In Greek mythology, Pan was the god of the wild, shepherds, hunting and rustic music and chaser of the nymphs. Originally a pastoral god of Arcadia and considered basically as the patron of shepherds and their flocks, Pan was believed to dwell in the mountains and forests of ancient Greece. His parentage is ambiguous and a wide assortment of myths surrounds Pan’s parentage. However, according to many accounts, he was born to Hemes, the messenger of the gods and a wood nymph, named Dryope.
He was born with extremely horrific features, with the upper body and hands of a human male, resembling a faun and cloven hooves, a tail, two horns, pointed ears and the horizontal eyes of a goat. As his depressed and miserable mother became very much frightened and distressed by his appearance, she left the child on his birth and ran away. However, Hermes wrapped the baby in the pelt of a hare and carried him off to Mount Olympus.
Pan is famous for his unfettered sexuality and he is the patron of sex for the sake of lust and physical satisfaction. In the ancient world, depictions of small penises were culturally valued and large penises were associated with lust and ugliness. Unlike many other male gods, Pan is often depicted with a huge erect phallus.
His unbridled crave for sex often prompted him to chase the nymphs, but he was rarely successful in his courting, as his abnormal appearance and unusual harsh voice made the nymphs scary and they used to run away from him in panic with pounding hearts. Thus, the word ‘panic’ was originated from the name of Pan. Once Pan was completely blown away by the breathtaking beauty of a young nymph, named Syrinx. As he was strongly attracted by her sexual charm, he immediately started to chase her to satisfy his lust.
However, Syrinx was not interested. She was an ardent follower of Artemis or Diana and had decided to abstain from any type of sexual pleasure. Apart from that, she became frightened by the strange look of Pan and ran away to save her life and virginity. Pan pursued the scared nymph from the Mount Lycaeum until she came upon the bank of the River Ladon, where she desperately started to appeal to her sisters, the river nymphs, to save her from the imminent embrace of Pan. In response to her prayer, the river nymphs transformed Syrinx into the reeds growing on the river bank and as Pan spread his arms to embrace and fondle her, all he found in his arms was a plain tuft of reeds. He sighed in deep grief, collected seven reeds and crafted a Pan Pipe, which he dedicated to the memory of his lost love and named it ‘Syrinx’.
Like Syrinx, Pan was also avoided by another nymph named Pitys, when she was transformed into a pine tree by the gods. However, he was not so unfortunate with the Maenads, the crazy female followers of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine (Roman Bacchus), making love to each of them. According to some accounts, Pan also had sex with the beautiful the moon goddess Selene, as he cheated her by wrapping himself in a sheepskin to hide his hairy black goat form and drew Selene down from the sky into the forest where he had sex with her.
In a sculpture of Aphrodite, Pan and Eros, exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, stark naked Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love is depicted brandishing a sandal in her slightly raised right hand and her face with a veiled smile. The angle of her head is such that she is not directly looking at Pan. It appears that she is not at all tensed or worried about the sexual intention or the strength of Pan and she is neglecting the poor, persisting and comical Pan, with her indifferent attitude and just enjoying the situation. In fact, the goat-footed, ugly and horned Pan presents a miserable and pathetic figure in the sculpture.
Pan was thought to inspire panic, which has the immense power to abate reasoning and destroy confidence in the human soul. It is said that, in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, Pan created panic in the hearts of the Persians, allowing the Athenians, whom he favoured, to gain the upper hand.
Pan was most commonly worshipped in Arcadia, where the Arcadian hunters used to scourge the statue of the god, if they had been disappointed in the chase.
However, being a rustic god, he was worshipped in natural settings, usually in caves or grottoes, with the exceptions of the temple of Pan on the Neda River gorge in the southwest Peloponnese and at Apollonopolis Magana in ancient Egypt. However, by the fifth century BC, a number of cults were dedicated to him in Athens and other major Greek cities. The Roman counterpart to Pan is Faunus.