30.11.10

Centaur Myths and Legends

Article

Although the Centaurs were based on a horse similar to the Unicorn, except for one they couldn’t be more different. In opposition to the purity of the Unicorn, most legends of the Centaurs described them as unruly creatures with untameable appetites for lust and debauchery, even though they derived from one of the noblest creatures.

Part-human, part-animal beings in Greek mythology tend to be evil and aggressive. Centaurs were depicted with the head and torso of a man, and the legs and lower body of a horse. They lived near Mount Pelion in the north of Greece, and followed the wine god Dionysus. As a result, they were often found partying and taking advantage of young females.

Origins

Many have speculated as to what may have inspired the myth of the Centaur. Some say Centaurs date back to Assyria in 2000 BC, while others say the myth has its origin in Vedic mythology of 3000 BC, in which the Gandharvas drove the horses from the Sun. Others still, say they were inspired by shepherds riding horses from Thessalony.

One theory is that the Centaurs were modelled on the Scythians, a nation of warriors who were the first to mount their archers on horses. When the Greeks first saw the Scythians with their skilful archery techniques, coupled with the speed and agility of the horse, it is possible that rumours arose about a race of beings who seemed to be; half-human, half-horse.

According to the most popular myth, Centaurs were the result of the King of Lapithae’s encounter with a cloud. King Ixion had arranged to meet Hera for a secret rendezvous, but Zeus heard about his wife’s infidelity and sent a cloud in the shape of Hera to meet Ixion instead. Ixion and the cloud created the Centaur race.

Chiron

Chiron was different all the other Centaurs because he was the result of a union between the Titan Cronos and Philya; a goddess of beauty, perfume, healing and writing. Chiron possessed great wisdom. He dedicated himself to studying and eventually became one of the wisest of all beings in Ancient Greece, particularly in the area of the healing arts.

Legend of Chiron’s wisdom spread throughout Greece and he became a tutor to some of the greatest heroes of the age, including Asciepius, Theseus and Heracles. His wise counsel also persuaded the goddess Thetis to marry Peleus, whose union produced the great warrior, Archilles.

According to the legend, Chiron met his end when he was hit accidentally by a poisoned arrow fired by Heracles. Chiron was immortal and so was not in danger of death, but in order to escape the pain of the poison he decided to give up his immortality. He gave it to Pormetheus, who was condemned to suffer an ever-lasting torture of having an eagle eat his liver every day.

Chiron was rewarded by having his image immortalised in the heavens as the constellation, Sagittarius.
© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.