15 Interesting Facts About Pan: From Following Dionysus to Challenging Apollo

Pan was an Ancient Greek nature god who was so ancient that he was one of the only gods to ever permanently die. His legacy spreads through religions as he is related to the Horned Man figures in Celtic myth and many other religious legends.

The following facts place Pan in the context of the mythology which birthed him. They explore exactly the role he played in Ancient Greek myth, and the many sources which describe his origins. As well, they focus on the key question: what happened, after all, when the great god Pan was dead?

Interesting Facts about Pan

1. Pan’s name meant all

Pan (Πάν) was the god of the wilderness, shepherds, music, nymphs, flocks, mountains, fertility, and many other areas. In some ways, he was seen as the root of everything. His name is also a prefix which passed into English in words such as pandemic (all-people), pandemonium (all-demons), panic (from the terror he caused), and pansexuality (all-sexual).

2. In most accepted mythology, Hermes was Pan’s father

However, Pan’s parentage is mixed throughout Ancient Greek history, and in many cases, he is considered older than any of the Olympian gods and therefore an ancient nature spirit. The following table shows some of the most common parents of Pan.

Father Role Mother Role
Hermes Olympian god of travel, messages, thievery, travelers, and heralds Dryope Wood nymphs or Dryads and daughters of Dryops.
Penelope of Mantineia
Oneis A nymph
Apollo Olympian god of medicine, music, the sun, prophecy, and hunting Penelope of Mantineia As above
Zeus King of the Olympians, the god of thunder, the skies, and the heavens Hybris A nymph, goddess, or spirit of insolence and hubris
The Proci The 108 suitors of Penelope Penelope, queen of Ithaca A human and wife of the hero Odysseus

3. Pan traveled in the retinue of Dionysus along with small versions of himself

These were called Paniskoi and acted the same way as satyrs.

4. He had the hind legs of a goat and was horned

He was the father or brother of the satyrs, half-goat men who were nature spirits

5. An aspect of Pan was raised with Zeus by Amalthea and battled Typhon

Aegipan, who is Pan, Pan’s son, or Pan’s father was also fostered by Amalthea. During the attack of Typhon, Aegipan fought alongside Zeus by letting out a scream that sent the enemy forces running in terror.

6. Pan sexually desired and was spurned by many nymphs

Echo, the spurned lover of Narcissus, was an object of his affection, but she spurned him. Pan either cursed her, killed her, or had two daughters with her. Syrinx, a nymph and companion of Artemis, ran from Pan’s advances and was turned into a reed. He cut the reeds and used them to make the first pan pipes. Finally, the nymph Pitys turned herself into a pine tree rather than concede to his attentions.

7. The word ‘panic’ comes from Pan’s terrible screams if people woke him from his naps.

These cries would frighten the heart of anyone, be they Titan or god or man.

8. Pan is often said to have learned to masturbate from Hermes

Though this was a joke from Diogenes, it’s a myth that endures – the fertility god taught to pleasure himself by his own father, then teaching the shepherds in turn.

9. Women who had sex with many men were known as ‘Pan girls’

This euphemism implies that Pan’s voracious sexual appetites somehow affected them

10. Pan once made love to the moon

Selene, the personification of the moon, became attracted to Pan when he used a sheepskin to hide his goat half. He made love to her in the woods.

11. Pan permanently died during the reign of Tiberius, according to Plutarch

The death of Pan is often associated with the transition from the pantheistic religions of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greek to the advent of Christianity. ‘The great god Pan is dead’ has become a favorite phrase of poets.

12. There was a whole swarm of Pans depending on the myth

Some of these were considered Pan’s sons, while some were aspects of Pan. Some of the most significant are listed below.

Name Father Mother Role
Kelaineus, Argennon, Aigikoros, Eugeneios, Omester, Daphoenus, Phobos, Philamnos, Xanthos, Glaukos, Argos, and Phorbas. Pan None given These twelve sons of Pan helped Dionysus in his famous war against the Indians
Nomios Hermes Penelope of Mantineia A shepherd, lover of nymphs, and musician
Agreus Hermes Sose A prophet and hunter
Aegipan Pan or Zeus or Apollo Aix A full-goat version of Pan
Sybarios Krathis, shepherd boy A female goat An Italian version of Pan

13. Pan was associated with two Roman gods: Faunus and Silvanus

Faunus was the father, husband, or brother of Fauna. Both were forest gods and prophets, and Faunus could give visions of the future in people’s dreams. Silvanus was a god of trees, flocks, woods, and wild trees. He also played the syrinx, the equivalent of pan pipes.

14. He was originally an Arcadian god who would help on hunts

If the hunt went badly, the Arcadians would whip his statue

15. He once challenged Apollo to a music contest

The sheer audacity was shocking, but more shocking was when, though Apollo won, one of the judges dissented and awarded the contest to Pan. Apollo retorted by giving the judge, Midas, donkey ears.

Final Thoughts

Pan is often considered very separate from most Greek mythological stories. He’s become a creature of folk myth, combined and conflated with gods from many other religious origins. However, his role in mythology is interesting precisely in that he is so ancient and mysterious – maybe more than anyone.

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