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Centaur-Musicians in Classical Iconography

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image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

Centaurs, hybrid mythical beings, were associated with barbarism in antiquity, due to the fact that the widely disseminated iconography of the Centauromachy portrayed them as violent creatures against the Lapiths, creating an opposition between man/beast, order/chaos. However, the role of the divine centaur Chiron as Achilles’ teacher offered another vision of these beings, especially in connection with music. This paper proposes a new interpretation of the iconographic evolution of the centaurs in association with music: as part of the heroes’ education, the Dionysian and Marine thiasos and their presence in funerary art. A progressively humanised representation of these creatures might be explained by the role of music as a civilising influence, enabling their elevation to a higher spiritual level and as a way to obtain immortality.

Affiliations: 1: University Professor, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Departamento de Prehistoria, Historia Antigua y Arqueología, Avenida Profesor Aranguren s/n Madrid 28040 ; 2: Associate researcher, Seminario de Estudios Iconográficos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Avenida Profesor Aranguren s/n Madrid 28040


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