Sketchbook Page 31: Centaur Burial

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Centaur burial

In Greek mythology the centaur or hippocentaur is a composite creature, part human and part horse. In early Attic and Boeotian vase painting they were depicted with the hind quarters of a horse, in later renderings a human torso was attached to the withers, where the horse’s head would normally appear.

This half human, half animal composition has led a number of writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between two natures. These are embodied in contrasting myths: on the one hand representing untamed nature, as in their violent, sexually motivated battle with the Lapiths or, conversely, as Chiron: kindly teacher of Greek heroes including Achilles, Actaeon, Asclepius and Jason.

Chiron, the noble centaur, gave up his life so that man could obtain the use of fire, poisoned by an arrow dipped in the Hydra’s blood. He is honored by a place in the sky as the constellation Centaurus.

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