from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Battle of a centaur against a lapith at the Parthenon in Athens (around 435 BC)
Centaur fighting big cats (detail)
(mosaic from Villa Hadriana near Tivoli , 118–138 AD, Altes Museum , Berlin)
Centaur ( Terracotta , Staatliche Antikensammlungen , Munich, 8th century BC)
It is unusual for the genitals to be found here on the forelegs and not on the hind legs.
The Centaur Cheiron teaches the young Achilles (Roman fresco from Herculaneum , Naples National Archaeological Museum )

A centaur ( ancient Greek Κένταυρος Kentauros , plural Κένταυροι Kentauroi ; Latinized Centaurus , Centauri ), German also centaur , is a hybrid of Greek mythology of horse and man.


The Centaurs are said to have descended from Ixion , king of the Lapiths in Thessaly , and a cloud (Greek Nephele ), which Hera had given her shape on the advice of Zeus when the drunken Ixion molested them at a feast of the gods. When Ixion “stabbed” the illusion , he either produced a bastard, the Kentauros, who later mated with the mares Magnesias and thus created the Centaurs, or the Centaurs emerged directly from this cloud.

Accordingly, the Centaurs are described as an uncontrolled and lustful people, in complete contrast to the Lapiths, who, according to an older view, were considered storm demons or personifications of the storm , and whose king Peirithoos was of such noble form that he made the equally noble Theseus for a lifelong Could win friendship.

The name "Centaur" is derived from different sources. Its interpretation as a combination of "I stab" (Greek κεντῶ kento ) and "bull" ( ταῦρος tauros ) is said to be due to the fact that mounted residents of the village of Nephele killed the cattle of Ixion with spears, which is why they are called "Centaurs of Nephele" were. The combination of “I stab” and “cloud” is also a possible etymological interpretation because Ixion “stabbed” a cloud.

Furthermore, the word "Centaur" is derived from the Latin centuria (about "hundred-headed war band"). An origin from the Sanskrit word gandharva is also discussed. It denotes ancient Indian lower deities who are related to the Centaurs in appearance and character traits.

The Centaurs were the archenemies of the Lapiths and were expelled by them from Thessaly to the Peloponnese , when the Centaurs "heated up with wine" attacked their wives at the wedding of the King of the Lapiths, Peirithoos. The most famous centaur, Cheiron , does not descend from the Lapithic king Ixion, but from the titan Kronos ; he was the only Centaur who was not brutal and lustful, but wise and kind. He knew a lot about hunting and medicine and is said to have brought up many Greek heroes, such as Achilles and Asclepius . According to legend, Cheiron was transformed into a constellation by Zeus.

The names of important Centaurs in ancient literature include:

Other known by name:

  • Abas ,
  • Agrios ,
  • Amphion,
  • Amydas,
  • Amykus,
  • Anchios ,
  • Antimachus,
  • Aphareus,
  • Aphidas,
  • Arctic,
  • Areos,
  • Argeois ,
  • Astylus,
  • Bravenor,
  • Bretus,
  • Bromus,
  • Chromis,
  • Chtonios ,
  • Clanis,
  • Crenaeus,
  • Criton,
  • Daphnis,
  • Demoleon,
  • Dictations,
  • Dorpus,
  • Dortlas,
  • Dryalus,
  • Dupo,
  • Dynaeus,
  • Emmachius,
  • Enopion,
  • Erygdupus,
  • Eurynomus,
  • Eurytus,
  • Foaly,
  • Gryneus,
  • Gryphaeus,
  • Harmandio,
  • Harpagus,
  • Helimus,
  • Helops,
  • Hippasus,
  • Hip,
  • Hippotion,
  • Hylaeus,
  • Imbreus,
  • Iphinous,
  • Isopleus,
  • Latreus,
  • Lykabas,
  • Lycetus,
  • Lykidas ,
  • Lycothas,
  • Lykus,
  • Medon,
  • Melanchaetas,
  • Melaneus,
  • Mermerus,
  • Mimas,
  • Monychus,
  • Nessus ,
  • Nykton,
  • Odites,
  • Oeclus,
  • Oreus,
  • Orneus,
  • Paeantor,
  • Perimedes,
  • Petraeus,
  • Phaekomes,
  • Phlegraeus,
  • Phryxus,
  • Pisenor,
  • Polandor,
  • Praxion,
  • Pyrakmon,
  • Pyretus,
  • Ripheus,
  • Rhoikos ,
  • Rhoetus,
  • Stiphelus,
  • Teleboas,
  • Thaumas,
  • Theramon,
  • Theroctonus,
  • Thonius,
  • Thurius


Depiction of a female Centaur (Hylonome) on a mosaic

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.


