How the wise Centaur educated the Hellenic Heroes by Andreas Karkavitsas

How the wise Centaur educated the Hellenic Heroes by Andreas Karkavitsas

How the wise Centaur educated the heroes In Thessaly there is a very green and beautiful mountain, that is called Pelio. Under this mountain and near the sea there was, these old years, a big city, that was called Iolkos. In Iolkos was reigning at that time Pelias. He stole the throne from his brother Aeson, and in order not to suffer the same from his relatives, others he killed and others he locked in the prison. Aeson managed to escape at night with his son. He advanced through the olive trees and the vineyards and reached at the root of the mountain. There they sat for a while, father and son, to rest and at dawn they set out to climb the mountain. In quite some time they arrived at a huge plane tree, that at its root water was flowing cold like ice. They sat there, they ate some bread, and then they took the route and climped to the top of a formidable cliff. Aeson then stopped and said to his son, while indicating to the right: -«Do you see, my child, these trees? There is the cave that lives the wise Centaur». In a while they approached and they looked with admiration. From the cliffs to the right and left and over the opening of the cave, were hanging vines loaded with grapes. A little further ahead a fountain poured its fresh waters in a deep valley. From time to time in the clamor of the water it was heard sound of lyre and sweet song. Aeson said then to his son: -«Go, my child, in the cave. There you will meet a strange man, but you shouldn't get scared. Go near him, put your hands on his knees and tell him: On the name of the great Zeus, I devote to you my self». The little one listened to the words of his father, and with courage he entered in the cave. There he saw the wise Centaur lying on branches of laurel and of myrtle. He was truly a strange creature, the Centaur. From the head to the waist human, and from the waist down powerful horse. The white hair of his head was falling like foaming waves over his back, and the snow white beard of his was covering his broad chest. His eyes were full of kindness and proud (was) his forehead. Lying down over his green mattress was playing his golden lyre and was singing sweetly. The kid, as he saw Centaur and listened the melodic song of his, forgot all about what his father said and was looking being perplexed. Centaur called the child to go near him. But when he wanted to put his hands on his knees and talk to him, as he had been advised by his father, he told him: -«Go to tell your father to come himself also here; I know well your father and you». The kid ran and called his father; and when they came at the cave, Centaur said to Aeson: -«Why didn't you come as well together, only you sent your son?» -«I wanted to test him», responded Aeson, «if he is fearless, as they must be the children of the heroes.» «But in the name of Zeus, accept my child to educate together with the other little heroes; and when he grows, let him go to Iolkos to ask for his right» He extended kindly Centaur his hand to the blonde head of the little one and said to him: -«Did you hear what your father says? Do you want to stay with me? Aren't you afraid of me?» -«No», responded the little one. «The will of my father is mine too. Ahh, how would I also like to be Centaur and to have the same sweet voice!» Centaur smiled y dijo: -«Come then, sit near me. When the sun sets, will return here also the other children and you will get to know them». Then turning to the father of the child he said: -«You, Aeson, you can go with my best wishes and be patient, until they pass the difficult years. I hope, that your son will honor his generation». With tears in his eyes Aeson kissed his son, bid farewell to Centaur and left. It was about time for the sun to set, when they were heard from the outside voices and footsteps. They were the young heroes, that returned from the hunt. «Come out to see our prey!» were shouting to Centaur Pileas and Hercules, that had run ahead of the others. Centaur ran to the entrance of the cave with the new student of his. -«I killed with my arc the two deers», Hercules was saying. -«And I the two roe deers», said Pileas. -«I cought alive those two wildcats that you see tied in the bushes!» Agkaios added. Orpheus had brought alive a wild goat; Kaineas two small bears; they were growling and were trying to bite his hands; himself nevertheless was laughing, because he knew that no human neither beast could hurt him. Centaur caressed and praised each of them for his strength and his braveness. At that moment appeared from a path another disciple. He was walking slowly with his head bent, as if he was thinking something important, and was holding in his hands various herbs. He went near Centaur and said to him, showing a herb: -«It cures the bite