"Woodpecker." a Latin prophetic divinity, is described as a son of Saturn or Sterculius, as the husband of Canens, and the father of Faunus.1 In some traditions he was called the first king of Italy.2 He was a famous soothsayer and augur, and, as he made use in these things of a picus (a woodpecker), he himself also was called Picus.

The whole legend of Picus is founded on the notion that the wood-pecker is a prophetic bird, sacred to Mars. Pomona, it is said, was beloved by him. Circe fell in love with him, but she could not reach him because of the speed of his horse and his crowd of companions, so she conjured up a phantom boar which he followed. When they came face-to-face, she spoke of her love for him but he rejected her. Angrily, she turned Picus into a woodpecker, who, however, retained the prophetic powers which he had formerly possessed as a man.


Picus was represented in a rude and primitive manner as a wooden pillar with a wood-pecker on the top of it, but afterwards as a young man with a wood-pecker on his head.4



  1. Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 320, 338; Fasti iii, 291; Virgil. Aeneid vii, 48; Servius on Virgil's Aeneid x, 76.
  2. Tzetzes on Lycophron, 1232.
  3. Vergil. Aeneid vii, 190; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 346; Plutarch. Roman Questions, 21; Ovid. Fasti iii, 37.
  4. Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Roman Antiquities i, 14; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 314; Vergil. Aeneid vii, 187.


  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.