Visual arts

In the art of late antiquity there are no ancient hybrids . Only in the Romanesque do they experience a resurrection; they symbolize the pagan wild, untamed and sinful. Since the Gothic already disappearing from Bernard of Clairvaux in 1125 incurred and Cluny directed Apologia as "ridiculous monsters" characterized creatures back for centuries from the repertoire of the artist.

A modern plastic representation of a centaur is on the market square in Frohburg ( Saxony ). The cast bronze sculpture shows a centaur fighting a dragon. The group of figures was supposed to be melted down during World War II, but was found again by chance in a garden in Leipzig after the end of the war. Since then it has been decorating the fountain on the Frohburg market square again. The centaur fountain in Bremen , which shows the fight with a giant snake, dates from the same era .

The monumental marble group by the classical artist Antonio Canova from 1805–1819 was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte for the Corso in Milan. After the fall of the French emperor (1815) it was brought to Vienna at the instigation of Franz I and is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum .


  • In Paul Heyses The Last Centaur , one of them appears at a Tyrolean folk festival after being frozen in a glacier for centuries. It is popular with the fair sex, but less so with boys and the clergy. In the end, he disappears into the mountains with a smart waitress on his back. (1860 The Centaur or 1870 The Last Centaur )
  • In the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis , Centaurs appear as part of the armed forces led by the divine lion Aslan. (1950)
  • In the Gäa trilogy (1979 ... 1984) by John Varley , the titanids are centaur-like creatures.
  • In Michael Ende's The Neverending Story , a centaur named Caíron ensures that the Auryn amulet is handed over to the young Atreyu. With his name, this Centaur is a paraphrase of the mythological Cheiron. (1979)
  • In the novels of the English writer Joanne K. Rowling about the sorcerer's apprentice Harry Potter, there are also centaurs who live in the forest around the Hogwarts Magic School . Here, however, they are not described as lustful creatures, but as proud hybrid beings who are even able to interpret the stars . If they feel hurt in their pride, they tend to be irascible and ferocious. (1997)
  • In the Fantasy -Büchern to Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan , which are heavily influenced by Greek mythology, centaurs live among others in Camp Half-Blood .
  • In the novel series Artemis Fowl , the Centaur Foaly is the technical director of the "Central Underground Police". (2001)
  • In the series of novels Die Elfen by Bernhard Hennen , Centaurs belong to the Albanian people and live in Albenmark. (2004)
  • In the Waldsee chronicles by Uschi Zietsch , the Velerii (horse people) are among the most powerful peoples of the Waldsee. Its creator is the first god Lúvenor. The best-known Velerii include Snow Moon and Shadow Runner - the guardians of Weideling and aunts of the young protagonist Rowarn. (2008)
  • In Tales of Partholon by Phyllis Christine Cast , many of the most important people are centaurs. (2011)
  • In the Perry Rhodan series of novels published since 1961, the Centaurs belong to the ancient Neanderthals, the Cyclops and the water-dwelling Argazats among the creatures artificially created by Takerers / Cappins who fought against the "First Mankind" on the fictional continent Lemuria 51,000 years ago fought.
  • In the novel The Republic of Letters of Arno Schmidt the narrator Charles Henry Winer people who have mutated after a nuclear war on the Centaurs visited. (1957)


  • The Indians of Central and South America regarded the Spanish conquistadors and their horses as a unit for a time.
  • The drugstore chain Rossmann has a centaur in its company logo.
  • The logo of the liquor brand Rémy Martin also features a centaur.


Web links

Commons : Kentaur  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Kentaur  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Pindar , Pythian Odes 2.42 to 48
  2. Diodor , Bibliotheca historica 4.69
  3. Bernhard's art criticism of the monastery church of Cluny can be found in section 29 of the Apologia . German translation: Bernhard von Clairvaux: Apology to the Abbot Wilhelm . In: Gerhard B. Winkler (ed.): Complete works . tape II . Tyrolia, 1992, ISBN 3-7022-1772-X , p. 138–204 , 197 : “But in the monasteries, before the eyes of the reading brothers, what use are those ridiculous freaks, a wonderfully distorted beauty and beautiful hideousness? What are the purposes of the unnatural centaurs, the semi-human beings, the spotted tigers? ”However, Bernhard's art criticism was directed exclusively against the use of such sculptures in monastery churches, not in other churches. Contrary to what was previously widely assumed, the art criticism is not primarily aimed at the former monastery church of Cluny, since, according to recent analyzes, the criticized motifs did not appear there. See note 19 on p. 203 and: Conrad Rudolph: Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia as a Description of Cluny, and the Controversy over Monastic Art . In: Gesta . tape 27 , no. 1/2 , 1988, pp. 125-132 , JSTOR : 767000 .
  4. Antonio Canova - Theseus defeats the Centaur