Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alexander and the taming of Bucephalus afraid of his own shadow-the prodigy

Alexander yet a boy had preternatural wisdom as if from another source and this was recognized by the Persian ambassadors.It exceeded the sum of his education from his teachers named in this passage by Plutarch. His gallery of teachers was most prestigious.

  • Leonidas. Lysimachus the Acarnanian

  • Alexander Achilles, and Philip Peleus

  • He was bent on action and glory and not riches and the inactive life

  • His genius was presaged and full blown early in years but not yet accomplished

  • Whence did it derive? From the gods as spoken of at his birth?

  • The taming of Bucephalus- he turned the horse directly toward the Sun and observed that he was afraid of his own shadow, How full of wisdom and discernment the young Alexander was exceeding that of the adult world at this time.

While he was yet very young, he entertained the ambassadors from the king
of Persia, in the absence of his father, and entering much into conversation
with them, gained so much upon them by his affability, and the questions he
asked them, which were far from being childish or trifling, (for he inquired of
them the length of the ways, the nature of the road into inner Asia, the
character of their king, how he carried himself to his enemies, and what forces
he was able to bring, into the field,) that they were struck with admiration of
him, and looked upon the ability so much famed of Philip, to be nothing in
comparison with the forwardness and high purpose that appeared thus early in his
Whenever he heard Philip had taken any town of importance, or won any
signal victory, instead of rejoicing at it altogether, he would tell his
companions that his father would anticipate everything, and leave him and them
no opportunities of performing great and illustrious actions. For being more
bent upon action and glory than either upon pleasure or riches, he esteemed all
that he should receive from his father as a diminution and prevention of his own
future achievements; and would have chosen rather to succeed to a kingdom
involved in troubles and wars,
which would have afforded him frequent exercise
of his courage, and a large field of honor, than to one already flourishing and
settled, where his inheritance would be an inactive life, and the mere enjoyment
of wealth and luxury.
The care of his education, as it might be presumed, was
committed to a great many attendants, preceptors, and teachers, over the whole
of whom Leonidas, a near kinsman of Olympias, a man of an austere temper,
who did not indeed himself decline the name of what in reality is a
noble and honorable office, but in general his dignity, and his near
relationship, obtained him from other people the title of Alexander's foster
father and governor. But he who took upon him the actual place and style of his
pedagogue, was Lysimachus the Acarnanian, who, though he had nothing specially
to recommend him, but his lucky fancy of calling himself Phoenix, Alexander
Achilles, and Philip Peleus,
was therefore well enough esteemed, and ranked in
the next degree after Leonidas.
Philonicus the Thessalian brought the horse
Bucephalas to Philip, offering to sell him for thirteen talents; but when they
went into the field to try him, they found him so very vicious and unmanageable,
that he reared up when they endeavored to mount him, and would not so much as
endure the voice of any of Philip's attendants. Upon which, as they were leading
him away as wholly useless and untractable, Alexander, who stood by, said, "What
an excellent horse do they lose, for want of address and boldness to manage
him!" Philip at first took no notice of what he said; but when he heard him
repeat the same thing several times, and saw he was much vexed to see the horse
sent away, "Do you reproach," said he to him, "those who are older than
yourself, as if you knew more, and were better able to manage him than they?" "I
could manage this horse," replied he, "better than others do." "And if you do
not," said Philip, "what will you forfeit for your rashness?" "I will pay,"
answered Alexander, "the whole price of the horse." At this the whole company
fell a laughing; and as soon as the wager was settled amongst them, he
immediately ran to the horse, and taking hold of the bridle, turned him directly
towards the sun, having, it seems, observed that he was disturbed at and afraid
of the motion of his own shadow; then letting him go forward a little, still
keeping the reins in his hand, and stroking him gently when he found him begin
to grow eager and fiery, he let fall his upper garment softly, and with one
nimble leap securely mounted him, and when he was seated, by little and little
drew in the bridle, and curbed him without either striking or spurring him.
Presently, when he found him free from all rebelliousness, and on]y impatient
for the course, he let him go at full speed, inciting him now with a commanding
voice, and urging him also with his heel. Philip and his friends looked on at
first in silence and anxiety for the result, till seeing him turn at the end of
his career, and come back rejoicing and triumphing for what he had performed,
they all burst out into acclamations of applause; and his father, shedding
tears, it is said, for joy, kissed him as he came down from his horse, and in
his transport, said, "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of
thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee."

1 comment:

  1. Bucephalus mocked at fear and did not turn away from the sword. Swallowing the ground
    with fierce rage during battle. Trained to charge during the sound and smell of war.