Luca Giordano, Battle Between the Lapiths and Centaurs, late 1680’s

The Lapiths were a mythical Greek people from Thessaly, whose genealogy had much in common with the Centaur race. In Metamorphoses, Ovid tells how the Lapiths invited the Centaurs to the wedding of their king Pirithous. During the wedding feast the Centaurs got drunk, and as a crime of opportunity, tried to steal away with the beautiful bride Hippodamia and her friends.

At center we see the centaur Eurytion carrying Hippodamia off. Theseus comes to the aid of the Lapiths and goes after Eurytion with a sword; the Lapiths managed to win the battle in the end, but only because the gods flew in and intervened on their behalf. The story serves as a metaphor for mankind’s internal struggle to civilize its wild side.

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