil, Camillus: A Study of Indo-European Religion as Roman History (University of California Press, 1980), p. 208.
  5. ^ Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), pp. 141–142
  6. ^ E. Vetter Handbuch der italischen Dialekte Heidelberg 1953 p. 114 n. 165; J. Champeaux "Sortes et divination inspirée. Pour une préhistoire des oracles italiques" in Mélanges de l'École française de Rome. Antiquité 102, 2 1990 p. 824 and n. 52.
  7. ^ Robert Schilling, "Roman Gods," Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), p. 70.
  8. ^ Varro, De lingua latina 7.36. At 6.55, Varro says that Fatuus and Fatua also derive from fari. See also Auguste Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'Antiquité (Éditions Jérôme Millon, 2003), pp. 902–903.
  9. ^ Servius, note to Aeneid 7.47; see also note to 7.81 and 8.314.
  10. ^ Lactantius, Institutiones I 22, 9, citing Gavius Bassus.
  11. ^ Justin, 43.1.8.
  12. ^ Quod omni usui animantium favet: Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.12.21–22, Loeb Classical Library translation, Robert A. Kaster, Macrobius. Saturnalia Books 1–2 (Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 147, note 253.

General bibliography