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Name

Origin

Persona/Narrative

Object

Asbolus

Greek

Asbolus was a Centaur and seer who read omens in the flight of birds. When Heracles came to visit the Centaur Pholus, the latter opened a jug of wine which had been given as a gift to all the Centaurs. Asbolus saw Pholus do this and brought the others running for their share of the wine. The gathering became violent and a battle ensued in which Heracles slew a number of Centaurs, among whom Chiron and Pholus were accidental victims.

8405 Asbolus, Centaur

Centaurus

Greek

Ixion was the son of Antion and Perimela, and a king in Thessaly. When he married Dia the daughter of Eioneus, he failed to pay her dowry. Consequently, his father-in-law kept Ixion's mares as security for the payment. Promising to pay, Ixion lured Eioneus to his kingdom, and then murdered his father-in-law by throwing him into a flaming pit. The murder of a kinsman was an especially horrendous act in Greek society, and no man or god would purify him of it. Taking pity on him, Zeus took Ixion to Mount Olympus for the ritual cleansing. While there, Ixion attempted to seduce Hera. She informed Zeus, who decided to test the king. Shaping the cloud nymph Nephele to look like Hera, Zeus placed her in Ixion's bed. Believing Nephele to be Hera, Ixion made love to her. For Ixion's betrayal, Zeus condemned him to eternal punishment in Hades, chained to a fiery wheel.

From the union between Ixion and Nephele was born the deformed Centaurus. An outcast, Centaurus lived in the wild and eventually mated with the Magnesian mares. His offspring were the half man half horse race known as the Centaurs.

Constellation

Chariklo

Greek

Chariklo was a nymph, and daughter of Apollo. She was the wife of Chiron, and the mother of Hippe, Endeis, Ocyrhoe, and Carystus.

10199 Chariklo, Centaur

Chiron

Greek

Unlike the other Centaurs, Chiron was not a descendant of King Ixion of the Lapiths, but the son of Cronus and the sea nymph, Philyra. Whereas the other Centaurs were wild and brutish, Chiron was civilized, exceptionally wise and honorable. While the other Centaurs were mortal, Chiron, because of his birth, was immortal. He was taught by Apollo and Artemis, becoming a master of hunting, gymnastics, medicine, music, and prophesy. He in turn became a teacher, and among his pupils were the heroes Achilles, Heracles and Jason. During the battle between Heracles and the Centaurs, Chiron was grazed by one of the hero's poisened arrows. Although Chiron was immortal and so could not die from the wound, he voluntarily gave up his immortality to put an end to his suffering from the poison.

2060 Chiron, Centaur

Dionysus

Greek

God of wine, or more generally the god of inspiration; as well as drunkeness, and irrational or altered states, such as religious ecstasy. In contrast to the rational Apollo, he may be said to represent the irrational impulses in human nature. A shape-changer, he could take the form of an animal, but also appeared as human. He was often accompanied by revellers or animals. He was a patron of actors, and plays were regularly performed at the Athenian festivals held in his honor. His cult was widely popular. Dionysus was identified by the Romans as Bacchus.

3671 Dionysus, Asteroid

The Centaurs

I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the dædal earth,
And of heaven, and the giant wars,
And love, and death, and birth.
Hymn of Pan
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)



Centaurs: a race of uncivilized, lecherous creatures, unruly and violent when drunk. Half-horse, half-man, they inhabited the region of Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly.

In Astronomy, centaurs are a class of small celestial bodies, sharing characteristics of both asteroids and comets; located in the outer regions of our Solar System, between the orbits of Jupiter and Neptune.

'Bacchus' by Caravaggio

Bacchus [Dionysus] - painting by Caravaggio, 1595

Pan, a moon of Saturn

Tiny moon Pan orbiting in the Encke Gap in Saturn's A Ring

Name

Origin

Persona/Narrative

Object

Nessus

Greek

Nessus was a Centaur and a ferryman on the river Euenos. After carrying Deianeira, Heracles' wife, across the river, he attempted to force himself upon her. Heracles saw this from the other side of the river and shot a Hydra-poisoned arrow into Nessus's chest. In malice, as he lay dying, Nessus told Deianeira that his blood would ensure that Heracles would be true to her forever, and foolishly Deianeira believed him. Later, when she began to doubt Heracles' fidelity because of Iole (daughter of King Eurytus), Deianeira spread the centaur's blood on a shirt and gave it to her husband. While Heracles was at a gathering of warriors, Deianeira accidentally spilled a portion of Nessus' blood onto the floor. To her amazement, it began to fume in the light of the rising sun. Horrified by what would happen if Heracles wore the shirt dipped in blood, Deianeira sent a messenger to warn her husband not to put it on. But the messenger arrived too late, Heracles was dying slowly and painfully as the shirt burned his skin. After his death, Zeus made Heracles immortal by placing him among the stars in the night sky.

7066 Nessus, Centaur

Okyrhoe

Greek

A daughter of Chiron and Chariklo, Okyrhoe was transformed into a horse as punishment for revealing to her father exactly how he would die. She had foretold that he would give up his immortality to be spared the agonizing pain of a serpent’s poison. It happened that in the battle between Heracles and the Centaurs, Chiron was accidentally grazed by one of Heracles' arrows which had been dipped in the deadly poisonous blood of Hydra, the many-headed dragon he had slain in Lerna - the second of his twelve heroic tasks.

52872 Okyrhoe, Centaur

Pan

Greek

God of flocks and herds; represented as half goat in shape, having the animal's legs, ears, and horns. In time he came to be regarded as the personification of Nature itself. His sudden appearance used to frighten travellers; hence the word panic. He was the inventor of the syrinx, or Pan-pipes; his favourite sport was to roam the hills and valleys of Arcadia chasing nymphs.

Moon of Saturn

Pholus

Greek

Pholus was a Centaur who lived in a cave near, or on, Mount Pelion. A friend of Heracles, he unwittingly started the battle between Heracles and the other Centaurs when he offered the hero a drink of wine from a jug that was sacred to all Centaurs. While preparing the corpses of the slain Centaurs for burial, Pholus accidentally killed himself with one of the hero's Hydra-poisoned arrows.

5145 Pholus, Centaur

Sedna

Inuit

In Inuit mythology, Sedna is the vengeful goddess of the sea and marine animals, known as Mother of the Sea, or Mistress of the Sea. In one version of her myth, Sedna is portrayed as a beautiful maiden who rejects offers of marriage from the hunters of her village. One day when an unknown hunter appears, Sedna's father agrees to marry his daughter to the stranger in exchange for fish. Sedna is given a sleeping potion to drink and is taken away by the stranger to a large nest on a distant cliff. There the identity of her abducter is revealed to be a bird-spirit. When Sedna awakes, she cries for help, and her father attempts to rescue her. Enraged, the bird-spirit conjures up a powerful storm. In desperation, Sedna's father throws her into the sea. As Sedna's clings to her father's kayak, her fingers freeze and fall off becoming seals, walruses and whales. Sedna sinks down to to the bottom of sea and becomes the goddess of the Underworld. Hunters pray to her that animals of the sea may be provided for their hunts.

90377 Sedna, Centaur/planetoid

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