From Fortean Times 156 (March, 2002):

Some ancient equinities to complement the modern ones in FT149:16.

Fort - no hippophile, he - has only (Books, p89) a sceptical mention of the horse carried away Dorothy-style by a Wisconsin tornado on 23 May 1878. This actually happened to many animals here at Sylvan Lake, Alberta, in July 2000.

The FT piece calls rare the Russian equine cemetery at Tsarskoye Selo. Ancient steeds were routinely buried from the Bronze Age on. Of especial Russian relevance are the Scythian interments at royal funerals described by Herodotus (Histories, bk4 chs71-3) and Lucian (On Funerals, ch14), confirmed by modern archaeology, e.g. DC Kurz & J Boardman, Greek Burial Customs (Thames & Hudson, London, 1)71, p3 19). Herodotus also (bk6 ch101) mentions the burial at Athens opposite their driver Cleon of the mares that won him three Olympic chariot races. Pliny (Natural History, bk8 ch64 para 155) says "a great number of horses' graves at Agrigentum have pyramids over them," also that Augustus' grand mound for one inspired a poem by prince Germanicus. Various horse bones turned up at the second-century AD Roman cavalry tort at Newstead; cf. JK Anderson, Ancient Greek Horsemanship (Univ. California, BerkeleyLA, 1967, p25).

In Homer's Iliad (bk 19 vv403-23), Achilles' horse Xanthos suddenly prophesies his master's impending death. A suggestive poetic conceit: in Julius Obsequens' Book of Prodigies (culled from Livy), horses don't speak, cow/dogs/oxen being the loquacious ones; cf. Fort (pp862-70) for the chattering canine classes.

Herodotus (bk5 ch I ) without any details - confound him! - says the Paeonians and Perinthians settled their war with three simultaneous duels: man v. man, dug v. Jog, horse v. horse.

Less familiar than Alexander Bucephalus is Julius Caesar's horse, described by Suetonius (Life of JC, ch 61 ) as "remarkable, with almost human feet, its hooves cloven like rues." Caesar tame) and alone could ride this beast (soothsayers declared it presaged his future power), marking its demise with a temple.

In unlucky contrast, the horse of Seius became proverbial after its four successive owners all died violently - Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, hk3 ch9. (Tiny (bk8 ch64 paras l54-66) and Aelian (On Animals, also Historical Miscellany) have repertories of horse stories. Both reproduce Aristotle's (History of Animals, ch545 pats 20) 75-year-old mare; the modern longevity record in 1) Walleschinsky/ A&I Irving, Book of Lists I (Bantam, NY, 1977, 11133) is 46. King Antiochus Soter (280-261 BC) was avenged by his horse which killed the Gaul who'd killed him. The Olympic mare Aura, having thrown her rider Phidolas at the start, carried on racing, came in first, realised she'd won, and pulled up, whereupon the judges awarded Phidolas the prize - has this ever happened at Aintree or Epsom? Rather differently Disneyesque was the horse so enamoured of its boy-owner
Socles that it nod to tape him, and when promptly sold, committed suicide by self-starvation.

Rome was horse-mad (Lucian, Nigrinus, chl9). Less so the Byzantines, who replaced the classical term `Hippos' by the modern 'Alogo' (Stupid Thing; the feminine form also means Ugly Woman), a semantic shift unlikely to engender good horse stories. Not so in the West, suitably-, since Graeco-Roman superstition credited West Winds with impregnating mares. Jacques de Vitry (d. 1240), Exempla, ch38, has one with an understanding of prayers and a moral sense. Papys (Diaries, I Sept 1668) was much impressed by a horse that could count money and which "did come to me, when she was bid to go to him of the company that most lov'd a pretty wench in a corner" - it got the famously randy Pepys bang to right! Had this equine any descent from Banks' bay, Morocco, whose similar tricks also included money-counting, advertised in Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost (1.2.53-7); cf. Wallechinsky & Co., Lists 2 (Bantam, NY, 1980, p105) for other similarly smart steeds.

Barry Baldwin
(reprinted with permission of the Author; blame any typically graphic transcription errors on dm, who this week had to contend with an OCR program which insisted on rendering "Pliny" as "Puny")