:"For the branding mark anciently used on horses, see Bucephalus (brand)."

Bucephalus or Buchephalas (Ancient Greek: polytonic|Βουκέφαλος, from polytonic|βούς "bous", "ox" and polytonic|κεφαλή "kephalē", "head" meaning "ox-head") (c. 355 BC – June, 326 BC) was Alexander the Great's horse and the most famous actual horse of antiquity. [Aside from mythic Pegasus and the wooden Trojan Horse, few today can name another horse from Antiquity.] Ancient accounts [The primary (actually secondary) accounts are two: Plutarch's "Life of Alexander", 6, and Arrian's "Anabasis Alexandri" V.19.] state that Bucephalus died after the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, in what is now modern Pakistan, and is buried in Jalalpur Sharif outside of Jhelum, Pakistan.

The taming of Bucephalus

A massive creature with a massive head, Bucephalus is described as having a black coat with a large white star on his brow. He is also supposed to have had a "wall", or blue eye, and his breeding was that of the "best Thessalonian strain." Plutarch tells the story of how, in 344 BC, a ten-year-old [Other sources put him at twelve.] Alexander won the horse. Arthur Hugh Clough (editor), John Dryden (translator), "Plutarch's 'Lives"', vol. II, Modern Library, 2001. ISBN 0-375-75677-9 ] Philonicus the Thessalian, a horse dealer, offered the horse to King Philip II for the sum of thirteen talents, but, since no one could tame the animal, Philip was not interested. His son Alexander, however, was, and promised to pay for the horse himself should he fail to tame it. He was given a chance and surprised all by subduing it. He spoke soothingly to the horse and turned it towards the sun so that it could no longer see the shadow of itself, which had been the cause of its distress. Dropping his fluttering cloak as well, Alexander successfully tamed the horse. Plutarch says that the incident so impressed Philip that he told the boy, "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee." Philip's speech strikes the only false note in the anecdote, according to AR Anderson, [Anderson 1930:3 and 17ff.] who noted his words as the embryo of the legend fully developed in the "History of Alexander the Great" I.15, 17.

The "Alexander Romance" presents a mythic variant of Bucephalus's origin. In this tale, the colt, whose heroic attributes surpassed even those of Pegasus, is bred and presented to Philip on his own estates. The mythic attributes of the animal are further reinforced in the romance by the Delphic Oracle, who tells Philip that the destined king of the world will be the one who rides Bucephalus, a horse with the mark of the ox's head on his haunch.

In the 2004 film "Alexander", Bucephalus is portrayed by a Friesian.

Alexander and Bucephalus

As one of his chargers, Bucephalus served Alexander in numerous battles. His legend fired the imagination of many an artist from the ancient to the modern world. Paintings of Labrum's Alexandrine subjects, including Bucephalus, survive today in the Louvre. One in particular, "The Passage of the Granicus", depicts the warhorse battling the difficulties of the steep muddy river banks, biting and kicking his foes.

Like his hero and supposed ancestor Achilles, Alexander felt that his horses were

known to excel all others — for they are immortal. Poseidon gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them to myself. [Homer, "The Iliad", Book XXIII.]

Arrian states, with Onesicritus as his source, that Bucephalus died at the age of thirty, a good age for a horse even today. Other sources, however, give as the cause of death not old age or weariness, but fatal injuries at the Battle of the Hydaspes (June 326 BC), in which Alexander's army defeated the Indian King Porus. Alexander promptly founded a city, Bucephala, in honour of his horse. It lay on the west bank of the Hydaspes river (thought to be modern-day Jhelum in Pakistan). [Rolf Winkes, "Boukephalas", "Miscellanea Mediterranea" ("Archaeologia Transatlantica XVIII") Providence 2000, pp. 101-107.] The modern-day town of Jalalpur Sharif, outside Jhelum, is said to be where Bucephalus is buried. [Michael Wood, "In the footsteps of Alexander the Great".]

The legend of Bucephalus grew in association with that of Alexander, beginning with the fiction that they were born simultaneously: some of the later versions of the Alexander Romance also synchronized the hour of their death. [Andrew Runni Anderson, "Bucephalas and His Legend" "The American Journal of Philology" 51.1 (1930:1-210.] The pair forged a sort of cult in that, after them, it was all but expected of a conqueror that he have a favourite horse. Julius Caesar had one; so too the eccentric Caligula, who ruled after the establishment of emperors. An eccentric, unstable and altogether poor leader (although he naturally thought otherwise), the last-mentioned made a great fuss of his steed Incitatus, holding inane birthday parties for him, riding him while adorned with Alexander's breastplate and planning to make him a consul.

