Alexander's Dramatic Meeting with Bucephalus

Bucephalus was Alexander the Great’s horse and is arguably  the most famous horse in history. It was this horse who declare Alexanders arrival. Alexander and Bucephalus’ initial meeting  demonstrated the true character of one of the greatest generals in all of history. Bucephalus came was to Macedonia as a present to King Phillip II (Alexander’s father) in 346 BCE by Philoneicus of Thessaly. The gift he almost returned as it was absolutely unmanageable an will  though he was with a price tag almost three times the norm (13 talents), the beautiful black horse stood taller than the normal Macedonian steed.

Alexander who was so far sitting with  his mother Olympias stood up an accused the handlers of being spineless. Biographer Plutarch in his work quoted Alexanders , “What as excellent horse do they lose for want of address and boldness to manage him.” Phillip wasn't too happy with the audacity displayed by young Alexander, especially because he himself didn't stand up to the challenge.



Amid wild laughter, Alexander approached the horse he would name Bucephalus calmly. He had realized something the others had not --- the horse was afraid of his own shadow. Turning Bucephalus toward the sun so his shadow was behind him and slowing taking the reins in his hand, Alexander mounted him. The laughter of the crowd turned to cheers as Alexander rode off.

According to Plutarch, as Alexander returned to the arena with Bucephalus and dismounted, Phillip came up with famous words,

“O my son look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.”

Historians claim this taming of the wild Bucephalus was a turning point in the young prince’s life, demonstrating the confidence and determination he was to show in his conquest of Asia.

Bucephalus and Alexander were inseparable; only Alexander could ride him, and indeed he did, into every battle from the conquest of the Greek city-states and Thebes through Gaugamela and into India. After the final defeat of Darius, Bucephalus was kidnapped while Alexander was away on excursion. Upon returning and learning of the theft, Alexander promised to fell every tree, lay the countryside to waste, and slaughter every inhabitant in the region. The horse was soon returned along with a plea for mercy.

Although historians disagree on the cause of the horse’s death - some claim he died from battle wounds - most agree he died of old age after the Battle of Hydaspes River (326 BCE). While Plutarch spoke of both possible causes of death, he cites Onesicritus, a historian who accompanied Alexander on his conquests, as stating the horse died of old age. However Bucephalus died, in mourning, Alexander founded a city in his beloved horse’s memory and named it Bucephala.

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