LD Philonicus of Thessaly was the most famous
horse-raiser of his time. His stables were talked about
from the Adriatic Sea to the Persian Gulf, and many of
the best war steeds in Greece and Asia Minor had been
bred and partially trained by him. He prided himself
particularly on his "ox-headed" horses—broad-browed
fellows, with large polls and small, sharp ears, set
far apart. Proud creatures these were, and strong, and
knowing, and high-spirited—just the kind for war
steeds; and that was about all that horses were valued
for in those days.
Among these "ox-heads" there was one which excelled all
others in mettle, beauty, and size, but which,
nevertheless, was a source of great concern to his
master. He seemed to be altogether untamable, and,
although he was now fourteen years old, there was not a
horseman in Greece who had ever been able to mount him.
He was a handsome creature—coal-black, with a white
 in his forehead. One eye was gray and the other
brown. Everybody admired him, and people came great
distances to see him. Had Philonicus been less shrewd,
he would have sold him for half the price of a common
steed, and been glad that he was rid of him. But, like
most men who spend their lives among horses, he knew a
thing or two. He kept the horse's untamableness a
secret, and was careful that only his good points
should be exhibited. Everybody who had any use for such
an animal wanted to buy him.
"What is the price?"
"Thirteen thousand dollars."
That answer usually put an end to the talk.
For, as an ordinary horse might be bought at that time
for about seventy dollars, and a thoroughbred war steed
for two hundred, who was going to pay such a fabulous
price? Half a dozen fine houses could be built for that
money. There were rich men who made Philonicus some
very handsome offers—a thousand dollars, five
thousand, eight thousand—but he held steadily to his
first price, and the longer he held to it the more
anxious everybody became to buy.
At last, however, after the horse had reached middle
age, shrewd Philonicus got his price.
 King Philip of Macedon, who was ambitious to become the
first man of Greece, was the purchaser; and Philonicus,
after hearing the gold pieces jingle in his strong-box,
led the great Bucephalus up to the Macedonian capital
and left him safely housed in the king's stalls. He was
careful, no doubt, to get back into his own country
before Philip had had time to give the steed any kind
You may imagine what followed. When the horse was
brought out upon the parade ground for trial the
skilfullest riders in Macedon could not mount him. He
reared and plunged, and beat madly around with his
sharp hoofs, until everybody was glad to get safely out
of his reach. The greatest horse-tamers of the country
were called, but they could do nothing.
"Take him away!" cried the king, at last, in great
rage. "That man Philonicus has sold me an utterly wild
and unbroken beast, under pretense of his being the
finest horse in the world; but he shall rue it."
But now Bucephalus would not be led away. The
horse-tamers tried to throw ropes over his feet; they
beat him with long poles; they pelted him with stones.
 "What a shame to spoil so fine a horse! The awkward
cowards know nothing about handling him!" cried the
king's son, Alexander, who was standing by.
"Are you finding fault with men who are wiser than
yourself?" asked the king, growing still more angry.
"Do you, a boy twelve years old, pretend to know more
about handling horses than these men, whose business it
"I can certainly handle this horse better," said the
"Suppose you try it!"
"I wish that I might."
"How much will you forfeit if you try, and fail?"
"I will forfeit the price which you paid for the
horse," answered Alexander.
Everybody laughed, but the king said, "Stand away, and
let the lad try his skill."
Alexander ran quickly to the horse and turned his head
toward the sun, for he had noticed that the animal was
afraid of his own shadow. Then he spoke softly and
gently to him, and kindly stroked his neck. The horse
seemed to know that he had found a friend, and little
by little his uneasiness left him. Soon with a light
 lad leaped nimbly upon his back, and without
pulling the reins too hard, allowed him to start off at
his own gait; and then, when he saw that the horse was
no longer afraid, but only proud of his speed, he urged
him with voice and spur to do his utmost. The king and
his attendants were alarmed, and expected every moment
to see the boy unseated and dashed to the ground.
But when he turned and rode back, proud of his daring
feat, everybody cheered and shouted—everybody but his
father, who wept for joy and, kissing him, said:
must look for a kingdom which is worthy of you, my son,
for Macedonia is too small for
After that, Bucephalus would allow his groom to mount
him barebacked; but when he was saddled nobody but
Alexander dared touch him. He would even kneel to his
young master, in order that he might mount more easily;
and for sixteen years thereafter he served him as
faithfully as horse ever served man. Of course, he was
with Alexander when he conquered Persia, and he carried
him into more than one hard-fought battle. At one time
(I think it was in Hyrcania) he was stolen; but his
master made proclamation that
un-  less he were
forthcoming within a certain time, every man, woman,
and child in the province should be put to death, and
it was not long before he was brought back.
In the great battle that was fought with King Porus, of
India, Alexander recklessly rode too far into the
enemy's ranks. The horse and his rider became the
target for every spear, and for a time it seemed as if
neither could escape. But the gallant Bucephalus,
pierced by many weapons, and with streams of blood
flowing from his neck and sides, turned about and,
overriding the foes which beset them, rushed back to a
place of safety. When he saw that his master was out of
danger and among friends, the horse sank down upon the
grass and died. Historians say that this happened in
the year 327 B.C., and that Bucephalus had reached the
good old age—for a horse—of thirty years. Alexander
mourned for him as for his dearest friend, and the next
city which he founded he named Bucephalia, in honor of
the steed that had served him so well.
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