When it comes to the forest, fields and the plains, it is the horned god named Faunus that is mentioned in ancient Roman myths. In this article, you will learn more about the deity who appears in texts written by Virgil and other ancient storytellers.
Faunus was one of the oldest of Roman deities and belonged to a group known as the ‘di indigetes’ , a term used to describe gods and goddesses that did not come from other mythological sources.
Depending on the ancient writer, the Roman god of the forest was described differently. In Virgil’s case, he saw Faunas as a legendary king of the Latins who was related to the people of Arcadia. He was connected to being a god of prophecy. It was believed that Faunus could reveal the future in dreams and voices. He transferred these thoughts to people who came to sleep in his grounds while lying on the fleeces of lambs that had been sacrificed.
When the ancient Romans worshipped Faunus, they also looked towards the goddess Fauna (or Fatua), who possessed some of the same attributes. In some myths, she was his wife, while others identified her as his sister. Besides Fauna, Latinus is also known as the offspring of Faunus , a child he had with a nymph named Marica. Some tales depicted Faunus as an old king, where after his death, he is raised to take on the position of a deity associated with the land. He is linked to agriculture and the breeding of cattle , to which he is called Innus in some circles.
On February 13, a festival called Faunalia was celebrated in the honor of the god, which took place in the temple of Faunas on the island in the Tiber. A second festival occurred on December 5, where peasants made offerings to the god and danced for their own amusement.
Comparison with Pan
Faunus was often compared to Pan, who was a pastoral god of shepherds who was believed to dwell in Arcadia. Pan was a god that was depicted with horns, which is probably what started Faunas has having the same trait. Many people saw the two deities as separate entities. This is evident in the Aeneid written by Virgil, who mentioned both Faunus and Pan as independent gods.
Faunus was also worshipped throughout the Roman Empire for many centuries. Artifacts found in 1979 shed light on the subject. A set of 32 spoons dating back to the 4th century were uncovered near Thetford in England. They were engraved with the name ‘Faunus’. Each of the spoons had a different epithet positioned after the god’s name. Christian symbols were also on the spoons. Some suspect that the spoons had initially been Christian, but were later taken by pagans and then changed to honor Faunus.