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Classical Studies 3400E Chapter Notes -Hedonism, Sophrosyne, Phallus

Classical Studies
Course Code
CS 3400E
Chris Piper

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Satyrs or silenoi are the male followers of the god Dionysus. They are imaginary
inhabitants of the wild, unrestrained in their desire for wine and sex. . Thus satyrs are
ambiguous creatures: grotesque hedonists and yet the immortal companions of a god.
Satire has no connection with satyr: the Latin word satura means a mixture or a hodge-
Some characteristics of satyrs:
They’re usually portrayed naked. Satyrs rarely have hooves— Most have tails
however. Satyr anatomy is rather selectively portrayed by the vase-painter. They
go from being very equine/ donkey-like to somewhat more human in appearance
— but their animal nature is not forgotten. They are often bearded and beetle-
There are links to donkeys in the fact that they are ithyphallic (permanently erect)
and macrophallic. Donkey is the closest animal to them in anatomy and
lewdness. The Greeks prefer a discreet penis of small size. This is reflective of
sophrosyne, the Greek ideal of self-controlled manhood. It is not Herakles we find
endowed with a large penis, but Satyrs, pygmies, and beasts. The large penis also
symbolizes inexhaustible energy and sexual appetite, and this is where the
emphasis is in satyr-scenes lies, not on desire or erotic reciprocity.
The sexual activities of satyrs in vase paintings go beyond simple sexual
satisfaction— their bodies are used in an excessive licentious way.
Wine (because of their connection with Dionysus), music and eros generally are
the activities of the satyr.
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