July 21, 2004

Exquisite Rigs

Papilio Antimachus, ladies and gentlemen, might seem a humble specimen on the screen behind me. But it is the largest butterfly to herald from the African continent. So large, in fact, that you can forget your ordinary butterfly pins. If you wish to mount Papilio Antimachus, then you will need a set of grappling irons and a great deal of patience. I have harnessed a live specimen to the outside of this lecture hall, and afterwards we may cool ourselves in the flitsome shade and breeze of its marquee-like wings. If I can arrange with the Centre Zoologique de Senegal to keep their specimen until the end of the week, I suggest we drink our cocktails there.
Easily mistaken for large tusked mammals
One thing we have surely established this week is that butterflies have fantastically pompous names. No mere Derek for Papilio Antimachus, who takes his name from a Greek poet and grammarian who flourished briefly under Plato’s tutelage, around 400 BC. It is enough, however, to have been a Greek poet to have a butterfly named after you, for what little is known of Antimachus, writer of Thebais, is that he really wasn’t all that good. He was, admittedly, the founder of “learned” epic poetry, but next to Homer he tended to embarrass himself at parties. He was even the subject of mockery in contemporary works, and in Book XI of The Iliad, Homer has King Agamamnon kill his two sons Pisander and brave Hippolochus.
Harsh. But like yesterday’s Croesus Lydius, I think it is safe to say that the butterfly that takes his name affords some considerable consolation.
It is, however, something of a shame that Papilio Antimachus was not named after Mansa Kankan Mussa, King of Mali from 1306 to 1332. During his flamboyant reign his subjects built ships with sails of Papilio Antimachus wing, and sailed East to hitherto undiscovered lands. There he established a New World that has since been forgotten due to the fact that in his later years he became extremely absent minded and misplaced the entire continent. It has yet to be rediscovered, but it seems reasonable to conjecture that it might still exist, populated by descendants of Mali with their exquisite butterfly rigs.
If you are in any doubt as to the size of Papilio Antimachus (and frankly, I’d be surprised if you didn’t see it on your way in) then consider the caterpillar from which it springs. These beasts are easily mistaken for large tusked mammals and they are known to roam in heards across the African plains. Certain tribes bury their dead in fragmants of its chrysalis.

Doctor Pockless

8 thoughts on “Exquisite Rigs

  1. Damn you, Pockless.
    Five minutes of top-of-the-page time and not a comment to be seen!
    Although I commend your works, they are most informational.
    Does the good Doctor Badgett have a login?

  2. I certainly hope so. I’m still hoping that you’ll be telling us about Yeats’ Dung beetles before the end of the Uborka Insect Symposium.
    As for the timing, it seems that you were the victim of bad scheduling again.

  3. At the risk of spoiling the magic, Stuart, I believe that if you log in and change your profile name from Mars to Doctor Badgett, that ought to do the trick. Unless you want a separate login, which can also be arranged. Just say the word.

    Karen on July 21, 2004
  4. How come he wasn’t featured in the “Spider Man 2 – Deleted Scenes” then? Surely Dr. Badgett is Stuart’s superhero alter-ego, after he was bitten by a radioactive badger in a freak lab accident.

  5. A mild mannered blogger by day, and cloaked intellectual vigilante by night, armed with a typewriter and the Complete Works of Shakespeare, he saves the people of his city from poor education.

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