The story

Centaur Mosaic

Centaur Mosaic

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Centaurs are Greek mythology creatures that are part-human and part-horse. They were believed to exist in tribes that resided in caves.

See the fact file below for more information on the Centaurs or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Centaurs worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.

Facts about Centaurs 3: the place of living

The myth states that centaurs occupied the Malean peninsula in southern Laconia, Foloi oak forest in Elis and Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly.

Facts about Centaurs 4: the Roman mythology

Centaur is not only depicted in the Greek mythology, but also in Roman mythology. If you check Great Cameo of Constantine, you can cheek the pictures of a pair of centaurs drawing the chariot of Constantine the Great and his family.


That is, the "bullkillers," are according to the earliest accounts a race of men who inhabited the mountains and forests of Thessaly. They are described as leading a rude and savage life, occasionally carrying off the women of their neighbors, as covered with hair and ranging over their mountains like animals. But they were not altogether unacquainted with the useful arts, as in the case of Chiron. 1

Now, in these earliest accounts, the centaurs appear merely as a sort of gigantic, savage, or animal-like beings whereas, in later writers, they are described as monsters (hippocentaurs), whose bodies were partly human and partly those of horses. This strange mixture of the human form with that of a horse is accounted for, in the later traditions, by the history of their origin. Ixion, it is said, begot by a cloud Centaurus, a being hated by gods and men, who begot the hippocentaurs on Mount Pelion, by mixing with Magnesian mares. 2 According to Diodorus, 3 the centaurs were the sons of Ixion himself by a cloud they were brought up by the nymphs of Pelion, and begot the hippocentaurs by mares. Others again relate, that the centaurs were the offspring of Ixion and his mares or that Zeus, metamorphosed into a horse, begot them by Dia, the wife of Ixion. 4 From these accounts it appears, that the ancient centaurs and the later hippocentaurs were two distinct classes of beings, although the name of centaurs is applied to both by ancient as well as modern writers.

The centaurs are particularly celebrated in ancient story for their fight with the Lapiths, which arose at the marriage-feast of Pirithous, and the subject of which was extensively used by ancient poets and artists. This fight is sometimes put in connexion with a combat of Heracles with the centaurs. 5 The scene of the contest is placed by some in Thessaly, and by others in Arcadia. It ended by the centaurs being expelled from their country, and taking refuge on Mount Pindus, on the frontiers of Epeirus. Chiron is the most celebrated among the centaurs.

As regards the origin of the notion respecting the centaurs, we must remember, in the first place, that bull-hunting on horseback was a national custom in Thessaly, 6 and, secondly, that the Thessalians in early times spent the greater part of their lives on horseback. It is therefore not improbable that the Thessalian mountaineers may at some early period have made upon their neighboring tribes the same impression as the Spaniards did upon the Mexicans, namely, that horse and man were one being.

The centaurs were frequently represented in ancient works of art, and it is here that the idea of then is most fully developed. There are two forms in which the centaurs were represented in works of art. In the first they appear as men down to their legs and feet, but the hind part consists of the body, tail, and hind legs of a horse 7 the second form, which was probably not used before the time of Phidias and Alcamenes, represents the centaurs as men from the head to the loins, and the remainder is the body of a horse with its four feet and tail. 8

It is probably owing to the resemblance between the nature of the centaurs and that of the satyrs, that the former were in later times drawn into the sphere of Dionysiac beings but here they appear no longer as savage monsters, but as tamed by the power of the god. They either draw the chariot of the god, and play the horn or lyre, or they appear in the train of Dionysus, among the satyrs, fauns (Panes), nymphs, Erotes, and Bacchantes. It is remarkable that there were also female centaurs, who are said to have been of great beauty. 9


In archaic art the centaurs were already portrayed as part human part horse, such as on a bronze relief from Olympia (seventh century BCE) and on proto-Corinthian lekythos (8th-7th century BCE). Starting with Phidias' metopes at the Parthenon (ca. 440 BCE), the centaurs have their current form. Various temples depict the battle of the Lapiths and the centaurs, such as the west frieze of the temple of Hephaestus in Athens (the former Theseion), the temple of Apollo at Basiae, and the temple of Zeus at Olympia (by the sculptor Alcamenes). Others include a relief on the tomb of Glölbaschi (5th century BCE) and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (ca. 350 BCE).

