elephants in ancient greece

More at ivory. Tossing, ripping, and crushing the enemy, elephants were used to cause havoc with any defensive fieldworks and fortifications too. 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. Sword blades or iron points were added to the tusks and bells hung from the body to create as much noise as possible. The use of elephants in warfare had spread to Persia in earlier centuries from India where elephants had been used for millennia. Submitted by Mark Cartwright, published on 16 March 2016 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Related Content Ever since the Stone Age, when elephants were represented by ancient petroglyphs and cave art, they have been portrayed in various forms of art, including pictures, sculptures, music, film, and even architecture. Last modified May 20, 2019. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. 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. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2020) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. This meant that military commanders went out of their way to supplement their armies with elephants. Oppen, B. V. (2019, May 20). They were established as rulers of Mauretania (approx. 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. Greek authors continued to associate elephants with legends and fabulous monsters – that is, for our modern mind non-existing figments of ancient imagination. 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. The frightful Shiva, also understood as an emanation of Indra, is a destroyer, the slayer of demons. Triumph of Fameby Metropolitan Museum of Art (Copyright). 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. Troops became more mobiIe, siege-craft became just as common as open battles, and artillery came to the fore. ", Lunsingh Scheurleer, R.A. "Elephants in Faience. Bibliography Unfortunately, impressive though they must have seemed on the battlefield, the cost of acquiring, training, and transporting these creatures, along with their wild unpredictability in the heat of battle, meant that they were used only briefly and not particularly effectively in Mediterranean warfare. Tossing, ripping, and crushing the enemy, elephants were used to cause havoc with any defensive fieldworks and fortifications too, where they knocked down walls with their foreheads or pulled them down with their trunks. Elephants were historically deployed on the battlefield to strike terror into enemy troops inexperienced with their sight. As the ancient historian Ammianus Marcellinus put it, "the human mind can conceive nothing more terrible than their noise and huge bodies" (Anglim, 132). The snakes might allude to the legend that Olympias was impregnated by a god in the form of a snake. Suggested Reading. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Indra, however, is the son of Dyaus Pitrā (“Sky Father”), which parallels Zeus Pater and Jupiter. The portraiture is best-known from early Hellenistic coinage but also appears on engraved gems. Then they obviously provided large targets for artillery fire. u (“elephant”) (compare Tahaggart Tamahaq êlu, Tamasheq alu) or Egyptian ꜣbw (“elephant; ivory”). The riders were seven: two carried hooks, two were archers, two were swordsmen, and the last one had a lance and a banner. Next, the venerable Aristotle likewise discussed elephants in the same context as the martichora and believed that they could live for up to 300 years and “can be taught to kneel in the presence of the king.” (History of Animals 2.1, 8.9 and 9.46.). The Asian elephant became known in Europe following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE and contact with the Mauryan Empire of India. The Romans seem to have been largely unimpressed with the use of elephants and employed them only rarely and in small numbers, usually supplied via Numidia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 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. The iconography includes Bactrian kings wearing the elephant scalp as headdress as well as Hindu deities accompanied by an elephant. Carthaginian War Elephantby The Creative Assembly (Copyright). One should wonder, therefore, why generals would be interested in recruiting these pachyderm monsters in warfare at all when there is little strategic advantage in deploying them against each other. According to the Mahabharata, the elephants were provided with armour, girths, blankets, neck ropes and bells, hooks and quivers, banners and standards, yantras (possibly stone-or-arrow-hurling contrivances) and lances. See more ideas about war elephant, elephant, ancient warfare. On many Hellenistic-style coins, signet rings and seal stones from Graeco-Bactria and Graeco-India elephants are depicted – a tradition that dates back to Harappan stamps-seals from the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE. After Perdiccas’ disastrous defeat about 50-60 elephants apparently fell to Ptolemy. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Employed historically in warfare to strike fear in the enemy, it should be remembered that panic was believed to be divinely inspired. Aug., Ael. After a few centuries when elephants were out of vogue, the Sasanians in Persia revived the use of war elephants, fielding the Indian species from the 3rd century CE onwards, albeit, largely for logistics and during sieges. Related Content These huge beasts would have terrified men and horses both visually and orally with their trumpeting. 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. According to Plutarch, 475 elephants took part in the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE during the Successor Wars. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. ", Lorber, C.C. Seleucid coinage regularly propagates the symbolic military importance of elephants as an expression of their power. Roman Mosaic Showing the Transport of an Elephantby Carole Raddato (CC BY-SA). 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. Alexander & Porusby The Trustees of the British Museum (Copyright). The Mauryans used three riders, all archers, with … The ultimately unsuccessful campaign was commemorated on a ceramic plate from Capena (now in the Villa Giulia, Rome), which shows a turreted elephant with a rider and fighters on its back, followed by a cub. Elephants even appeared on Carthaginian coins of the period. The third attribute, the aegis belonged to Zeus, who presented it to Athena, who in turn is commonly depicted wearing the fleece. In 280 BCE Pyrrhus met a Roman force at the Battle of Heraclea. Even more famously, at the Battle of Zuma in 202 BCE, the Roman general Scipio Africanus allowed Hannibal’s 80 elephants to run through gaps purposely made in his infantry lines and then turned the animals around using drums and trumpets to let them cause havoc with the enemy. In antiquity, two elephants were known – the Asian elephant ( Elephas maximus) and the African Forest elephant ( Loxodonta cyclotis). Showing page 1. During the succession crisis that erupted at Alexander’s sudden death, elephants were employed not only when opposing factions were about to engage each other in fighting, but also to execute the death sentence after the rivals were put on ad-hoc trial. Bibliography Featured on Meta 2020 Community Moderator Election. Romans first encountered elephants in battle in 280 BCE, when Pyrrhus, king of the Greek region of Epirus, invaded Italy with an army of 25,000 men and 20 war elephants. The founder of the Mauryan kingdom, Chandragupta established his power shortly after Alexander’s death (r. c. 322/1-299/8 BCE). Most war elephants deployed in the Hellenistic period derived from India. From the reign of Alexander the Great elephants became associated with Hellenistic military processions and coinage often expressed the symbolic connection between elephants and military victories. Cite This Work However, one look at the vast amount of ancient Greek-themed movies and literature today, people will quickly come to the conclusion that the world is still fascinated with Greek mythology though they might not always be able to say why. (1-Macc. 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. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2020) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. Starting the battle in a simple line in front of their own troops they could cause undisciplined and poorly trained cavalry lines to scatter in panic. That is to say, the headdress represents the heroic appropriation of a monstrous attribute as an emblem of victory over a fabled foe. They were deployed on the battlefield to strike terror into the enemy, however, since fear was considered divinely inspired, elephants can be interpreted as religious symbols even in warfare. Upon their return to Persia (c. 325 BCE), some 200 elephants are mentioned which had arrived via Arachosia and Carmania. Pyrrhus already had 20 war elephants (although it remains unclear from where or whom he had obtained them). 8.23.5.) Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. Farther along the campaign, another 125-150 elephants were obtained in the Indus Valley as a gift of a local prince and through hunting. 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. Before the fighting, Ptolemy’s elephants are said to have raised trunks in prayer to the rising sun. 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. Cleopatra Selene II, Boscorealeby Hervé Lewandowski (Copyright), Let us briefly return to the Hellenistic period and quickly make our way back eastwards. Elephant & Griffonby Branko van Oppen (CC BY). Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. Elephants were thought of as fierce and frightful monsters in antiquity, very real though rarely seen until the Hellenistic period. The frightful emanation of Shiva Bhairava and the mother goddess Varahi are depicted seated on an elephant; he clad in elephant’s skin and tiger’s hide, with a drum, corpse, trident, bowl, stick, and deer in his six hands; she with a plough, sacred tree, elephant goad, and noose. "Elephants were considered the tanks of the time, until eventually the Romans figured out how to defeat war elephants," in later times, said study co-author Alfred Roca, an animal scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Some ancient sources claim that elephants were given wine before battle in order to rouse them into a fighting frenzy. Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. On an early 16th-century Flemish tapestry (now in New York) the personification of Fame stands in a chariot drawn by two white elephants as they trample death and fate. Early use of elephants in battle by Alexander’s successors involved only a rider (mahout) and perhaps a spearman. Indeed, such was the demand that at Latium and Constantinople permanent herds were kept and the insatiable desire for wild elephants practically wiped out the forest elephant of North Africa. A thick sacking or leather cover could also be hung over the elephant’s back to protect its sides. C.A. The ram’s horn was thus a divine attribute associated with panic and madness. 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. Antiochus I (324/3-261 BCE) deployed war elephants against the Galatians who had crossed the Balkans into Greece and then moved into Asia Minor (c. 275/4 BCE). Elephants in Hellenistic History & Art. The first classical author to write about elephants, Herodotus, mentioned them among various more or less fabulous creatures and wild beasts, such as lions, bears, snakes, serpents, unicorns, dog-headed men, headless men, and savages. Strabo mentioned elephants about 50 times: citing Onesicritus that elephants could live for up to 500 years; Megasthenes who claimed to have seen elephants in a Bacchic chase; and Artemidorus who described elephants in Ethiopia along with sphinxes and dragons. ". Notice particularly the protuberance on the elephant’s forehead which is particular to the Indian elephant. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. According to Plutarch, 475 elephants took part in the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE during the Successor Wars. Ceraunus famously died on the back of an elephant against the Galatians entering the Greek peninsula from across the Balkans (279 BCE). In the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, the elephants carried rugs on their backs, called hatthatthara in the Buddhist Pali works. With a reasonably well-trained army (around 30,000) he could only field 20 elephants, which underpins a vital aspect concerning them. Well into common era the elephant continued to feature frequently on Kushan coinage (1st-4th century CE), including kings riding elephants. In Alexander’s posthumous portraiture, it seems to be tied around his neck by two writhing snakes. The three attributes were associated with three supreme deities of three different cultures: the aegis with Zeus; the ram’s horns with Ammon; the exuvia with Indra. He issued punch-marked silver coins with religious symbols featuring an elephant and a bull, the sun and a tree on a hill, as well as the chakra (a “disc” referring to a Tantric nerve nexus). Web. present-day northern Algeria) supplied elephants to the Pompeian forces during the Roman Civil War (49-45 BCE). Later in the 5th century BCE, Ctesias, who (unlike Herodotus) must have seen elephants himself, declared that Indians hunt the man-eating martichora (elsewhere called manticore) on elephants a paragraph before discussing griffons that protect the goldmines in the Indian mountains. 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. 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. Incidentally, Indra, like Zeus and even Alexander the Great, wields the thunderbolt. "Elephants in Greek & Roman Warfare." τος ) [7] The Indian Dragon was a breed of giant serpent which could fight and strangle the elephants of India. Ancient Warfare and the World’s First War Elephants. This association might be compared with the aegis, which served the apotropaic function of warding off evil forces and was itself connected with divine protection and military defense. The combination of these three attributes remains poorly understood, although the portrait as a whole makes little sense from a classical Graeco-Macedonian perspective. This latter eventuality was, in part, avoided by the stationing of a small team of infantry to protect the elephant’s legs. At an average height of 2.5 metres, weighing around 5 tonnes, and trotting up to 16 km/h (10mph), they could be tremendously effective wrecking machines. Regardless of what animal the biblical Behemoth might reflect, it remains interesting that later, according to Pliny, the Romans would call elephants “bulls” after first encountering them during the campaign against Pyrrhus. Books There is a curious instance when two elephant corps met where each side was composed of different types. The Macedonian army, nevertheless, refrained from advancing into the Ganges Valley – as they received information not only about the vastness of the country but also the alleged strength of its forces (including at least 3000 elephants). Alexander’s facial features are full of pathos, his diadēma (headband) signifies his royalty, his large bulging eyes intimating his divinity. The Indian species was used for this purpose. 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. ends in 10 days. In Greek mythology, Pan and the satyrs in the retinue of Dionysus were depicted with ram’s horns. License. Diodorus related that Indian elephants were outfitted to strike terror in warfare against the invading Assyrian queen Semiramis. The campaigns of Alexander the Great brought Greece into contact with animals from India and the East that the Greeks had not known of … However, the animals often turn on their own ranks trampling indiscriminately whoever comes in their way. Huge, exotic, and frightening the life out of an unprepared enemy they seemed the perfect weapon in an age where developments in warfare were very limited. Elephant scalp worn by Demetrius I of Bactria (205–171 BC), founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, as a symbol of his conquest. Ammon was identified both with Zeus and Amun-Ra, the supreme creator god. The most important effect of elephants in the field was probably, then, a psychological one. Alexander’s undying fame thus owes more than is usually acknowledged to the elephant. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 16 Mar 2016. 6:34.). The Indian elephant god Ganesha, the Lord of Hosts, belongs to the retinue of Shiva. Pyrrhus of Epirus was the first commander to employ elephants in Europe when he used 20 Asian ones in his campaigns in Italy and Sicily from 280 to 275 BCE. Many of Alexander’s successors went one step further and employed them in battle proper. The latter is now almost extinct and only found in the Gambia; it was smaller than the, at the time unknown, African elephant of central and southern Africa (Loxodonta africana), which explains why ancient writers all claimed the Indian elephant was larger than the African. Firstly, both soldiers and cavalry horses were trained to get used to the sight, smell, and sounds of elephants. Tarentum, a Greek city in southern Italy recruited him to combat a growing and belligerent neighbour to the north, Rome. Found 3 sentences matching phrase "elephant".Found in 0 ms. present-day northern Morocco) and their son Ptolemy was the last known descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty. 2.3.) Browse other questions tagged ancient-greece persia war-elephants greco-persian-wars or ask your own question. Indeed, the Seleucid Empire made sure to exclusively control the traffic in Asian elephants. The latter minted coinage that expressed the symbolic connection between elephants and Alexander’s military victories. Elephants were initially used for agricultural purposes. The shape of the elephants’ trunks resembles the trumpet Fame sounds. If the elephant were wounded then all hell might break lose as, unpredictable at the best of times, wounded elephants could literally go mad and cause tremendous damage to both sides. Mark is a history writer based in Italy. Branko van Oppen is an exhibition curator and independent scholar specialized in Ptolemaic queenship as well as Hellenistic art and ideology. Ancient History Encyclopedia. We may take as a clue from the ancient notion that fear, like panic, was divinely inspired, and that elephants should first of all be interpreted as religious symbols – even in warfare. For, after the latter’s death at the Battle of Corupedium (280 BCE), Ceraunus had first joined Seleucus, then murdered him as avenger of Lysimachus' death, and issued gold staters with the portrait of Alexander on the obverse and Athena Nikephorus on the reverse along with smaller symbols such as an elephant and a lion’s head. It persisted in the Balkans till 800 years ago and the Greek legend of the Hercules mentions lions in ancient Greece. Cartwright, Mark. Sure, everyone is familiar with the North American Mastodon and the Woolly Mammoth—but how much do you know about the ancestral pachyderms of the Mesozoic Era, some of which predated modern elephants by tens of millions of years? License. Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe. The War with Hannibal: The History of Rome from Its Foundation, Books... Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Alexander was believed to be descended from Heracles, the son of Zeus. However, in the Rigveda, the king of Gods and chief Vedic deity Indra is depicted as riding either Airavata, a mythological elephant, or on the horse Uchchaihshravas as his mounts. The armies of the Antigonids and Ptolemies also fielded Asian elephants, although generally in much smaller numbers. The Pyrrhic campaign inspired the Carthaginians to acquire war elephants by the time of the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE). We were the first major power to field elephants on a large scale on battlefield. After his initial corps died in the winter of 218/217 BCE Hannibal acquired fresh replacements and used elephants again at the siege of Capua in 211 BCE. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Seleukos I Nikator famously swapped parts of his eastern empire to gain 500 elephants from Indian emperor Chandragupta in 305 BCE. When Hannibal (247 - c. 182 BCE) moved against Rome, he crossed the Pyrenees from Spain with 37 elephants among his vast forces. Nov 12, 2020 - Explore Jonah Bomgaars's board "War Elephants!" If this happened the rider used a metal spike and hammer to pierce the elephant’s brain and kill it immediately. Allegedly the cognomen of Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) derived from the Moorish word for “elephant” (caesai), rather than from caesius or caeruleus (pertaining to the color of the sky). Despite the cost and difficulties, and because in antiquity the evolution in weaponry was extremely slow, the attraction of such large animals trampling all over the enemy remained. 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. The Carthaginians were the next major users. While reinforcements of African forest elephants would eventually reach Hannibal, they failed to assert any decisive effect even at the final Battle of Zama (201 BCE). Able to readily acquire African elephants from the Atlas forest region they formed an elephant corps from the 260’s BCE. Even the smell of elephants could drive unprepared horses into a stampede. Larger elephants were outfitted with tower-like devices protecting occupants from ground-level attack and providing an excellent battlefield vantage point. While the worship and iconography of Ganesha only developed from the 4th century CE, the sacred status of the elephant in India is well established since the 3rd millennium BCE. The king commemorated his victory by sacrificing four of his enemy’s elephants. As the gates of Susa were opened for Alexander, his forces acquired another twelve elephants. CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons Today’s placid scenes along the verdant shores of Greece’s Pinios River, in Thessaly, belie its ancient history as the home of hippopotamuses, bison and even elephants, according to geologist/paleontologist and professor Athanassios Athanassiou. When Alexander died, his funeral carriage was decorated among many other things with a tablet of Indian elephants driven by mahouts, followed by Macedonian troops. The rider was crucial as he had trained the animal for years and it would obey only his commands. Submitted by Branko van Oppen, published on 20 May 2019 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. During the late Roman Empire elephants were also given and received as gifts to improve diplomatic relations with neighbouring states. 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. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/876/. Pits and spikes were prepared to entrap them and, if they could get close enough, men were charged with hamstringing the beasts or hacking at their trunks. Thank you! Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. Upcoming Events 2020 Community Moderator Election. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. on Pinterest. Roman Mosaic Showing the Transport of an Elephant, Detail of Roman Sarcophagus with an Elephant, Detail of a 6th Century CE Elephant Mosaic. Phoenician terracotta lamp in the form of an elephant's head. It was the first time that the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula had ever seen elephants. Furthermore, the scalp is worn over the head as Heracles wore the scalp of the Nemean Lion. Age of Discovery ancient Greeks Ancient Indians ancient Middle animals Archaeologists Archaeologists believe Asia Assyrians axles Bactrian camel began boats bridges builders built camels cargo carry carved chariots China compass construction cultures developed distances dugout canoes early Earth Egypt elephants engineers feet fifth century b.c. Even later authors could be quoted to confirm that in classical Greek and Latin literature, elephants belong to the same order of fierce and frightful fabulous monsters as the martichora, unicorn, griffon, sphinx, dragon, and hippocamp. He, therefore, embodies aspects of both Heracles and Dionysus, and Alexander was also believed to be descended from Dionysus, through Deianira, the wife of Heracles. Therefore, the claim that the ancients set fire to pigs in order to cause panic among enemy elephants does seem to have an element of plausibility, although it should be pointed out that, despite Nossov’s claim (2008, p. 25), it is uncertain that the Romans themselves actually used fire. Ptolemy won the battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE during the Roman focus on infantry and its,... Of Mounted warfare in Asia and Europe British Museum ( Copyright ) power to field elephants on a large on. Often turn on their own ranks trampling indiscriminately whoever comes in their way of. And Asculum ( 279 BCE ) and their son Ptolemy was the first that. Siwah, and crushing the enemy, it should be remembered that panic was believed to tied... Different types vital aspect concerning them that military commanders went out of their.. But also appears on engraved gems victory in battle & Griffonby Branko Oppen. Wild beast ” ), including kings riding elephants destroyer, the Lord of Hosts, belongs to the that. 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