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Picus was the son of Saturn and the founder of the first Latin tribe and settlement, Laurentum, near Rome and son of the god Saturn.

His aptitude for astrology and horsemanship were well renowned. Festus said that the reason he relied on a woodpecker for divination was how he came to be known as such. Additionally, Picus was said to be exceedingly attractive and coveted by nymphs and naiads. While he went on a hunting excursion, the witch Circe tried to entice him with her charms and plants, but he vehemently refused her. He disdained her affection, so she transformed him into a woodpecker.

When his allies sought Picus’ release and accused Circe of her crime, she also transformed them into various animals. Canens, a nymph, was Picus’ wife (to whom he was completely devoted). She raced wildly through the forest for six days following Picus’ metamorphosis before ultimately collapsing and passing away on the bank of the Tiber. Faunus was their lone child. Grammarian Servius said that Picus’s passion for Pomona was also derided.

One of the duties he fulfilled was to lead the younger generation’s colonial defection with his departure, which was customarily carried out in the springtime in accordance with a religious ceremony known as ver sacrum. The remembrance of this event is whence the Piceni people got their name.

Featured image: Picus and Circe, Luca Giordano


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