In Greek mythology the Centaurs are also known as the Kentauroi. They are beings that are semi horse and semi human. Their torso and head are in human form, and their body is the form of a horse. Being half human and half animal they were in continuous conflict with themselves and the world around them.
Origin of the Centaurs
The Centaurs dwelt on Mount Pelion in Thessaly, northern Greece. They are thought to be the result of Ixion, the king of Lapithe, having a mistaken liaison with a cloud. The cloud had been created by Zeus in the likeness of Hera, to foil a planned rendezvous by her and Ixion.
This resulted in the birth of Centaurus, who was to become the father of the Centaurs by mating with Magnesian mares. Sometimes the Centaurs are known as Ixionida from this liaison.
Drunkenness and Debauchery
As worshipers of Dionysus, the god of wine, the Centaurs had a reputation of drunkenness and debauchery and lust for women. There were a few such as Chiron, who was an exception to this behavior and was held in high esteem as one who is wise.
War With King Peirithous
The Centaurs went to war when a part of Thessaly was inherited by King of the Lapiths from his father Ixion. Because they were grandsons of Ixion the Centaurs believed they also had a claim to the land and fighting broke out before a peace was put in place.
King Peirithous was getting married and, as a token, invited the Centaurs to the marriage feast. They then lived up to their reputation by getting drunk, violating the female guests and attempting to kidnap the bride.
This resulted in a battle where they were all driven from Thessaly, with the exception of Chiron. He was the only immortal of the Centaurs and was regarded as someone with great graciousness and wisdom. He was a teacher to Jason and Achilles, as well as Asclepius, and Actaeon.
Chiron is Placed Among the Stars
Having been accidentally wounded by Heracles, he lived in constant great pain and, as an immortal, could not die a natural death. The only release from an eternity of pain was to trade his immortality for the mortality of Prometheus. For this Zeus placed him in the stars becoming part of the constellation of Sagittarius.
Redemption From Savagery
Some scholars think that the Centaur represents a conflict in human nature. Being half human and half animal, the Centaurs could not fully bring into being their humanity resulting in their nature becoming increasingly bestial and wild and, in effect, caught between two worlds. The fact that even a few such as Chiron manage to overcome this condition suggests that in the end they were capable of redemption from savagery.
© 12/18/2013 zteve t evans
References and Attributions
Copyrightteve t evans
- Image: Author – Fordmadoxfraud (photograph); school of Fontainebleau (sculpture) the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
- Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology: centaurs – Mythweb
- Centaur – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Centaurs – Theoi Greek Mythology