Dionysus & the Centaurs, Roman mosaic from
the Baths of Trajan. Bardo Museum, Tunis
THE PHERES LAMIOI were twelve rustic daimones (spirits) of the River Lamos in Kilikia (Cilicia) in southern Anatolia. They were set by Zeus to guard the infant god Dionysos, protecting him from the machinations of his step-mother Hera. The enraged goddess, however, transformed the twelve into beastly ox-horned Kentauroi (Centaurs). The Lamian Pheres later accompanied Dionysos in his campaign against the Indians.
Although Nonnus calls the Lamians "Centaurs," he describes them as man-like nature daimones with ox-horns and horses' tails. Therefore, like the Kyprian Kentauroi, they were probably imagined as a type of Satyr or Seilen. Although in classical art, Kentauroi were often depicted in the retinue of the god, such as the image right where they are yoked beneath his chariot. The name "Pheres" was a term also used by Homer to describe the Kentauroi.
|THE NYMPHAI LAMIDES (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.143)
|SPARGEUS, GLENEUS, EURYBIOS, KETEUS, RHIPHONOS, PETRAIOS, AISAKOS, ORTHAON, AMPHITHEMIS, PHAUNOS, PHANES, NOMEION (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.143)
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Rheia summons the rustic spirits to the army of Dionysos for his campaign against the Indians:] Another kind of the twiform Kentauroi (Centaurs) also appeared, the shaggy tribe of the horned Pheres (Beasts), to whom Hera had given a different sort of human shape with horns. These were the sons of the water Neiades (Naiads) in mortal body, whom men call Hyades, offspring of the river Lamos.
They [the sons] had played the nurses for the babe that Zeus had so happily brought forth, Bakkhos (Bacchus), while he still had a breath of the sewn-up birth-pocket. They were the cherishing saviours of Dionysos when he was hidden from every eye, and then they had nothing strange in their shape; in that dark cellar they often dandled the child in bended arms, still a child at play, but a clever babe. Of the would mimic a newborn kid; hiding in the fold, he covered his body with long hair, and in this strange shape let out a deceptive bleat between his teeth, and pretended to walk on hooves in goatlike steps.
Or he would show himself like a young girl in saffron robes and take on the feigned shape of a woman; to mislead the mind of spiteful Hera, he moulded his lips to speak in a girlish voice, tied a scented veil on his hair. He put on all a woman's manycoloured garments: fastened a maiden's vest about his chest and the firm circle of his bosom, and fitted a purple girdle over his hips like a band of maidenhood.
But his guile was useless. Hera, who turns her all-seeing eye to every place, saw from on high the everchanging shape of Lyaios [Dionysos], and knew all. Then she was angry with the guardians of Bromios. She procured from Thessalian Akhlys (Misery) treacherous flowers of the field, and shed a sleep of enchantment over their heads; she distilled poisoned drugs over their hair, she smeared a subtle magical ointment over their faces ,and changed their earlier human shape. Then they took the form of a creature with long ears, and a horse's tail sticking out straight from the loins and flogging the flanks of its shaggy-crested owner; from the temples cow's horns sprouted out, their eyes widened under the horned forehead, the hair ran across their heads in tuft, long white teeth grew out of their jaws, a strange kind of mane grew of itself, covering their necks with rough hair, and ran down from the loins to feet underneath.
Twelve captains commanded them all: Spargeus and Gleneus the dancer, and beside Eurybios (Eurybius) the strange figure of Keteus (Ceteus) the vinedresser; Petraios (Petraeus) with Rhiphonos, Aisakos (Aesacus) the deep drinker and Orthaon , with whom marched both Amphithemis and Phaunos, and Nomeion side by side with wellhorned Phanes."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 247 ff :
"[Drawing the chariot of Dionysos:] One Kentauros (Centaur) with a bristling beard stretched his neck into the yoke willingly, unbidden; and the man mingled with horse half and half, craving the delicious wine even more than a Satyros, whinnied eager to carry Dionysos on his withers. The god seated a the rail of his leaf-entwined car passed the stream of Sangarios, passed the bosom of the Phrygian land."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 136 ff :
"[During the Indian war of Dionysos:] While Ares was arming the Indian host along the mountains, the Bassarides up in the winding glens of Tauros were hastening to the battle, and with them marched the Bakkhoi with arms and the Pheres [Kentauroi, Centaurs] without arms. These last began the battle by attacking the enemy; they tore up the foundations of the ravines and cast them, or some crag from the top of the hills. Showers of splintered rocks were hurled rolling on the heads of the Indians."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 192 ff :
"[During the Indian war of Dionysos:] Orontes [the Indian chief] dashed hot upon the front ranks, reaping a harvest in both kinds [men and women] . . . With stormy foot Deriades' goodson [Orontes] rushed in, raging, lifted a boulder in the air and let fly at the Kentauroi (Centaurs), and hit Hylaios (Hylaeus): the stone, a very millstone, crushed the forehead of the shaggybreast shepherd; the missile torn from the rock smashed his headpiece, a sham imitation made of the familiar chalk like a real helmet guarding the face, which fell to the ground like a glowing cinder in many pieces and whitened the dust, while the creature crushed by this stony spear threw his arms along the ground. Next he struck the hairy front of another Kentauros (Centaur) with a two-bladed axe, and shore away the curving horn form his bull's-head. He fell in a great heap on the ground, and rolled headlong tumbling about half dead and brushing the dust with his ears; then lifting his body on his feet, with a last wild effort he danced a stumbling hideous dance of death: the monster let out a harsh roaring sound, like a bull struck on the skull which bellows horribly with grinning jaws."
||Of the Playthings
||Of the Ravines
||Of the Rocks
(the Latin god)
||Of the Pastures
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.