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date: 06 March 2021

Centaurslocked

  • Alan H. Griffiths

Extract

Centaurs (Κένταυροι; for the etymology, and their ancestry, see ixion), a tribe of ‘beasts’ (φῆρες, Aeol. for θῆρες, Il. 1. 268, 2. 743), human above and horse below; the wild and dangerous counterpart of the more skittish *satyrs, who are constructed of the same components but conceived of as amusing rather than threatening creatures. In both cases it is the very closeness of the horse to humanity that points up the need to remember that a firm line between nature and culture must be drawn. *Pirithous the king of the Lapiths, a *Thessalian clan, paid for his failure to absorb this lesson when he invited the Centaurs to his wedding-feast; the party broke up in violence once the guests had tasted *wine, that quintessential product of human culture (Pind. fr. 166 Snell–Maehler), and made a drunken assault on the bride (see the west pediment of the temple of Zeus at *Olympia).

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