Thursday 26 June 2014


Centaur bites Lapith at Olympia
But does it look like a doughnut?
The biter in the picture on the left is a centaur, and he is biting a human of the Lapith tribe, in the wildest wedding brawl ever. Another centaur bites a Lapith on the temple of Apollo at Bassae (below). That the biters are centaurs shows that the Greeks made a mental connection between the large teeth of horses and human dental aggressors. Teeth were only acceptable when you were fighting for your life and had lost all other weapons—the Spartans did resort to their teeth and fingernails in the last stages of their death-struggle against the Persians at the Hot Gates of Thermopylae.

Centaur bites Lapith on Temple of Apollo
Only deviant heroes and gods in Greek mythology do biting. Tydeus was punished for sucking Melanippus’ brains out through his cranium. Rubens exposes the brutality of the moment when Kronos/Saturn sank his teeth into his own son’s chest. In the most savage of contact sports, the pankration, every conceivable form of assault was acceptable except eye-gouging and biting. This is why that scene showing that only subhumans used biting in combat was displayed on the west pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia, home of the original Olympic games. Ir screams at the viewer, Biting and Athletic Fair Play Don't Mix.
Ruben's 'Saturn'

Centaurs are often explained as primitive pedestrian humans' response to humans on horseback. When the conquistador cavalrymen arrived in the ‘New’ World, the Aztecs thought they were centaurs, according to Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s 16th-century True History of the Conquest of New Spain. Plenty of early Hispanic migrants to the Americas were surnamed Suarez—has the Uruguayan footballer internalized some ancestral tradition of descent from centaurs?

Far be it from me, of course, to suggest that Luis Suarez has huge equine teeth, or even that he may have behaved like an animal. Perish the thought. The name Suarez is probably derived from the Latin for a pigman, suarius, rather than a horseman, eques.  But the investigation currently in progress ghoulishly fascinates me—forensic dentistry apparently looks for an injury involving bruising and drag lacerations ‘shaped like a doughnut’. 

Tydeus' teeth sunk into Melanippus' skull

Forensic dentists are, moreover, sensibly warned that suspects are often not cooperative in providing plaster casts of their choppers, ‘so the dentist who is requested to assist authorities to collect evidence should see that provisions to ensure their personal security are in place.’ Who on earth would be the hapless FIFA dentist who subjects himself to Suarez’s centauric fangs?

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