Hanno The Navigator is mostly lost to history. Now, only scholars and YouTube creators talk about the Carthaginian Sailor from 2500 years ago. The man who led a fleet of ships along the northern coast of Africa, out into the Atlantic Ocean, and along the western waters around the curves and beaches of the continent. First supplying existing Phoenician colonies, and then beginning new ones. Pushing on to see what was behind the next headland or explore islands that shimmered in the distance. He saw things no one had seen before. He was in search of glory, fame, and fortune. He found it all. But not even he could have predicted what his explorations did to both himself, and the world and culture that reaches out to even today. And beyond.
As the dinner ended, the guests all removed themselves to the large circular field that lay to the west of the palace, where seats were set up like an auditorium and the grassy field was laid out in concentric circles, mirroring the set up of the city itself. The three visitors were very interested in what kind of spectacle the λάντιος sought for entertainment, and assumed they would be seeing teams of warriors fight one another in groups or singly. That was not what the λάντιος portrayed, however. Instead of men in armor facing off each other in a battle, the two facing large doors were opened to allow two sets of five bulls to come out, each ridden by a young boy or girl in short robes and sandals. The bulls seemed trained, as they walked slowly and in unison to a line of grass on each side of the center of the huge circle surrounded by a large area of sand. The rest of the enclosure was all grass, lush and at least a hand-and-a-half high. While controlled, the bulls were excited, and vapors were added to the air as they snorted, and pawed at the ground just before the grass lines. They were larger than any animals the travelers had ever seen. The youth seemed like small hats sitting on their backs. The legs of the children seemed to be pushing and tightening around the sides of the animals, directing them and they also seemed to be speaking words of encouragement to their own beasts as they got closer to the time of….what? The three men had no idea what to expect, but the crowd was growing louder and more excited, there was a sense of moment in the air and the faces of the people around them were shining and glowing with sweat. The children were calm and controlled, however. Each seemed to be communing with their own animal. Their eyes either shut or staring straight ahead, and softly stating…what? Instructions? Benedictions? Wishes? The three could not know.
Slowly a woman walked to the center of the field and stood right in the middle between the two lines. She was surrounded by tons of angry, barely controlled beasts, but seemed cool, and intent on her task. She carried a huge sword of gleaming gold and red metal. It was obviously very old and heavy, yet she carried it easily by the rolled handle. She held it in front of each beast on the left, and then did the same to the bulls lined up to the right. Then she circled the beasts three times with the sword held high. Finally she went back to the middle area between the two lengths of grass, and the cheers of the people around the arena grew to an overwhelming roar. She raised the sword up high and drove it into the ground half way down it's length! The crowd was screaming it's approval and the bulls were straining at the control of each of their riders. They did something that left Ahmed, Solly and Hanno in awe and made them question what their eyes were showing them. They ran…..backwards! Instead of the bulls racing toward each other, they were retreating towards their own wooden doors. Hanno and his friends had never seen an animal run at such speed in reverse. Then, just before they were going to hit the sides of the huge doors, each stopped, pawed the ground and began to run clockwise around the arena. (As clocks had not yet been conceived, let us say they ran forward and arced to the right!)
They seemed as if they were trying to chase the other group of five bulls, but somehow their speed was the same and they stayed exactly half an arena apart. Suddenly, each of the children stood up in unison and stood on the back of the bulls as they raced around the arena at such a clip they were raising clouds of grass thrown up in the sky.
Hanno, Solly and Ahmed feared for the children, but they were still in control. Then the strangest thing happened. The children began to jump in the air and spin around like wagon wheels, launching from one bull and landing on another. They went forward and backward, all in a synchronized ballet over the tops of running bulls. Each team had their own style, but each individual performer was remarkable in his or her own way. They were dancing in the air and flying from bull to bull. The three men were speechless, but the crowd and the people in the area near them were cheering and screaming their delight at the spectacle. The kings and princess seemed to be feeling like they were down in the grassy field jumping and twisting in the air, flying past their companions in perfect timing to land on another bull and another. Even Eumelus seemed flush with excitement as he stared down onto the field. It was hard to tell which side any of the crowd was cheering for, they seemed to be riveted by the performance itself and the athleticism of the children, not to mention their fearlessness.
Gradually, the bulls tired and the corresponding youth lovingly made their last landing on the bull they originally started with and led it away to the great doors that they arrived through. Each one was loudly cheered by the entire crowd. At the edge of the door, each pair, bull and youth turned toward the stands where the three visitors stood near the kings. The youth and the bull seemed to bow to the stands, the children waved, and then each was gone. Finally, there were only two bulls left, and a single boy and girl were riding them around the arena. One from each team, as it turned out. Now they had to do their flips and turns and land back on the same animal, a different kind and harder type of feat.
Carthage, circa 500 B.C.E.