|Xanthus and Balius. Public Domain|
Today’s mythological characters aren’t human or even human-shaped. They are Xanthus and Balius, a couple of horses, immortal ones. In Greek myth, it doesn’t seem to take a horse shaped being to make a horse shaped child. In this case, the mother was the harpy Podarge; harpies tend to be bird-women. The father was Zephyrus, the West Wind. Winds were sometimes depicted as winged men, sometimes as horses, which may explain the horse children. Anyway, I can definitely see the appeal of a horse that is literally a son of the wind!
But Xanthus and Balius were, in the end, horses, even if they were immortal. They didn’t even talk, except Xanthus, on one very special occasion.
Poseidon, who had a connection with horses, as the god of horses, trained these two and gave them to Peleus as a wedding gift at that fateful wedding when Eris, goddess of strife, started the Trojan War at second hand.
Later, Peleus gave these two beautiful animals to his son Achilles, who took them to the war with him, to pull his chariot. They would have been kept idle for a while when Achilles went on strike.
However, when Achilles’ lover and best friend, Patroclus, decided to fight in his place, they were hitched up and driven into battle again, till Patroclus got himself killed.
After this, Achilles hitches them up, but tells off his horses for having let Patroclus down. This is when Hera gives Xanthus a voice, even temporarily, and the horse says it wasn’t their fault, that it was a god who killed Patroclus and by the way, Achilles hasn’t much longer to live. Then an Erinye shuts Xanthus up.
It would have been Xanthus and Balius pulling the chariot when Achilles tied the body of Hector to the tail of his chariot.
Achilles didn’t live much longer, as predicted, and the horses mourned him till his son, Neoptolemus, arrived to drive them.
I’m uncertain what happened to them next. If they were indeed immortal, perhaps they are still around somewhere, thinking how different the world is now.
Tomorrow I’ll muse a little about the youth of some of the characters we have met. See you then!