I’ve decided to start this series called Great Horses In History (GHIH). Enjoy!
Bucephalus was the favorite horse of Alexander the Great. As story has it, when Alexander was only ten years old, he tamed the horse no-one could tame – Bucephalus. Bucephalus carried his master in many great battles, even against the great war elephants. Many historians have written about him.
“King Alexander had also a very remarkable horse; it was called Bucephalus, either on account of the fierceness of its aspect, or because it had the figure of a bull’s head marked on its shoulder. It is said, that he was struck with its beauty when he was only a boy, and that it was purchased from the stud of Philonicus, the Pharsalian, for thirteen talents. When it was equipped with the royal trappings, it would suffer no one except Alexander to mount it, although at other times it would allow any one to do so. A memorable circumstance connected with it in battle is recorded of this horse; it is said that when it was wounded in the attack upon Thebes, it would not allow Alexander to mount any other horse. Many other circumstances, also, of a similar nature, occurred respecting it; so that when it died, the king duly performed its obsequies, and built around its tomb a city, which he named after it
“The Natural History of Pliny, Volume 2 , by Pliny (the Elder.), John Bostock, Henry Thomas Riley
“That on the further side, he nam’d Nicœa, in Memory of his Victory over the Indians; This he nam’d Bucephalus, to perpetuate the Memory of his Horse Bucephalus, which died there, not because of any Wound he had received, but meerly of old Age, and excess of Heat; for when this happen’d, he was nigh thirty Years Old: He had also endur’d much Fatigue, and undergone many Dangers with his Matter, and would never suffer any, except Alexander himself, to mount him. He was strong, and beautiful in Body, and of a generous Spirit. The Mark by which he was said to have been particularly distinguished, was a Head like an Ox, from whence he receiv’d his Name of Bucephalus: Or rather, acording to others, because he being Black, had a white Mark upon his Forehead, not unlike those which Oxen often bear.” Arrian’s History of Alexander’s Expedition, Volume 2
In 326 B.C. Bucephalus carried his master into battle. When Alexander told him to go forward, the horse refused. Instead he turned and raced back with Alexander riding him to the back flank. There he kneeled, allowed Alexander to dismount, and fell over dead. It was later found that Bucephalus was suffering from severe battle wounds. However, he made sure his master was safe before dying.
Image from here.
Image from here.
Image from Wikipedia.