The Horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot via the British Museum

How could you fit the history of horses and humans into a space? Not even the British Museum could hold it: it would be crammed like Tutankhamun’s tomb. Selene’s chariot horses on the eastern Parthenon pediment would be eyeball to eyeball with Da Vinci’s triple-life-size Spanish steed. The central atrium would be the tackroom to […]

Polo Week: Love on the Polo Field

The Khamsa is made up of five narrative poems by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami, including the story of the lovers Shirin (an Armenian princess) and Khosrow (a Sassanian king), who meet playing polo. Of course, it all ends tragically, but the Armenian ladies’ team make a great entrance onto the pitch: “Seventy maidens like […]

Polo Week: The Art of War

“May the heads of your enemies be your polo balls.” The Persian poet Hafiz (1320–1389) wishes Tamerlane the Great well. Quoted in “From Iran to All of Asia: The Origin and Diffusion of Polo,” by H E Chehabi and Allen Guttmann in Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 19, June–September 2002.

Its Ears Will Terrify

It is said of the three-legged ass that it stands in the middle of the wild sea, and it has three feet, six eyes, nine mouths, two ears and one horn. Its body is white, it eats spiritual food and is virtuous. And two of its six eyes are in the eyes’ place, two on […]