ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bucephalos the Bad Tempered in Tales from History

Updated on September 13, 2014

The most famous horse of antiquity

Was there ever a horse like Bucephalos? This magnificent creature, the war horse of Alexander the Great, carried his owner across the known world from victory to victory.

Bucephalos was as black as a crow's wing at midnight in mid-winter. He was eighteen hands high, with a long powerful neck, proud majestic head and was admired for his strength and beauty by all who saw him.

Ah yes, he was known across the battlefields as a magnificent horse, a horse of great courage and great strength.

What is less known, however, is that Bucephalos was a cantankerous nag.

Source

Alexander meets Bucephalos

"Macedonia is too small for you"

It was at Dion, in the narrow pass between Thessaly and Macedonia, that Alexander, then only 8 years old, first saw the handsome black stallion.

Philoneicus, a horse-trader, brought the horse to sell to Philip II but, as the animal behaved wildly and would allow no one near him, the King was mightily angry. Alexander openly challenged his father and wagered that he could tame the difficult horse.

Alexander quieted the animal, turning him so that he could not see his shadow, leaped up, and galloped away.

When the young prince returned from his ride, Philip said, "My son, look for a kingdom equal to you. Macedonia is too small".

And that was how this great steed became the legendary warhorse of Alexander the Great, Conqueror of the Known World.

.....first let me talk of Alexander, who tamed the horse and conquered the world.

Alexander the Great, Conqueror of the Known World - He was never defeated



Alexander single-handedly changed the nature of the ancient world in little more than a decade.

Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat.

His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BCE

An Empire of two million square miles.

The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became Great King of Persia at the age of 25.

Over the next eight years Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founded over 70 cities and created an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles.

The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, whilst the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.

Alexander died of a high fever, after a 3 day alcoholic binge, in Babylon in June 323 BCE. He was just thirty three years old.

Alexander's Empire

Alexander's Empire
Alexander's Empire
Source

The shock cavalry of antiquity

Alexander's Companion Cavalrymen were the elite arm of the Macedonian army, and have been regarded as the best cavalry in the ancient world.

Divided into eight squadrons, each 200 men strong, each man equipped with a 3 metre spear, the Companions were the first real shock cavalry of antiquity.

Cavalry were an important part of almost every ancient army.

In Egypt, Ramses II commanded some cavalry and the ancient Persians were known for their mounted archers, but Alexander the Great employed his mounted Macedonians in skillful and fierce manoeuvres which were still being applied in the Great War of 1914-18.

The term cavalry is still applied in modern warfare although the traditional mounted unit of troops has given way to light tanks and armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

Bucephalos means Ox Head

The name of Alexander's horse

Alexander named his horse Bucephalos, meaning "ox-head". Bucephalus was most likely an arab, or part arab, and 'ox-head' would refer to the large, broad forehead and slightly concave profile which is characteristic of arab horses. Bucephalus, we are told, is of the best Thessalonian strain, horses which were known in Alexander's time to be part arab.

However, it may also have referred to his obstinate and spiteful character. We have already seen that he was so unruly that he couldn't be ridden. But there is worse to come .....

Bad Behaviour by Bucephalos

Caring for him became a task of fear

Bucephalos was an impressive and majestic creature but his behaviour left a lot to be desired. He was the Royal Favourite and he knew it.

No other horses could be grazed with him for fear of a fight, and many were the tales from the grooms and stablehands of his ill humour. Caring for Bucephalos became a task of fear. Scores of grooms were attacked and one, a Persian boy with long experience in the stables at Susa, was fatally kicked in the chest.

The common soldiers avoided the horse for fear of a sudden swift kick from a powerful hoof or a savage bite from those long teeth.

No one dared to complain of course, everyone knew how devoted Alexander was to his equine companion.

Bucephalos is mysteriously missing

Was hes stolen or kidnapped?

One day, while the Macedonian army was camped near the Swat River, some Bactrians stole Bucephalos.

Alexander swore that if his horse were not returned unharmed the next day, all villages within a 50 mile radius would be put to the torch, the men killed, the women and children taken into slavery.

