The Brighter Stars of Centaurus
Rigel Kentaurus B
The Race of Centaurs
Centaurs were a race half-human and half-horse. They were a quarrelsome ill-bred race who loved to drink. The Archer Sagittarius is also a centaur, but the constellation of Centaurus represents the leader of the centaur race, an individual known as Chiron.
Chiron was quite different from the other centaurs. Actually Chiron became a centaur as the result of an accident; he was conceived when his father Cronus, the chief of the elder gods known as Titans, seduced the sea nymph Philyra. When the pair were surprised by Rhea, Cronus' wife, the guilty husband changed himself into a horse in order to escape the wrath of his wife. As a result of Cronus' transformation the child conceived with Philyra became half-horse itself. This was the centaur Chiron.
The Centaur Teacher
Unlike the other centaurs, Chiron was wise and scholarly. He was excellent teacher at the arts of civilization and of war. Chiron's cave became a training institution for young Greek heroes. It was Chiron who raised both Jason (the hero of the quest for the Golden Fleece) and Achilles (one of the heroes of the Trojan War). And it was Chiron who was the teacher of Asclepius, who appears in the sky as Ophiuchus, the Serpent Wrestler.
The Death of Chiron
Chiron's death came about when the great hero Hercules visited the centaur Pholus. That Pholus offered the hero a cup from the centaurs' vat of wine caused a riot in the centaur tribe. The centaurs attacked Hercules, who forced them back with arrows shot from his great bow. An arrow accidentally pierced the knee of Chiron, who had been trying to make peace. Hercules' arrows were poisoned with the blood of the Hydra. So as a result of the arrow wound, Chiron died and was placed among the stars.