1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lapithae

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LAPITHAE, a mythical race, whose home was in Thessaly in the valley of the Peneus. The genealogies make them a kindred race with the Centaurs, their king Peirithoüs being the son, and the Centaurs the grandchildren (or sons) of Ixion. The best-known legends with which they are connected are those of Ixion (q.v.) and the battle with the Centaurs (q.v.). A well-known Lapith was Caeneus, said to have been originally a girl named Caenis, the favourite of Poseidon, who changed her into a man and made her invulnerable (Ovid, Metam. xii. 146 ff). In the Centaur battle, having been crushed by rocks and trunks of trees, he was changed into a bird; or he disappeared into the depths of the earth unharmed. According to some, the Lapithae are representatives of the giants of fable, or spirits of the storm; according to others, they are a semi-legendary; semi-historical race, like the Myrmidons and other Thessalian tribes. The Greek sculptors of the school of Pheidias conceived of the battle of the Lapithae and Centaurs as a struggle between mankind and mischievous monsters, and symbolical of the great conflict between the Greeks and Persians. Sidney Colvin (Journ. Hellen. Stud. i. 64) explains it as a contest of the physical powers of nature, and the mythical expression of the terrible effects of swollen waters.