Centaurs are half-human, half-horse creatures in Greek mythology. They have the body of a horse and the torso, head and arms of a man. They dwell in the mountains of Thessaly and Arcadia. The tentative identification of two fragmentary Mycenaean terracotta figures as centaurs, among the extensive Mycenaean pottery found at Ugarit, suggests a Bronze Age origin for these creatures of myth In later Greek times they were often represented drawing the chariot of the wine god Dionysus or bound and ridden by Eros, the god of love, in allusion to their drunken and amorous habits. Their general character was that of wild, lawless, and inhospitable beings, the slaves of their animal passions. Centaurs may best be explained as the creation of a folktale in which wild inhabitants of the mountains and savage spirits of the forests were combined in half-human, half-animal form. In early art they were portrayed as human beings in front, with the body and hindlegs of a horse attached to the back; later, they were men only as far as the waist. They fought using rough branches of trees as weapons.
Ione Mylonas Shear, “Mycenaean Centaurs at Ugarit” The Journal of Hellenic Studies (2002:147–153); but see the interpretation relating them to “abbreviated group” figures at the Bronze-Age sanctuary of Aphaia and elsewhere, presented by Korinna Pilafidis-Williams, “No Mycenaean Centaurs Yet”, The Journal of Hellenic Studies124 (2004), p. 165, which concludes “we had perhaps do best not to raise hopes of a continuity of images across the divide between the Bronze Age and the historical period.”
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