Friday, February 19, 2010

Day LXXXI - Centaur

Savage hooves gallop,
Engaged in war with Lapiths,
Equestrian man.

With the torso of a human being emerging out of the body of a horse, the Centaurs are supreme hybrid creatures of Greek mythology whose equestrian forms live long in cultural memory. Lusty, violent and easily influenced by wine, the creatures are generally characterised as a brutal and unruly race of beings with the exception of the wise Cheiron (master medicine expert and tutor to many a Greek hero who gave up immortality so he could become the Sagittarius constellation) and Pholus (friend of Heracles who accidentally kills himself with one of the legend's poison arrows). Out of the many myths in which the Centaurs make an appearance, the most significant episode is their clash with the Lapiths which comes when the horse-human hybrids violently gatecrash King Pirithous' wedding and attempt to abduct the female guests. With the help of Theseus, the Lapith people inflict huge losses on the Centaurs and scatter them across the lands in a battle which symbolises the triumph of civilisation over barbarism. Despite the defeat and condemnation as 'uncivilised', the presence of Centaurs in art across the ages - beyond their Greek origins - attests to the fact that these are awesome mythical entities that deserve our respect and appreciation. The half-man-half-horse is magnificent.

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