Abstract The canonical statue known as the Barberini Faun is roundly viewed as a mysterious anomaly. The challenge to interpret it is intensified not only by uncertainties about its date and origin but also by the persistent idea that it represents a generic satyr.
This paper tackles this assumption and identifies the statue with the satyr that King Midas captured in the well-known myth. Iconographic analysis of the statue's pose supports this view. In particular, the arm bent above the head, the twist of the torso, and the splay of the legs are paralleled in many well-understood figures and furnish keys to interpreting the Barberini Faun as an extraordinary sleeping beast, intoxicated and fit for capture. The paper then explores the links between kings and satyrs in the Hellenistic age and finds grounds for understanding the statue within the context of royal patronage before the mid-second century BC.