of the snake. I saw a goat that was bitten by a poisonous snake. she run in a deep ravine, she ate from this herb and she was saved. «This other herb cures the diseases of the humans. A pastor that was very ill, I cured with this!» When he heard the words of his disciple the wise Centaur he said: -«Apollo and Athena are handing out to each one the charismas. To you, Asclepius, have given the greatest.» «The others are training in the art of war and are learning how one can kill the others. You are looking for the medicines, to rescue all human beings from the death». Then the little heros took the axes and began to shred woods in order to ignite fire. After they lit the fire, they put to roast the deers that they killed in the hunt. Meanwhile they went and washed at the spring, and then they sat and they dined with much appetite. When they finished supper, they talked with their wise teacher, and then they played the lyre and they sang. Centaur then rose from the table and he climbed on the top of a high rock. From there it seemed as silver the sea, while the moon illuminated it. He stood on the top, with his head raised toward the sky, and began to play his lyre and to sing to the night with its shining stars and the silver moon. The children stood speechless and listened to him. When he stepped down from the top, they run and they kissed his hands. Then each one went to sleep. After the children slept, Centaur remained alone out of the cave. He was staring the pathway of the moon and the position that each star had, and was drawing it on a big shell. When finally the midnight arrived, he entered as well inside the cave, and he laid down on his mattress, that was prepared with myrtles and with woolly skins of bears. Next to Centaur was sleeping the child of Aeson. A ray of the moon, that was entering in the cave, was illuminating the smiling face of the kid; it seemed that he was seeing sweet dreams. At the sweet dawn Centaur woke up. He exited slowly from the cave and went down to the fountain. He washed himself well, he made his prayer to the Gods, and went up again to his cave. He took his trumpet, that was made from the horn of a bull and blew three times. Immediately they jumped from their beds the kids and ran to the fountain to wash themselves. Then they raised their hands to the sky and said: «Help us, Gods, in order to become equal and better from our ancestors». When they returned to the cave, Centaur took them and they went to the forest. Ahead went the master and behind followed the children, and listened with attention to the wise words that he was telling them. The son of Aison, as younger that he was, could not follow them to the long walk. The gentle Centauro lifted him then to ride over his shoulders. Thus they walked inside the forest, until the sun went up for good and started to gild the tops of the mountains. Then they returned to the cave, they ate bread, honey, and fresh butter, and they drank, milk. After they ate, they took each one his lyre and trained to the learning of music. Centaur inspected them all, corrected their mistakes and he taught them how to hit the strings in order to make sounds more sweet. Afterwards they sat on stone thrones that were dispersed under the shadow of the trees, and listened carefully to Centaur that was teaching. «The King», was saying the wise Centaur, «must sacrifice himself and all his possessions for his homeland. A single notion only he must have the good King; how to make happy his people, and his kingdom strong and famous». In the evening they went at a totally green from vegetation plain; they took off their clothes and trained in running, in wrestling, in jumping and in stone throwing. Vividly and happily the little heroes were training, and from their voices and their laughters they were echoing around the mountains and the gorges. When they finished the training, they grabbed all together each other's arms and they started a dance. Centaur was playing his lyre and the children twisted, jumped, and moved sometimes forward and sometimes backward, according with the tune of the lyre. Thus they were dancing until the sun set, and while they were completely nude, they seemed like alive statues in the light of the night. Together with the others was dancing cheerful also the child of Aeson; he was not thinking any more neither of Iolkos, nor of his friends, nor of his father. It didn't pass a long time and he became a handsome and strong young man. Centaur taught him everything he thought he would need in order to become one day in an invincible warrior and famous, and since often he let him ride on his back, he also turned him to a good rider. Next to that he also taught him many secrets of the medical science, and for that reason he called him Jason (the one who cures). The time was passing and each one of the little heroes terminated his studies and departed. Asclepius