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Unicorns and Warriors

Unicorns have been connected with three famous warriors—Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Genghis Khan.

Julius Caesar

In his account of the conquest of Gaul, Caesar wrote about various strange creatures said to inhabit the Hercynian Forest in Germany. Included among these was "An ox shaped like a stag from the middle of whose forehead, between the ears, stands forth a single horn, taller and straighter than the horns we know."

Alexander the Great

It is said that Alexander rode a Karkadann—the famous Bucephalus, described as having the body of a horse and the head of a lion. This was a creature Alexander had first encountered when he was about 13 years old. It had been presented for sale to his father, King Philip of Macedonia. However, it lashed out so furiously at every attempt to mount it that Philip's champion riders soon gave up. The animal was about to be led away as totally useless and intractable. But Alexander protested, claiming he could ride it. His father, thinking to teach him a little humility, allowed Alexander to try on the condition that if he failed, he would have to pay the entire cost of the beast (13 talents). And he told Alexander that if he succeeded in taming it, he would give it to him as a gift. Alexander was able to tame the unicorn by approaching it as an animal who could only be ridden with its own consent, not a horse whose will needed to be broken. It is said that after Alexander successfully rode the unicorn, the king shed tears of joy and pride and said to Alexander: "Oh my son, look out for a kingdom equal and worthy of you, for Macedonia is too small to contain you."

Many think Bucephalus was only a horse, but others claim he was actually a Karkadann or unicorn. Reportedly, Alexander spoke softly to him, stroked him and leaned against him. The Karkadann was fearless against demons and allowed Alexander to tame griffins. Bucephalus remained with Alexander almost to the end of both their lives and was ridden by him into every major battle during his conquest of Egypt and the Persian Empire. Legend and history agree that Bucephalus died during Alexander's last great battle with King Porus of India. Only the cause of his death is disputed, whether it was from wounds, old age or simple exhaustion. His death marked a change in Alexander's fortunes--his legendary luck deserted him and his character, which had already begun to show signs of instability, took a rapid turn for the worse. He won the battle against King Porus, but only barely. His army refused to go any further and Alexander was forced to turn back. He decided to explore the coast along the way, leading to thousands of his troops perishing as they crossed the Makran Desert in what is now southern Pakistan. The number of soldiers who died during this trek has been estimated at 80,000. While Alexander faced all hardships on equal terms with his men, the high death toll undermined his support. Back home in the heart of his Persian Empire, Alexander first began working on restoring order. He then started planning an expedition to circle Africa to the gates of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Royal Diaries, following a celebratory banquet, Alexander became ill with some type of fever. It didn't seem all that serious at first, but after twelve days of steady deterioration, he died at the young age of 32. The exact cause of his death is still a mystery; some believe he may even have been murdered. After all his exploits and risks, it was a rather ignoble death for the man who'd conquered so much of the known world during his lifetime.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was one of the most powerful rulers of China. He acquired an empire which stretched from Korea to Persia. His father was especially important in his life. Kahn's quest for power grew even stronger after his father's death. Many believe Kahn was trying to fulfill a promise he made to his father. Before each battle, he would ask for his father's guidance in the task ahead. In 1224, Kahn's army marched toward India. No one was able to stop him as his armies conquered town after town and marched over mountain after mountain, moving ever closer to his next great victory. Finally they reached the last mountain - he was ready to conquer India. Kahn arose before sunrise and climbed to the top of the mountain to plan for the coming battle. When he reached the top, he stopped in amazement. There was no army to meet his. There were no soldiers at all. Then from behind a large boulder stepped a strange beast. It was small, about the size of a young deer, green, and it had a single horn of red and black protruding from its forehead. Kahn stood motionless in amazement. What did this mean? He recognized this beast. It was the Ch'i lin, the unicorn of whom he had heard many legends and tales. The Ch'i lin walked slowly and silently toward him and stopped in front of him, its eyes locked on Khan's. Then the unicorn knelt three times at Khan's feet in a sign of reverence. The air began to shimmer and a strange fragrance enveloped Khan--a scent he had not experienced in a very long time. And for the first time in his life, Khan felt fear. As Khan looked into the unicorn's eyes, they began to change. Then a strange familiar feeling crept over him. It was a feeling Khan had felt when his father was alive. As he looked at the unicorn, he realized the eyes of his father were gazing at him from the unicorn's eyes. Khan was truly afraid now because it had been nearly 50 years since his father's death. Then he heard his father's voice in his head, as clear as if his father was standing right next to him. In the distance Khan could faintly hear the sounds of his army as they grew restless waiting for the signal to attack. Still he did not move. Then the air grew clear and still around him, the fragrance he'd always associated with his father faded and the eyes of the unicorn were its own again. Slowly Khan turned away from the unicorn and looked down upon his army gathered below. A hush fell over them as they waited for Khan to speak. He briefly closed his eyes, and then spoke loud and clear, his voice touching every ear. "Turn back!" he said. "My father has warned me not to go on." Turning his back on his army, he looked once more upon the strange creature before him and tears filled his eyes. The unicorn lifted its head and was gone. India had been saved from almost certain conquest by the miraculous intervention of a unicorn!

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