Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/807

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ORIGIN OF THE DONKEY.

Xerxes against the Greeks. The markets of Tyre, in the time of Ezekiel, were supplied with mules by the people of Togarma, or Armenia.

According to Diodorus, Alexander, after the siege of Persepolis, brought from Babylon, Mesopotamia, and Susiana, a multitude of pack and draught mules and three thousand camels, with which to take away the treasure from that city; and, when the body of Alexander was taken from Babylon to Egypt, "four tongues were fixed to the chariot, and to each tongue a train of four yokes, each yoke composed of four mules, the whole forming a team of sixty-four mules selected for their vigor and spirit." Homer furnishes a number of evidences of the antiquity of the existence of mules in Asia Minor and Greece, and in one place declares them superior for certain purposes to oxen.

Not only do we possess fewer ancient facts respecting asses and mules than respecting horses, because their part in history has been less important, but the historical documents on asses and mules permit us to trace their past further back in the East than in the West, and this is easily explained. In the first place, the habit of preserving the memory of facts arose earlier in the East than in the West; and, in the second place, our facts relative to the Western ass are derived chiefly from the Latin authors, whose references are less exact, because they were apt to include in a lump under the designation of jumenta all the kinds of pack and draught animals, horses, asses, mules, oxen, and camels, that composed the baggage-trains of the armies whose exploits they related.

It is, nevertheless, true that the domestication of the European ass must have dated from a very ancient time; it must have followed very shortly the importation into the Hispano-Atlantic center of the use of dolmens and arms of polished stone. M. Boucher de Perthes has found in the peats of the Somme, some fifteen or sixteen feet below the level of the stream, an equoid skull, which M. Sanson has recognized as that of an African or Nilotic ass. The animal to which it belonged, or one of its ancestors, must have been taken there by man.

Only a few documents support the probability that mules existed in Southwestern Europe in very ancient times. Varro says that the senator Axius bought a stallion-ass for four hundred thousand sestertiæ, or $16,800. Columella's treatise on agriculture bears witness to the importance of work with mules among the Romans. This accounts for the high prices that were sometimes paid for particular stallions, for the species was neither rare nor new in Italy. The earliest mention of a mule in Rome, with a definite date, is that of the animals that drew the chariot in which Tullia rode over the body of her father Tullius after he was assassinated, b. c. 534.

The histories of the Roman wars contain several incidents in which mules appear to have been used in the army on a large scale, and of stratagems in which they were made to play a prominent part: as