Silenus is a woodland creature from Greek mythology who is part man and part animal, and a companion of Dionysus. He is shown with horse ears and sometimes horse legs and tail.
Sometimes there are multiple sileni. In comparison with the half-human satyr, Silenus or the sileni are usually shown as wise, old men. It may be that in later Greek usage, the human-legged creatures were satyrs and the equine, sileni, but that doesn't appear to be a firm distinction.
Although neither Homer nor Hesiod names Silenus, the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite does. Aphrodite tells Anchises the mountain nymphs who mate with Silenus will rear Aeneas. From the 6th century B.C., the Francois Krater depicts three sileni accompanying Dionysus during the Return of Hephaestus.
Sileni and satyrs drink, make wine, play flutes, dance, gather grapes, and lustfully chase nymphs and, perhaps, maenads.
- Midas compelled Silenus to reveal his secrets by making him drunk. [See Bulfinch on Midas.]
- Because of the ugly appearance and inner wisdom, Socrates was compared with Silenus.
- In Eclogue 6 Silenus tells shepherds ancient myths.