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Myths about the Roman God Pan

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Myths about the Roman God Pan
Pan, the god of shepherds and hunters, leader of the nymphs, president of the mountains, patron of a country life, and guardian of flocks and herds, was likewise adored by fishermen, especially those who lived about the promontories washed by the sea. There is scarcely any of the gods to whom the poets have given a greater diversity of parents. The most common opinion is, that he was the son of Mercury and Penelope.

As soon as he was born, his father carried him in a goat's skin to heaven, where he charmed all the gods with his pipe, so that they associated him with Mercury in the office of their messenger. After this he was educated on Mount Maenalus, in Arcadia, by Sione and the other nymphs, who, attracted by his music, followed him as their conductor.

Pan, though devoted to the pleasures of rural life, distinguished himself by his valor. In the war of the giants he entangled Typhon in his nets. Bacchus, in his Indian expedition, was accompanied by him with a body of Satyrs, who rendered Bacchus great service. When the Gauls invaded Greece, and were just going to pillage Delphi, Pan struck them with such a sudden consternation by night, that they fled without being pursued: hence the expression of a Panic fear, for a sudden terror. The Romans adopted him among their deities, by the names of Lupercus and Lycaeus, and built a temple to him at the foot of Mount Palatine.

He is represented with a smiling, ruddy face, and thick beard covering his breast, two horns on his head, a star on his bosom, legs and thighs hairy, and the nose, feet, and tail of a goat. He is clothed in a spotted skin, having a shepherd's crook in one hand, and his pipe of unequal reeds in the other, and is crowned with pine, that tree being sacred to him.

Pan probably signifies the universal nature, proceeding from the divine mind and providence, of which the heaven, earth, sea, and the eternal fire, are so many members. Mythologists are of opinion that his upper parts are like a man, because the superior and celestial part of the world is beautiful, radiant, and glorious: his horns denote the rays of the sun, as they beam upwards, and his long beard signifies the same rays, as they have an influence upon the earth: the ruddiness of his face resembles the splendor of the sky, and the spotted skin which he wears is the image of the starry firmament: his lower parts are rough, hairy, and deformed, to represent the shrubs, wild creatures, trees, and mountains here below: his goat's feet signify the solidity of the earth; and his pipe of seven reeds, that celestial harmony which is made by the seven planets; lastly, his sheep-hook denotes that care and providence by which he governs the universe.

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