Pan păn [key], in Greek religion and mythology, pastoral god of fertility. He was worshiped principally in Arcadia, and one legend states that he was the son of Hermes, another Arcadian god. Pan was supposed to make flocks fertile; when he did not, his image was flogged to stimulate him. He was depicted as a merry, ugly man with the horns, ears, and legs of a goat. Occasionally ill-tempered, he loved to frighten unwary travelers (hence the word panic). All his myths deal with amorous affairs. In a famous tale he pursued the nymph Syrinx, but before she was overtaken her sister nymphs changed her into a reed. Thus Pan plays the reed panpipes, or syrinx, in memory of her. Later, when Pan was worshiped in other parts of Greece and in Rome, he became associated with the Greek Dionysus and identified with the Roman Faunus, both gods of fertility.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion