Where does the word "panic" come from?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The word "panic" is derived from the Greek god Pan (Πάν). Pan was a rustic god, and the center of his cult was in the region of Arcadia. He was associated with wild beasts, hunting, and shepherds, and generally worshiped in natural settings rather than urban temples. In ancient iconography, he appears as half man and half goat (the lower part is goat-like), often playing the syrinx (pan pipes), a flute constructed out of multiple reeds. He is also associated, especially in Greek comedy and satyr plays, with unbridled sexuality, pursuing nymphs, young boys, and even goats on occasion. 

The association of Pan with irrational fear and mass panic dates back to antiquity and may have its origin in his affiliation with wild beasts and primal, uncivilized society, which the Greeks contrasted with the rationality of their own urbanized world. 


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