In the mountains and forests of Thessaly lived a tribe of half-man, half-horse brutes called the Centaurs (the Bull Killers). It is alleged that the cloud-nymph Nephele was violated by the Lapith king called Ixion and she gave birth to the beasts.

It is said that King Ixion fell in love with Hera, Queen of Olympus and wife to Zeus. The foolish man tried to molest her, but Hera managed to escape and told her husband about this transgression.

Zeus was understandably livid and wanted to determine if Hera's story was as she said. He fashioned a cloud (Nephele) and gave it the form of Hera, laying it by Ixion's side. The lustful King wasted no time in having his way with whom he thought was Hera.

But Ixion then was reckless and dumb enough to brag in public that he had slept with the Queen of Olympus. That's all Zeus needed to hear. He immediately punished Ixion by tying him to a wheel, forever spun by the winds up in the air.

From Ixion's seed Nephele gave birth to the Centaurs. She then delivered her brood on Mount Pelion, where they were nursed by the daughters of the immortal Centaur Chiron.

Other sources relate that the Centaurs were the offspring of Ixion mixing with his mares, or even that Zeus turned himself into a horse and had relations with Deidameia, the wife of Ixion, who then gave birth to the beasts.

This primitive race lived in caves and hunted wild animals for food using tree branches and rocks as weapons. They were hybrid creatures with the upper body of a man, from the head down to the waist, and with the body and legs of a horse.

The Centaurs had the facial features of a normal man, but were sometimes portrayed with a snub nose and pointed ears of a Satyr. They led rude and savage lives, covered in hair and ranging over their mountains like wild animals, sometimes carrying off the women of their neighbors.

They came to symbolize certain unsavory characteristics of humankind, namely barbarism and unbridled chaos, more often than not caused by their unrestrained fondness for wine.

But the Centaurs weren't all bad, often acting orderly and well behaved - until they got into the wine, that is, at which point they would be reduced to wild animals wreaking havoc.


The Centaurs were notorious for their drunken behavior. At the wedding of their half-brother named Pirithous and his betrothed called Deidameia (or Hippodamia), they drank way too much and tried to kidnap and molest the bride and other female guests.

A terrible battle ensued, in which most of the Centaurs were killed or exiled by the Lapiths, as the natives were called.

The Lapiths were a tribe of Thessaly who were reputed to have invented the horse bit and the circling course, and had been the first men to ride horses, which were said to have been sired by the Centaurs. The Lapiths also taught others to fight on horseback in full armor, adding a deadly new innovation to warfare.

The instigator of the wedding day melee was a rude Centaur named Eurytion, who clouded his mind with the potent wine, became frenzied and did monstrous things in the palace of Pirithous, the gracious groom and host.

The outraged guests, including celebrated Theseus among other heroes, dragged Eurytion across the courtyard and out of the palace, lopping off his ears and nose as punishment. In the fight that ensued many drunken Centaurs were slain.

The defeated remaining Centaurs made haste to leave the vicinity and scurry to Arcadia. That was the beginning of the long and hostile feud between men and Centaurs, called the Centauromachy.

One tribe of Centaurs lived on the island of Cyprus, and there have been instances in classical art and literature where beautiful female Centaurs, called Centaurides, were said to exist.

These Centaurides were a wondrous sight to behold, some of them attached to white mares, others to chestnut mares, while yet others were dappled, glistening like champion stallions.

There was also a gorgeous white female Centaur that grew out of a black mare, with the juxtaposition of the colors providing a truly stunning beauty. All in all, the Centaurides were highly admired.

A different tribe of Centaurs lived in the western Peloponnese. Like most Centaurs, they reached maturity at the age of sixteen and lived an average of sixty years.

There also existed Ichthyocentaurs (fish-centaurs), which were a particular type of Triton, the sea god. These fabulous beings had a human upper part, with the lower part that of a fish. However, unlike ordinary Tritons, instead of hands they had the lower fore-quarters of a horse's feet.

