BITS ‘N’ PIECES
One of the most famous horses of antiquity, the favorite steed of Alexander the Great, was Bucephalus. He was a stunning black stallion with a white star on his brow. Bucephalus got his name from the Greek words “bous” and “kephalos.” “Bous” means ox and “kephalos” means head.
Bucephalus was first offered to Alexander’s father, King Philip II of Macedonia, in 346 BCE by horse trader Philoneicus of Thessaly. He had a huge price tag at 13 talents, which was around three times the cost of the average horse. However, no one was able to manage him as he was too wild. 13-year-old Alexander insisted he could tame the mighty stallion. Alexander made a deal with his father that if he failed to tame Bucephalus, he would pay for the stallion himself. However, he stunned the crowd by subduing the fiery stallion. Alexander tamed Bucephalus by calmly approaching him, speaking soothingly to the stallion. Realising that Bucephalus was distressed by the sight of his shadow, he calmly turned the horse’s head toward the sun. After this, Alexander was able to bridle him and mount him, taming the incredible stallion.
Bucephalus was Alexander the Great’s mount in numerous battles. He rode the black stallion from the conquest of the Greek city-states, along with Thebes, and even into India. During the final defeat of Darius III, Bucephalus was kidnapped while Alexander was away on a journey. After returning, Alexander was furious. He promised to cut down every tree and lay the countryside to waste, in addition to slaughtering every person within the region. The kidnappers quickly returned Bucephalus, desperately pleading for mercy.
Some historians believe Bucephalus died of wounds from the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BCE, whereas others believe he died of old age (30 years) after this battle. Alexander founded the city of Bucephala, named after Bucephalus. Many believe that Bucephala is the modern town of Jhelum, Pakistan. It is believed that Bucephalus is buried in Jalalpur Sharif, which is outside Jhelum, Punjab, Pakistan. A different account says that he is buried in Phalia, a town in Pakistan’s Punjab Province.
What makes a stone a gem? It boils down to a few key qualities – beauty and durability. And rarity makes a gem even more special, as is the case of the rarest of the rare gem painite. In 1957, two deep red stones from a batch donated to the Natural History Museum in London turned out to be completely new to science. A tiny slice from one crystal was used for research, and the new mineral was named “painite” after the original donor, the gem dealer Arthur Pain.
A third painite was identified in 1979, but it was not until 2001 that a fourth was found in Myanmar. By 2005, a source outcrop for painite was finally discovered, nearly half a century after the original identification. Several thousand stones have now been recovered, but the small number of cut gems remains the preserve of specialist collectors.
Painite’s extreme rarity is due to it containing the chemical elements zirconium and boron, which do not normally associate with each other in nature and don’t occur together in any other mineral. That is why, the tiny proportion of gem-quality stones still fetch US$60,000 per carat. There are about than 25 painite gemstones in the world. In 2005, painite was named the world’s rarest gemstone by the Guinness Book of World Records.