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In his earliest appearance in literature, Pindar’s Pythian Pan is associated with a mother goddess, perhaps Rhea or Cybele; Pindar refers to virgins worshipping Cybele and Pan near the poet’s house in Boeotia.In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs.His name originates within the Ancient Greek language, from the word paein meaning “to pasture”; the modern word “panic” is derived from the name. He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is also recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.
In Roman religion and myth, Pan’s counterpart was Faunus, a nature god who was the father of Bona Dea, sometimes identified as Fauna; he was also closely associated with Sylvanus, due to their similar relationships with woodlands. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pan became a significant figure in the Romantic movement of western Europe and also in the 20th-century Neopagan movement.
The parentage of Pan is unclear; generally he is the son of Hermes, although occasionally in some myths he is the son of Zeus, or Dionysus, with whom his mother is said to be a wood nymph, sometimes Dryope or, even in the 5th-century AD source Dionysiaca by Nonnus (14.92), Penelope of Mantineia in Arcadia. In some early sources such as Pindar, his father is Apollo via Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. Herodotus (2.145), Cicero (ND 3.22.56), Apollodorus (7.38) and Hyginus (Fabulae 224) all make Hermes and Penelope his parents. Pausanias 8.12.5 records the story that Penelope had in fact been unfaithful to her husband, who banished her to Mantineia upon his return. Other sources (Duris of Samos; the Vergilian commentator Servius) report that Penelope slept with all 108 suitors in Odysseus’ absence, and gave birth to Pan as a result.This myth reflects the folk etymology that equates Pan’s name (Πάν) with the Greek word for “all” (πᾶν). It is more likely to be cognate with πάειν paein, “to pasture”, and to share an origin with the modern English word “pasture”. In 1924, Hermann Collitz suggested that Greek Pan and Indic Pushan might have a common Indo-European origin. In the mystery cults of the highly syncretic Hellenistic era Pan is made cognate with Phanes/Protogonos, Zeus, Dionysus and Eros.
Accounts of Pan’s genealogy are so varied that it must lie buried deep in mythic time. Like other nature spirits, Pan appears to be older than the Olympians, if it is true that he gave Artemis her hunting dogs and taught the secret of prophecy to Apollo. Pan might be multiplied as the Pans (Burkert 1985, III.3.2; Ruck and Staples, 1994, p. 132) or the Paniskoi. Kerenyi (p. 174) notes from scholia that Aeschylus in Rhesus distinguished between two Pans, one the son of Zeus and twin of Arcas, and one a son of Cronus. “In the retinue of Dionysos, or in depictions of wild landscapes, there appeared not only a great Pan, but also little Pans, Paniskoi, who played the same part as the Satyrs”.
The Roman Faunus, a god of Indo-European origin, was equated with Pan.