Centaurs! These half man half horse beasts of mythology have long been a source of fodder for the imagination.
The origins of these imaginary creatures are a matter of speculation but the best guess (meaning this was the idea presented by the scholar who bought the most rounds of beer for his colleagues) is that when the people living in Southern Europe saw men riding in from the plains to the east on horseback for the first time, they either needed their eyes checked or were too scared to take a close look because in their minds they saw a being that had a horse’s body and man’s torso.
I have no idea why they didn’t see the horses’ heads, but I guess even the ancients were easily distracted by a bit of man chest.
As often happened with ancient Pre-Greeks, their lack of 20/20 vision led to stories and legends…most of them not very favorable to centaurs. In most tales, centaurs were drunken louts who did nothing but cause trouble, which might give an indication that the pre-Greeks were projecting their own feelings about the raiders from the east onto their new mythological beasts.
But just because they saw centaurs as brutes, doesn’t mean the pre-Greeks, and eventually the Greeks, weren’t fascinated by these creatures they’d invented. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
The Big Debate
There was even a debate over whether or not centaurs actually existed. Keep in mind that wine was REALLY strong back then.
The 1st century (BCE) poet Lucretius said there was no way these beings could exist because horses grew up way faster than humans and, since there were no centaur stallions running around with human toddler torsos, clearly (CLEARLY) there could be no such thing as a centaur.
I guess Lucretius forgot the whole “magical” part of magical creatures because everyone knows magical creatures don’t have the same rates of growth as normal creatures. Duh.
There’s Always One
One of the few exceptions to the frat-boy, party animal centaur was Chiron (not be confused with Charon, the skeletal figure who guides the dead along the Styx River to the Underworld).
Chiron was fostered by Apollo who taught him all kinds of things like music, medicine, gymnastics (why?), philosophy, and all those other topics the Ancient Greeks held dear.
With his ability to spout rhetoric while simultaneously doing a perfect dismount from the balance beam, Chiron went on to teach Achilles, Perseus, Theseus, Jason (he of the Argonauts fame), and pretty much anyone who was anyone in Greek mythology.
Centaurs in Osteria
In my original fantasy series, The Osteria Chronicles, most centaurs are a respected part of society and serve alongside the vigiles of Osteria as equals. Chiron (because who can resist Chiron?) is there, having established himself as THE guy you want to have teaching your noble-born child.
However, in my most recent Osteria-set series, Domna, centaurs haven’t gotten that far in society. They’ve only gained basic rights a few decades before the start of the book. They’re still seen as something of a curiosity and are still derided for being brutes.
If this sounds familiar, it should. I wanted the centaurs in the Domna serial to somewhat represent the civil rights struggles of African Americans. I don’t get too heavy-handed with this analogy, but if attitudes toward centaurs strike a chord as you’re reading, that’s why.
When Sofia encounters her first centaur in Part Three: The Centaur’s Gamble, she’s in awe. She’s never seen one up close, and I have to say she ends up a little star struck at first!
Of course, not every centaur is a good horsey in Osteria, but it’s mostly the fault of the humans they live near. Those in the region of Colchis are absolute bad guys. They will kill you and ask questions later, not because they are inherently bad, but because the humans in Colchis have spent decades being absolute bastards to them. The Colchians have tormented the centaurs of their region, made them into slaves when possible, and killed them for sport. This is why you do NOT take the land route into Colchis. Ever!
I hope this has given you a little insight into the sensational world of centaurs and has you eager to check out either The Osteria Chronicles or Domna: A Serialized Novel Of Osteria (links below)!
Thanks for stopping by the blog. I’ll be back Saturday with a special announcement about how I’m meeting one of my goals for 2019!! See you then.
If you like the political intrigue, adventure, and love triangles of historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell, and the mythological world-building of fantasy fiction by Madeline Miller and Simon Scarrow, you’ll love Domna.
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THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES
In a world where mortals contend with the gods’ vengeful jealousy, one man must ask himself if he will risk his life to defend the goddess who has done everything to destroy him.
In a dangerous game that pits god against god, and family against one another, trust is the deadliest weapon.
With the gods as your allies, your life, your world, and your sanity have never been in more danger.
In a fierce clash for power, titans rise, heroes fall, and the gods find themselves on the brink of destruction.