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Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?

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Author Topic: Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?  (Read 2630 times)
Moira Kelliey
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« on: February 24, 2007, 09:01:48 pm »

Theories of origin


The most common theory holds that the idea of centaurs came from the first reaction of a non-riding culture, as in the Minoan Aegean world, to nomads who were mounted on horses. The theory goes that such riders would appear as half-man, half-animal. (Bernal Díaz del Castillo reported that the Aztecs had this misapprehension about Spanish cavalrymen.)[6] Horse taming and horseback culture evolved first in the southern steppe grasslands of Central Asia, perhaps approximately in modern Kazakhstan.

The Lapith tribe of Thessaly, who were the kinsmen of the Centaurs in myth, were described as the inventors of horse-back riding by Greek writers. The Thessalians tribes also claimed their horse breeds were descended from the centaurs.

Of the various Classical Greek authors who mentioned centaurs, Pindar was the first who describes undoubtedly a combined monster. Previous authors (Homer etc) only use words such as Pheres (Beasts) that could also mean ordinary savage men riding ordinary horses. However, contemporaneous representations of hybrid centaurs can be found in archaic Greek art.

The armchair anthropologist and writer Robert Graves speculated that the Centaurs of Greek myth were a dimly-remembered, pre-Hellenic fraternal earth cult who had the horse as a totem. A similar theory was incorporated into Mary Renault's The Bull from the Sea.

The Greek word kentauros could be etymologized as ken - tauros = "piercing bull". Another possible etymology can be "bulls slayer". Some say that the Greeks took the constellation of Centaurus, and also its name "piercing bull", from Mesopotamia, where it symbolized the god Baal who represents rain and fertility, fighting with and piercing with his horns the demon Mot who represents the summer drought. (In Greece, Mot became the constellation of Lupus.) Later in Greece, the constellation of Centaurus was reinterpreted as a man riding a horse, and linked to legends of Greece being invaded by tribes of horsemen from the north. The idea of a combined monster may have arisen as an attempt to fit the pictorial figure to the stars better.

Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons theorized that the word is derived from the Semitic Kohen and Tor via phonetic shift the less prominent consonants being lost over time ,with it developing into Khen Tor or Ken-Tor, and being transliterated phonetically into Ionian as Kentaur.

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