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Caenis  (SEE-nis)

A young nymph loved by Poseidon. One day the god said he would give Caenis anything she wanted in token of his affection. She asked to be changed into a man, and an invulnerable fighter at that. Although this was the last thing Poseidon had expected or wished to hear, he obliged, and Caenis became Caeneus. Under her - or rather his - new name, Caeneus became a great warrior and got so carried away with his prowess that he walked into the middle of town one day and propped up his spear in the marketplace.

"From now on, everybody," said Caeneus, "you will worship my spear as a god."

Zeus, hearing this, thought to punish the heresy. Since Caeneus was invulnerable, the great god had to be clever in bringing about his downfall. He decided to get the centaurs stirred up against Caeneus, figuring that these rough and ready beast-men would find a way to do him in. And sure enough they did.

It happened at the wedding of Theseus's friend, Peirithous the Lapith. The centaurs were unwisely treated to wine and it went straight to their heads, inspiring them to attempt to abduct the bride. Caeneus came to her defense and started killing centaurs right and left. The rest ganged up on him and, finding that he was impervious to weapons, they pounded him into the ground. Caeneus suffocated and, dying, turned back into a woman.


Caenis, after transformation into Caeneus. (zoom)





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