When thinking of centaurs, we often picture someone with the bottom half of a horse and the chest and face of a man. Rarely do we think of a female.
Centaurs are usually shown as wild and lustful half-man and half-horse creatures. The children of Centaurus and the Magnesian mares, centaurs frequently appear in classical mythology. The most well known centaur is Chiron, although he is unlike the other centaurs in both parents and personality. Often in classical art and myth, we primarily see male centaurs. However, there are a few examples of female centaurs, or Centaurides, in classical mythology, but they are primarily shown in classical works of art.
But, lets dive into this topic a little further as it is worth exploring.
So, Can Centaurs Really Be Female?
What is a Centaur?
Merriam-Webster defines a centaur as “any of a race of creatures fabled to be half human and half horse and to live in the mountains of Thessaly.”
Centaurs are the children of Centaurus, a man who lived alone on the mountain Pelion in Thessaly, and the Magnesian mares. Being born and raised away from civilization, centaurs are known for being unruly and lust filled beings, often depicted as extremely bestial and chaotic. They roam through the mountains of Thessaly and frequently appear in Greek myths, as well as being constantly worked into classical art.
Being the descendants of a man and a horse, there is nothing to imply that female centaurs could not exist. With the exception of the centaur Chiron and the children of Centaurus and the Magnesian mares, there is such a vast amount of centaurs throughout the mythos that would need both female and male centaurs to continue furthering the centaur population.
While not shown often in stories, female centaurs have been depicted before in a few classical texts, but primarily classical artwork.
Where Have We Seen Female Centaurs?
The majority of written and verbal stories about centaurs focus on male centaurs, the most famous of which being Chiron, who, unlike the other centaurs, was the son of Chronos and Philyra. Being the son of a Titan and brought up by the Olympians Apollo and Artemis, Chiron is known as the wisest and most just of the centaurs. He is known for teaching heroes throughout Greek mythology, such as Heracles, Jason, and Achilles, and for trading his immortality for Prometheus’ freedom. He was later placed in the sky as the constellation Centaurus.
There are two main stories featuring female centaurs, or Centaurides. Philostratus the Elder described Centaurides as women “growing out” of mares in Imagines, and in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ovid writes about Hylonome, a Centauride married to the centaur Cyllarus, and describes her amongst a group of other “centaur-girls”. Her story is one of the shorter ones in Metamorphoses, focusing on the love between her and Cyllarus, and ending after Cyllarus is killed by a spear during the battle against the Lapiths. Holding Cyllarus as he dies, Hylonome kisses him and flings herself onto the same spear that killed him, still holding him as she dies.
Outside of the written stories, pieces of ancient art such as vases and mosaics have been found with female centaurs on them. Most depictions of female centaurs have been shown throughout these pieces of art. The earliest known art piece showing a Centauride is a mosaic that has been dated back to Macedonia in 4th century BCE.