Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of February 7th - February 13th,  2003

Focus on Chiron

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   While lecturing on the myths in Princeton, NJ, we were hosted by Ken Negus, a retired professor of German who brought to my attention some brief translations which he had worked on as parts of a two volume set which was being written as Chiron was discovered in November, 1977. Chiron: Der Kentaur mit der Kithara (Chiron: The Centaur with the Kithara) by Marin Vogel and published in 1978 is a compilation of many classical sources which refer to centaurs, and provides some interesting insights into the nature of this 'divine beast'.

Chiron, Achilles and Thetis

Thetis taking the sleeping Achilles
from Chiron

   Unlike the asteroids, which were discovered in the 19th century but waited until the development of an emphemeris in the early '70s to be embraced by the astrological community, Chiron's discovery in 1977 was immediately given the working tools needed to be calculated and placed in individual's charts in order that its essence could be observed, determined and duly recorded. Using mythology as their guide, the exploits of Chiron, Centaur King and mentor to many of the heroes of antiquity, were once again being retold under the stars.

   Chiron's Dad was Kronos. His mother attempted to escape the unwanted attentions of his father by turning into a mare, hence Chiron's birth as part human and part horse. Many myths tell of Chiron raising the children of illustrious parents. Achilleus and Jason were among his pupils, but so was Peleus, Medeios, Nestor, Amphiaraos, Theseus, Palamedes, Odysseus, Patroclus, Diomedes and even Aeneas. These legendary names are from the 'old school' of Greek heroism, many of them having fought before the walls of Troy.

Saturn, as seen from Chiron

Father and son, Saturn and Chiron

   Chiron represented, for the Greeks, a way of life that was pleasing to the gods. Pindar calls him 'prudent' and 'profoundly wise'. Hermippos speaks of the 'wise Centaur Chiron'; Philostratus calls him 'wise in words and deeds'; Plato 'sophotatos', 'the wisest one', and Euripides chooses the epitaph 'most pious one'. Even Homer calls him 'the most just one'.



   He was said to have taught the martial arts, naturally, but also hunting, music, the art of prophecy and the gathering and medicinal use of herbs. Naturally, this last was part a greater regime of treating the maladies of battle, but was not limited to this. In an attempt to further his herbal knowledge, he was examining one of the arrows of Hercules which had been dipped in the gaul of the Hydra (which is to say that it was poisonous), and he dropped it on his leg, where it pierced his skin, and mingled with his blood. The pain was intolerable, and even his great wisdom could not cure the wound. Because he was immortal and could not die, he prayed to Zeus to be released from his immortality, which the All Father granted, allowing this gift to be passed to Prometheus. This myth of poisoned arrow and centaur is not confined to Chiron, however. Pholos, another centaur, was said to have gone through a similar fate, and in fact, all of the centaurs were killed in one way or another by the arrows of Hercules. Even Achilleus, killed by Paris with an arrow shot to the ankle, and Paris himself, killed by Philoctetes's arrow (said to have been from the quiver of Hercules) died in this manner.

   In astrological charts, Chiron seems to deal with great wisdom which comes from the experience of a great suffering.