Greek Mythology : Centaurs – Half-Man And Half-Horse

greek mythology centaurs

greek mythology centaurs

In Greek mythology, Centaurs were half-man and half horse creatures that inhabited the mountains and forests of Thessaly.

Centaurs were said to be primal, existing in tribes and making their homes in caves, hunting wild animals and arming themselves with rocks and tree branches. There are many origin myths surrounding centaurs; one is that Centaurus, the offspring of King Ixion, mated with the cloud nymph, Nephele whom a jealous Zeus created in the likeness of Hera. They spawned centaurs and left them on Mount Pelion where the daughters of the immortal centaur Chiron nursed them.

Centaurs were followers of Dionysus, the God of Wine and were thus known for being savage, rowdy and boisterous. Often they were portrayed as being governed by their bestial half. They were invited to attend the wedding of their half-brother Pirithous, King of Lapith and became severely drunk during the festivities. They attempted to carry off the bride and the other female guests. The hero Theseus happened to be present at the wedding and aided Pirithous; a battle broke out, and most of the centaurs were killed.

Centaurs were creatures that represented chaos and barbarism, their likeness and proclivity for trouble were frequently described in Greek sculpture, myths, stories and pottery. While boasting a bestial and lustful reputation, some centaurs only acted in such a way under the effects of wine and alcohol; which may have served as a cautionary tale to the ancient Greeks.

The most well know and considered the most civilised centaur was Chiron, who was incredibly wise and a tutor and advisor to heroes like Hercules, Achilles and Jason. Unfortunately, he was only a minor character in Greek mythology, so though mentioned often very little is know about him. He was the son of Philyra and the Titan god, Cronus and he married the nymph Chariklo. Chiron resided in the forests of Mt. Pelion. Chiron was responsible for Achilles adolescent education, and Achilles was gifted a formidable Pelian ash spear from his tutor which he used during the Trojan war. Chiron was known for not indulging in drinking, having superior knowledge to his brethren and having a different lineage than the other centaurs.

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Centaurs were a favourite beast portrayed in Greek mythology often as barbarians and uncivilised or like Chiron and Pholos who were famous characters and teachers in the legends of the Greek’s favourite heroes.


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