One of the most understated characters in all of Greek Mythology is Kheiron Khronides. Kheiron was a centaur who lived on Mount Pelion in Thessaly. Though never the star of his own story, his character wielded great influence in the lives of the gods and heroes of mythology as their revered mentor.
Kheiron (pronounced kay-ron, spelled Chiron in Latin), is derived from the Greek word for “hand” and the name means “skilled with hands” or “surgeon.” Khronides (pronounced crow-nee-days) means “son of Khronos” (or Cronus in Latin). Khronos was king of the Titans and ruled the gods before Zeus. Thus, making Zeus and Kheiron half-brothers. Kheiron’s mother was the nymph, Philyra, whom Khronos seduced in the form of a stallion. From this union Kheiron inherited his double form as a centaur- half horse, half man.
As a master in the arts of warfare, music and healing, Kheiron became the tutor and trainer of many of the heroes of Greek myth, including Hercules, Jason and Achilles, and some gods, such as Asklepios, God of Medicine. As such, Kheiron is an influential, though rarely a central, figure in much of mythology. Without Kheiron’s tutelage, these heroes would not have achieved their greatness. What is a hero without his mentor?
Kheiron is depicted much different from his equine kin in both Greek story and art. Often pictured as half-horse and half man from front to back, and wearing a robe, rather than the traditional top to bottom. He is described as wise and cultured, rather than wild and savage like other centaurs. I would speculate this unique representation symbolizes his reputation and legacy as distinct from his equine kin. Perhaps to indicate his more civilized nature.
This discrepancy between one centaur and the entirety of his race intrigued me, as did his role in mythology. Because of his integral part in the lives of those he tutored, his character grew in my mind, as well as his influence on the centaurian culture I was developing in my novel. My inspiration for the role of Kheiron in my stories came from the question, why wouldn’t such a benevolent and sophisticated character wish to help his own kin they way he mentored those prominent Greek heroes? I decided he would. I began with the other prominent centaurs from mythology and inferred that they would have received training from Kheiron as well, namely Nessos, Pholos, Eurytos and Kentauros, all of whom had run-ins with Heracles. My story takes place after the Centauromachy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and features the descendants of these principle students of Kheiron.
Another myth involving Kheiron is one with multiple accounts in which the details vary, though the general story is tragically similar. During a visit from the hero, Kheiron was accidentally wounded by Heracles’ hydra-poisoned arrows and traded his immortality to free Prometheus from torment. In some accounts the wounded centaur is Pholos and not Kheiron.
In mythology, when an immortal died, it was often referred to as being “placed among the stars.” Kheiron is consequently sometimes equated with Sagittarius, a sign of the Zodiac.