Centaurs - exterminated creatures of ancient Greece
Centaurs - exterminated creatures of ancient Greece

Probably, no one argues that any legends and myths are based on some real events. The same applies to the myths of Ancient Greece. For example, the mention of centaurs in them in the description of the exploits of Hercules.

The story is briefly as follows. By order of the king of Mycenae Eurystheus, Hercules should have brought a live boar that lived on Mount Erymanth and devastated the surroundings of the city of Psofida. Passing through Floy, Hercules was welcomed by the centaur Foul.

Foul began to treat Hercules to fried meat, while he himself ate raw. When Hercules asked for wine, Foul said that he was afraid to open the barrel that belonged to all centaurs. Then Hercules opened it himself.

Attracted by the smell of wine, the centaurs fled to the cave of Fol, grabbing a huge stone, some a whole pine tree. The centaurs Anchias and Agrius were the first to try to break in, but Hercules, throwing burning brands at them, repelled them.

At the rest, he began to shoot from a bow, pursuing them all the way to Maleya. From there the centaurs fled to Chiron, who settled near Maleia.

Hercules fired a bow at the centaurs crowding around Chiron, but one arrow pierced Elat's shoulder and sank into Chiron's knee.

Deeply grieved by this, Hercules pulled out an arrow and applied to the wound the medicine that Chiron had given him. But the wound was incurable, and the centaur retired to the cave, wanting to die there.

However, he could not die, tk. was immortal. Then Prometheus offered himself to Zeus in exchange, he made him immortal, and Chiron died.

Returning to Foloy, Hercules also found Fola dead: he, having pulled out an arrow from a corpse, wondered how such a small object could destroy such huge centaurs.

But the arrow slipped out of his hands, fell on his leg, wounded Fola, and he died immediately. Having buried Fola, Hercules went on a hunt for a boar, drove him, tied him up and brought him to Mycenae.

The description of this feat of Hercules is rather strange: the overwhelming part of the legend is the story of the centaurs, and only four sentences speak of the hunt for a boar.


In the story about the centaurs, it is not so much the fact of their extermination that surprises as the circumstances of the death of two friends of Hercules - the centaurs Chiron and Fol.

As you can see, there are many omissions in this myth that give rise to questions. Why does Eurystheus need a boar? Why do Foul and Chiron die from minor injuries? What is the relationship between the extermination of centaurs and the hunt for a boar? Why, starting from the Renaissance, centaurs began to be considered a symbol of lust - in the legends about them there are practically no female females, and centaurs are often referred to as kidnappers of women.

But above all, why are two completely unrelated legends connected together - the battle with the centaurs and the boar hunt? Why did such an insignificant part of the legend become the famous feat of Hercules? After all, it mainly talks about the tragic death of the unfortunate centaurs …

And what is their fault? Only that they have too keen sense of smell. One gets the impression that the reason for the death of the centaurs was an absurd accident or their violent nature, when they completely unmotivated attacked the peacefully resting Hercules with his friend Foul … But both Foul and Chiron died.

They didn't attack the hero. Why are those perishing who did not plan anything bad against Hercules?

To understand this, you need to figure out who the centaurs are? Usually they are depicted as half-horses, half-humans, wild and lonely inhabitants of forests and mountains. Their strange appearance is perplexing, because not a single skeleton of such creatures has been found.

What can they have in common with horses - except for their appearance? They have much more in common with humans. They, like people, eat meat, drink wine, know herbal medicines, use fire. And they speak not in their own language, but in the human language.

So these beings are essentially humans. And their appearance testifies to some kind of national or professional peculiarity. It is quite obvious that this is the image of a horseman, in which two creatures are merged into a single whole: a horse and a man.

Those. centaurs are a product of mythological consciousness. These are people for whom horse breeding is the main occupation, one might say, the raison d'être. Sitting on horseback, they feel most natural, in their native element.


The ancient Greeks, who first saw the rider, considered him a new, unknown creature for them - the horseman. But why is the Greek word “horse” missing in the name “centaur”, but the word “bull” (tavros) sounds distinctly? The word "centaur" (tsentauros) itself is translated by some linguists as "bull killer", "bull hunter".

But the first part of the word has the meaning of "empty", "not having", "deprived", it has no meaning "to kill", "to hunt". Those. centaurs are, in fact, those who do not have bulls.

However, the Tavros is not only a bull, but also a warship. How could the Achaeans-sailors call people who were not familiar with navigation? Centaurs! Those. not having ships.

Judging by indirect information, on the eve of the Trojan War, the Achaeans met the steppe horse breeders. They traded among themselves. Some of these tribes settled in Thessaly, Northern Greece. But the events of the legend speak of the interior of the Peloponnese.

It can be assumed that the Achaean leaders used the detachments of centaurs as allies (or mercenaries) in the wars between the tribes of the Peloponnese.


Formally, in this legend, Hercules acts alone (as in most myths), but, undoubtedly, this is a late exaggeration, when all feats are attributed to one person.

Do not forget that after the murder of his three sons, two nephews and his wife, Hercules was assigned to serve Eurystheus by a decision of the religious court and carried out his assignments.

