Explorers, Scientists & Inventors

Musicians, Painters & Artists

Poets, Writers & Philosophers

Native Americans & The Wild West

First Ladies





Royal Families

Tribes & Peoples


Famous Speeches in History


Assassinations in History
Who got slain, almost slain, when, how, why, and by whom?

Go to the Assassination Archive

King John of England 1167-1216


Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible 1530 - 1584


Adolf Hitler 1889 - 1945



Online History Dictionary A - Z

Online History Dictionary A - Z


About Mata Hari


All-Time Records in History
What was the bloodiest battle, the battle with the least casualties, who was the greatest military leader?

Go to Records in History




Alexander and Bucephalus in Battle
Alexander and Bucephalus in Battle
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli


Bucephalus was Alexander the Great's favorite horse.

Image Above

Alexander on his horse Bucephalus fighting in the battle of Issus against Darius III of Persia.

Detail from the huge Alexander Mosaic floor that was originally in the House of the Faun in Pompeii, Pompeii's largest house.

The mosaic is

317 cm or 10 ft 4 inch high


555 cm or 18 ft 2 inch long

and you can see it now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples on the wall.

The scene is most likely from the Battle of Issus, which was fought in 333 BC. If not, it has to be from the Battle of Gaugamela, fought in 331 BC.

Here is more on the
Battle of Issus.

And here is more on Darius III.


Zooming in on the mosaic . . .  


Bucephalus in Action
Bucephalus in Action
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli


And zooming all the way out . . .

The Alexander Mosaic. Once the Floor Decoration of a Financially Comfortable Roman Family. Now at a Museum Wall in Naples.
The Alexander Mosaic. Once the Floor Decoration of a Financially
Comfortable Roman Family. Now at a Museum Wall in Naples.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli



What's With the Name?

Alexander named his horse after its looks.

The horse's head reminded of an ox, ergo Bucephalus, which literally means ox-head and makes sense if you speak Greek:

βους = vous (phonetically) = ox

κεφαλη = kefáli (phonetically) = head


Who Tells Us About Bucephalus?

Greek historian Plutarch was born in 46 AD.

In his Parallel Lives he wrote:


Philonicus the Thessalian brought the horse Bucephalus 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 endeavoured 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 hands, 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 only 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."


The Taming of Bucephalus
The Taming of Bucephalus

Engraving (1898-1899) by André Castaigne (1861-1929)

Image above, heads left to right:



Pliny the Elder also lived in the first century AD.

Pliny had enough to say about pretty much anything, so he wrote his own encyclopedia and titled it Natural History.

In Book 8, Chapter 42, he tells us:

Pliny the Elder

The same Alexander the Great, of whom erewhile wee spake, had a very straunge and rare horse, whom men called Bucephalus, either for his crabbed and grim looke, or else of the marke or brand of a buls head, which was imprinted udpon his shoulder.

It is reported, that Alexander being but a child, seeing this faire horse, was in love with him, and bought him out of the breed and race of Philonicus the Pharsalian, and for him paied sixteene talents. He would suffer no man to sit him, nor come upon his backe, but Alexander; and namely, when hee had the kings saddle on, and was also trapped with roiall furniture: for otherwise hee would admit any whomsoever.

The same horse was of a passing good and memorable service in the warres: and namely, being wounded upon a time at the assault of Thebes, he would not suffer Alexander to alight from his backe, and mount upon another. Many other strange and wonderfull things hee did: in regard whereof, when he was dead, the king solemnized his funerals most sumptuously; erected a tombe for him, and about built it built a citie that bare his name, Bucephalia.



Aulus Gellius, who lived in the 2nd century AD,
knew about Bucephalus as well.

We read in his Attic Nights, book 5, chapter 2:

Aulus Gellius


About the horse of king Alexander, called Bucephalas.

The horse of king Alexander was called Bucephalas because of the shape of his head.

Chares wrote that he was bought for thirteen talents and given to king Philip; that amount in Roman money is three hundred and twelve thousand sesterces.

It seemed a noteworthy characteristic of this horse that when he was armed and equipped for battle, he would never allow himself to be mounted by any other than the king.

