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Showing posts from December, 2010

Great Horse Stories - poem by Caspia

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CASPIA chestnut filly Rider: Prince Ochus
I am Caspia, named after the sea
where they found me orphaned and small.
They gave me to Aura, who had milk for her lost foal –
a curse on Alexander by the Persian god, they said.
So that makes me a blessing, I guess.

I am Caspia, friend of Prince Ochus,
who lost his mother just like me.
Together we crossed mountains, high and cold,
breathing ice while men and horses died
And Alexander looked for the edge of the world.

I am Caspia, joker of the herd.
Wearing elephant skin, the other horses took fright
so I lay in the mud and made everyone laugh.
Alexander did not fear elephants, they said.
The Indians would die when they battled us.

I am Caspia, who fought at the Indus,
where Bucephalas fell and did not get up.
I smelled elephants so I lay in the mud
but forgot Prince Ochus, whose spirit I crushed.
The day was lost and the rain never stopped.

I am Caspia. I only tried my best.
They discharged me from the army and let me rest.
I saw Bucephalas…

Great Horse Stories - Zephyr's Story

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ZEPHYR dun mare Rider: Philotas
Philotas was the one who named me Zephyr. Before that, I was just “the dun mare”. I don’t have pretty dapples like Aura, and I’m not a mare-who-thinks-she’s-a-stallion like Harpinna. I’m the sort of mare nobody notices. Maybe that’s why Bucephalas never made a foal with me?

Philotas grumbles it’s the same for him. “Nobody notices how bravely I fight,” he told me one day at the start of the war with Persia, back when we were still part of Alexander’s special Guard. “I’m just 'General Parmenio’s son'... and I don't think Alexander likes me.” I whinnied in sympathy, because we all knew Alexander didn’t like old Parmenio very much. That’s probably why he threw me and Philotas out of the Guard as soon as he could get away with it and gave us some Greek cavalry to command, whose horses wouldn’t mind being bossed about by a dun mare.

Philotas was pretty pleased with his promotion at first. But he soon worked out we were always ordered to fight the mo…

Great Horse Christmas Story - Zoroaster's Story

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ZOROASTER White gelding Rider: none
I am the Sacred Horse of the Sun, named after the prophet Zoroaster, which makes me immortal – so this is going to be a happy story with no horses dying in it. I travelled with the Persian King Darius, until Alexander captured his camp after the battle of Issus. I survived in Bucephalas’ herd because I was gelding and not expected to fight. Then, a few hundred years after Alexander died, I carried a small white kitten out of Persia hidden in my mane (thank you, catdownunder!) and joined the Magi, who were following a star into the west.

Their camels were laden with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for a newborn king, and they took me along as their fourth gift – a beautiful white horse for the young prince to ride when he was grown. I wore my finest tasselled cloth and a bridle of soft red leather, with silver bells plaited into my mane and tail, just like I was on parade. They make such a pretty tinkling when I trot.

Soon we came to a little tow…

Great Horse Stories - Xanthus' Story by Alzrith

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Xanthus Chestnut stallion Rider: Craterus
Today the Muse is delighted to bring you a story written specially for this blog series by Alzrith, who chose to talk to Xanthus... enjoy!  

My name is Xanthus, and you should know right away that I'm no Black Beauty

No, that isn't proper. It's Bucephalas' line. I should think of a better one to impress those fools of horses leaning over the wooden rails to reach the carrots the grooms dangle teasingly before our eyes. Some horses manage to reach carrots and crunch them with their teeth, but most squeal softly in frustration. I stay in the middle of the ring of wooden rails. To me, it's prison. I ignore some grooms whistling like birds to me, dangling some carrots. I’d rather eat the dirt inside my hooves.

My coat is the colour of glittering yellow metals from the deepest mines, but that’s where the resemblance stops. I have a big head well-proportioned to my muscular, equine body; most of my scars are etched forever on my back…

Great Horse Stories - poem by Borealis

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BOREALIS Brown stallion Rider: Leonnatus
I was named after the North Wind, but crueller winds blow on me today bringing ice from the edge of the world to chill my pale bones
Which haunt the trail where I lay down to rest during our march up and over the highest pass of the Hindu Kush.
My friends trotted down into the mist leaving me with a mane full of snow. If I wait here long enough they will return for me, I know.
Leonnatus will bring me a warm cloth, honeyed oats and a bridle of gold - See, here they come now all in a froth from climbing the trail so steep and cold.
I greet them with a whinny of delight, and watch my bold friend Bucephalas rear up high and pick a fight with King Alexander, no less.
Oh, he is acting wild! And now the other horses are taking fright. I can't understand why they won’t pass, until I get out of their way at last.
Now Alexander jumps off to take the lead and approaches me, all squinting and slow. “Borealis?” he whispers, “Are you still here?” So where else did he expect me to go?

