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Bucephalus – Alexander’s Horse
A short story about Bucephalus, the trusty black horse with a white spot over one eye that Alexander the Great rode thousands of miles and through many battles to create his mighty Macedonian empire. Bucephalus scoffed at the fear and did not turn away from the sword. Devouring earth with fierce rage during battle. Trained to rush during the sounds and smells of war.
Bucephalus is originally from Thessaly, which is located in the central part of Greece.
We begin in Thessaly around 345 BC during a battle in ancient Greece. During that battle, the black spirit horse was speared in the eye by a pike weapon. The panic and confusion of the injury caused the horse to throw the rider from behind. The rider was then trampled to death during that battle. For about half a year, the horse was blind in one eye. It was assumed that this was what caused the wild and frightened nature of the horse. Eventually the horse regained its sight, and legends say that this horse continued to see demons and spirits of war in that eye. Because of this, Bucephalus continued to remain wild and out of control.
As time went on, many grooms tried again to tame Bucephalus, but failed. Seeing no other alternative, they had to try to sell the horse to someone. A horse trader in Thessaly named Philoneicus took the horse along with many other horses north to Macedonia. When they entered the kingdom of Macedonia, they contacted King Philip II. The king bought Bucephalus for a price 13 talents.
In 1994, the World Almanac stated that 1 talent was worth 60 pounds. Today, £60 is worth US$95.28. So multiply $95.28 thirteen times and you get $1,238.64
Back in 344 BC that was a lot of money no doubt!
After Philoneicus sold the black horse to the king, many of his grooms also had the unfortunate opportunity to break and tame it. The horse was still extremely wild and this made the king angry with Philoneicus for selling him what he thought was an evil horse. As twelve-year-old Alexander, son of King Philip II, watched the men try to tame Bucephalus, he noticed something no one else noticed. After watching the failed attempts for a while longer. He created a challenge to his father. Alexander’s challenge was that He could be the one to tame the beast. His father was at first ashamed of his sons request. Embarrassed, he was then embarrassed by how his immature twelve-year-old son was able to tame Bucephalus when everyone else had failed. His father accepted the proposal and told his son that if he failed, he would have to pay back the 13 talents that Bucephalus had cost. The boy accepted the consequences.
Earlier, Alexander observed attempts to domesticate horses. He noticed that Bucephalus was running away from his own shadow. He was “afraid” of something. Could these be the spirits of war still in the horse’s visions? Did that make the horse so scared and wild. Alexander gently guided Bucephalus as he spoke into his ear. He then pointed it at the sun so that its shadow was behind it. These actions eventually helped the horse to relax, calm down and lose forever those ghostly visions that had haunted him for so long. At that time he then named the horse Bucephalus (ox head). Alexander chose that name because of the huge head the horse had. It was the size of an ox’s head. On the back of the horse, two traces of an ox’s horn were also imprinted. Now Bucephalus could be ridden. At the great humiliation which King Philip suffered, the king brought back his composer and commented with tears of joy to his son and said:
“See for yourself a kingdom that is equal and worthy of you, because Macedonia is too small for you“.
Legend has it that Bucephalus and Alexander were born at the same time. Other stories say that the horse was born in 355 BC, one year after Alexander.
Bucephalus, the mighty stallion died of battle wounds in June 326 BC during Alexander’s final battle at the Hydaspes in what is now modern day Pakistan. This was the first time Bucephalus or Alexander had ever seen an elephant during a battle.
In honor of his horse, Alexander named the city on the west bank of the Hydaspes River Bucephala. It is now considered the modern city of Jhelum in Pakistan. And he is buried in Jalalpur Sharif outside Jhelum, Pakistan.
A brief timeline of Alexander the Great.
356 BC – Alexander was born in Pella, Macedonia.
344 BC – 12-year-old Alexander rides Bucephalus on his horse for the first time.
343 BC – Greek philosopher Aristotle begins teaching 13-year-old Alexander about humanity and the world.
338 BC – 18-year-old Alexander commands the cavalry at the Battle of Chaeronea.
336 BC – Assassination of King Philip II, his father, 20-year-old Alexander ascends the throne.
335 BC – 21-year-old Alexander crushed the uprising in Thebes.
334 BC – 22-year-old Alexander pushes into Hellespont Persia with 40,000 men and seizes vast amounts of gold from the Persian Empire.
333 BC – 23-year-old Alexander cuts the Gordian knot.
332 BC – 24-year-old Alexander liberates Egypt.
331 BC – Egyptian oracle confirms 25-year-old Alexander’s divinity.
329 BC – 27-year-old Alexander pushes into Central Asia.
327 BC – 29-year-old Alexander enters India.
326 BC – 30-year-old Alexander loses Bucephalus to war wounds.
324 BC – 32-year-old Alexander loses his lifelong friend Hephaestion.
323 BC – 33-year-old Alexander dies in the city of Babylon.
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