0909: Achilles and Chiron. Detail of painting by Gottlieb Schick, 1776-1812. Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
"If the poet's tongue might breathe the prayer that is on the lips of all, I would pray that Chiron, son of Philyra, who is dead and gone, were now alive again ... and I would want him to reign again in the glens of Pelion, that rugged monster whose mind was friendly to men; just as he was when once he reared Asclepius, that gentle craftsman who drove pain from the limbs that he healed, that hero who cured all types of diseases." (Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.1).
Clytaemnestra: Did Thetis or his father train Achilles?
Agamemnon: Chiron brought him up, to prevent his learning the ways of the wicked.
Clytaemnestra: Ah! wise the teacher, still wiser the one who gave his son.
(Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 708).
"Brought up in godly Chiron's halls myself, I learned to keep a single heart." (Achilles. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 926).
"Daughter of Nereus, you shall bear a son, a dazzling light to Thessaly; for he shall come with an army of Myrmidon spearmen to the famous land of Priam, to set it in a blaze..." (Chiron to Thetis. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 1064).
Deep-thinking Chiron is the civilized Centaur
who trained several famous disciples, being known
for his wisdom and justice. Chiron, who was not a
drunkard like other
CENTAURS, never used
his weapons against a man. Instead he spent his
Old Age learning about
herbs, and teaching to play the lyre to his pupils.
Born a Centaur
Chiron was born in very ancient times, for some
have said that he was conceived at the time when
Zeus was hiding in
Crete, and his father
Cronos, anxious to devour
the little god, was looking for him throughout the
earth. And Chiron, they say, was born a Centaur
because Cronos begot him
in a horse's shape.
Without Chiron, they say, there would not be art
of healing. For
Asclepius, despite the
fact that he was the son of
Apollo, the god of
healing, learned medicine from the Centaur Chiron.
And as it has been pointed out, the art that
Machaon and Podalirius performed at the time of the
Trojan War, as when
Machaon cured Menelaus,
was the same art that Chiron had taught to his
But Chiron taught the art of healing to his other disciples too, for that is what the wounded Eurypylus 1 says to Patroclus 1 when they
were fighting at Troy:
"I want you to
cut out this arrow from my thigh, wash off the
blood with warm water and spread soothing ointment
on the wound. They say you have some excellent
prescriptions that you learnt from Achilles, who was taught by Chiron ..."
(Eurypylus 1 to Patroclus 1. Homer,
Phoenix 2, who later accompanied Achilles to the
Trojan War, was blinded by his father King Amyntor 1 of Ormenium, son of Ormenus 3, son of Cercaphus 2, son of Aeolus 1, son of Hellen 1 the eponym of the Hellenes, son of
Deucalion 1 the man
who survived the Flood. Amyntor 1, doing exactly as Phineus 2, blinded his son on the strength of a false accusation of seduction made against him by Phthia 3, concubine of Amyntor 1. But Peleus brought Phoenix 2 to Chiron, and the Centaur restored his sight.
Lives with wife and mother
Although it has been told that Philyra 1 was turned into a tree when she discovered that she had given birth to a monster, others say that Chiron lived in a cave in Mount Pelion, which is in Magnesia (Thessaly), with both his wife and his mother, and that is what Jason, who was one of the
disciples of this Centaur, says:
"... I shall
give proof of Chiron's training; for I come from
his cave, from the presence of Chariclo and
Philyra, where the holy daughters of the Centaur
raised me." (Jason
to Pelias 1. Pindar,
Chiron and Cyrene
Chiron is regarded as a civilized Centaur,
sometimes wiser than the gods, and certainly wiser
than men, whom he surpasses in justice. As it is
told, not even Apollo
knew, or seemed to know, who
Cyrene was when he found
her near Mount Pelion without spears wrestling
alone with a lion. But the god asked the Centaur to
leave his cave, and tell him all about her. And
Chiron showed amazement at the god's question:
"Do you ask of
the maiden's birth? You who know the end supreme of
all things, and all the ways that lead thereto, the
number of the leaves that the earth puts forth in
spring, the number of the sands that, in the sea
and the rivers, are driven before the waves
..." (Chiron to Apollo. Pindar,
However, Apollo was
not ignorant, says Chiron, but instead reluctant to
show his love openly:
"Secret, O Apollo! are the keys of wise Persuasion,
that unlock the shrine of love; and both gods and
men blush to take the pleasure of a bed for the
first time openly. For even in your case, for whom
it is unlawful to touch on falsehood, a gentle
impulse has swayed you to dissemble your words."
