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Homeric world (13)


Pelium / Pelion

A mountain in Thessaly (Il. 2.744, 16.144, Od. 11.315).

Gods & demigods


According to Homer, the Centaurs were wild and "mountain-dwelling" people of Thessaly (Il. 1.268, 11.832).

Centauri (Kentauroi) a Thessalian race fabled to have been half men, half horses. The Centaurs and Lapithae are two mythical tribes, which are always mentioned together. The former are spoken of twice in the Iliad under the appellation of "wildcreatures" (Pheres), and once under their proper name. We also find the name Kentauroi in the Odyssey. They seem to have been a rude mountain-tribe, dwelling on and about Mount Pelion. It is very doubtful whether Homer and Hesiod conceived them to be of a mingled form, as they were subsequently represented. In the fight of the Centaurs and Lapithae depicted on the shield of Heracles, the latter appear in panoply fighting with spears, while the former wield pine clubs. Pindar is the earliest poet extant who expressly describes them as semiferine. According to him (Pyth. ii. 78 foll.), the offspring of Ixion and the cloud, was a son named Centaurus, who, when grown up, wandered about the foot of Mount Pelion, where he united with the Magnesian mares, who brought forth the Centaurs -a race partaking of the form of both parents, their lower parts resembling their dams, and their upper parts their sire. The common account makes the Centaurs to have been the immediate offspring of Ixion and the cloud. By his wife Dia, Ixion had a son named Pirithous, who married Hippodamia, daughter of Adrastus, king of Argos. The chiefs of his own tribe, the Lapithae, were all invited to the wedding, as were also the Centaurs, who dwelt in the neighbourhood of Pelion. Theseus, Nestor , and other strangers were likewise present. At the feast, Eurytion, one of the Centaurs, becoming intoxicated with the wine, attempted to offer violence to the bride; the other Centaurs followed his example, and a dreadful conflict arose, in which several of them were slain. The Centaurs were finally driven from Pelion, and obliged to retire to other regions.
  According to the earliest version of this legend, Eurytion, the Centaur, being invited to the mansion of Pirithous, became intoxicated, and behaved so ill to the women that the heroes rose, and, dragging him to the door, cut off his ears and nose, which was the occasion of the "strife between the Centaurs and men" ( Od.xxi. 295 foll.). When Heracles was on his way to hunt the Erymanthian boar, he was entertained by the Centaur Pholus; and this gave rise to a conflict between him and the other Centaurs, which terminated in the total discomfiture of the latter.
  The most celebrated of the Centaurs was Chiron, the son of Cronus by the nymph Philyra.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Centauri (Kentauroi), that is, the bullkillers, are according to the earliest accounts a race of men who inhabited the mountains and forests of Thessaly. They are described as leading a rude and savage life, occasionally carrying off the women of their neighbours, as covered with hair and ranging over their mountains like animals. But they were not altogether unacquainted with the useful arts, as in the case of Cheiron (Hom. Il. i. 268, ii. 743, in which passages they are called pheres, that is, Deres, Od. xxi. 295, &c.; Hesiod. Scut. Herc. 104, &c.). Now, in these earliest accounts, the centaurs appear merely as a sort of gigantic, savage, or animal-like beings; whereas, in later writers, they are described as monsters (hippocentaurs), whose bodies were partly human and partly those of horses. This strange mixture of the human form with that of a horse is accounted for, in the later traditions, by the history of their origin. Ixion, it is said, begot by a cloud Centaurus, a being hated by gods and men, who begot the hippocentaurs on mount Pelion, by mixing with Magnesian mares (Pind. Pyth. ii. 80, &c.). According to Diodorus (iv. 69; comp. Hygin. Fab. 33), the centaurs were the sons of Ixion himself by a cloud; they were brought up by the nymphs of Pelion, and begot the Hippocentaurs by mares. Others again relate, that the centaurs were the offspring of Ixion and his mares; or that Zeus, metamorphosed into a horse, begot them by Dia, the wife of Ixion (Serv. ad Aen. viii. 293; Nonn. Dionys. xvi. 240, xiv. 193). From these accounts it appears, that the ancient centaurs and the later hippocentaurs were two distinct classes of beings, although the name of centaurs is applied to both by ancient as well as modern writers.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Cheiron or Chiron

A Centaur, who was a son of Cronus by Philyra and well-known for his medical and augural competence. He was also the teacher of Achilles (Il. 4.219, 11.831, 16.143, 19.390).

