Greek Mythology: The Story of The Centaurs

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

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Copyright 12/18/2013 zteve t evans

Greek Myths: Pygmalion Falls In Love

In Greek mythology Pygmalion was a wonderfully gifted sculptor who created a marvelous statue of a beautiful woman. The statue was so flawless and lifelike he becomes obsessed with his own sculpture falling in love with it.

L’Origine de la sculpture ou Pygmalion priant Vénus d’animer sa statue – Painting by Jean-Baptiste Regnault} – Public Domain

Metamorphoses, by Ovid

The myth was passed to us by Ovid, a Roman poet who included it in a long poem called Metamorphoses. This poem had 12,000 lines of hexameter verse in fifteen books. Its narrative tells of the creation of the world up to the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus, making it of great value to the modern scholar.

Within this long poem are many mythical and legendary stories. A key theme though out is transformation which can be great or small but significant in effect. This transformation often takes place through the intervention of the gods.

It may be a reward for obedience and devotion to the gods or punishment for being unfaithful and disobedient. Passion is a theme that is central through out the work.

Pygmalion

Pygmalion lived on the island of Cyprus where the goddess Aphrodite was widely revered and he was devoted to her.  Not everyone shared this devotion. The daughters of Propoetus of Amathus, who were known as known as the Propoetides, did not worship Aphrodite or pay her due respect.

As a punishment Aphrodite filled them with an immoral passion causing them to act as wanton prostitutes. Pygmalion abhorred their behaviour and grew to loathe them so much that he swore never to marry.  For many years he separated himself from such behaviour concentrating on his work.

Pygmalion Creates a Beautiful Statue

Pygmalion and Galatea – Public Domain

During this time of isolation he created a statue of a woman of the most perfect beauty that was amazingly lifelike.   He saw in the statue everything he believed a woman should be and all that the Propoetides were not.  Indeed the statue was so flawless and its beauty surpassed that of any living woman.  As he gazed upon it in admiration of his own skill and its beauty he fell in love with it.

Pygmalion became obsessed, touching and caressing it, as if it was a real woman.  He put fine necklaces around its neck and dressed it in beautiful clothes and came to believe that it was indeed a real woman.  He would give it beautiful presents such as he thought a real woman would take pleasure in.   He would recline it on a couch and with it dressed in fine clothes and jewelery he began to believe it was his wife.

Aphrodite Grants his Heart’s Desire

In Pygmalion’s time the festival of Aphrodite was an important event on Cyprus.  Being dedicated to her he went to her alter and performed sacred rites to honour her.   In his prayers he asked Aphrodite for a wife similar to his statue, but what he really desired more than anything was for the statue to be his wife, but did not say so as he thought it inappropriate.

Aphrodite was pleased with his dedication to her and reading his mind new his heart’s desire.   She caused the alter flames to flare three times as a sign of her approval.

On his return home Pygmalion immediately went to the statue where he had left it reclining on the couch, dressed in finery.  He began to kiss and caress it…  To his utter amazement the statue’s face felt soft and warm.  To his surprise and delight the statue began responding to his kisses and caresses returning them.

Pygmalion gets Married

Overjoyed, he realised Aphrodite had caused the statue to come to life. Pygmalion thanked Aphrodite with all his heart and she looked down and blessed the couple.   From their marriage came a son named Paphos who gave his name to the city on Cyprus where the cult of Aphrodite was centred.  In later versions of the myth his wife is named as Galatea.

Divine Intervention

The punishment of the Propoetides by Aphrodite who filled them with an immoral passion, Pygmalion’s devotion and dedication to the goddess and passion for his statue, Aphrodite’s transformation of the statue into a real woman are examples of how the gods may intervene in the lives of humans.

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