1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Silenus
|←Silchester||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25
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SILENUS, a primitive Phrygian deity of woods and springs. As the reputed inventor of music he was confounded with Marsyas. He also possessed the gift of prophecy, but, like Proteus, would only impart information on compulsion; when surprised in a drunken sleep, he could be bound with chains of flowers, and forced to prophesy and sing (Virgil, Ecl. vi., where he gives an account of the creation of the world; cf. Aelian, Var. hist. iii. 18). In Greek mythology he is the son of Hermes (or Pan) and a nymph. He is the constant companion of Dionysus, whom he was said to have instructed in the cultivation of the vine and the keeping of bees. He fought by his side in the war against the giants and was his companion in his travels and adventures. The story of Silenus was often the subject of Athenian satyric drama. Just as there were supposed to be several Pans and Fauns, so there were many Silenuses, whose father was called Papposilenus (“Daddy Silenus”), represented as completely covered with hair and more animal in appearance. The usual attributes of Silenus were the wine-skin (from which he is inseparable), a crown of ivy, the Bacchic thyrsus, the ass, and sometimes the panther. In art he generally appears as a little pot-bellied old man, with a snub nose and a bald head, riding on an ass and supported by satyrs; or he is depicted lying asleep on his wine-skin, which he sometimes bestrides. A more dignified type is the Vatican statue of Silenus carrying the infant Dionysus, and the marble group from the villa Borghese in the Louvre.
See Preller-Robert, Griechische Mythologie (1894), pp. 729-735; Talfourd Ely, " A Cyprian Terracotta," in the Archaeological Journal (1896); A. Baumeister, Denkmäler des klassischen Altertums, iii. (1888).