A Latin divinity of the fields and forests, to whom in the very earliest times the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians are said to have dedicated a grove and a festival.1 He is described as a god watching over the fields and husbandmen, and is also called the protector of the boundaries of fields.2 Hyginus Gromaticus3 tells us that Silvanus was the first to set up stones to mark the limits of fields, and that every estate had three Silvani, a Silvanus domesticus (in inscriptions called Silvanus Larum and Silvanus sanctus sacer Larum), Silvanus agrestis (also called salutaris), who was worshiped by shepherds and Silvanus orientalis; that is, the god presiding over the point at which an estate begins. Hence Silvani are often spoken of in the plural.
In connection with woods (sylvestris deus), he especially presided over plantations, and delighted in trees growing wild;4 whence he is represented as carrying the trunk of a cypress (dendrophoros5). Respecting the cypress, however, the following story is told. Silvanus, or according to others, Apollo,6 was in love with the youth Cyparissus, and once by accident killed a hind belonging to Cyparissus. The latter died of grief, and was metamorphosed into a cypress.7
Silvanus is further described as the divinity protecting the flocks of cattle, warding off wolves, and promoting their fertility.8 Being the god of woods and flocks, he is also described as fond of music; the syrinx was sacred to him,9 and he is mentioned along with the Pans and nymphs.10 Later speculators even identified Silvanus with Pan, Faunus, Inuus and Aegipan.11 Cato (l.c.) calls him Mars Silvanus, from which it is clear that he must have been connected with the Italian Mars, and it is further stated that his connection with agriculture referred only to the labor performed by men, and that females were excluded from his worship.12
In the Latin poets, as well as in works of art, he always appears as an old man, but as cheerful and in love with Pomona.13 The sacrifices offered to him consisted of grapes, corn-ears, milk, meat, wine and pigs.14
- Virgil. Aeneid viii, 600.
- Horace. Epodes, ii, 22.
- De Limitibus Constituendis: Preface.
- Tibullus, ii, 5.30; Lucan. Pharsalia iii, 402; Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xii, 2; Ovid. Metamorphoses i, 193.
- Virgil. Georgics i, 20.
- Servius on Virgil's Aeneid iii, 680; Ovid. Metamorphoses x, 106 ff.
- Servius on Virgil's Georgics i, 20; Eclogues x, 26; Aeneid iii, 680.
- Virgil. Aeneid viii, 601; Tibullus, i, 5.27; Cato. Agricultural Topics, 83; Nonius, ii, 324.
- Tibullus, ii, 5. 30.
- Virgil. Georgics, i, 21; Lucan, l.c.
- Plutarch. Parallela Minora, 22.
- Scholiast on Juvenal, vi, 446.
- Virgil. Georgics, ii, 494; Horace. Epodes ii, 21; Carmina iii, 8; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 639.
- Horace. Epodes ii, 22; Epistles ii, 1.143; Tibullus, i, 5.27; Juvenal, vi, 446.
- 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.