One theory about the origin of Centaurs is that the legends are based on the
(mis) behaviour of mountain tribes living in remote areas.
Another is that they were the last Neanderthals?
However the earliest Archaic art often shows a very human torso.
Note the carefully combed beard and hair
|Vase painting Note how the centaurs have ears and snub noses like Satyrs.|
One of the oldest images of a Centaur.
Certainly different from this famous Renaissance painting.
So why so many different ways of depicting these legendary beings?
Part of the reason is the tendency of later artists to decide to use monsters and non humans as symbols of lust or drunkness and violence in the case of Centaurs.
The main stories we have in the literature however depict Centaurs as living in remote mountainous and forested areas and only misbehaving when exposed to alcohol as in the Tale of the Weddings of the Lapiths.
The other main story is that of Chiron the Wise and his daughter depicted as healers.
So what's going on?
A minority group demonized for the sake of a moral lesson?
The earliest Satyrs are often shown with horse tails.
A topic for another blog.