Parthenon sculpture: Centaur and Lapith


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This sculpture from the famous temple on the Acropolis in Athens shows a mythological battle between a human Lapith and a barbaric centaur.

The Parthenon featured 92 sculptures known as metopes. They were located on all four sides of the temple. Those from the south side of the building include this one, which is part of a series featuring Lapiths in combat with centaurs.

Lapiths were humans from northern Greece, while centaurs were part-man and part-horse, to represent the dual aspect of their nature. They were capable of being both civilised and savage.

Here the centaurs are shown as guests at the marriage feast of Peirithoos, king of the Lapiths. At the feast, the hosts gave the centaurs wine, which inflamed the savage side of their nature. They attempted to rape the women and their leader Eurytion tried to kidnap the bride.

Although the ensuing battle was won by the Lapiths, there were casualties on both sides. In this scene the defeated Lapith


  • Title: Parthenon sculpture: Centaur and Lapith
  • Date Created: -447/-438
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 134.50cm; Width: 134.50cm; Depth: 41.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: centaur; centauromachy; lapith
  • Registration number: 1816,0610.12
  • Production place: Made in Athens
  • Producer: Designed by Pheidias
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Parthenon
  • Period/culture: Classical Greek
  • Material: marble
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Elgin

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