Bucephalus in popular culture

* In the 1988 Terry Gilliam movie "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen", the Baron's white stallion is named Bucephalus, and is capable of fantastic feats.
* One interpretation of the ancient statue group "The Horse Tamers" in the Piazza del Quirinale in Rome is "Alexander and Bucephalus".
* Electronic musician Aphex Twin released a track called "Bucephalus Bouncing Ball" on his 1997 EP, "Come to Daddy".
* The Black Stallion is the title character from author Walter Farley's best-selling series of classic young adult novels. In 1979, the original 1941 novel was adapted to a film: see "The Black Stallion (film)". In the beginning of the movie version, Alec's father describes a small figurine of a stallion as being a statue of Bucephalus, and tells the tale of his taming, drawing a parallel between young Alec and Alexander the Great at the same age. This, of course, foreshadows Alec's taming of the wild Black Stallion, just as Alexander tamed Bucephalus.
* In the 1959 François Truffaut film "The 400 Blows" (or "Les Quatre Cents Coups"), Rene points out a huge metal horse statue that his father keeps in the house. Later, when the boys are playing in Rene's room and the horse has become bestrewn with clothing, the father enters and scolds, "Bucephalus is not a coat rack!"
* The writer Anthony Burgess had a pet turtle named Bucephalus.
* The 2006 Katherine Roberts novel "I am the Great Horse" recounts the exploits of Alexander from Bucephalus's point of view.
* Between 1934 and 1935, Fred Birchmore of Athens, Georgia, rode around the world on a bicycle he named Bucephalus. The two travelled approximately 25,000 miles together. The latter is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. [Moran and Sceurman 2004, p. 154.]
* Franz Kafka writes about Bucephalus in his short story, "A New Advocate". He imagines the horse as transforming from Alexander's warhorse into a great lawyer, studying law books in his afterlife. [Kafka, Franz. "A New Advocate." "A Country Doctor". Trans. Kevin Blahut. 7-8.]



* Moran, Mark, and Mark Sceurman. "Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets". Manhattan: Barnes & Noble, 2004.


External links

* [http://www.equinenet.org/heroes/bucephal.html Bucephalus, the Conqueror's Horse]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bucephalus — Alexander the Great s favorite horse, from Gk. Boukephalos, lit. Ox head, from bous ox + kephale head. Men called [him] Bucephalus ... of the marke or brand of a buls head, which was imprinted vpon his shoulder. [Pliny, I.220, tr. Holland, 1601] …   Etymology dictionary

  • Bucephalus — Bu*ceph a*lus, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?, lit., ox headed; ? ox + ? head.] 1. The celebrated war horse of Alexander the Great. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] 2. Hence, any riding horse. [Jocose] Sir W. Scott. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bucephălus — Bucephălus, s. Bukephalos …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Bucephălus — Bucephălus, s. Bukephalas …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Bucephalus — Bucephalus, Bukephalos (Stierkopf), hieß das Lieblingspferd Alexanders d. Gr., das er. vorher ungebändigt, noch als Knabe zu bändigen wußte, und um dessen Grabmal in Indien er eine Stadt, Bukephalia, anlegen ließ …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • BUCEPHALUS — Alexandri M. equus, a latitudine frontis sic dictus, vel ab aspectu torvo, vel ab insigni taurini capitis armo impressi, quô Alexander in certaminibus utebatur. Vide Plin. l. 8. c. 42. et Gellium l. 5. c. 2 hesychius, Βουκέφαλος, ἵππος… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Bucephalus — [byo͞o sef′ə ləs] n. [L, lit., ox headed < Gr bous, ox, COW1 + kephalē, head: see CEPHALIC] the war horse of Alexander the Great …   English World dictionary

  • Bucephalus — Alexander der Große mit Bukephalos (Alexandermosaik, Detail) Abbildungen der beiden auf einer makedonischen Bronzem …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • bucephalus — The absolute pinnacle of cool or awesome. OR Alexander the Breat s war horse. You just fell off that 40 story building and landed on your feet! That was bucephalus …   Dictionary of american slang

  • Bucephalus —    The charger (horse) of Alexander the Great. He was the only person who could mount Bucephalus …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

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