Hung like a horse
Do you know the story of the stallion who was tricked into having sex with its mother and committed suicide?
The Oedipal horse yarn (no aspersions cast on the cast of the Benetton ad, right) was a popular one in the science books of yesteryear.
The study of medical text books from antiquity is apt to make us wonder how any rider - or his stallion - ever survived treament by such writers.
Your trusty steed looking a bit rough?
The vet's got a nice moral homily for it - and for you.
Then just occasionally, even in the christian-pagan turmoil of the fourth century AD, there is a glimpse of genuine descripion, vivid observation, precise use of empirical method, a trace of the scientific future.
I don't recommend that anyone read all of the Hippiatrica, the Byzantine Encyclopaedia of Horse Medicine.
There's magic, moralising, and every kind of anthopomorphic claptrap useful for neither man nor beast.
But there are also surviving studies of something identifiably different.
The best are by a man called Theomnestus who was a Greek in the service of the Emperor Licinius, that ruler of Byzantium who became rather overshadowed (right) by his successor Constantine.
Theomnestus describes how he was riding with the Emperor over the Alps on an emergency trip to Italy when there was a sudden and heavy snowstorm.
They couldn't stop. Urgent imperial business.
"The sign that the men were dead was that their lips were drawn back and their teeth were showing. And when the horse happened still to be alive, it would just follow along, bearing the soldier's corpse, the corpse still clutching its weapons and the reis, remaining rigid and still somehow united to the horse so that it was quite a task for the living to take the horse down".
This proto-veterinarian capped his gruseome tale of experience with a warming suggestion of spiced wine, bread and henna-oil to revive any frozen steeds that survived.
The same Theomnestus also described how he conned a top-class horse out of bottom-class soldier by waiting till the soldier had almost killed the animal by excess feeds of salt, buying it for a song, and then cutting out the medicine and getting the champion back.
After bits of literary observation like that (not a suicidal mother-fucker or magician anywhere) his recipes are almost believable.