In the Yale Art Gallery, I once saw a most unusual drawing
. It showed a young man,in a collegiate-looking wardrobe, anxiously looking at what seemed to be a professor
, with a saddle on his back, being ridden through a courtyard by a most voluptuous young woman. It was titled "Aristotle and Phyllis", and was a complete mystery
to me, until I uncovered the following medieval legend
about Alexander the Great
Once upon a time, the rumor was spread that Alexander was kept from his nightly drinking sessions with his friends, his best bud, Hephaistion, and even excercising his legendary horse, Bucephalas, by his wife, Phyllis, who was thought to be a woman of great beauty and infinite female wiles.
Hearing this, his tutor, Aristotle, he of great learning, came to investigate, thinking that he might talk reason to this hussy.
But when Aristotle got there, he found, not a brainless-looking sexpot, but a serious-looking young woman, with her hair in a bun, reading a scroll.
"Madam, I am Aristotle, your husband's tutor. I'm here to talk about these rumors that you've been keeping him from carrying out his affairs."
"Yes, I've been looking forward to talking to you about that. What, specifically, do you think to be the problem?"
"Well, for starters, you've been keeping him away from his army buddies. They haven't seen him at the tavern of late, and suspect that you might be um, coercing him into staying home."
"I do not know what you mean by "coercion", but I have a good reason for what I do. He drinks, sir, often to excess. He stays up all night with these men, and I'm afraid that it might be affecting his ability to run the Empire. He should be home, reading reports and doing his work, not carousing and wasting time in empty amusements."
"I didn't know that was the case. But surely, his best friend, Hephaistion Amyntoros, is a worthy companion. You couldn't keep them apart in good conscience."
"Perhaps you think so. I happen to know something about their relationship ... I've been told that these Greek men often make lovers of their friends, when they're young, and sometimes these friendships outlast youth. That may be, but I should think that his wife and family duties should take precedence over such childish games. If he spends all his... time with Hephaiston, there's little left for us. A father and husband should take interest in his household, and so, I've persuaded him to remain with me."
"That may be so, but I've even heard that you are keeping him from excercising Bucephalas. That, you must agree, is going too far."
"His horse." She paused and frowned. "Now, I suppose I'll have to tell you about his horse."
Aristotle recoiled in horror. "What -- what does he do with his horse?" he asked very quietly at last.
"I -- I can't really tell you...." she replied, hanging her head and sighing.
"Perhaps...perhaps you could -- show me?"
"I suppose I could." She looked around. "But we would need to be somewhere private."
"Lead me into the inner courtyard. We'll be safe there."
Aristotle walked to the rack where saddles and tack were kept.
"Now pretend I'm the horse, and do everything that Alexander does, and perhaps I'll understand." Aristotle said, getting on all fours.
"Well, sir, he saddles the horse, like this...and he puts the bridle on, like this... and he mounts the horse, like this...Perhaps if you could move a few paces, over to that clear area..."
Aristotle obediently began to shuffle forward, Phyllis on his back, holding the reins. Some servants, watching, began to smile behind their hands.
At that moment, Alexander came walking by.
Aristotle looked up in alarm."It's not the way it looks...experiment..."he protested.
Taking in the scene, Alexander shouted:
"OH, NO, she's gotten to YOU, too?"