The Icthyocentaurs' names were Aphros (sea-foam) and Bythos (sea-depth). They were the sons of Cronus and Philyra, and brothers of the famous Centaur Chiron. Like him they were regarded as wise teachers.

Their brows were crowned with a pair of lobster-claw horns. Aphros is described as the first king of the sea-faring Aphroi (Carthaginians). The two brother Icthyocentaurs were set in the sky as the constellation Pisces.

by Thatwitchsabrina

One suicidal Centaur named Nessus found fit to dare challenge Heracles (Hercules), the greatest hero in ancient Greece. Heracles arrived with his wife Deianeira at the river Evenus, where Nessus had installed himself as ferryman.

When Deianira got on his back to cross the river, Nessus bolted, taking the helpless woman with him. Heracles heard her screams and raced to rescue his wife. In no time he managed to shoot the Centaur in the heart with one of his arrows, which were dipped in the blood of the Hydra, making them particularly lethal.

As Nessus lay dying he told Deianeira, as his final act of malice, that his blood would ensure that Heracles would always be faithful to her, knowing full well that his blood-soaked tunic would itself be infected by the Hydra's blood.

Deianeira stored away the bloody tunic but felt the need to bring it out when she suspected Heracles was getting interested in a maiden named Iole. She soaked a robe in the blood and presented it to her husband, who was leaving for a meeting of heroes.

Too late did Deianeira realize the ruse - she sent heralds to warn Heracles, but they did not arrive in time. The hero lay dying slowly and painfully as the robe burned his skin. He finally died, but was then taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus and joined the Pantheon of gods as a reward for his unsurpassed heroic exploits.

In later times the Centaurs were drawn into the sphere of the god of wine, Dionysus, shown pulling his chariot, or bound and ridden by Eros, the god of love and assistant to goddess Aphrodite.

This representation is an allusion to their drunken and amorous habits, but in this context the Centaurs no longer appear as savage and lawless beasts but rather tamed and harnessed by the god of wine's power.

They were shown drawing the chariot of the god, and play the horn or lyre, or they appear in the retinue of Dionysus mingling with the ever-present Satyrs, Fauns, Nymphs and Bacchantes that accompanied the god of wine everywhere.


The most famous, brilliant and benevolent Centaur was Chiron, mentor and teacher to countless Greek heroes and royalty.

Chiron was the son of the Titan Cronus and Philyra, who was an Oceanid (Sea Nymph), who lived at the foot of Mount Pelion in Thessaly. Philyra was so horrified by her offspring she begged the gods for a way out of her situation. The gods transformed her into a linden tree, leaving Chiron alone in Thessaly.

Unlike his violent and savage fellow Centaurs, Chiron was renowned for his great wisdom and deep knowledge of medicine. He was a mentor to numerous heroic luminaries, such as Heracles (Hercules), Jason, Perseus and Achilles. Asclepius, beloved god of Medicine, had been tutored by Chiron.

Chiron married a nymph named Charicio and they became parents of Hippe, Endeis, Ocyrhoe and Carystus. Together with her mother in law Philyria the Oceanid, Charicio was nurse to young Achilles.

When Heracles was doing battle with the Centaurs one of his arrows accidently struck bystander Chiron. The wounded Centaur, because he was immortal, could not die, yet he suffered a terrible unbearable pain daily.

Chiron couldn't heal himself because the poison of the Hydra, in which Heracles' arrows had been dipped, was far too strong.

Prometheus the Titan, who had illegally given fire to humans, had been sentenced by Zeus to be chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus. Each day a huge eagle (or vulture) would swoop down and feast on the chained Titan's liver, yet each night the liver would regenerate, leading to an endless painful ordeal.

Heracles killed the eagle and freed Prometheus, then he offered a solution to the Centaur's dilemma - If Chiron were to bestow his immortality upon Prometheus, Zeus would let the Centaur die, relieving him of his endless pain.

The deal was accepted by Chiron and the universally beloved Centaur died in peace. To honor this outstanding mentor and teacher, Zeus placed him in the heavens as the Centaurus Constellation.




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