"sat his horse like a centaur"
A centaur carrying off a nymph, 1850–1920 French marble
Public DomainA centaur carrying off a nymph, 1850–1920 French marble - Credit: Jastrow on Wikimedia Commons

A centaur is a creature from Greek mythology with a horse’s body and legs, and a human’s torso, head and arms. According to different stories they are the children of Nephele (a cloud nymph) and Ixion (the king of the Lapiths), or of Centaurus (Ixion’s son) and the Magnesian mares. According to legend the centaurs lived in Thessaly in Greece. They are most famous for their battle with the Lapiths, sparked by their attempt to carry off the Lapith women on the wedding day of Pirithous and Hippodamia. The battle is represented on the south metopes of the Parthenon in Athens. Due to their half-animal form, they are usually portrayed as wild, aggressive, animalistic and troublesome. A notable exception is Chiron, a centaur with a different ancestry and more civilised, gentle behaviour. Chiron is famous for tutoring many of the great Greek heroes.

 

 

Centaur fighting Lapith, one of the south metopes of the Parthenon
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCentaur fighting Lapith, one of the south metopes of the Parthenon - Credit: Dschwen on Wikimedia Commons