Myths about the Roman God Sylvanus

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Myths about the Roman God Sylvanus
The descent of Sylvanus is extremely obscure. Some think him son of Faunus, some say he was the same with Faunus, whilst others suppose him the same deity with Pan, which opinion Pliny seems to adopt when he says that the Aegipans were the same with the Sylvans. He was unknown to the Greeks; but the Latins received the worship of him from the Pelasgi, upon their migration into Italy, and his worship seems wholly to have arisen out of the ancient sacred use of woods and groves, it being introduced to inculcate a belief that there was no place without the presence of a deity.

The Pelasgi consecrated groves, and appointed solemn festivals, in honor of Sylvanus. The hog and milk were the offerings tendered him. A monument consecrated to this deity, by one Laches, gives him the epithet of Littoralis, whence it would seem that he was worshipped upon the sea-coasts.

The priests of Sylvanus constituted one of the principal colleges of Rome, and were in great reputation, a sufficient evidence of the fame of his worship. Many writers confound the Sylvani, Fauni, Satyri, and Sileni, with Pan.

Some monuments represent him as little of stature, with the face of a man, and the legs and feet of a goat, holding a branch of cypress in his hand, in token of his regard for Cyparissus, who was transformed into that tree. The pineapple, a pruning-knife in his hand, a crown coarsely made, and a dog, are the ordinary attributes of the representations of this rural deity. He appears sometimes naked, sometimes covered with a rustic garb which reaches down to his knee.

Sylvanus, as his name imports, presided over woods, and the fruits that grew in them; agreeable to which, (in some figures) he has a lap full of fruit, his pruning-hook in one hand, and a young cypress tree in the other. Virgil mentions the latter as a distinguishing attribute of this god: the same poet, on another occasion, describes him as crowned with wild flowers, and mentions his presiding over the cornfields as well as the woods.

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