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Regnault, Jean-Baptiste - The Education of Achilles by Chiron - Neoclassicism - Oil on canvas - Mythology - Musée du Louvre - Paris, France

Regnault, Jean-Baptiste (1754-1829)

The Education of Achilles by Chiron


In Greek mythology, Sagittarius represents a centaur, a half human, half horse creature with the torso of a man and the body and four legs of a horse. The centaur is depicted as aiming an arrow toward the heart of the neighbouring constellation Scorpio, represented by the red supergiant star Antares.

Most interpretations conclude that the mythology of Sagittarius refers to the centaur Chiron. Like the satyrs, centaurs were notorious for being wild and lusty, overly indulgent drinkers and carousers, given to violence when intoxicated, and generally uncultured delinquents. Chiron, by contrast, was intelligent, civilized and kind, but he was not related directly to the other centaurs. He was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine. A great healer, astrologer, and respected oracle, Chiron was said to be the first among centaurs and highly revered as a teacher and tutor. Among his pupils were many culture heroes: Asclepius, Aristaeus, Ajax, Aeneas, Actaeon, Caeneus, Theseus, Achilles, Jason, Peleus, Telamon, Perseus, sometimes Heracles, Oileus, Phoenix, and in one Byzantine tradition, even Dionysus.

Other interpretations suggest that the myth behind Sagittarius actually refers to Crotus, a satyr that lived on Mount Helicon with the Muses. Satyrs have human heads and torsos with goat legs (and sometimes horns). Crotus, much like Chiron, was a skilled musician and hunter. He even invented the bow, according to Greek mythology. Because he was close to the Muses, they were the ones who asked Zeus to place him in the sky.