Pan in greek mythology legend was the son of Hermes and the nymph Penelope and very close to Dionysus.

One of the company of the Satyrs, Pan possessed the horns and feet of a goat, is typically depicted with a large phallus.

The god is reputed to have been born in Arcadia, to be energetically playful, live in haunted caves, and roam lonely, rural places.

He became irritable especially when awaken from his siesta. He was well known for playing the pipes, an interest stemming from an infatuation with the nymph Syrinx whom the Earth goddess Gaia change into a clump of reeds to protect her from Pan’s amorous advances; therefore the pipes of Pan were cut from hollow reeds and called syrinx.

The reputation of Pan extended to frightening men and animals, as he could inspire groundless fright. By blowing on a conch shell he created a panic when Zeus led the gods against Cronus and the Titans. It is thought the word «panic» might possibly be derived from this reputation.

Pan is depicted wearing a garland of pine boughs while bearing the syrinx pipes and a shepherd’s crook.

The death of Pan was reported during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD) When a ship sailing from Greece to Italy was becalmed off of the island of Paxos a voice from the shore suddenly cried three times «Tammuz».

The pilot whose name was Tammuz answered, and the voiced said, «Tell them the great Pan is dead.» As the vessel continued sailing and drifted near shore elsewhere, the pilot announced the news of the god’s death, whereupon arose the sound of great weeping.

Upon the ship’s arrival in Italy the Emperor summoned the pilot, and the scholars called to interpret the event decided that the Pan in question was not the god but a demon of the same name.

In all probability the sailors witnessing the incident saw a ceremonial lament for Adonis or even the Babylonian Tammaz. Early Christians took heart in the story, believing it marked the beginning of the end of the pagan era. A.G.H.


Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, p. 152
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 200