Herodotus on Horse Girls

I. Now much has been written on the subject of the horse girl, her origins and her provenance, her domain and her abilities. Many foolish tales have been passed down by the Greeks about horse girls – that they arose from the Delta after the Nile overflowed, that they are born from the tears of discus-throwers, that tides are the result of their eternal battle with the crane. But I have learned my facts at Memphis from the priests of Vulcan, and even had the story confirmed by the alchemists at Heliopolis, who are known to be the most learned in matters of history of all Egyptians, second only to the Phrygians in antiquity. It is not my intention to reveal all I have learned concerning the horse girls, except that which has already been a matter of public discussion, and only when compelled to do so. [Fragment missing]…what the Persians called the Great Tomboy Migration, which laid waste to so many of their mountain fortresses…

It is true that horse girls have at times been allies of the Hittites, although they do not share a national origin. Together they wrecked the Minoan navy and chased them out of every port on the Great Green, though it is incorrect to refer to horse girls as pirates, as the Mycenaeans did…

II. Cleopatra was not a horse girl, but a snake girl; snake girls and horse girls have several deities in common but their rituals and practices differ so markedly that it is impossible to draw any shared conclusions about them. [Fragment missing]…and ever since there has been not a single cat found in all of Thrace…[Fragment missing] torn apart during the chanting of the hymns, and the flesh of the victim is made great use of by the entire nation.

III. When horse girls meet one another in the streets of a city or on the open road, you may know they are of equal rank by the following token: If they are, instead of speaking, they exchange doodles of horses drawn during a free period. If it be the case that one is inferior in rank, she anxiously trots in place before receiving a whinny in acknowledgement. If the difference in rank is very great, she may make an offering of a Lisa Frank binder. But the horse girl of meanest rank is considered by her sisters to be vastly superior to anyone not of their nation, even the Hittites, who ride very well. They do not make purchases, and have no markets, as we do, but instead trade with one another for anything they need.

IV. They hold that it is unlawful to talk of things unlawful to do. To tell a lie is the most disgraceful thing, they believe, unless the lie concern the number of horses a horse girl has, or an accomplishment or skill their horse possesses; this they consider to be a prediction of the future. Personal honor is held in high regard among them, and they do not consider any man, no matter how skilled in the saddle, to be of their number. The Egyptians believe this exclusionary practice comes from the days when they fought Ramses in Libya…They do not fight on the water, although they possess many boats, preferring to engage their enemy in port. They venerate the dolphin as the horse of the sea.

V. On Whether Alexander the Great could rightly be called a Horse Girl [Fragment missing]…although he did know how to French-braid hair, it cannot properly be said…[End fragment] thus it was that Illyria fell into the sea, taking all the horse girls with it. If you hear tell of a horse girl today, you give room for lies; I have heard this from the priests of Thebes myself, and they obtained their knowledge from the stars.

You There, Varlet!

You there, varlet!

  • Hold, and state your business!

  • Hold, and turn!

  • Hold, in the name of the King!

  • Hold, and unhand the lady!

  • Hold, and tarry a moment; I would do business with you!

  • Hold, and lay off your capering and jape-knavery on this solemn day!

  • What is the name of this gate?

  • Is it the custom in this land for all churls to behave with such impudence?

  • What is the name of this manor, and who holds it?

  • Bring us a haunch of swan, and a stake of wine, and gobbets of brawn!

  • Can you read? Scry us this note, then!

  • Bring us a torch!

  • Hush – you frighten the lady!

  • Where are your betters?

  • Why do you tarry to fulfill your boon-work? Is not the Earl to home?

  • Fetch me a whip, that I might whip you with it!

  • Take this torch and hold it a while!

  • Bestow this torch for me, I’ve no need of it!

  • Bring reviving wines and cordials, and quickly!

  • Clear these things away!

  • Have you permission to leave the castle on a fast day?

  • Is that a loaf in your hand? Give it here!

  • Who granted you permission to build this fire?

  • By whose arm do you hunt game in the royal forest?