Centaurs have been portrayed numerous times on Greek vases, such as the François krater (ca. 570 BCE) and the hunting centaurs on an amphora from Clazomenae (6th century BCE Munich). Sculptures include the Borghese Centaur at the Louvre an the Centaurs at the Villa Hadriani at Tivoli. The Villa Hadriani also contains the Marefoschi mosaic on which centaurs are fighting panthers.




  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.


The head, torso, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse.Centaurs are a Large size.
Centaurs are a race of creatures composed of part human and part horse.
Centaurs are said to be extremely heavy drinkers, and were usually depicted as beasts.
They were thought to carry bows and are very short tempered Creatures.But most Centaurs are good and work against evil.

Centaur: extended version
by XenonZerrow

Centaurs (as mentioned above) are part human, part horse beings. In early Attic and Boeotian vase-paintings they are humans with the hindquarters of a horse attached to them, but later they were depicted as a torso of a human joined at the waist to the withers of a horse.
The centaurs were said to be children of Ixion and Nephele (a cloud imaged as Hera). Other sources tell of Centaurus, who mated with the Magnesian mares. Centaurus could have been the child of the above himself, adding a generation or of Appolo and Stilbe (daughter of Peneus). In a later version his brother was Lapithes, ancestor of the Lapiths, the enemies of the centaurs.
They are best known of Centauromachy, in other words, their war against the Lapiths. They a ttempted to carry off Hippodamia and the rest of the Lapith women, on the day of her marriage to Pirithous (the king of Lapithae and the son of Ixion). This struggle is the metaphor of the conflict of barbarism and civilisation. It of course was won by the Lapiths, with the help of Theseus and another Lapith hero Caeneus. Caeneus was invulnerable to weapons, but the centaurs pummeled him to the ground, wielding rocks and branches. This myth shows exactly that centaurs were often thought of as savage, untamed horses.
Other, more shady origins suggest, that they were once giants, but after losing against the titans they were cursed with horse bodies. Another tales tells of the mating of giants and horses.
Despite the myths, they are most likely a simple misunderstanding. It is considered to have been the first reaction of non-riding nations to the nomads on horse-back (even Atecs had the same misconception about Spanish horsemen). Although in the beginning they knew that a cavalier was two separate beings, but later on they were mentioned as one creature.
Lucretius then denied the existence of such creatures, for a human has a different rate of growth than a horse.
Robert Graves speculated that the origin is a dimly remembered cult, with the horse as a totem.
Indian mythology might be another hint, where a kinnaras is almost the same as a centaur.
Kentaurides are female centaurs appearing only in later antiquity, e.g. the Macedonian mosaic of the 4th century BC is one of the earliest. Ovid also mentions Hylonome, who committed suicide after her husband was killed in the war with the Lapiths.
Romans helped the spread of centaurs by conquering. This lead to the creatures' appearance in medieval history, where such beings were clearly derived from original centaurs.

is the most positive of them all, a wise and tame centaur. He was taught to heal by the gods, and became a tutor of great heroes and demigods, like Asklepios, who later exceeded his master and became the founder and god of remedy.
When Khiron was accidentally wounded by a poisoned arrow he rather gave up his immortality, than to suffer for an eternity. Zeus depicted the Saggitarius in memoriam of Khiron.


Few disasters during the Second World War touched Australians as deeply as the loss of the Centaur. At Caloundra, Queensland, a memorial on a cliff points out towards the Centaur's final resting place. Another memorial was unveiled at Point Danger, Coolangatta, Queensland, in 1993 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the sinking. The tragedy is also remembered in practical ways. In the late 1940s The Centaur Memorial Fund For Nurses in Queensland raised the enormous sum, for the period, of fifty thousand pounds. This money was invested to fund activities in memory of the nurses who went down with the ship.

In 1943 the Centaur quickly became a symbol of Australian determination to win the war. This attack on a clearly marked and illuminated hospital ship was taken as further evidence that Australia faced a brutal and uncompromising enemy. Posters appeared to raise money for war loans showing the sinking ship and carrying the words 'Avenge The Nurses'. And when a mosaic was put in place commemorating the women's services in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, it was the image of the Centaur which was used to illustrate the sacrifice involved in such service. It is the only reference in the Hall to an actual event in any of the wars in which Australians have fought and died. 'Remember the Centaur' the mosaic seems to say—this ship symbolises the courage of Australian women in war and reminds us of all Australians who served in war and have no graves but the sea.


