Ixion and Nephele: A Tale of Seduction and Punishment

Mythology, Sons of Apollo Series

The controversy surrounding the tale of Ixion and Nephele is integral to understanding the reputation and culture of the centaurs in Greek Mythology.
Rather than a tale of fighting with Greek heroes, the story of Ixion and Nephele is one of the many origin stories of the centaurs, and as such provides particular insight into the stereotypes revolving around the equine race as a whole. It is perhaps the most popular origin story of antiquity, considering that many of the famous centaurs in mythology were said to be their descendants, including: Nessos, Pholus and Eurytion.
In Greek mythology, Ixion was a man credited to be a forefather of the centaurs. The story says that Ixion was wed to Nephele (meaning cloud), a cloud-nymph daughter of Zeus and Hera. While drunk, Ixion mistook Hera for his wife and attempted to rape her. For his offense, Ixion was condemned to eternal punishment on a fiery wheel in Tartarus, to pay for his insult to the Queen of the Gods. In other versions Zeus formed a cloud in the image of Hera to deceive the centaur.
Ixion was, himself, a descendant of Lapithus, son of Apollo and Stilbe. As such he would have been close to the centaurs. They were his family. He possibly might have been a student of Kheiron also.
The centaur descendants of Ixion and Nephele were referred to as Ixionidae (meaning sons of Ixion) or alternatively in Latin, Nubigenae (meaning cloud-born). In mythology, the terms also carry the negative connotation to mean “born of shame,” though not a direct translation of the meaning of either word. This connotation is likely in connection with Ixion’s punishment in the afterlife.
In my series, Sons of Apollo, I have taken some liberties with the details of this myth in making Ixion a descendant of Kentauros, son of Apollo and Stilbe, rather than his brother Lapithus, thus making him a centaur.
In my version the punishment assigned to Ixion and his descendants is rumored to be that the gods turned their back on his line and he lost favor with them, favor he once enjoyed. Men speculate it is because of this curse that honor has left the dying race of centaurs. His descendants, the Ixionidae believe it is their right to rule the race of centaurs and that their birthright had been stolen from them by the Lapithe. As a political party the Ixionidae believe the centaurs should mount a revolution to take back their lands in Thessaly, restoring the throne and honor of Pelion to the race.
Because Ixionidae was also used as a derogatory term in mythology when men referred to the centaurs as his cursed descendants, I have used the term in both contexts. First, to refer to the descendants of Ixion in which I have expanded the reference to include their lineage as well as associated it with their political positions and cultural ideologies. Secondly, I use the term as it is implied in the original mythology as a derogatory term referencing the fall of the race from favor among the gods and men, and their subsequent cursing that led to their exile from Thessaly.
While it has been incredibly fun and creative to develop these aspects of the culture of the centaurs in my stories it has also presented challenges in terms of how to effectively deliver this information in the context of the story. Especially not knowing how much of the original mythology my readers will be familiar with.
In my first book, Mate For a Centaur, I endeavor to introduce the reader to the culture of the centaurs as well as the rumors and stereotypes surrounding their race.
To read an excerpt, subscribe to my newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *