elephants in ancient greece

December 25, 2020

His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Elephants in Hellenistic History & Art. Well into common era the elephant continued to feature frequently on Kushan coinage (1st-4th century CE), including kings riding elephants. If this happened the rider used a metal spike and hammer to pierce the elephant’s brain and kill it immediately. Cartwright, Mark. Of particular importance is the combination of the elephant scalp with a ram’s horn over his temple and the aegis (a sacred goat’s fleece) thrown over his shoulder. John M. Kistler, War Elephants (London, 2006) Adrienne Mayor, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World (New York, 2003) H. H. Scullard, The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (London, 1974) Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. Bibliography 6:34.). The portraiture is best-known from early Hellenistic coinage but also appears on engraved gems. In later times, the use of elephants was restricted to peace-time activities such as spectacles in the Roman arenas and circuses for public entertainment or as an impressive addition to public processions. Detail of a 6th Century CE Elephant Mosaicby Carole Raddato (CC BY-NC-SA). While the Romans did eventually adopt them, and used them occasionally after the Punic wars, especially during the conquest of Greece, they fell out of use by the time of Claudius, after which they were generally used for the purpose of demoralizing enemies instead of being used for tactical purposes. In the search for ever more impressive and lethal weapons to shock the enemy and bring total victory the armies of ancient Greece, Carthage, and even sometimes Rome turned to the elephant. Roman Mosaic Showing the Transport of an Elephantby Carole Raddato (CC BY-SA). In 275 BCE, in a battle known as the ‘Elephant Victory’, Antigonus Gonatas, although outnumbered, used 16 elephants to terrify an army of Gauls into retreat. Elephant corps did not have everything their own way, of course. Able to readily acquire African elephants from the Atlas forest region they formed an elephant corps from the 260’s BCE. Understood as an emblem of military might, in antiquity and well beyond, I have argued that the elephant was a mythic monster. Aug., Ael. With a reasonably well-trained army (around 30,000) he could only field 20 elephants, which underpins a vital aspect concerning them. In other words, Alexander’s posthumous portraiture presents him as the rightful ruler over these cultures and the known world. So impressed was Alexander with the war elephants of Porus, who was said to have had a corps of 200 when he fought the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BCE, that he formed his own ceremonial elephant corps. Thank you! Firstly, both soldiers and cavalry horses were trained to get used to the sight, smell, and sounds of elephants. Nor were elephants any help to the senatorial armies of Scipio and Cato that faced Julius Caesar in North Africa at the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BCE. Once the devastating sight of war elephants became a more common one on the ancient battlefield so their effectiveness diminished as the enemy became more prepared and better equipped to deal with them. The Hellenistic Period is a part of the Ancient Period for the... After securing the eastern Mediterranean seaboard and Egypt, Alexander... Monsters of Military Might: Elephants in Hellenistic History and Art, The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World, Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, Alonso Troncoso, V. "The Diadochi and the Zoology of Kingship: The Elephants. Some people might wonder why the world is still so hung up on ancient Greek myths when they are nothing but stories and they came from thousands of years ago. Seleukos I Nikator famously swapped parts of his eastern empire to gain 500 elephants from Indian emperor Chandragupta in 305 BCE. Still, their symbolic importance for Carthage is expressed on a series of Hannibal’s coinage, which depict a cloaked rider with a goad in his hand, but no turret. present-day northern Morocco) and their son Ptolemy was the last known descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty. ", Lorber, C.C. Pyrrhus already had 20 war elephants (although it remains unclear from where or whom he had obtained them). Elephants were dressed for battle in armour which protected their heads and sometimes front. According to Plutarch, 475 elephants took part in the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE during the Successor Wars. Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe. ". During the late Roman Empire elephants were also given and received as gifts to improve diplomatic relations with neighbouring states. 24 Dec 2020. Last modified March 16, 2016. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Thank you! Some Rights Reserved (2009-2020) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. Elephants were thought of as fierce and frightful monsters in antiquity, very real though rarely seen until the Hellenistic period. When Pyrrhus of Epirus (319-272 BCE) requested support for his upcoming Italian campaign, Ptolemy II could afford to provide him with 50 elephants, among other forces. These huge beasts would have terrified men and horses both visually and orally with their trumpeting. Fame is accompanied by Plato and Aristotle, Alexander, and Charlemagne. This meant that military commanders went out of their way to supplement their armies with elephants. Added to this was the cost of maintaining them and training both the wild elephant and its rider to form some sort of battle order on the field of combat. Upcoming Events 2020 Community Moderator Election. Alexander’s posthumous portraiture was first devised under Ptolemy in Egypt and subsequently imitated by Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ceraunus. The Romans … When the sun god Helius (Amun-Ra) appeared to him in a dream expressing his anger, Ptolemy set up four bronze elephants as votives to appease the god. Related Content Next, the ram’s horn that encircles Alexander’s temple is understood to be an attribute of Ammon, the Libyan oracular deity, whose cult lies in the desert oasis of Siwah. Please help us create teaching materials on Mesopotamia (including several complete lessons with worksheets, activities, answers, essay questions, and more), which will be free to download for teachers all over the world. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Our mission is to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. His son, Ptolemy Ceraunus, who was passed over for the succession, imitated his father’s coinage when he claimed the succession over Lysimachus’ kingship. "Elephants in Greek & Roman Warfare." Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. After his coronation in Memphis, the priest at Siwah confirmed that Alexander was recognized as the son of god. Notice particularly the protuberance on the elephant’s forehead which is particular to the Indian elephant. In ancient Carthage, elephants were sometimes given copious quantities of wine to drink - elephants enjoy alcohol - and then their legs were prodded with red-hot irons. Larger elephants were outfitted with tower-like devices protecting occupants from ground-level attack and providing an excellent battlefield vantage point. In the 270’s BCE, for example, Ptolemy II trained African elephants for use in his army and even appointed a high official to be responsible for them, the elephantarchos. Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. Furthermore, Caesar supposedly entered Britain with an elephant in 54 BCE (Polyaen. This suggestion is substantiated by the accounts of the Battle of Raphia (217 BCE) which decisively settled the Fourth Syrian War between the forces of Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III in favor of the former. Indeed, Caesar’s silver denarius coinage of his moving mint (c. 50-45 BCE) significantly employed the elephant trampling a serpent as he crossed the Rubicon River as an allusion to the victory of good over evil. That is to say, the headdress represents the heroic appropriation of a monstrous attribute as an emblem of victory over a fabled foe. Elephants in Greek & Roman Warfare. In short, in ancient thought elephants were considered mythic monsters that belonged to the same category as fabulous beasts such as the griffon and sphinx, martichora and unicorn, dragon and hippocamp, very real though rarely seen until the Hellenistic period. The armies of the Antigonids and Ptolemies also fielded Asian elephants, although generally in much smaller numbers. Greek authors continued to associate elephants with legends and fabulous monsters – that is, for our modern mind non-existing figments of ancient imagination. 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