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The centaur’s weakness

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CHIRON the centaur, Athenian Black-figure Dinos C6th B.C., British Museum. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WWW.THEOI.COM

Since the lockdown started, I’ve been reading a lot of Greek myths to keep myself occupied and stimulated. Stories of how Zeus defeated the Titans, Perseus slaying Medusa the gorgon and tales of Athena’s wits have intrigued me. But the one that caught my eye the most was the story of the “12 Labors of Hercules.”

Seriously, a mortal man slaying monsters usually owned or birthed by the gods and then turning out alive is fantastic! Centaurs, dragons, flesh-eating horses and three-headed dogs, all creatures with their specific strengths and weaknesses, appear through these amazing stories.

The Greeks told stories about Hercules’ labors and, as many would end their stories, conclude them with good moral lessons. One such story is that of Hercules and the centaurs.

This tale can be associated with a common pandemic occurrence exemplified by this video on Facebook showing some men lifting the cover of the “alcoholic drinks” shelf and begin cheering like they finally grabbed the Golden Fleece from a dragon. Hilarious, right?

A few days ago, lockdown restrictions were relaxed so people could go out. The liquor ban was also lifted. It was implemented in the first place because if a person consumes too much drink, he or she may forget to follow health protocols and spread the virus.

The lifting of the liquor ban is perhaps not a wise idea because some people who get drunk may behave like there is no deadly outbreak raging in the Philippines.

They forgo social distancing and carry on with their alcoholic parties. That is risky since the coronavirus tends to infect people if they go in groups. They could also contract other diseases such as those of the liver. Alcohol is certainly one of the downfalls of humans and the story of Hercules meeting the centaurs shows it.

One day, Hercules traveled to another land for one of his labors. He then came across a cave where he met a kind centaur named Pholops, who had been given a jar of wine by the god Dionysus, who told him to give it to Hercules if he ever came by. So he offered the wine to Hercules, but the other centaurs smelled it and attacked the cave.

Hercules didn’t really want to hurt them but he had to fight them off with his arrows tipped with the Hydra’s poison. Some died while others fled to Thessaly to the wise Cheiron’s cave where Hercules sniffed them out and battled with them again.

In the heat of the battle, Hercules accidentally hit Cheiron and was horrified because the latter was an immortal, being the son of the sea nymph Philyra and the titan Cronus. Cheiron didn’t die but he suffered from the painful effects of the poison and begged Zeus to release him from his agony.

Zeus, out of mercy, took away Cheiron’s immortality and stored it away to give to Hercules in the future. Meanwhile, Pholops cleaned up the mess caused by the earlier ruckus inside the cave.

While doing so, he accidentally pierced himself with one of Hercules’ arrows then died of the poison. When Hercules arrived, he found Pholops’ body. The two best centaurs, Pholops and Cheiron, died along with the other centaurs all because they had such an uncontrollable desire for wine.

ALCOHOL is certainly one of the downfalls of humans and the story of Hercules meeting the centaurs shows it.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANN BOYAJIAN

The similarity of the alcohol addiction of the centaurs and the drinkers in today’s Philippines is rather obvious. Some of the alcoholics may be strong, intelligent and caring people like the centaurs, but their love for alcohol harms them like the poison from Hercules’ arrows. Hercules could symbolize the government for he is strong, can protect and is worth respecting.

Pholops respecting Hercules may stand for the lawful people cooperating with the government for its efforts to keep the spread of the COVID-19 at bay. Cheiron can symbolize the people who are just doing their thing without harm to others.

Cheiron’s agony and imploring to Zeus can be associated with the affected innocents begging the system to help them. Pholops and Cheiron’s deaths along with Hercules’ mourning towards them represents how innocent people’s lives are affected by the stubborn drunkards’ craving for to alcohol during times like this.

Like centaurs, a simple lack of control can lead to their downfall either by contracting a disease or being penalized by the justice system, which excuses no one. The inability to restrain oneself from desires and lack of integrity could most likely lead a person down a troubled path in life and they could drag innocent people with them.

My little book of Greek myths will never fail to entertain and teach me lessons with tales like this and encourage me to share these lessons with others, who are trying to battle through the hydra of challenges brought forth by this wrathful pandemic.

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