A Centaur in Greek mythology is a savage creature, half man and the lower half, horse. Centaurs, usually resided in the mountains of Thessaly, southeast of mount Olympus. According to Pindar, an Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes (c. 522–443 BC), the first Centaur was born from the union of Ixion (king of Lapiths, the most ancient tribe in Thessaly) and Nephele (the cloud Zeus created to resemble Hera in order to test Ixion’s integrity when he realized that he was lustful for her) where none of the Graces (Charites) was present at his birth. The Centaur mingled with the mare at the Magnesian peninsula (where the city of Volos is, today) thus engendering a whole nation of mythical monsters. The myth says that they were extinguished by the brave and civilized nation of Lapiths when they tried to abduct Hippodamia during her wedding to their king Pirithous.
The abduction of Hippodamia was not an uncommon subject of Western art in the classical tradition, including the sculpture “The Abduction of Hippodameia” by French artist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and a painting by Rubens. Also in the pediment of the temple of Zeus in Ancient Olympia (Peloponnese) one can see the depiction of the war that took place between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Continue reading