What Were Centaurs?

Supposed you lived in the country long ago and had never seen a horse. Then suddenly you saw men ridding on horse back, jumping ditches and running with the horse, staying on its back no matter what?

You might think the horse and the man were one creature! Some Indians in America actually thought that the they saw the first Spaniards on horseback.

In ancient times, in mountains of Thessaly in Greece, there lived a group of people who used to hunt bulls horseback. They were such excellent riders, that people in the surrounding areas began to believe these were not really men on horses but creatures that were half men, half horse.

It is believe that the myth about the centaurs may have started this way.  The centaurs, in Greek mythology, were a race of beings, part horse, part man, who lived in the mountains of Thessaly and Arcadia.

They were supposed to lead a wild and savage life, and homer the great poet, calls them “savage-beasts”. Characters in Greek myths always seem to have interesting adventures, and the centaurs were no exception.

One such story concerns a king called Pirithous. He was celebrating his marriage to a woman called Deidamia. In the midst of the celebration, a drunken centaur called Eurytion carried her off.

This started a great battle between the centaurs and the king’s people. The centaurs were defeated. But that kind of of behaviour is what seems to have been expected of the centaurs.

In later times, statues and paintings of centaurs often showed them pulling the cart of Dionysus, who was the god of wine. Or being ridden by Eros, who was the god of love.

The idea of the centaurs, and the battles that were supposed to take place with them, had a symbolic meaning. It was supposed to suggest the struggle between civilization and barbarism.

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