Great Horse Stories - Harpinna's Story

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HARPINNA
Roan mare
Rider: Ptolemy

Harpinna here. I might be a mare, but I’ve never been much interested in foals. When Ptolemy chose me to be part of Alexander’s guard, I saw my chance to learn from the great Bucephalas, who has seen more battles than any of us and has the scars to prove it. I’ve fought at his side in the mountains of Thrace, outside the thick walls of Thebes, and at the battle of the River Granicus… where he finally he noticed me. While we were having a breather at Halicarnassus, he broke his tether to visit me in the night.

I thought he’d come to do mutual grooming with me, like he does sometimes with his best friend Petasios. But I was in season, so he’d come to make a foal with me instead. I fought him like a stallion, with my hooves and teeth. He won, though, and little Hoplite was born on our way down the coast. Don’t ask me where. It was a quick birth, and we marched on as soon as my colt could trot after me (which wasn’t very long, because all foals can walk w…

Great Horse Stories – Bucephalas’ foals.

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Bucephalas took time off from fighting to sire three foals: Electra, Hoplite, and Indus. Now they are grown, the Muse is delighted to bring you this exclusive interview with them.


Q. I know Bucephalas fathered all of you, but who was your mother?
Electra: Psylla. She’s dead now, but she was really brave. She was smaller than me, but she carried Alexander at the Battle of Granicus after Bucephalas got captured by the Persians, and she died fighting. I am determined to fight like her and make Bucephalas proud of me!
Hoplite: Harpinna. She’s got silly white speckles in her coat and she passed them on to me, so I’m not all black like Bucephalas. Alexander says I’ve inherited her bad temper, too. He can talk.
Indus: Aura! She had a stillborn foal before me, so she’s really protective. When the horsemaster tried to steal me in India, she got really fierce and reared up and knocked him over. Her coat’s white with age now, but I gather she was quite a looker when she was younger.

Q. Where were you…

Great Horse Stories - Apollo's story.

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APOLLO Palomino stallion
Rider: Perdiccas
They call me Apollo after the sun god, and (as you can probably tell from my portrait) I was not born to be a warhorse.

It’s obvious King Philip bought me for my beauty. When the sun shines, my coat glows gold and my mane gleams pale as ripe flax. When the grooms comb it out properly, my tail ripples like a banner AND I can carry it just as high as any silly Persian gelding! I should have been Prince Alexander’s royal horse. We should all have stayed at home in Pella and taken part in parades, where everyone would have thrown rose petals over us and cheered, without us having to fight any bloody battles in the wilds of Asia.

But then Bucephalas turned up, and the silly boy decided he’d rather ride a battle-scarred old warhorse than a handsome parade horse like me. Of course Bucephalas made himself huge and pranced about like an overgrown colt, which went to Alexander’s head. Pretty soon all his friends started talking about war, and before I kne…

Great Horse Stories - Psylla's Story

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PSYLLA Dark bay mare Rider: Hector
My name's Psylla, and I was the first of our herd to have a foal by Bucephalas! True, Aura was away at the time, or it might not have happened. But the new horsemaster didn’t realize I was in season when he turned me out in the pasture, and Bucephalas had not run with a mare for years, and… well, one thing led to another. Anyway, eleven months later I gave birth to a beautiful black filly. She was big like her sire, so it wasn’t easy getting her out, but I’m a determined mare and managed it in the middle of the night without any help. I do so hate to make a fuss. It was hard to leave my sweet filly behind when we left for Persia, but she was much too young to fight. The grooms called her Electra, and promised she would join us just as soon as she was old enough to be ridden. I didn’t know I would not live to see that day.

The Persian army was waiting for us at the River Granicus. Though it was after sunset, Alexander immediately galloped Bucephalas…

Greek National Literature Translator Award

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The Muse interrupts the Great Horse stories to bring you some exciting news… we have just heard that the lovely Anna Vasileiadi-Dardalis has been nominated for the National Literature Translator Award by the Greek Ministry of Culture for her fabulous translation of “I am the Great Horse” into the Greek language.

For an interview with Anna, see this post.

Congratulations, Anna! Wishing you the best of luck in the next stage.