A centaur ( / ˈ s ɛ n . t ɔːr ,   - t ɑːr / Ancient Greek: κένταυρος , kéntauros, Latin: centaurus), or occasionally hippocentaur, is a creature from Greek mythology with the upper body of a human and the lower body and legs of a horse. [2]

Centaurs are thought of in many Greek myths as being as wild as untamed horses, and were said to have inhabited the region of Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly, the Foloi oak forest in Elis, and the Malean peninsula in southern Laconia. Centaurs are subsequently featured in Roman mythology, and were familiar figures in the medieval bestiary. They remain a staple of modern fantastic literature.

[edit] Modern day [ edit | edit source ]

Main article: Centaurs in popular culture[11][12]Centaur skeleton of human and equine bone, on display at the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson, part of an art installation by sculptor Bill Willers. Built by Skulls Unlimited International, Inc.The John C. Hodges library at The University of Tennessee hosts a permanent exhibit of a "Centaur from Volos", in its library. The exhibit, made by sculptor Bill Willers, by combining a study human skeleton with the skeleton of a Shetland pony is entitled "Do you believe in Centaurs?" and was meant to mislead students in order to make them more critically aware, according to the exhibitors. [25]

Another exhibit by Willers is now on long term display at the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The full-mount skeleton of a Centaur, built by Skulls Unlimited International, is on display, along with several other fabled creatures, including the Cyclops, Unicorn and Griffin.

A centaur is one of the symbols associated with both the Iota Phi Theta and the Delta Lambda Phi fraternities. Whereas centaurs in Greek mythology were generally symbolic of chaos and unbridled passions, Delta Lambda Phi's centaur is modeled after Chiron and represents honor, moderation and tempered masculinity.

Similarly, C.S. Lewis' centaurs from his popular The Chronicles of Narnia series are depicted as wisest and noblest of creatures. They are gifted at stargazing, prophecy, healing, and warfare, a fierce and valiant race always faithful to the High King Aslan the Lion. Lewis generally used the species to inspire awe in his readers (see Narnian Centaurs). In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, centaurs live in the Forbidden Forest close to Hogwarts. Although different from those seen in Narnia, they live in societies called herds and are skilled at archery, healing and astrology. Although film depictions include very animalistic facial features, the reaction of the Hogwarts girls to Firenze suggests a more classical appearance.

Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers series (1965) includes centaurs, called Half-Horses or Hoi Kentauroi. His creations address several of the metabolic problems of such creatures—how could the human mouth and nose intake sufficient air to sustain both itself and the horse body and, similarly, how could the human ingest sufficient food to sustain both parts.

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series features Centaurs that live in an area called Grunhold. The Centaurs are portrayed as a proud, elitist group of beings that consider themselves superior to all other creatures. The fourth book also has a variation on the species called an Alcetaur, which is part man, part moose.


Mostly these hybrid creatures are represented with the head, trunk and arms of a man and the body and legs of a horse . On the other hand, depictions of centaurs with human forefeet are rarer. B. on the vase painting to be seen in the Louvre Heracles and the Centaur Pholos (around 550 BC). Apparently the defining characteristic of a centaur is the formation of six extremities: two arms and four legs. Centaurs were also called magnentes ("big ones "). In the late Hellenistic period, contemporary art also produced female centaurs, who are in stark contrast to the emphatically masculine basic character of these wild beings, which are also described as lascivious. An example of a female Centaur is Hylonome , wife of the Centaur Kyllaros (both children of Ixion and Nephele). It can be seen in the National Museum of Bardo in Tunis on a Roman mosaic from the 2nd century AD .

According to Robert von Ranke-Graves , the earliest representation of a Centaur was found on a piece of jewelry from Mycenae . In the depiction, Centaurs face each other and dance. The horse cult, in which men in horse masks danced, was used to bring rain.

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Watch the video: Centaur mosaic 120 - 130 Unknown (July 2022).


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