  • Whence this unruliness? Why gathers this crowd?

  • Assemble all the freeman you can find, and arm yourselves!

  • What is your master’s name?

  • Turn, and kneel!

  • Turn, and do as this lady tells you!

  • Turn, and ply your trade!

  • Would you like your freedom? Then do as I tell you, and by the Rood, you’ll have it come St. Lammas’ Eve!

  • Know you not how to display gratitude to your sovereign lady when she spares you?

  • Who are these fugitives and outlaws?

  • Bring us a stave, a waggon, and rope; we shall see to it that your household is recompensed for it!

  • Know you not the law?

  • What do you carry in your hand? Show me at once!

  • What right have you to wear the Duke’s colors?

  • Catch that lad, and there’s a florin in it for you!

  • We require a guide; know you this region?

  • What means that brand?

  • Would you trade in that scythe for a shield, if your king commanded you?

What I Assume I'm Missing After A Lifetime Without Invitations To Join The Duke On His Pleasure Barge

I’ve been reading Anya Seton’s Katherine for the first time, which is strange because I’ve been reading books exactly like/clearly based on Anya Seton’s Katherine my entire life, which is basically why I’ve been way more prepared to join the duke and his retinue on his pleasure barge than I ever need to be. There are two kinds of books that feature duke’s pleasure barges: sweeping historical romances that are like, Ivanhoe-level period-accurate, and byzantine space operas that are Dune-level sex-negative and sex-obsessed. The main difference is that, in the latter, the duke’s pleasure barge might be called something like the Baronial Dissipation Cruiser, M’Lord’s Gratification Skiff, the Archduke’s Canoe of Delight, the Royal Mirth Bark, the Sultan’s Beguilement Hulk, the Arch-Magnifico’s Raft, Earling Gentry’s Scow, The High-Time Sloop of the Eternal Caliphate, the Imperial Diversion Galley, the Viscount’s Clipper of Distraction, or whatever, but it’s all the same thing.

And it kind of sucks that I’m in some ways super-qualified to be a duke’s understanding mistress, because there’s no realistic outlet in my life for those specific attributes and abilities (the duke’s lawful wife would LOVE me and I would NEVER alienate the bishopric, I can tell you that much).

I would be so GOOD at being on a duke’s pleasure barge! I am prepared to:

  • recline on satin

  • discreetly take the Duke’s hand

  • treat his known enemies in court with perfect condescension and exquisite good manners!!!

  • enjoy the strains of gaiety from the nearby minstrels’ barge!

  • watch other boats plying across either the water or the stars!

  • skim lightly over the waves!

  • tip the helmsmen for steering us briskly through the river-traffic!

  • lazily trail the hand not holding the Duke’s through the current!

  • look at galleys from Venice laden with spices, or galleys from the Hapes Consortium laden with guns of command!

  • either ignore the heads of traitors and criminals displayed along the riverbanks in order to better enjoy the duke’s favor, or gaze at them with shock and horror to demonstrate my relative freshness and unspoiled beauty compared to the jaded jades of the court!

  • eat something spiced!!

  • drink something from a flagon!!!

  • toss a sweetmeat to a jongleur, whatever that is!

  • laugh carelessly as an overblown monk or bishop falls in the water and is fished out, sans dignity, by a vaguely French dude who will alternately act as my sole friend at court and provider of ominous warnings!

  • learn what Calais is!!

  • craving the Duke’s indulgence!

  • watching my now-denuded former rival for the Duke’s affections look on with barely-concealed fury from a lesser barge floating nearby!! Jealous though my former rival may be, they would not dare strike at one so clearly in royal favor…….(my duke is a royal duke)

  • eat an exotic treat new to court like a “fruit”

  • display my period-unlikely white, even teeth in a pearling, striking laugh! My rival gazes at my teeth in DESPAIR!!

  • Surely death and misfortune could never strike the merrymakers on the duke’s pleasure barge!!! It is impossible that today could be my last day of true joy, not when I have only just begun to enjoy my new station in life!!!!

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