Minotaur vs Centaur: Discover the Difference Between Both Creatures
Minotaur vs centaur is the comparison of the two beasts of Greek and Roman mythology to discover their strengths, weaknesses and roles in ancient literature. The minotaur was a being that had the head and tail of a bull with the body of a man. Contrastingly, the centaur had the upper body of a man and the four legs of a horse.
The two creatures were vicious and feared in their various mythologies and were mostly antagonists. Discover the roles, mythologies and differences between these two fearsome creatures of Greek and Roman literature.
Minotaur vs Centaur Comparison Table
|Physical appearance||Half-bull and half-man||Half-man and half-horse|
|Number||An individual||An entire race|
|Food||Feeds on humans||Eats meat and herbs|
|Intelligence||Low on Intelligence||Highly intelligent|
What Are the Differences Between a Minotaur and Centaur?
The significant difference between a minotaur and a centaur is their physical appearance – a minotaur is part bull, part man, while the centaur is half man and half horse. The minotaur came into being as punishment for his father’s trickery, while the centaurs came as a punishment for Ixion’s lust.
What Is The Minotaur Best Known For?
The minotaur is best known for its bizarre origin, which resulted in his deformed looks. This creature was the result of a punishment meted by Poseidon, the god of the sea, on King Minos of Crete. On the other hand, it is best known for its death in the labyrinth.
The Origin of the Minotaur
According to Greek mythology, King Minos of Crete prayed to the god Poseidon for help as he competed with his brothers for the throne. King Minos prayed that Poseidon would send a snow-white bull to symbolize his promise to help him. When Poseidon sent the bull, he instructed Minos to sacrifice the animal to him but Minos fell in love with the creature and decided to keep it. Thus, he offered a different bull instead of the snow-white bull, which angered Poseidon.
As his punishment, Poseidon caused Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, to fall madly in love with the snow-white bull. Pasiphae requested that a craftsman named Daedalus make a hollow cow out of wood. When the hollow cow was completed, Pasiphae went into it, seduced the snow-white bull, and slept with it. The result of that union was the dreaded creature, Minotaur, which was born with the head and tail of a bull with a body of a man.
The Minotaur and the Labyrinth
Due to his nature, the Minotaur could not feed on grass or human food as he was neither a man or a bull, therefore, he fed on humans. To curtail the minotaur’s penchant for killing, Minos sought counsel from the Delphic oracle who advised him to build a Labyrinth. Minos instructed the master craftsman, Daedalus, to build a Labyrinth that would hold the minotaur. The minotaur was left at the bottom of the Labyrinth and was fed every nine years with seven boys and seven girls until he was killed by Theseus.
The son of King Minos died and he blamed the Athenians for it, therefore, he fought against the Athenians and defeated them. Then he ordered the Athenians to regularly provide their sons and daughters to the minotaur as sacrifices.
The regularity of the sacrifice differed according to the varied sources of the myth; some say seven years others claim it’s nine others still say its yearly.
The Death of the Minotaur
By the third sacrifice, Theseus, the prince of Athens decided to slay the monster and put an end to the regular sacrifice of his people. He informed his father, King Aegeus, and set sail for the island of Crete to face the dreaded beast. Prior to leaving, he told his father that on his successful return from Crete, he will change the black sail on the ship from black to white to symbolize victory.
Theseus then went to Crete and met the princess, Ariadne, who fell in love with him. Ariadne then handed a ball of thread to Theseus, to help him trace his way out of the Labyrinth after he had killed the minotaur.
Theseus met the minotaur at the bottom of the Labyrinth and killed it with his bare hands, other versions say he killed the monster with a club or sword. He then followed the thread that he laid down while going to the bottom of the Labyrinth and it led him out successfully.
On his way back to Athens, it had slipped his mind to change the black sail to white, thus when his father saw it from afar he concluded that his son was dead. As a result, King Aegeus committed killed himself by drowning in the ocean, thus the ocean was called the Aegean after the king of Athens.
