Web Theoi
KENTAURIDES
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Κενταυρις
Κενταυριδες
Kentauris
Kentaurides
Centauris
Centaurides
Female-Centaurs
Centauris | Roman mosaic C4th A.D. | Bardo Museum, Tunis
Centauris, Roman mosaic from Elles
C4th A.D., Bardo Museum, Tunis

THE KENTAURIDES (or Centaurides) were the female members of the Kentauroi (Centaur) tribe, creatures with the twy-formed bodies of horses and men. Female Kentauroi are seldom mentioned in ancient literature, although they do occasionally appear in ancient Greek paintings and Roman era mosaics and reliefs. One Roman relief, housed in the Louvre Museum, shows a Kentauris with her horse-legged infant in the train of the god Dionysos.

PARENTS
Presumably IXION & NEPHELE or KHEIRON, though nowhere stated
NAMES
HYLONOME (Ovid Metamorphoses 12.394)

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 3 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples):] Kentaurides (Centaurides). You used to think that the race of Kentauroi (Centaurs) sprang from trees and rocks or, by Zeus, just from mares--the mares which, men say, [Kentauros, Centaurus] the son of Ixion covered, the man by whom the Kentauroi though single creatures came to have their double nature. But after all they have, as we see, mothers of the same stock and wives next and colts as their offspring and a most delightful home; for I think you would not grow weary of Pelion and the life there and its wind-nurtured growth of ash which furnishes spear-shafts that are straight and at the same time do not break at the spearhead. And its caves are most beautiful and the springs and the Kentaurides (female Kentauroi) beside them, like Naides [water nymphai] if we overlook the horse part of them, or like [horse-riding] Amazones if we consider them along with their horse bodies; for the delicacy of their female form gains in strength when the horse is seen in union with it. Of the baby Kentauroi here some lie wrapped in swaddling clothes, some have discarded their swaddling clothes, some seem to be crying, some are happy and smile as they suck flowing breasts, some gambol beneath their mothers while others embrace them when they kneel down, and one is throwing a stone at his mother, for already he grows wanton. The bodies of the infants have not yet taken on their definite shape, seeing that abundant milk is still their nourishment, but some that already are leaping about show a little shagginess, and have sprouted mane and hoofs, though these are still tender. How beautiful the Kentaurides are, even where they are horses; for some grow out of white mares, others are attached to chestnut mares, and the coat's of others are dappled, but they glisten like those of horses that are well cared for. There is also a white female Kentauroi that grows out of a black mare, and the very opposition of the colours helps to produce the united beauty of the whole."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 12. 210 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[During the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths of Thessaly:] Nor did his beauty ransom [the centaur] Cyllarus, fighting that day, if hybrids such as he be granted beauty. His beard was just beginning, a golden beard, and golden tresses fell down on his shoulders reaching to his flanks. High-mettled grace shone in his face; his neck, chest, shoulders, hands and every manly part seemed like a sculptor's much-praised masterpiece. Unblemished too his equine shape, nor less fine than his man's. With horse's head and neck he's make fit mount for Castor, so high stood his chest-muscles, so rideable his back. Jet black he was, the whole of him, save that his tail was white and legs were milk-white too. Many a centauress would be his mate, but one had gained his heart, [she-centaur] Hylonome. In the high woods there was none comelier of all the centaur-girls, and she alone by love and love's sweet words and winning ways held Cyllarus, yes, and the care she took to look her best (so far as that may be with limbs like that). She combed her glossy hair, and twined her curls in turn with rosemary or violets or roses, and sometimes she wore a pure white lily. Twice a day she bathed her face in the clear brook that fell from Pagasae's high forest, twice she plunged her body in its flow, nor would she wear on her left side and shoulder any skin but what became her from best-chosen beasts. Their love was equal; on the hills they roamed together, and together they would go back to their cave; and this time too they went into the Lapithae's palace side by side and side by side were fighting in the fray. A javelin (no knowing from whose hand) came from the left and wounded Cyllarus, landing below the place where the chest joins neck--slight wound, but when the point was pulled away, cold grew his damaged heart and cold his limbs. Hylonome embraced him as he died, caressed the wound and, putting lips to lips, she tried to stay his spirit as it fled. And when she saw him lifeless, she moaned words that in that uproar failed to reach my ears; and fell upon the spear that pierced her love, and, dying, held her husband in her arms."


Aphrodite & Centaurides | Roman mosaic
K38.1 CENTAURIDES,
APHRODITE
Centaur & Centauris | Roman mosaic
Z38.4 CENTAURIS,
CENTAUR
Centauris | Greek  mosaic
Z38.2 CENTAURIS
WITH TREE
Centauris head | Greek vase painting
O15.1 CENTAURIS
HEAD

Sources:

  • Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.