At first glance, you might think Faunus is just a horned and horny woodland deity who encourages Romans to run around naked and get playfully whipped to encourage fertility. And, you’d be right. It is true that he’s associated with the Lupercalia Festival, and has been depicted fornicating with animals… but there’s more to Faunus than that.
You might think that Faunus is simply the Roman equivalent to Pan because of the goat-like features. Or, maybe you know that Arcadian King Evander settled on the Palantine Hill, and worshipped Pan near the cave where Lupa the she-wolf would later suckle Romulus and Remus to health. Sure, that could explain his origin or the similarities, but it doesn’t explain the differences.
Where Faunus really stands out, is that he is seen as royalty and deity. He’s the grandson of Saturn, and one of Latium’s most ancient gods. According to Virgil, he was a great king of the Latins, as was his son Latinus. His counsel was sought by many kings, and was considered an oracle who would shed his wisdom while you slept in his ‘precinct.’
His most notable entry into Roman mythology appears in The Aeneid. King Latinus hosts Aeneus’ army of Trojans and offers them Latium as their new homeland. Latinus’ daughter, Lavinia, is betrothed to Turnus, but Faunus visits Latinus in his dreams and advises him to offer Lavinia to Aeneus instead, who would create a bloodline that would bring Latium to glory. Latinus follows his father’s counsel, and though conflict between Aeneus and Turnus ensues, Aeneus is victorious, and sires the next next great king.
So, Faunus is complex and important… and, yes, fornicates with animals.
O’Connor, on researching Faunus: “Everywhere I looked, Faunus was compared to Pan. Many of the myths and art were interchangeable – I imagine that must be really annoying to Faunus, who is his own god in his own right.” O’Connor’s script plays with the push and pull of defining yourself while everyone around you is trying to tell you who you are.
FAUNUS by Meghan Trowbridge O’Connor
Directed by Sophia Mia Dipaola
Staged Reading on October 18, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
Meghan Kathleen O’Connor is a playwright, copywriter, and sketch writer based in San Francisco. She is very excited to return to the Olympians Festival as a writer for the fifth time – this festival feels like a nice, warm blanket. Her work has also been produced by Killing My Lobster, PianoFight, and Playground. Meghan is currently the Literary Director for PianoFight’s Pint Sized Plays (formerly a San Francisco Theater Pub production), and is a proud participant and winner of Shipwreck, the erotic fan fiction competition held in the back of a bookstore. In her abundant freetime, she performs with her improv team The Ballroom, and with fellow comedian Eric Rubin in their band Claptrap.