Centurians and centaurians

Two things came together yesterday to take me into centaur territory: watching the porn flick Centurians (sic) of Rome and coming across a postcard reproduction of The Education of Achilles by Chiron by Donato Creti (1714). The movie I’ve posted about on my X blog, here (though I’ll have a bit more to say about it); here’s the painting, featuring Chiron the centaur:

The juxtaposition led me to wonder if there were centaurians to be found. And of course, Chironically, there are.

1. Centurians of Rome. A 1982 classic of the genre, flamboyantly staged, with tons of man-man sex of many kinds and lots of dialogue that contributes to the cheesy magnificence of the work. A complicated plot, involving two friends, Demetrius and Octavius, taken as slaves in Caligula’s Rome: Demetrius purchased by the monstrously kinky Emperor, Octavius given to a sadistic commander.

It ends up being a love story — almost all story-based gay porn turns on the love between two men — between Demetrius and Octavius, intertwined with a love story between the commander and Octavius; the commander comes to love his slave and, eventually, realizing that Octavius loves Demetrius, helps the couple to escape and takes Demetrius’s place as the Emperor’s slave, in an act of noble (and very painful) sacrifice.

2. During my time with the centurians (so-called), there came the card of Chiron tutoring Achilles. There are a great many artworks showing the centaur Chiron with the young Achilles, with very different tones to them (the Creti is homoerotic, depicting the love between the two, which will last only until Achilles’s initiation is finished). Here’s a really old one, a fresco from Herculaneum:

3. So: centurians and centaurs. Combine them: centaurians.

There’s a computer game, featuring centaurs, called Centaurian The Game, by Simon Peter (site here). And there are several other uses of the word to be found. But the big find was a literary website The Centaurian, devoted to John Updike (the site has been taken down, but there’s some discussion on the John Updike Society website).

The Centaurian website took its name from one of my favorite Updike novels, The Centaur (1963): a complex construction in which the story of a family (based loosely on Updike’s own) is intertwined with mythology, each of the main characters having mythological counterparts. The schoolteacher George Caldwell is the Chiron figure, the centaur of the title:

(Cover of the first edition, which I own a copy of. For more discussion of Updike, see my posting on Nicholson Baker’s U and I.)

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