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Centaurus (Greek mythology)

Centaurus is the father of the race of mythological beasts known as the centaurs or Ixionidae. The centaurs are half man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said in Greek mythology to be wild, savage, and lustful. They are widely known for their extreme drunkenness as it is said that centaurs could not hold their liquor at all yet drank all the time. It is said that the myth of the centaurs arose with the misinterpretation of a horse and rider being fused together. Not because they were actually being fused together but because the speed in which they united was exceptional. The very word centaur breaks down to Cento-goad and Tauros-bull, which hints that they were actually cattle herders.


Story of Centaurus

Ixion was a descendant of Ares, God of War, and King of the Lapiths. The Lapiths were one of the most ancient tribes of the Thessaly people in Greek mythology. Ixion married Dia, who was daughter of Deioneus. Along with marrying such a grand woman Ixion would have to pay a dowry to Deioneus in order for the marriage to be seen as final. As time went on it was soon clear that Ixion would never honor his promise to Deioneus and so in retaliation Deioneus crept into Ixion stables and stole his horses to pay the dept. Ixion was raging but calmly invited his father-in-law over to dinner. There Ixion pushed him into the fire, murdering him. Ixion is the first man in Greek mythology to have killed a family member. After this act Ixion fell into insanity and was ostracized by his country. The great god Zeus sympathized greatly with Ixion and brought him up to Olympus. Here is where Ixion saw Hera, Zeus' wife. He instantly fell in love with her beauty and began to desire her sexually. Zeus soon became aware of the situation. He was in disbelief that Ixion would betray him and his sincere kindness so he set a trap. Zeus found Ixion sleeping in a field and created a cloud figure of Hera. Zeus laid the figure, who was later named Nephele, next to Ixion. When Ixion awoke he thought Hera was laying naked beside him and began to have sex with her. Zeus was so angry when he saw his suspicions confirmed that he damned Ixion to be eternally bound to a burning star that would spin around the heavens nonstop.

Nephele had a child from this union whose name came to be Centaurus. He was a deformed child who hunched over and found no peace amongst other humans. The only place where Centaurus felt like he belonged was on the mountain of Pelion. Here he roamed, lived, and mated with the Magnesian horses who resided there. From this union the centaurs were spawned.

Centaurus the constellation

Constellation facts

The Constellation of Centaurus is seen as a centaur facing eastward with sword in hand. The sword is piercing Lupus the Wolf, another constellation. You can find this constellation between the latitudes of 30 and -90 in the Milky Way galaxy. It is best visible in May at 9:00 p.m. The closet star to us(Earth) is that of AlphaC. It is also known as Proxima Centauri and is a red dwarf. This star is 4.221 light years away and is forty-thousand miles in diameter which is five times the size of Earth. The constellation's brightest star is named Alpha Centauri. This constellation is made even more interesting by one of its globular clusters, which is one of this galaxy's largest. Its name is NGC 5139 or Omega Centauri and it contains over one million stars.

The constellation's mythology

Centaurus was the first person to group stars into constellations and taught others how to read them. One explanation of the constellation is that Centaurus put a picture of himself in the sky to guide his sailor friends the Argonauts.

The most popular meaning of the constellation is that it represents the form of Chiron. Chiron was the king of the centaurs and unlike his race he was intelligent and wise. So wise, in fact, that he tutored Hercules who became one of his great friends. The myth goes that Hercules was out on a visit to his dear friend Pholus' house. Pholus was a centaur and was having dinner with Hercules. After dinner was over Hercules decided that he was thirsty and took it upon himself to get some wine. The wine that he took, however, was the sacred wine of the centaurs. It was meant to only be drank by the centaurs and only on special occasions. Pholus saw this and could not muster up the courage to tell his strong friend that he was not allowed to drink that wine. It was not long before the sacred sent reached the other centaurs. The infuriated centaurs grabbed weapons and charged at Pholus' house. The coward Pholus fled almost immediately and left Hercules to fend for himself. Hercules took out several of the centaurs and soon enough of them were dead that the rest became afraid and tried to flee. Upon shooting at the fleeing beasts, Hercules' poison arrow grazed the knee of Chiron. Chiron was not involved in the fight but came out to try and stop it. The immortal Chiron could not die from his wound and thus lived forever with his this great agony of pain. He cried to Zeus to give him relief and end his life. Zeus took pity on the centaur let him die. To honor him, Zeus gave Chiron a place amougst the stars.


1. Kronberg, C. "Centaurus." Constellations and Maps. 17 jan 2004. Web. 15 Nov 2009. <http://www.seds.org/Maps/Stars_en/Fig/centaurus.html>.
2. Credner, Till, and Sven Kohle. "Centaurus, Circinus." The Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations. Web. 15 Nov 2009. <http://www.allthesky.com/constellations/centaurus/>.
3. Higgins, Andrea, and Dale Grote. "Ixion." Encyclopedia Mythica. MMVI. 1997. Web. <http://www.pantheon.org/articles/i/ixion.html>.
4. Allen, Richard. "The Lore and Their Meaning." Star Names. (1889): Print.
5. Dolan, Chris. "Centarus." Constellations. Web. 15 Nov 2009. <http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations/Centaurus.html>.


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