Bucephalos reappeared the next morning, hungry and disheveled, but otherwise his old nasty self.

The mystery of his disappearance was never solved but thousands of innocent villagers were spared from a violent death.

Alexander Mourns Bucephalos

A city is built to the memory of a horse

The detestable Bucephalus finally died shortly after the battle at the Hydaspes River during Alexander's Indian campaign in what is now modern Pakistan.

Bycephalus was between the ages of 28 to 30, a good age for a horse even today. He is buried in Jalalpur Sharif outside of Jhelum, Pakistan. Alexander wept at the burial but there was quiet rejoicing all over the Macedonian camp.

Alexander built the city of Bucephala, now in Afghanistan, to commemorate the deeds of arguably the most famous horse of antiquity.

He was the only one who missed Bucepalos.

A War Horse Battle Charge

Filmed on location outside of Ulanbaatar, Mongolia. This cavalry charge recreates a battle victory by Ghengis Khan.

The Horse in Myth and Legend
The Horse in Myth and Legend

Horses as sacred emblems and in ancient lore, as primitive chalk etchings on hillsides, in superstitions and as magical beings

 

Friesian Horses

In the 2004 film, Alexander, Bucephalos was played by a Friesian.

The Friesian breed of horse from Friesland, in the Netherlands, is a light draft horse which is particularly graceful and nimble for its size. It's also a large, lovely and friendly horse used much in circuses.

Ancestors of Friesian horses were in great demand as war horses throughout continental Europe and throughout the Early Middle and High Middle Ages, their size enabled them to carry a knight in armour.

Beautiful Friesians on Video

Is there a lovelier horse than the Freisian?

How about you?

Have you heard of Bucephalus before today?

See results

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

Leave a Cube of Sugar for Bucephalos

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @moonlitta: I had never heard the tale of Bucephalos before. Although he sounded like a very nasty beast it is nice that he found a home with a man who truly cared deeply for him. What a history lesson.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 

      5 years ago

      Well, let him have the sugar, only not bite me in the process:) Beautiful pictures, I suppose this horse was an impressive sight. (

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 

      5 years ago from Cyprus

      Yep, read lots of tales about this famous horse. A well researched and educative page.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I loved the movie Alexander and loved the Friedman although hated seeing him killed. I to have the pleasure to own my own Bucephalos, only she is a mare.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I've always loved horses. Nags or not, they are magnificent creatures, aren't they?

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 

      6 years ago

      Great piece of history. Well written and informative. Blessed.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      6 years ago from Connecticut

      I really enjoyed your lens on Bucephalos. Nicely done, and very informative.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Love your lens and love Bucephalos...

      Featured on , Alexander the great quotes.. :)

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 

      7 years ago

      Great lens and tribute to a fantastic part of history. I was reading about Alexander the Great which lead me here...so glad it did.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      I've never heard of a Thessalonian line of horses before but the modern representation of this now extinct line may well be the modern Akhal-Teke and Iomud breeds in the former Soviet Union. The ancestors of these horses were well known for their speed and were used by the army of Darius, Alexander and Philip. Philip had obtained his horses form Fergana (what is now Turkmenistan) for his troops. Bucephalos could have well come from this line of horses (or maybe even a blending of lines).

    • DrNoreenPicken LM profile image

      DrNoreenPicken LM 

      8 years ago

      I had a little Morgan mare who was "my" horse, period. I could ride her thru the pasture with no bridle or saddle. We used to play hide and seek among huge pine trees. I'd hide and she'd come and find me. BUT - she was extremely nasty temperamented to any one else. No one else could ride her, she bucked them off. She would bite and kick almost anyone who entered her stall unwelcome. Several dogs had the chase game reversed on them to flying hooves. So yes, horses can be single, devoted owner types and very unpleasant to anyone else. I can see Alexander's horses nasty behavior being real and legendary. Take it from an owner of a horse such describes as Alexanders.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      8 years ago

      Fascinating stuff. I love learning about ancient history. Great lens

    • profile image

      XP 

      9 years ago

      Wonderful lens!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)