(Chiron to Apollo
After this, Apollo
carried Cyrene off to
that part of the land of Libya where in later times
he founded a city and named it, after her, Cyrene.
And this was decided that very day when
Apollo saw the girl, for
as it is said:
"Swift is the achievement, short are the ways of gods, when bent on speed." (Pindar, Pythian 9.68).
Cyrene, who was daughter of King Hypseus 1 of the LAPITHS, gave birth to
Aristaeus, who himself became a disciple of Chiron,
and the discoverer of honey and the olive.
7115: Achilles and Chiron. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Chiron was mortally wounded in the following way: Heracles 1, in his wanderings, came to the cave of the Centaur Pholus 1, who received him and set roast meat before him. Heracles 1, then,
asked for wine, but Pholus 1 said that he feared to open the jar since it belonged to all CENTAURS in common.
After some discussion on this matter, the jar was
opened and the
CENTAURS, scenting the smell, arrived armed at the cave of Pholus 1. A battle ensued, and Heracles 1 shot and
repelled many of them, who took refuge with Chiron.
At that point, Heracles 1 shot an arrow at Elatus 3, which passed through his arm, sticking in Chiron's knee. Distressed at this, Heracles 1 applied a
medicine which the Centaur gave him. But the wound
was incurable, because the arrows of
Heracles 1 had been dipped in the gall of the Hydra, and were therefore utterly poisonous. However, others have said that it was when
Heracles 1 once
visited Chiron and they were examining his arrows,
that one of them fell on the Centaur's foot,
bringing about his death. And still others have
said that Chiron himself tried to draw the bow, and
the arrow, slipping from his hand, fell on his
foot, wounding him.
His fate foretold by his daughter
In any case Chiron, who was in pain, wished to
die, but, being immortal, he could not. So when
Heracles 1, after some
Prometheus 1, he
presented Chiron to Zeus,
who consented to die in
Prometheus 1's stead. This had been prophesied by Chiron's daughter, the seeress Ocyrrhoe 2:
dear father, who are now immortal and destined by
the law of birth to last through all the ages,
shall some day long for power to die, when you will
be in agony with all your limbs burning with the
fatal Hydra's blood. But at last, from immortal the
gods shall make you capable of death, and the three
goddesses shall loose your thread."
(Ocyrrhoe 2 to Chiron. Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.649).
This genial Centaur, who renounced immortality,
reared famous disciples, and surpassed men in
justice, conscientiousness and diligence, was put
among the stars, and is known today as the
constellation Centaur (Centaurus).
- Cronos is
one of the TITANS. Ruler
of the universe before Zeus.
- Philyra 1 is one of the OCEANIDS.
When Cronos was still the ruler of the universe,
and was on earth looking for the child Zeus, he assumed the form of a steed and lay with Philyra 1. When she gave birth to a centaur, thinking she had borne a strange species, she asked to be changed into another form, and she was turned by Zeus into the tree called linden.
Endeis married Aeacus and became by him the mother of Peleus and Telamon. Some
have said that Endeis was daughter not of Chiron
but of Sciron, the bandit killed by Theseus.
Melanippe 1 was seduced by Aeolus 1, and being afraid of her father, she fled into the forest so that Chiron might not see that she had given birth to a child. Melanippe 1 was turned into a mare by the gods when she asked to be concealed, or by Artemis for ceasing to
Ocyrrhoe 2 turned into a mare.
