Friday, June 19, 2015


A Description of Pan

Silius Italicus 13.326-347 (Pan persuades the Roman soldiers not to destroy Capua; tr. J.D. Duff, with his notes):
It was Pan whom Jupiter had sent, in his desire to save the city founded by the Trojana—Pan, who seems ever to stand on tiptoe, and whose horny hoof leaves scarce any print upon the ground. His right hand plays with a lash of Tegeanb goat-skin and deals sportive blows among the holiday crowd at the cross-ways.c Pine-needles wreathe his locks and shade his temples, and a pair of little horns sprout from his ruddy brow. He has pointed ears, and a rough beard hangs down from his chin. He carries a shepherd's crook, and the soft skin of a roe-deer gives a welcome covering to his left side. There is no cliff so steep and dangerous, but he can keep his balance on it like a winged thing, and move his horny hoofs down the untrodden precipice. Sometimes he turns round and laughs at the antics of the shaggy tail that grows behind him; or he puts up a hand to keep the sun from scorching his brow and surveys the pasture-lands with shaded eyes.d Now, when he had duly done the bidding of Jupiter, calming the angry passions of the soldiers and softening their hearts, he went swiftly back to the glades of Arcadia and to Maenalus,a the mountain that he loves; on that sacred height he makes sweet music far and wide with his melodious pipe, and all the flocks from far away follow it.

a Capys.
b Tegea is a town of Arcadia, and Arcadia is the home of Pan.
c The reference is to the Lupercalia, a feast in honour of Pan celebrated every year on February 15, when the priests, called Luperci, ran about the city, striking persons whom they met with strips of goat-skin.
d Silius seems to be describing one of the works of art in which Pan is thus represented.

Pan Iove missus erat, servari tecta volente
Troïa, pendenti similis Pan semper et imo
vix ulla inscribens terrae vestigia cornu.
dextera lascivit caesa Tegeatide capra
verbera laeta movens festo per compita coetu.        330
cingit acuta comas et opacat tempora pinus,
ac parva erumpunt rubicunda cornua fronte;
stant aures, imoque cadit barba hispida mento.
pastorale deo baculum, pellisque sinistrum
velat grata latus tenerae de corpore dammae.        335
nulla in praeruptum tam prona et inhospita cautes,
in qua non, librans corpus similisque volanti,
cornipedem tulerit praecisa per avia plantam.
interdum inflexus medio nascentia tergo
respicit arridens hirtae ludibria caudae.        340
obtendensque manum solem infervescere fronti
arcet et umbrato perlustrat pascua visu.
hic, postquam mandata dei perfecta malamque
sedavit rabiem et permulsit corda furentum,
Arcadiae volucris saltus et amata revisit        345
Maenala; ubi, argutis longe de vertice sacro
dulce sonans calamis, ducit stabula omnia cantu.
This charming passage is singled out for praise and analysis by D.W.T.C. Vessey in E.J. Kenney and W.V. Clausen, edd., Latin Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 594-595:
Silius' Pan owes a debt to Ovid (cf. Metamorphoses 1.699ff., 11.153ff.), but the passage has an overriding originality. The style is pictorial, but not narrowly descriptive. Silius reminds his readers of shared impressions of the sylvan god, so that they can build for themselves a composite image: it is not static, but lively and ebullient, consonant with the merriment, wild strangeness, half-human, half-animal nature of Pan. Verbal and metrical finesse is shown. The positioning of parua and cornua in 332 neatly suggests the sprouting horns. The heavy spondees of 336-7 are cunningly resolved in the swift-moving dactyls that follow, as we imagine fleet-footed Pan leaping down the precipitous crags. The echo of his pipes on Mount Maenalus is evoked by the framing words argutis...calamis. Alliteration is placed in effective service, especially at 329-30, 336-8 and 346-7: sound follows sense but, even more important, depths of sense are added by sound. The whole ecphrasis is a finely-wrought miniature. Silius' cura has for once produced a bounty, but to find such 'occasional gems, one must endure the dross'.1

1 Vessey, [Statius and the Thebaid] (1973) 2.
"He puts up a hand to keep the sun from scorching his brow and surveys the pasture-lands with shaded eyes" (lines 341-342)—cf. a bronze statuette of Pan, from the Temple of Artemis at Lousoi in Arcadia, 5th century B.C. (Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Antikenabteilung, inv. no. Misc. 8624):

Another view of the same:

Winifred Lamb, Ancient Greek and Roman Bronzes (London: Methuen, 1929; rpt. Chicago: Argonaut, Inc., 1969), pp. 153-154:
Our account of Arcadian bronzes may be concluded by a description of the goat-headed Pan from Lousoi at Berlin...A creature of the wilds, he stands shading his eyes with one hand: the other may have held a pedum or short crook: his right leg is advanced as though he is ready to leap forward. He has a beautiful fringe of hair down his back: the hair on his body and eyelashes are most carefully engraved. Much care has also been expended on the modelling of the head, muzzle and hands: between the horns is a hole, in which some ornament could have been inserted. The surface shews flaws from defective casting: one hole, in the right shoulder, has been filled in, but not the others. The work is that of a skilled and practiced hand, evidently not that of an Arcadian, but nowhere else, save perhaps in the Homeric Hymn to Pan, has the spirit of Arcadia been so fitly embodied.

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