E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Creator of the horse. According to classical mythology, Poseidon [Neptune] created the horse. When the goddess of Wisdom disputed with the Sea-god which of them should give name to Athens, the gods decided that it should be called by the name of that deity which bestowed on man the most useful boon. Athn (the goddess of Wisdom) created the olive tree, but Poseidon or Neptune created the horse. The vote was given in favour of the olive-tree, and the city called Athens.
It was a remarkable judgment, but it must be remembered that an olive branch was the symbol of peace, and was also the highest prize of the victor in the Olympic games. The horse, on the other hand, was the symbol of war, and peace is certainly to be preferred to war.
Horses (four-in-hand). The first person that drove a four-in-hand was Erichthonius, according to Virgil:
Primus Erichthonius currus et quatuor ausus
Georg. iii. 113.
(Erichthon was the first who dared command
A chariot yoked with horses four in hand.)
A horse wins a kingdom. On the death of Smerdis, the several competitors for the throne of Persia agreed that he should be king whose horse neighed first when they met on the day following. The groom of Darius showed his horse a mare on the place appointed, and immediately it arrived at the spot on the following day the horse began to neigh, and won the crown for its master.
¶ Horse (in the Catacombs). Emblem of the swiftness of life. Sometimes a palm-wreath is placed above its head to denote that the race is not to the swift.