1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Satyrs

SATYRS (Satyri), in Greek mythology, spirits, half-man half beast, that haunted the woods and mountains, companions of Pan and Dionysus. They are not mentioned in Homer; in a fragment of Hesiod they are called brothers of the mountain nymphs and Curetes, an idle and worthless race. Fancy represented them as strongly built, with flat noses, pointed ears, small horns growing out of the forehead, and the tails of horses or goats. They were a roguish but faint-hearted folk, lovers of wine and women, roaming to the music of pipes and cymbals, castanets and bagpipes, dancing with the nymphs or pursuing them and striking terror into men. They had a special form of dance called Sikinnis. In earlier Greek art they appear as old and ugly, but in later art, especially in works of the Attic school, this savage character is softened into a more youthful and graceful aspect. There is a famous statue supposed to be a copy of work of Praxiteles, representing a graceful satyr leaning against a tree with a flute in his hand. In Attica there was a species of drama known as the Satyric; it parodied the legends of gods and heroes, and the chorus was composed of satyrs. Euripides’s play of the Cyclops is the only extant example of this kind of drama. The older satyrs were called Sileni, the younger Satyrisci. By the Roman poets they were often confounded with the Fauns. The symbol of the shy and timid satyr was the hare. In some districts of modern Greece the spirits known as Calicantsars offer points of resemblance to the ancient satyrs; they have goats ears and the feet of asses or goats, are covered with hair, and love women and the dance. The herdsmen of Parnassus believe in a demon of the mountain who is lord of hares and goats.

In the Authorized Version of Isa. xiii. 21, xxxiv. 14 the word “satyr” is used to render the Hebrew ʽīrīm, “hairy ones.” A kind of demon or supernatural being known to Hebrew folk-lore as inhabiting waste places is meant; a practice of sacrificing to the ʽīrīm is alluded to in Lev. xvii. 7, where E. V. has “devils.” They correspond to the Satyr in art important. “shaggy demon of the mountain-pass” (azabb alakaba) of old Arab superstition.