Cyllarus | Centaur

Cyllarus Greek Mythology

Kyllaros (ancient Greek Κύλλαρος Kýllaros) is a centaur in classical mythology who, together with his centaur wife Hylonome, attends and dies at Peirithoos' wedding, which degenerates into a slaughter between centaurs and lapiths. His myth is found exclusively in the 12th book of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Pronunciation and etymology

The episode and name of the Centaur were invented by Ovid. His name in ancient Greek is Κύλλαρος, Kýllaros; in Latin, Cyllarus or Cyllaros; accusative in Ovid, verse 408: Cyllaron; vocative, verses 393 and 421: Cyllare. Say Latin and German: 'Kyl-la-rus or 'Kyl-la-ros; stress on first syllable, as second and third syllables short.

The names of the Centaurs often refer to horses. Ovid probably took the name for his narrative from Kyllaros, the wonder horse of the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux. In verse 401 he himself makes the reference: Castore dignus erit 'he is worthy of Castor'.

Kyllaros is possibly related to the Greek verb κέλλειν kéllein and the uncommon Latin cellĕre, both meaning to drive, to move, suitable to the horse-like centaur, substantivized: the forward-driving and then also the swift. Papaioannou suggests: Derivation from κυλλόσ kyllós, German 'bow-legged, club-footed', which also fits well with a horse or centaur.

Myth and rhetorical design

Nestor recounts the slaughter between Lapiths and Centaurs at the wedding feast of Peirithoos during the Trojan War at a victory banquet in honor of Achilles, having been there himself. In the middle of this Ovidian centauromachy, verses 210-535, falls the Kyllaros myth, verses 393-428. The hexameters quoted below are translated into prose.

Death of the Centaur

The narrative begins abruptly with a harsh nec - and not, demarcation from the preceding scene of slaughter, and with the announcement of impending doom: And not has thy beauty saved thee, O Kyllarus, the fighter. He is struck, by whom remains open, and dies:

a throwing spear from the left side flew up, and lower than the neck is the breast beneath (at the level of the heart), O Kyllarus, it pierced thee; when thereupon the spear was drawn out, the heart, though wounded (only) by small wound, grew cold.

Kyllaros and Hylonome

Between the announcement and the execution of the disaster, Ovid describes his beauty and love for Hylonome. The pair of centaurs live, love and fight as equals, verse 416-418:

pár amor ést illís: erránt in móntibus úna,
ántra simúl subeúnt; et túm Lapitheía técta
íntraránt paritér, paritér fera bélla gerébant.

Equal to those had been the love: they had roamed the mountains united,
entered caves together; and at that time the Lapithic house (of Peirithoos)
entered together, fought wild battles together.

Love inspires them alike; united they wander through mountain heights,
Then they go together into the gulf. Also now into the lapithic shelter
The couple entered together, and fought the battle of blood with each other.

The historical present tense gives the reader the impression of sight. Their equal pair relationship is emphasized by an interwoven chiastic unfolding of the word field par/equal (bold), varying at the beginning, repeating at the end. Kyllaros is also stylistically not the dominant part.

Hylonome catches the stricken, 424-425: ... óraqu(e) ad óra / ádmovet átqu(e) animaé fugiénti obsistere témptat ... and the (her) mouth to the (his) mouth she moves closer and tries to oppose the escaping soul. The repetitions (italics) and alliterations (bold) emphasize her soul mate.

She does not want to go on living: When she saw the dead man ... she threw herself into the spear that had pierced that one (Kyllaros), and dying she embraced her husband.


It considers narrative function of the Kyllaros myth and Ovid's reversal of gender roles and his reorientation of the epic.

Narrative aspect

Right in its middle, the Centauromachy finds the resting point and distraction from the carnage of the Kyllaros-Hylonome episode. The scenes of violence are brief and bloodless, the carnage pauses, and the focus is on the depiction of the beauty and love of the pair of centaurs.

It shows that there are other centaurs who are not so monstrous, and that besides the world of battle, there is also the world of peace and happiness of love. For this purpose, the semi-animal couple is portrayed in a very human way.

Aspect of content

Ovid deviates from the traditional heroic epic and shows an equal lyrical-legic love relationship in contrast to the epic-heroic dominance of the man. The almost still youthful Kyllaros is the object of desire, is courted and taken by Hylonome. Ovid plays with the reader's expectations and humorously-ironically reverses the traditional image of the fierce centaurs and the couple relationship.