PICUS

A Latin prophetic divinity, is described as a son of Saturnus or Sterculus, as the husband of Canens, and the father of Faunus (Ov. Met. xiv. 320, 338, Fast. iii. 291; Virg. Aen. vii. 48; Serv. ad Aen. x. 76). In some traditions he was called the first king of Italy (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 1232). He was a famous soothsayer and augur, and, as he made use in these things of a picus (a wood-pecker), he himself also was called Picus. He was represented in a rude and primitive manner as a wooden pillar with a wood-pecker on the top of it, but afterwards as a young man with a wood-pecker on his head (Dionys. i. 14; Ov. Met. xiv. 314; Virg. Aen. vii. 187). The whole legend of Picus is founded on the notion that the wood-pecker is a prophetic bird, sacred to Mars. Pomona, it is said, was beloved by him, and when Circe's love for him was not requited, she changed him into a wood-pecker, who, however, retained the prophetic powers which he had formerly possessed as a man. (Virg. Aen. vii. 190; Ov. Met. xiv. 346; Plut. Quaest. Rom. 21; Ov. Fast. iii. 37.)