Together with Hercules, a detachment of warriors from Argos came to visit Fol. But Foul meets him not alone, but together with other leaders of the centaurs. Foul treats Hercules with meat, the natural and habitual food of nomadic herders.

The fact that Foul eats raw meat is the desire of the authors of the legend to emphasize the backwardness of the nomads, because from the point of view of the Achaeans, they are barbarians, savages …

The Achaeans brought with them a barrel of wine. You have to be very naive to take literally on faith the words of the myth that the wine was kept in a cave. Pastoralists are not involved in winemaking. And for the inhabitants of the south, this is their natural occupation.

Hercules opens the barrel, he has a clear desire to give drink to the leaders of the nomads. Legend says that the centaurs, attracted by the smell of wine, suddenly ran to the cave and began to vigorously attack the feasting.

Such a naive explanation is given by the authors of the legend as the reason for the attack of the centaurs, and it is quite enough for people who do not burden themselves critically to read and perceive the text.

The barrel of wine, according to legend, belongs to all centaurs, and Foul was entrusted to guard it. If he opened it, then he considered it necessary. This is not a reason for the attack, but an attempt to hide the true reason for the outrage of the centaurs and their attack.


But the events in the cave, where Foul and other leaders of the centaurs were, could have caused an attack by ordinary soldiers outside. Inside, a real drama unfolded. In the end, in vain, or something, Hercules opened a barrel of wine and drunk the leaders of the centaurs! The Achaeans began to slaughter the intoxicated and naive children of the steppe expanses.

Hearing noise and cries for help, ordinary soldiers rushed to besiege the cave. The centaurs were shocked by the treachery of the Argos and the murder of their leaders, and not at all by the fact that the barrel of wine was opened without their knowledge! It was this deceit and the massacre in the cave that became the real reason for the attack of the centaurs on the cave.

The number of those killed is amazing, many centaurs fled. And all this was done by Hercules alone ?!

The centaurs running on horseback galloped to Chiron, but Hercules did not know mercy: even the immortal and wise Chiron received a mortal wound.

What is the essence of Chiron's immortality? In this case, immortality is a special status, a privileged position. Chiron is a leader, and, therefore, not an ordinary mortal.

Both Chiron and Foul are friends of Hercules in the legend, and both die from an accident. But already in ancient times, many doubted this. The "First Vatican Mythograph" reports: "Asper also reports that when Foul marveled at the arrows of Hercules, who had slain so many centaurs, one of them fell on his leg.

It was impossible to heal him from this wound. Therefore, some believe that Foul was killed by Hercules."

Why was it impossible to heal? Because the arrows were poisoned! After the murder of the Lernaean hydra, Hercules began to use poison.

Naturally, the effectiveness of his "exploits" increased significantly, as mentioned by both Euripides and Sophocles. Only very cunning people usually resort to such a remedy.


Hercules undoubtedly was. Let's remember that earlier he threw his family into the fire. Now it's the turn of Foul and Chiron …

But what could be the real reason for killing the centaurs? Most likely, they were in the Peloponnese under an agreement with one of the leaders of the Achaeans. Either they demanded payment of a salary, or did not want to leave the Peloponnese, or for some other reason, but Eurystheus sends a detachment together with Hercules to destroy the horsemen.

Fall's role in these events is not entirely clear. He could turn out to be both a naive, gullible person, accepting Hercules as a guest, and be in a conspiracy with him. However, death awaited him in any case.

After committing a crime, a criminal no longer needs accomplices, much less witnesses to his actions. The victorious Achaeans were rewarded with the horses of the vanquished. Maybe it was they who became one of the reasons for the extermination of the centaurs …

What else suggests that killing centaurs was a crime? Before the accomplishment of his twelfth feat (to bring Cerberus to Eurystheus), Hercules had to undergo initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries, "but he still could not participate in the sacraments, for he was not cleansed of filth after the killing of the centaurs" ("Mythological Library", Apollodorus).

Thus, this murder, according to the severity of the crime, was equivalent to the murder of his children, after which he also had to undergo a purification.

But why were centaurs considered a symbol of lust, as numerous dictionaries tell us? The sexual motive in the behavior of centaurs appeared due to a misunderstanding of the myths about them, where they often abduct women.

This can be explained simply: the nomad groups invited by the Achaeans consisted of only men. And naturally, many of them tried to kidnap a woman from local residents.

What does the Erymanthian boar have to do with centaurs? According to legend, the boar devastated the surroundings of the city of Psofida, descending from Mount Erimanth. Psofids are located in the northeast of Arcadia. Mount Erimanth is located in the northwest of the Peloponnese.

But why would centaurs dwell at an altitude of 2224 meters above sea level? Troops of nomads were in the valley of the Erimant River. The leader of the centaurs was called the boar. There is nothing surprising here: in many myths of ancient peoples, outstanding warriors were called by the names of animals possessing power and strength: a bull, a lion, a tiger, a wolf, a bear, a boar, an elephant.

… On the shore of Erimanthos, which carries its waters along the mountain ridge to the endless sea, the trusting and simple-minded inhabitants of the steppe expanses found their last refuge, sharing food and shelter with the one about which numerous legends about his exploits will later be added. Could they think that friendship with Hercules is more dangerous than enmity with him …

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