The Medici Giraffe: And Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power
Bargain Book Copy
A fascinating exploration, spanning two thousand years, of the central role exotic animals have played in war, diplomacy, and the pomp of princes and potentates. Did you know that when Julius Caesar first brought the giraffe to Europe, the stunned Romans called it "camelopardalis," seeing it as a cross between a camel and a leopard? That in Renaissance Florence, the Medici, eager to present themselves as true princes, organized magnificent hunts with cheetahs, and staged animal combats in the Roman style? That Josephine Bonaparte was the first to breed black swans, native to Australia, in captivity? Or that William Randolph Hearst kept a private preserve at his California home that included African antelopes, zebras, camels, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, and yaks? Throughout many eras and cultures, exotic animals have entranced and inspired us. Now, Marina Belozerskaya explores their remarkably influential role in history as among the most advantageous diplomatic gifts, the most cherished royal treasures, and the most impressive symbols of power and learning. How did these creatures come to make or break rulers, and help shape the definition of what it means to be civilized? The Medici Giraffe contemplates these questions through a chain of stories, beginning in ancient Alexandria and traveling through republican Rome, Renaissance Florence, Aztec Mexico, baroque Prague, Napoleon's France, the robber barons' America, and up to the present day, when two sets of giant pandas helped warm frosty relations between two superpowers. This is an engrossing, sweeping history that casts new light on one of our most ancient obsessions.
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