went to Peloponnese and cured the sick people. Hercules was preparing to do his great achievements and Peleas was going to Fthia, in order to take as his wife Thetis, the water nymph and give birth to Achilles. There passed quite a few more years. One day Jason climped to the highest summit of the mountain and sat long time pensive. Turning around here and there his eyes, he saw toward the east the endless blue sea; a bit closer, almost under his feet, he saw the juicy fields of his homeland, and then (he saw) Iolkos. His heart began to beat strongly, and a deep sigh escaped from his chest. At that moment Centauro appeared, and as he saw him pensive and heard his sighs he asked him: -«What happens to you, my son?» -«I would like to know», said Jason, «if it's true that I am the heir of the country that extends under this mountain». -«It's true», said Centaur. «But your unjust uncle will not want to grant you your rights.» «He will command you to do many dangerous feats, and only the gods know, whether you shall make it to reign some day in Iolkos. You must nevertheless never forget that the gods always help the brave ones». -«There is nothing that scares me!» replied Jason. Then the wise Centaur said to him: -«Then go with my blessing. But you should never forget what I am going to tell you.» «Whoever you encounter in your life journey, man or woman treat them politely. You should never give your word before you ponder well over it; but once you give it, you should keep it till you die». Thus they separated, and Jason descended to Iolkos. When Jason arrived to his homeland, Pelias got scared, and in order to ward him off from his side, he ordered him to go and fetch the Golden Fleece. Jason invited as partners many of the kids that he met in the cave of Centaur. Most of them were already famous heroes. Following the advice of the goddess Athena he built a boat and named it Argo. He entered the boat with his companions, he lifted the sails and took off to Colchis. It was already starting to dawn, when Argo was sailing under mountain Pelio. At that moment the Argonauts woke, and as they faced with the mountain, they remembered their school years. «Why don't we go out», says Peleas, «to see our teacher and also take his blessing? Who knows if we will ever see him again! Also up there lives my precious son Achilles, who so much my soul is looking for.» Willingly they all accepted these words of his and went out to the mountain. When they reached to the cave, they found Centaur lying down and next to him (they found) little Achilles playing the lyre. When Centaur saw them he got up all happy, he embraced them one by one, he kissed them and begged them to stay a little with him. Achilles run in the arms of his father and after he kissed him, he begun to play with his rich armor. -«He can't wait», said Centaur; and caressed Achilles, who was trying to pull from it's case the sword of his father. Meanwhile Centaur prepared the table with tender meats from deers and small wild boars, and he had filled up the flasks with old wine. The argonauts sat and ate with much appetite; when they emptied the flasks, they begged Orfeas to play his lyre and to sing. Orfeas out of respect for the master didn't want to start, and for this reason Centaur sung first. After he sung as always sweetly, he turned to Orfeas and said to him, passing him his lyre: -«I, my son, have grown old now and my voice has weakened. Take my lyre and sing for us the song of the sea». Orfeas stood up from the table and climped on a high rock. From there he begun to sing about the sea the blue, that takes the boats and drives them to distant lands. While Orfeas was singing, his voice was raising above the cliffs and was pouring soft and sweet all around. The trees were bowing their tops in order to receive it (the music), and were resounded it downward the slopes and the gorges. They stopped startled the wild beasts and begun to crawl tamed towards the place from where it was caming the magic song. And the birds hold their flight and stood above the cave, in order to listen the melody. When it finished the song, Centaur hugged Orfeas, kissed him and told him: -«You have enchanted me, my boy. Apollo and your mother, Kalliopi, they offered you the most precious gifts. I wish that Zeus will give you every kind of happyness». -«Thank you», responded Orfeas; «but since I lost my beloved Eurydice, no happiness exist for me any μore». -«The greatest happiness», said the wise Centaur, «is for someone to be able to make the others happy». The time arrived to leave and Centaur bid them goodbye at the shore. When Argo advanced to the open sea, the Argonauts turned their eyes towards Pelio. They saw then at the top Centaur, with raised hands towards the sky, in order to make his prayer. He was praying to the gods to assist the heroes to the big and dangerous voyage of theirs to Colchis. END