Chiron (Cheiron). The most celebrated of the Centaurs, and son of Cronos and the nymph Philyra. Dreading the jealousy of his wife, Rhea, the god is said to have transformed Philyra into a mare, and himself into a steed; and the offspring of this union was Chiron, half man and half horse. This legend first appeared in the poem of the Gigantomachia, and it is also noticed by Pindar (Pyth. iii. 1, foll.). Probably the praise of Chiron by Homer (Il.xi. 832), for his love of justice, led to the view of him as the offspring of the god who ruled over the golden race of men. To Chiron was intrusted the rearing and educating of Iason and his son Medeus, Heracles, Aesculapius, and Achilles. Besides his knowledge of the musical art, which he imparted to his heroic pupils, he was also skilled in surgery, which he taught to the last two of this number. In the contest between Heracles and the Centaurs, Chiron was accidentally wounded in the knee by one of the arrows of the hero. Grieved at this unhappy event, Heracles ran up, drew out the arrow, and applied to the wound a remedy given by Chiron himself. But in vain; the venom of the hydra was not to be overcome. Chiron retired to his cave longing to die, but unable on account of his immortality, till, on his expressing his willingness to die for Prometheus, he was released by death from his misery. According to another account, he was, on his prayer to Zeus for relief, raised to the sky and made the constellation of Sagittarius. Chiron was the husband of Nais or Chariclo, and their daughter Eudeis was the mother of Peleus ( Apollod.xiii. 12). In art, Chiron is represented as of a noble and intellectual cast of countenance; while the other Centaurs exhibit brutal and sensual traits.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Cheiron, the wisest and justest of all the centaurs (Hom. Il. xi. 831). He was the instructor of Achilles, whose father Peleus was a friend and relative of Cheiron, and received at his wedding with Thetis the heavy lance which was subsequently used by Achilles (Il. xvi. 143, xix. 390). According to Apollodorus (i. 2.4), Cheiron was the son of Cronus and Philyra. He lived on mount Pelion, from which he, like the other centaurs, was expelled by the Lapithae; but sacrifices were offered to him there by the Magnesians until a very late period, and the family of the Cheironidae in that neighbourhood, who were distinguished for their knowledge of medicine, were regarded as his descendants (Plut. Sympos. iii. 1). Cheiron himself had been instructed by Apollo and Artemis, and was renowned for his skill in hunting, medicine, music, gymnastics, and the art of prophecy (Xen. Cyneg. 1; Philostr. Her. 9, Icon. ii. 2; Pind. Pyth. ix. 65). All the most distinguished heroes of Grecian story are, like Achilles, described as the pupils of Cheiron in these arts. His friendship with Peleus, who was his grandson, is particularly celebrated. Cheiron saved him from the hands of the other centaurs, who were on the point of killing him, and he also restored to him the sword which Acastus had concealed (Apollod. iii. 13.3, &c.). Cheiron further informed him in what manner he might gain possession of Thetis, who was doomed to marry a mortal. He is also connected with the story of the Argonauts, whom he received kindly when they came to his residence on their voyage, for many of the heroes were his friends and pupils (Apollon. Rhod. i. 554; Orph. Argon. 375, &c.). Heracles too was connected with him by friendship; but one of the poisoned arrows of this hero was nevertheless the cause of his death, for during his struggle with the Erymanthian boar, Heracles became involved in a fight with the centaurs, who fled to Cheiron, in the neighbourhood of Malea. Heracles shot at then, and one of his arrows struck Cheiron, who, although immortal, would not live any longer, and gave his immortality to Prometheus. According to others, Cheiron, in looking at one of the arrows, dropped it on his foot, and wounded himself (Ovid. Fast. v. 397; Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 38). Zeus placed Cheiron among the stars. He had been married to Nais or Chamclo, [p. 693] and his daughter Endeis was the mother of Pelcus (Apollod. iii. 12.6). Cheiron is the noblest specimen of a combination of the human and animal forms in the ancient works of art; for while the centaurs generally express the sensual and savage features of a man combined with the strength and swiftness of a horse, Cheiron, who possesses the latter likewise, combines with it a mild wisdom. He was represented on the Amyclaean throne of Apollo, and on the chest of Cypselus (Paus. iii. 18.7, v. 19.2). Some representations of him are still extant, in which young Achilles or Erotes are riding on his back.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Chariclo, the wife of the centaur Cheiron, and mother of Carystus. She was a daughter of Apollo, and according to others of Perses or of Oceanus. (Schol. ad Pind. Pyilh. iv. 181; Ov. Met. ii. 636.)


A centaur, who carried off the wife of Peirithous (Od. 21.295, also see Paus. 5,10, 8).

Eurytion, a centaur who took to flight during the fight of Heracles with the centaurs; but he was afterwards killed by Heracles in the dominions of Dexamenus, whose daughter Eurytion was on the point of making his wife. (Apollod. ii. 5.4, &c.; comp. Diod. iv. 33; Hygin. Fab. 31). Two other mythical personages of this name are mentioned by Apollodorus (ii. 5.10) and Virgil. (Aen. v. 495, &c.)

Mythology (7)

Gods & demigods


A Centaur wounded by Herakles.


