Eidem Alexandro et equi magna raritas contigit. Bucephalan eum vocarunt sive ab aspectu torvo sive ab insigni taurini capitis armo impressi. XVI talentis ferunt ex Philonici Pharsalii grege emptum, etiam tum puero capto eius decore. neminem hic alium quam Alexandrum regio instratu ornatus recepit in sedem, alias passim recipiens. idem in proeliis memoratae cuiusdam perhibetur operae, Thebarum oppugnatione vulneratus in alium transire Alexandrum non passus, multa praeterea eiusdem modi, propter quae rex defuncto ei duxit exsequias urbemque tumulo circumdedit nomine eius. nec Caesaris dictatoris quemquam alium recepisse dorso equus traduntur, idemque similes humanis pedes priores habuisse, hac effigie locatus ante Veneris Genetricis aedem. fecit et Divus Augustus equo tumulum, de quo Germanici Caesaris carmen est. Agrigenti conplurium equorum tumuli pyramides habent. equum adamatum a Samiramide usque in coitum Iuba auctor est. Scythici quidem equitatus equorum gloria strepunt: occiso regulo ex provocatione dimicante hostem, cum ad spoliandum venisset, ab equo eius ictibus morsuque confectum; alio detracto oculorum operimento et cognito cum matre coitu petiisse praerupta atque exanimatum. eadem ex causa in Reatino agro laceratum prorigam invenimus. namque et cognationum intellectus his est, atque in grege prioris anni sororem libentius etiam quam matrem equa comitatur. docilitas tanta est, ut universus Sybaritani exercitus equitatus ad symphoniae cantum saltatione quadam moveri solitus inveniatur. iidem praesagiunt pugnam et amissos lugent dominos: lacrimas interdum desiderio fundunt. interfecto Nicomede rege equus eius inedia vitam finivit. Phylarchus refert Centaretum e Galatis, in proelio occiso Antiocho, potitum equo eius conscendisse ovantem, at illum indignatione accensum domitis frenis, ne regi posset, praecipitem in abrupta isse exanimatumque una. Philistus a Dionysio relictum in caeno haerentem, ut se evellisset, secutum vestigia domini examine apium iubae inhaerente, eoque ostento tyrannidem a Dionysio occupatam. ingenia eorum inenarrabilia. iaculantes obsequia experiuntur difficiles conatus corpore ipso nisuque iuvantium; item tela humi collecta equiti porrigunt. nam in circo ad currus iuncti non dubie intellectum adhortationis et gloriae fatentur. Claudi Caesaris saecularium ludorum circensibus, excusso in carceribus auriga albati Corace, occupavere primatum, obtinuere opponentes, effundentes omniaque contra aemulos, quae debuissent peritissimo auriga insistente, facientes, cum puderet hominum artes ab equis vinci, peracto legitimo cursu ad cretam stetere. maius augurium apud priscos plebeis circensibus excusso auriga ita, ut si staret, in Capitolium cucurrisse equos aedemque ter lustrasse; maximum vero eodem pervenisse a Veis cum palma et corona, effuso Ratumenna qui ibi vicerat, unde postea nomen portae est. Sarmatae longinquo itineri inedia pridie praeparant eos, potum exiguum inpertientes, atque ita per centena milia et quinquaginta continuo cursu euntibus insident.
(Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. 8.154-162)
Alexander also had the good fortune to own a great rarity in horseflesh. They called the animal Bucephalus, either because of its fierce appearance or from the mark of a bull’s head branded on its shoulder. It is said that it was bought for sixteen talents a from the herd of Philonicus of Pharsalus while Alexander was still a boy, as he was taken by its beauty. This horse when adorned with the royal saddle would not allow itself to be mounted by anybody except Alexander, though on other occasions it allowed anybody to mount. It is also celebrated for a memorable feat in battle, not having allowed Alexander during the attack on Thebes to change to another mount when it had been wounded; and a number of occurrences of the same kind are also reported, on account of which when it died the king headed its funeral procession, and built a city round its tomb which he named after it. Also the horse that belonged to Caesar the Dictator is said to have refused to let anyone else mount it ; and it is also recorded that its fore feet were like those of a man, as it is represented in the statue that stands in front of the Temple of Venus Genetrix. The late lamented Augustus also made a funeral mound for a horse, which is the subject of a poem by Germanicus Caesar. At Girgenti a great number of horses’ tombs have pyramids over them. Juba attests that Semiramis fell so deeply in love with a horse that she married it. The Scythian cavalry regiments indeed resound with famous stories of horses: a chieftain was challenged to a duel by an enemy and killed, and when his adversary came to strip his body of its armour, his horse kicked him and bit him till he died; another horse, when its blinkers were removed and it found out that a mare it had covered was its dam, made for a precipice and committed suicide. We read that an ostler in the Reate district was savaged by a horse for the same reason. For horses actually understand the ties of relationship, and a filly in a herd is even fonder of going with a sister a year older than with their dam. Their docility is so great that we learn that the entire cavalry of the army of Sybaris used to perform a sort of ballet to the music of a band. The Sybarite horses also know beforehand when there is going to be a battle, and when they lose their masters mourn for them: sometimes they shed tears at the bereavement. When King Nicomedes was killed his horse ended its life by refusing food. Phylarchus records that when Antiochus fell in battle one of the Galatians Centaretus caught his horse and mounted it in triumph, but it was fired with indignation and taking the bit between its teeth so as to become unmanageable, galloped headlong to a precipice where it perished with its rider. Philistus records that Dionysius left his horse stuck in a bog, and when it extricated itself it followed its master’s tracks with a swarm of bees clinging to its mane; and that in consequence of this portent Dionysius seized the tyranny. The cleverness of horses is beyond description. Mounted javelinmen experience their docility in assisting difficult attempts with the actual swaying of their body; also they gather up the weapons lying on the ground and pass them to their rider. Horses harnessed to chariots in the circus unquestionably show that they understand the shouts of encouragement and applause. At the races in the circus forming part of the Secular Games of Claudius Caesar a charioteer of the Whites named Raven was thrown at the start, and his team took the lead and kept it by getting in the way of their rivals and jostling them aside and doing everything against them that they would have had to do with a most skilful charioteer in control, and as they were ashamed for human science to be beaten by horses, when they had completed the proper course they stopped dead at the chalk line. A greater portent was when in early days a charioteer was thrown at the plebeian circus races and the horses galloped on to the Capitol and raced round the temple three times just the same as if he still stood at the reins; but the greatest was when a chariot-team reached the same place from Veii with the palm-branch and wreath after Ratumenna who had won at Veii had been thrown: an event which subsequently gave its name to the gate. The Sarmatians get their horses into training for a long journey by giving them no fodder the day before and only allowing them a small amount of water, and by these means they ride them on a journey of 150 miles without drawing rein. (tr. Harris Rackham)