Names in this chart: Achilles, Aeacus, Aeolus 1, Ajax 1, Alcathous 3, Chariclo 2, Chiron, Cronos, Deidamia 1, Endeis, Eurysaces, Gaia, Hesione 2, Ilus 2, Laomedon 1, Lycomedes 1, Melanippe 1, Melanippe 1's Child, Neoptolemus,
Ocyrrhoe, Peleus, Pelops 1, Periboea 2, Philyra 1, Tecmessa 1, Telamon, Tethys, Teucer 1, Thetis, Uranus.
mother Thetis left home and returned to the NEREIDS, Peleus brought his son Achilles to Chiron, who
received him as a disciple, and fed him on the
inwards of lions and wild swine, and the marrows of
Actaeon, who was bred
by Chiron to be a hunter, is famous for his
terrible death; for he, in the shape of a deer, was
devoured by his own dogs. The dogs, ignorant of
what they had done, came to the cave of Chiron
seeking for their master, and the Centaur fashioned
an image of Actaeon in
order to sooth their grief.
The MUSES were,
according to some, those who taught Aristaeus the
arts of healing and of prophecy. Aristaeus
discovered honey and the olive. After the death of
his son Actaeon he
migrated to Sardinia.
The great medicine of Asclepius is based on
Chiron's teaching. Apollo killed Asclepius' mother Coronis 2 while still pregnant but snatched the child from the pyre, bringing him to Chiron who reared him and taught him the arts of healing and hunting.
Aeson gave his son Jason to the Centaur
Chiron to rear at the time when he was deposed by
King Pelias 1. Jason is the Captain of
Medus, who some call Polyxenus 3 and others Medeus, is the man after whom the country Media was called. He was the son of Medea by either Aegeus 1 or by Jason. Medus died in a military campaign against the
father left him in Chiron's cave, to study, side by
side with Achilles, the
chords of the harp, and learn to hurl spears and
mount and ride upon the back of genial Chiron.
Peleus, father of Achilles, was once
rescued by Chiron: Acastus, son of Pelias 1, purified Peleus for having killed (undesignedly) his father-in-law Eurytion 2. However, Acastus' wife, Astydamia 2, fell in love with Peleus, and as he
refused her she intrigued against him, telling
Acastus that Peleus had
attempted her virtue. Acastus would not kill the
man he had purified, but took him to hunt on Mount
Pelion and when Peleus had fallen asleep Acastus deserted him, hiding his
sword. On arising and looking for his sword, Peleus was caught by the CENTAURS and would have
perished, if he had not been saved by Chiron, who
also restored him his sword, after having sought
and found it. Chiron arranged the marriage of Peleus with Thetis,
bringing Achilles up
for her. He also told Peleus how to conquer the
Nereid Thetis who, changing her form, could prevent
him from catching her. But others say that it was Proteus 2 who helped Peleus. When Peleus married Thetis, he
received from Chiron an ashen spear, which Achilles took to the
war at Troy. And as they
say, no one among the Achaeans was able to wield
that heavy and huge spear. This spear is the same
with which Achilles healed Telephus, by
scraping off the rust.
||Chiron in GROUPS : CENTAURS, CONSTELLATIONS
Apd.1.2.4, 1.9.28, 2.5.4, 3.13.6; Dio.4.12.8, 4.55.5-7;
Hes.The.1001; Hom.Il.4.215ff., 11.832,
19.390; Hyg.Ast.2.18, 2.38; Hyg.Fab.14, 26, 138;
Ov.Fast.5.383, 5.398; Ov.Met.2.636ff., 6.126;
Pau.2.3.8; Pin.Nem.4.60; Pin.Pyth.3.1, 4.115, 9.30;
Strab.11.13.10; TIT.6; Val.1.407; Vir.Geo.3.550.