In 46 BC Julius Caesar had celebrated his triumphs in Egypt by returning to Rome with a vast menagerie, the star attraction of which was a giraffe, the first ever seen in Europe. The Romans did not know what to make of such an animal and named it the cameleopard, for it seemed to them to embody characteristics of both the camel and leopard. Caesar had the animal torn to shreds by lions in the arena, probably to emphasize his power by the disposal of such a rare creature in a casual manner. Lorenzo had read of the success of the spectacle of Caesar's giraffe and saw a way to cement his reputation in Florence by emulating it. He also realised that he could gain further political influence by passing the animal on and promised to send it to Anne of France, after its sojourn in Florence.
Whether the giraffe was provided by Qaitbay is uncertain as there is no record of its procurement, but it seems likely: he is known to have had giraffes in his menagerie; he appealed for Lorenzo for help against the Ottomans around the time of the giraffe's arrival in Florence and Lorenzo did intercede on his behalf shortly afterwards.
The giraffe was an immediate sensation when it arrived in Florence. Although Cosimo de Medici, Lorenzo's grandfather, had maintained a large menagerie, and had previously featured a giant mannequin of a giraffe in the animal entertainments he provided for the citizenry, this was the first time a living example had been seen in the city. Although there are reports that Frederick III of Sicily had been given a giraffe in 1261 by the Sultan of Egypt in exchange for a white bear and that the Duke of Calabria, Duke Hercules I in Ferrara and the Ferrante, the rulers of Naples, all owned giraffes, if they had existed they had certainly not had the success that Lorenzo's giraffe enjoyed: it was immortalised in paintings by Botticini, Vasari and Bacchiacca, frescos and poetry. The poet Antonio Costanzo described it freely roaming the streets:
I have also seen it raise its head to those onlookers offering to it from their windows, because its head reaches as high as eleven feet, thus seeing it from afar the people think that they are looking at a tower rather than an animal. Ours appears to like the crowd, it is always peaceable and without fear, it even seems to watch with pleasure the people who come to look at it.
Although Anne had written reminding Lorenzo of his promise to send it to her, she was to be disappointed. Lorenzo had built special stables for it, either at the family's villa at Poggio a Caiano or in the Via della Scala in Florence itself, with heating to protect it from the damp Florentine winters. Shortly after its arrival the giraffe broke its neck and died after its head became stuck in the beams of these stables.
A living giraffe was not seen in Europe again until Mehmet Ali Pasha sent three giraffes as gifts in 1827, one to George IV of the United Kingdom, one to Francis II, Emperor of Austria, and one to Charles X of France. Each caused a stir, in London, Vienna and Paris respectively, but only the last, Zarafa, survived for more than two years.
Read more about this topic: Medici Giraffe
Other articles related to "history":
... The history of computing is longer than the history of computing hardware and modern computing technology and includes the history of methods intended for pen and paper or for chalk and slate ...
... has been seen in almost every society in history ... From the Ancient Greeks and Romans to Napoleon's France and Elizabethan England, much of history is filled with stories of entertainment based on games of chance ... In American history, early gambling establishments were known as saloons ...
... History of Charles XII, King of Sweden (1731) The Age of Louis XIV (1751) The Age of Louis XV (1746–1752) Annals of the Empire – Charlemagne, A.D ... II (1754) Essay on the Manners of Nations (or 'Universal History') (1756) History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great (Vol ... II 1763) History of the Parliament of Paris (1769) ...
... The Skeptical School of early Chinese history, started by Gu Jiegang in the 1920s, was the first group of scholars within China to seriously question the ... early Chinese history is a tale told and retold for generations, during which new elements were added to the front end" ...
... The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing taifa kingdoms helped the long embattled Iberian Christian kingdoms gain the initiative ... The capture of the strategically central city of Toledo in 1085 marked a significant shift in the balance of power in favour of the Christian kingdoms ...
Famous quotes containing the word history:
“The history of medicine is the history of the unusual.”
—Robert M. Fresco, and Jack Arnold. Prof. Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll)
“History ... is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.
But what experience and history teach is thisthat peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831)
“No one can understand Paris and its history who does not understand that its fierceness is the balance and justification of its frivolity. It is called a city of pleasure; but it may also very specially be called a city of pain. The crown of roses is also a crown of thorns. Its people are too prone to hurt others, but quite ready also to hurt themselves. They are martyrs for religion, they are martyrs for irreligion; they are even martyrs for immorality.”
—Gilbert Keith Chesterton (18741936)