Astylus a seer among the centaurs, who is mentioned by Ovid (Met. xii. 308) as dissuading the centaurs from fighting against the Lapithae. But the name in Ovid seems to be a mistake either of the poet himself or of the transcribers for Asbolus. (Hes. Scut. Herc. 185)


Cyllarus (Kullaros), a beautiful centaur, who was married to Hylonome, and was killed at the wedding feast of Peirithous. (Ov. Met. xii. 393, &c.) The horse of Castor was likewise called Cyllarus. (Virg. Georg. iii. 90; Val. Flacc. i. 426; Suidas, s. v.)


Hippasus. A centaur, who was slain by Theseus, at the wedding of Peirithous. (Ov. Met. xii. 352.)




Ancient literary sources (1)

Perseus Encyclopedia


Mount, piled on Ossa, the hunt of Acastus and Peleus on, Peleus and Thetis married on, the Argo built there, Pelion and Ossa in the E. of Thessaly, wreck of Xerxes' fleet near Pelion.

Information about the place (7)

Perseus Project index

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   (to Pelion oros), more rarely Pelios (Pelios). A lofty range of mountains in Thessaly, in the district of Magnesia, situated between the lake Boebeis and the Pagasaean Gulf. Its sides were covered with wood, and on its summit was a temple of Zeus Actaeus. Mount Pelion was celebrated in mythology. Near its summit was the cave of the Centaur Chiron. The Giants, in their war with the gods, are said to have attempted to heap Ossa and Olympus on Pelion, or Pelion and Ossa on Olympus, in order to scale heaven. On Pelion the timber was felled with which the ship Argo was built.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Pelium (Pelion), a lofty mountain in Thessaly, extending along the coast of Magnesia. It rises to the south of Ossa, and the last falls of the two mountains are connected by a low ridge. (Herod. vii. 129.) It forms a chain of some extent, stretching from Mt. Ossa to the extremity of Magnesia, where it terminates in the promontories of Sepias and Aeantium. It attains its greatest height above Iolcos. According to Ovid it is lower than Ossa (Fast. iii. 441), which Dodwell describes as about 5000 feet high. In form it has a broad and extended outline, and is well contrasted with the steeply conical shape of Ossa. On its eastern side Mt. Pelium rises almost precipitously from the sea; and its rocky and inhospitable shore (akta alimenos Peliou, Eurip. Alc. 595) proved fatal to the fleet of Xerxes. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iv. p. 384.) Mt. Pelium is still covered with venerable forests, to which frequent allusion is made in the ancient poets. Homer constantly gives it the epithet of einosiphullon (Il. ii. 744, &c.). Its northern summit is clothed with oaks, and its eastern side abounds with chestnuts; besides which there are forests of beeches, elms, and pines. (Dicaearch. Descript. Mont. Pel. in Geogr. Graec. Min. p. 106, ed. Paris, 1855; Ov. Fast. v. 381; Valer. Flacc. ii. 6.)
  Mt. Pelium is celebrated in mythology. It plays an important part in the war of the giants and the gods: since the giants are said to have piled Ossa upon Pelium, in order to scale Olympus. It has been observed that this part of the fable is well explained by the respective forms of Ossa and Pelium. As Pelium is viewed from the south, two summits are seen at a considerable distance from each other, - a concavity between them, but so slight as almost to give the effect of a table-mountain, upon which fiction might readily suppose that another hill of the conical form of Ossa should recline. (Holland, Travels, vol. ii. p. 96.) Mt. Pelium was said to be the residence of the Centaurs, and more especially of Cheiron, the instructor of Achilles, a legend to which the number of medicinal plants found on the mountain perhaps gave rise. (Dicaearch. l. c.; Hom. Il. ii. 743, xvi. 143; Pind. Pyth. ii. 83, iii. 7; Virg. Georg. iii. 92.)
  According to Dicaearchus (l. c.), the cave of Cheiron and a temple of Zeus Actaeus occupied the summit of the mountain. The same writer relates that it was the custom of the sons of the principal citizens of Demetrias, selected by the priest, to ascend every year to this temple, clothed with thick skins, on account of the cold. Between the two summits of Mt. Pelium there is a fine cavern, now commonly known by the name of the cave of Achilles, and which accords with the position of the cave of Cheiron, mentioned by Dicaearchus. The same writer likewise speaks of two rivers of Mt. Pelium, called Crausindon and Brychon. One of them is now named Zervokhia, and falls into the gulf between Nekhori and St. George. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iv. p. 384, seq.) Lastly, Pelium was connected with the tale of the Argonauts, since the timber of which their ship was built was cut down in the forests of this mountain. The north-western summit of Mt. Pelium is now named Plessidhi but the mountain is frequently called Zagora, from the; town of this name immediately below the summit on the eastern side. (Leake, l. c. Mezieres, Memoire sur Ie Pelion et l'Ossa, Paris, 1853.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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Archaeological findings (1)

Beazley Archive Pottery & Sculpture

Statues & reliefs depicting Centaurs

Photo Album (1)

Biotopes (1)

Hellenic Ornithological Society

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