LAPITHJE, a mythic race whose contest with the Centaurs is one of the most famous events in Greek mythology and one of the most favourite subjects of Greek art. The home of the legend is the district round Mount Pelion in Thessaly ; it is not found in the other places where the Centaur legend has its home - Pholoe in Arcadia, and the river Evenus in /Etolia. It is impossible to write of the Lapithre without including also their adversaries the Centaurs and the great battle at the marriage of Pirithmis and Dcidamia. The outlines of the legend have already been given under CENTAUR; here we shall merely attempt to distinguish between earlier and later elements in the myth, and thus trace its growth. By the Greek sculptors of the school of Phidias the battle of Lapithie with Centaurs was conceived as a struggle between mankind and mischievous monsters, and symbolical of the great conflict between Greeks and Persians. There can be no doubt that such a moralized view is of later growth, and inconsistent with the original character of mythology ; though the battle is certainly conceived under this form from an early time, and universally throughout the historical period. But on the other hand the genealogies given of the Lapithm make them a brother race with the Centaurs. Pirithous, king of the Lapithre, was son of Ixion ; so were the Centaurs. Various other accounts lead to the same result. Ultimately then the battle of Lapitlue with Centaurs is a contest of the physical powers of nature ; and the excellent discussion of Professor S. Colvin (Aura. hell. Stud., i. p. 164) leaves little room for doubt that the Centaurs represent the power - dangerous, yet sometimes beneficent - of mountain floods, and that the battle is the mythic expression of the terrible effects of swollen waters. No satisfactory derivation of the word Lapithes has yet been found, but some of the names of individual Lapitha, such as Dryas, Charaxus, Caineus son of Elate, &c., refer us to the trees and ravines of the mountains.
Beside the article of Professor Colvin, and the numerous works on Greek mythology, see Wacker, 7i1. Schr., vol. ii.