It is also related that Alexander in the war against India, mounted upon that horse and doing valorous deeds, had driven him, with disregard of his own safety, too far into the enemies' ranks. The horse had suffered deep wounds in his neck and side from the weapons hurled from every hand at Alexander, but though dying and almost exhausted from loss of blood, he yet in swiftest course bore the king from the midst of the foe; but when he had taken him out of range of the weapons, the horse at once fell, and satisfied with having saved his master breathed his last, with indications of relief that were almost human.

Then king Alexander, after winning the victory in that war, founded a city in that region and in honour of his horse called it Bucephalon.


Even history buff Sir Walter Scott weaved the name of
this famous horse into one of his novels. By then, Bucephalus had become a synonym for impressive horse.

Here is an excerpt from the 1814 novel Waverley:

Sir Walter Scott

. . . over the chimney in the library, beneath a picture of the knight and his horse, where the features were almost entirely hidden by the knight’s profusion of curled hair, and the Bucephalus which he bestrode concealed by the voluminous robes of the Bath with which he was decorated.



Bucephalus — The Legend

Apparently, the Delphic oracle was consulted by Alexander's father Philip who wanted to know name and address of his successor. The oracle announced something to the effect that,

He shall be king over the whole world and shall subject all to his power, whosoever shall leap upon the horse Bucephalus and ride through the center of Pella.


Hence Philip's big eyes at Alexander's aforementioned taming of the wild steed.


Bucephalus — Death & Legacy

Bucephalus was severely wounded during a brave performance in the  Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, and died shortly after that battle.

Alexander named a city after his horse, Alexandria Bucephalus, which is located somewhere in today's Pakistan.




Bronze Statue of Alexander on Bucephalus
Bronze Statue of Alexander on Bucephalus
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli


This statue is 49 cm or 19 inch high and 47 cm or 18 inch long. It was found near the theater in Ercolano, Italy, on October 22, 1761.

Ercolano, by the way, used to be Herculaneum until  Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.

And who died of the toxic fumes that erupted from Vesuvius that year?

That's right, Pliny the Elder, the one who had written about Bucephalus, and the very one whose quote above you might or might not have read.


Here is more about Alexander the Great.

And here is Bucephalus at Fontainebleau.




More History

Previous Page


Back to

First Page

Back to
Famous Animals -
Main Page


Next Page

Smokey Bear



The American Revolution - Its Casualties, Its Battles, Its Impact


People in History

People in History A

People in History B

People in History Ca - Char

People in History Chas - Cz

People in History D

People in History E

People in History F

People in History G

People in History H

People in History I

People in History J - K

People in History L

People in History M

People in History N - O

People in History P - Q

People in History R

People in History S

People in History T

People in History U - Z

Explorers, Scientists & Inventors

Musicians, Painters & Artists

Poets, Writers & Philosophers

Native Americans & The Wild West

First Ladies





Royal Families

Tribes & Peoples


Wars, Battles & Revolutions

Wars & Revolutions A

Wars & Revolutions B - E

Wars & Revolutions F - G

Wars & Revolutions H - J

Wars & Revolutions K - O

Wars & Revolutions P - R

Wars & Revolutions S - Z

Wars & Revolutions Chronological

Battles A - C

Battles D - G

Battles H - L

Battles M - P

Battles Q - Z

Battles Ancient Times - 1499

Battles 1500 - 1699

Battles 1700 - 1799

Battles 1800 - 1899

Battles 1900 - Today

Picture Archive

History Pictures A - C

History Pictures D - M

History Pictures N - Z


Speech Archive

Speeches by Topic

Speeches by Speaker

Speeches by Date

Speeches by Women

Speeches by African-Americans

Speeches by U.S. Presidents


History Dictionary A - F

History Dictionary G - Z

Source Text - By Title

Source Text - By Author

Historic Documents A - K

Historic Documents L - Z

Historic Documents Chronological

Assassinations in History

Voyages in History

Castles & Palaces

Music in History

History Movies



Kids & History


About Us

Write Me



Sitemap 01   Sitemap 02   Sitemap 03    Sitemap 04   Sitemap 05   Sitemap 06  
Sitemap 07   Sitemap 08   Sitemap 09    Sitemap 10   Sitemap 11   Sitemap 12
Sitemap 13   Sitemap 14   Sitemap 15    Sitemap 16   Sitemap 17   Sitemap 18
Sitemap 19   Sitemap 20   Sitemap 21    Sitemap 22   Sitemap 23   Sitemap 24

Site Search














© 2016 Emerson Kent