Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


A quadruped, armed with horns, having cloven feet, strong legs, a slow pace, a thick body, a hard skin, a tail not quite so long as that of the horse, with some long hairs at the end. Its blood has been looked upon as a poison, but it is no more so than that of other animals; and the ancients, who wrote that Themistocles and others poisoned themselves with bull’s blood, were false both to nature and to history. Lucian, who reproaches Jupiter with having placed the bull’s horns above his eyes, reproaches him unjustly; for the eye of a bull being large, round, and open, he sees very well where he strikes; and if his eyes had been placed higher than his horns, he could not have seen the grass which he crops.

Phalaris’s bull, or the Brazen Bull, was a bull of cast metal, found in Sicily, and supposed to have been used by Phalaris to enclose and burn such as he chose to punish — a very unlikely species of cruelty. The bulls of Medea guarded the Golden Fleece. The bull of Marathon was tamed by Hercules.

Then there were the bull which carried off Europa, the bull of Mithras, and the bull of Osiris; there are the Bull, a sign of the zodiac, and the Bull’s Eye, a star of the first magnitude, and lastly, there are bull-fights, common in Spain.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01