Silenus, in Grecian mythology, was originally synonymous with satyr (q.v.); but when the latter term became attached to a class of companions to Bacchus. a single one of them, Silenus, obtained a special prominence. He was said to be the son of Mercury or of Pan, and the inseparable companion of Bacchus, whom he brought up and instructed. Silenus was represented as a jovial old man, bald-headed, pug-nosed, fat and round like the wine bag which he constantly carried, and usually intoxicated. He did not, consequently, trust to his legs, but generally rode on an ass. His special delight was in music and dancing, a certain dance being named from him, Silenus; and the invention of the flute is sometimes attributed to him. He also appears, in contrast with his undignified external appearance, as a Bacchic inspired prophet who has a familiar knowledge of things both past and future, and, as a despiser of the gifts of fortune and of earthly life. When he was drunk and asleep, he was in the power of mortals, who might compel him to prophesy and sing, by surrounding him with chains of flowers. Silenus had, a temple at Elis, in Greece, where Methe (drunkenness) stood by his side handing him a cup of wine. As the companion of Bacchus, he took part in the contest with the giants, whom he put to flight, in part through the braying of his ass. The name is thought to be derived from a root signifying to flow or run, so that Silenus was considered the rearer of Bacchus, either because moisture is necessary to the growth of the vine, or because the ancients always mixed water with the wine they drank. See Smith, Dict. of Class. Mythol. s.v.; Vollmer, Worterb. d. Mythol. s.v.; Hirt, Mythol. Bilderb. p. 104, etc.; Miller, Ancient Art, etc., § 336.

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