What Is the Centaur Best Known For?
Just like the minotaur, the origin of centaurs is unnatural which was the result of punishment for Ixion, the King of the Lapiths. Another version of the myth indicates that the centaurs were the punishment of a man named Centaurus.
The Origin of Centaurs
Zeus had mercy on King Ixion when his citizens drove him away from the city due to his growing insanity. Zeus brought Ixion to come and live with him on Mount Olympus but Ixion lusted after Hera and wanted to have his way with her.
This angered Zeus, who set a trap for the lustful Ixion and to reveal his true intentions. One day, while Ixion was asleep in the field, Zeus transformed the cloud nymph, Nephele, into the likeness of Hera and placed her beside Ixion.
When Ixion awoke, he found the body double of Hera sleeping by him and slept with her. The couple gave birth to a massively deformed boy as punishment for Ixion’s ingratitude and indiscretion. The boy tried to live among humans, but he was constantly ridiculed; thus relocated to Mount Pelion, where he mated with the Magnesian mares, which resulted in the centaur race.
Another version made Centaurus the child of Apollo and the river nymph, Stilbe. Centaurus mated with the Magnesian mares and gave birth to centaurs while his twin brother, Lapithus, became king of the Lapiths.
On the otherr hand, another race of centaurs, known as Cyprian centaurs, was born by Zeus after he spilled his semen on the ground. According to the myth, Zeus lusted after Aphrodite and tried to woo her severally but the goddess spurned his advances. After several attempts to bed the goddess Zeus spilled his semen and out of it came the Cyprian centaurs.
The Fight With the Lapiths
The centaurs fought their cousins, the Lapiths, in an epic battle known in Greek mythology as centauromachy. The battle was started by the centaurs when they kidnapped Hippodamia during her wedding to the Pirithous, the King of the Lapiths. The battle raged on as the centaurs carried off the other women of Lapithae at the wedding. Fortunately for the Lapiths, Theseus, who was a guest at the wedding, join the fight and assisted Pirithous to fend off the centaurs.
With help of Theseus, the Lapiths became victorious and rescued their women including the bride of Pirithous, Hippodamia. Pirithous and his wife gave birth to Polypoetus.
The Centaurs Had Female Counterparts
Unlike the minotaur, the centaurs were a race that consisted of female centaurs known as centauresses or centaurides. However, these creatures, the centaurides did not appear until the latter times, probably in late antiquity. They had the torso of a woman and the lower body of a female horse. The Roman poet, Ovid, spoke of a centauress named Hylonme who killed herself after her husband, Cyllarus, fell at the hands of the Lapiths during the Centauromachy.
What Is the Difference Between a Centaur and a Satyr?
The main difference between a centaur and a satyr was registered in their appearance. The centaur was a quadripedal creature with the upper body of a man while the satyr was a bipedal creature half man half horse. Also, the satyr always featured a permanent erection which was symbolic of their lustful nature as well as their roles as fertility gods.
What Is the Horse Version of the Minotaur?
The “horse version” of a minotaur would be a satyr because both creatures are bipedal with the satyr having the tail and ears of a horse. The Minotaur had the head, ears, and tail of a bull. However, others believe that the horse version of the minotaur is the centaur.
Is the Minotaur Good or Evil?
The minotaur is mostly antagonistic in Greek mythology and was known to feed on humans. He was so bloodthirsty that his father had to send him to live at the bottom of an elaborate Labyrinth, where he fed regularly on seven boys and seven girls from Athens.
This article has looked at the minotaur vs centaur comparison and established the differences between both mythological creatures. We’ve realized that though both creatures were results of punishments for the deeds of their fathers, they had several contrasting qualities.
The minotaur had a bull’s torso and a man’s lower body, while the centaur’s torso was that of a man while the lower half was a horse. The minotaur was wild and cannibalistic, while the centaur was both a carnivore and a herbivore.