Web Theoi
IKHTHYOKENTAUROI
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation<
Ιχθυοκενταυρος
Ιχθυοκενταυροι
Ikhthyokentauros
Ikhthyokentauroi
Ichthyocentaur
Ichthyocentauri
Fish-Centaurs
(ikhthys)
Βυθος Bythos Bythos Sea-Depths (bythos)
Αφρος Aphros Aphros Sea-Foam (aphros)

THE IKHTHYOKENTAUROI (or Ichthyocentaurs) were a pair of centaurine sea-gods with the upper bodies of men, the lower fore-parts of horses, ending in the serpentine tails of fish. Their brows were adorned with a pair of lobster-claw horns. The two marine Kentauroi (Centaurs) were named Bythos (Sea-Depths) and Aphros (Sea-Foam). They were half-brothers of the wise kentauros Kheiron (centaur Chiron), and like him were probably regarded as wise teachers.

The Sea-Centaurs were probably derived from the divine Fish of Syrian mythology which carried Ashtarte ashore following her watery-birth. These were set amongst the stars as the Constellation Pisces.

PARENTS
[1.1] KRONOS & PHILYRA (Suidas 'Aphroi')
OFFSPRING
[1.1] APHROS (Suidas 'Aphroi')
[1.2] BYTHOS, APHROS (Mosaics in Antioch, Cyprus, and Tunisia)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

ICHTHYOCENTAURUS (Ichthuokentauros), that is, a fish-centaur, or a particular kind of Triton. Ichthyocentauri were fabulous beings, the upper part of whose body was conceived to have a human form, and the lower that of a fish, while the place of the hands was occupied by a horse's feet. They differed from the ordinary Tritons by the fact that the latter were simply half men and half fish, and had not the feet of horses. (Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 34, 886, 892.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


The twin Ikhthyokentauroi appear together in several works of art. The mosaic below (Z10.1) from Zeugma, depicting the birth of Aphrodite, is inscribed with the names of the two who are lifting the goddess' cockle-shell out of the sea. Aphros was perhaps regarded as her foster-father, given their similarity in names. The two sea-gods also appear in a pair of matching sculptures (belonging to the Louvre and Vatican Museums) depicting them carrying Seilen (Silen) companions of the god Dionysos, after his company was driven into the sea by the Thrakian king Lykourgos (Lycurgus). Triton and other sea gods were sometimes also depicted in ancient mosaics as Ikhthyokentauroi.

Little is know of these two gods, except what can be deduced from their depictions in art, and a brief reference in the Byzantine lexicon of the Suda. Aphros was here described as the first King of the sea-going Aphroi (Carthaginians). A mosaic uncovered in Tunisia (Z2.4) (in the region of ancient Carthage) confirms this statement. It depicts a pair of African sea-gods swimming alongside Poseidon's chariot: one is the Ikhthyokentauros Aphros eponym of the Aphroi, and the other a twin-tailed Triton, god of the Libyan lake Tritonis. Another mosaic (Z33.1), from Paphos in Cyprus, depicts Bythos alone (named) carrying the Nereis Thetis, in the company of two other Nereides: Doris and Galateia.


Z10.1 APHROS, BYTHOS, APHRODITE
Z10.2 APHROS, BYTHOS, APHRODITE
Z10.7 APHROS,
APHRODITE BIRTH
Z33.1 BYTHOS,
THETIS, NEREIDES

Z34.3 SEA CENTAUR,
PHORKYS
Z33.6 SEA CENTAUR,
NEREIS NYMPHE
Z2.4 APHROS,
TRITON, POSEIDON
S37.1 SEA CENTAUR,
SEILENOS

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 197 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Ashtarte]. Into the Euphrates River an egg of wonderful size is said to have fallen, which the fish rolled to the bank. Doves sat on it, and when it was heated, it hatched out Venus [Aphrodite], who was later called the Syrian goddess [Ashtarte]. Since she excelled the rest in justice and uprightness, by a favour granted by Jove [Zeus], the fish were put among the number of the stars [as Pisces], and because of this the Syrians do not eat fish or doves, considering them as gods."
[N.B. These fish appear to be the original Syrian form of the late classical Ikhthyokentauroi.]

Suidas s.v. Aphroi (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Aphroi (Africans): Name of a people; the Karthaginians (Carthaginians). [They are descended] from Aphros who was king of Libya, the son of Kronos (Cronus) by Philyra."


Sources:

  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.