Mythic Monday: the Quadrupedal Centaur

by | | 0 comment(s)

The word horseman is simple enough: in common speech, it means a person who is skilled in riding or taking care of horses. The term may conjure strikingly different images, however, for readers of religious texts, popular fiction of yesteryear, or ancient myths. The ChristianBible’s Book of Revelation tells of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who represent hardships that humans must endure before the end of the world. The American author Washington Irving told of a ghostly headless horseman who so frightens the schoolteacher Ichabod Crane that Crane flees Sleepy Hollow forever. But an even older story—a legend of ancient Greek mythology—described perhaps an even stranger kind of horse-man: the quadrupedal centaur. (A quadruped is an animal with four feet.)

The centaurs were mythological half-man, half-horse creatures that lived in the mountainous Thessaly region of northern Greece. Most depictions of the centaurs show them with a human torso atop the body of a horse. The centaurs were not known for their good manners, and not just for wearing their shoes indoors and munching up all your sugar cubes. The centaurs—their powers of reason overwhelmed by animal instincts—highly valued strong drink, fighting with branches, and other boisterous passions. At the wedding feast of King Pirithous of the Lapiths (the peace-loving people of Thessaly) and his bride, Hippodameia, the centaurs became drunk and tried to kidnap the Lapith women. A great melee followed, and the Lapiths finally drove away the centaurs. Lapith grandmothers thus gained veto power over wedding guest lists for generations to come.

Not all centaurs were uncivilized brutes, however. Chiron, perhaps the most well-known centaur, was wise and just and famous for his skill in medicine. Chiron was also a valued educator who listed Ajax, Aeneas, Achilles, Jason, and Perseus among his pupils.

Untitled Document

Can't view the linked articles? Subscribe to World Book Online

World Book Online delivers a progressive sequence of core databases supported by supplemental tools, such as language translation, graphic organizers, and unique Webquests. Moving from Early World of Learning to World Book Advanced, World Book Online aligns end-users with their appropriate learning levels. Each stand-alone site provides additional features to support the needs of users’ specific capabilities.

The World Book Difference

World Book combines cutting-edge technology with traditional editorial excellence to produce authoritative, trustworthy, and unbiased content. The digital content is updated in real time and carefully curated for each learning level. Accessible 24/7, the content is available on a variety of devices. World Book Online combines 21st-century instructional techniques with timely information. By breaking down complex topics and using easily understandable text, World Book Online helps to build fluency and increase comprehension. Featuring single sign-on capability, these sites are paired with highly visual content to engage even the most reluctant reader. Our collection of resources kindles a lifelong learning experience for every user. This adherence to clarity, currency, and accuracy makes World Book’s digital offerings an information hub for the classroom, library, and beyond.

Image: No back lawn is complete without a centaur statue. Credit: © Shutterstock

You must be logged in to post comments.