Ammon was identified both with Zeus and Amun-Ra, the supreme creator god. They were said to have cunningly released pigs to disrupt Pyrrhus’ elephants at the Battle of Maleventum in 275 BCE. 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. Web. The frightful Shiva, also understood as an emanation of Indra, is a destroyer, the slayer of demons. Alexander’s undying fame thus owes more than is usually acknowledged to the elephant. Are there peacocks and elephants in Ancient Greece (4000 BC)? The king commemorated his victory by sacrificing four of his enemy’s elephants. Upcoming Events 2020 Community Moderator Election. Cite This Work 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). The supreme deity Shiva is considered both benign and frightful. 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. 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. Showing page 1. 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. by The Trustees of the British Museum (Copyright), Elephant Symbolism on the Coins of Ptolemy I, The three attributes were associated with three supreme deities of three different cultures: the aegis with Zeus; the ram’s horns with, by Metropolitan Museum of Art (Copyright). Books Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. - Animal Life in the Scriptures Ancient Elephant. τος ) [7] The Indian Dragon was a breed of giant serpent which could fight and strangle the elephants of India. That is to say, the headdress represents the heroic appropriation of a monstrous attribute as an emblem of victory over a fabled foe. Tossing, ripping, and crushing the enemy, elephants were used to cause havoc with any defensive fieldworks and fortifications too. 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) (1-Macc. From Alexander to Hannibal During the eastern campaign of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), Greek and Macedonian soldiers first encountered elephants in Assyria, at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE), where they were, however, apparently not deployed. Due to the Roman focus on infantry and its discipline, war elephants were rarely used. 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. The two elephant corps clashed directly and the smaller-sized African elephants gave way, even if Ptolemy won the battle overall. Elephants even appeared on Carthaginian coins of the period. Elephants were dressed for battle in armour which protected their heads and sometimes front. Pyrrhus (/ ˈ p ɪr ə s /; Ancient Greek: Πύρρος, Pyrrhos; 319/318–272 BC) was a Greek king and statesman of the Hellenistic period. 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. There is uncertainty as to when elephant warfare first started but it is widely accepted that it began in ancient India.The early Vedic period did not extensively specify the use of elephants in war. During the eastern campaign of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), Greek and Macedonian soldiers first encountered elephants in Assyria, at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE), where they were, however, apparently not deployed. present-day northern Algeria) supplied elephants to the Pompeian forces during the Roman Civil War (49-45 BCE). Bibliography However, the animals often turn on their own ranks trampling indiscriminately whoever comes in their way. From the 270’s a light-weight tower (howdah or thorakia) of wood and leather was strapped to the larger Asian elephant using chains, and protected with shields hanging down its sides. This beast lies by the papyrus, reed and sedge, it strikes the river to pour water in its mouth and does not fear the flood. 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. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. The snakes might allude to the legend that Olympias was impregnated by a god in the form of a snake. Alexander’s facial features are full of pathos, his diadēma (headband) signifies his royalty, his large bulging eyes intimating his divinity. The combination of these three attributes remains poorly understood, although the portrait as a whole makes little sense from a classical Graeco-Macedonian perspective. All three attributes symbolize Alexander’s divine sonship and the attributes portray him as the heroic descendant of the slayer of demons, underlying the associations between the mythic figures of Dionysus and Heracles (both sons of Zeus), Shiva (an emanation of Indra) and Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu), as well as Horus (the reincarnation of Osiris). The Mauryans used three riders, all archers, with … Thank you! “wild beast”), likened to bulls, with ribs made of bronze and a spine of cast iron. Elephant Symbolism on the Coins of Ptolemy Iby Branko van Oppen (CC BY-NC-SA). "Elephants in Greek & Roman Warfare." C.A. 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. 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. 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. Elephants, being only available from Africa or Asia, were expensive commodities to acquire for Mediterranean powers. After his coronation in Memphis, the priest at Siwah confirmed that Alexander was recognized as the son of god. Elephant scalp worn by Demetrius I of Bactria (205–171 BC), founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, as a symbol of his conquest. Ancient authors recognized Heracles in an unspecified Hindu deity and the identification remains unsettled among modern scholars. u (“elephant”) (compare Tahaggart Tamahaq êlu, Tamasheq alu) or Egyptian ꜣbw (“elephant; ivory”). Ancient History Encyclopedia. In 280 BCE Pyrrhus met a Roman force at the Battle of Heraclea. The Pyrrhic campaign inspired the Carthaginians to acquire war elephants by the time of the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE). 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. One of Petrarch’s four famous Triumphs, the “Triumph of Fame over Death,” has been frequently illustrated by generations of artists. In the ancient world, moreover, the elephant was also utilized as a machine of war. 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. Nov 12, 2020 - Explore Jonah Bomgaars's board "War Elephants!" Even the smell of elephants could drive unprepared horses into a stampede. The trunk appears to curl as if in prayer in a manner resembling an upright cobra (uraeus). Cleopatra Selene II, Boscorealeby Hervé Lewandowski (Copyright), Let us briefly return to the Hellenistic period and quickly make our way back eastwards. 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. It appears frequently as an attribute of military might on Hellenistic bronze figurines and decorative elements (of which several examples are found in museums across the world). “Behold the wild beasts around you,” God spoke to Job and continued describing a fearsome and mighty monster, literally a Behemoth (lit. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. 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. 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). Suggested Reading. 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. On the emblema, Cleopatra Selene wears an elephant scalp as a headdress and is surrounded by a profusion of religious symbols and attributes particularly associated with Ptolemaic Egypt. Ancient History Encyclopedia. After Gaugamela, 15 elephants were captured from the Persian camp, along with the baggage, chariots and camels. 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. Cavalry horses, especially, are frightened even of their smell. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 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. 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. Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. I will answer this question from an Indian perspective. Larger elephants were outfitted with tower-like devices protecting occupants from ground-level attack and providing an excellent battlefield vantage point. Oppen, Branko V. "Elephants in Hellenistic History & Art." Related Content 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. After the death of her parents, Octavian brought her to Rome and subsequently married her to King Juba II of Numidia, son of Juba I. Carthaginian War Elephantby The Creative Assembly (Copyright). Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Many of Alexander’s successors went one step further and employed them in battle proper. The armies of the Antigonids and Ptolemies also fielded Asian elephants, although generally in much smaller numbers. These were used in the First and Second Punic Wars against Rome in the mid and late 3rd century BCE, notably in the Battle at the river Tagus in Spain in 220 BCE and at the Battle of Trebia in northern Italy in 218 BCE. Pyrrhus already had 20 war elephants (although it remains unclear from where or whom he had obtained them). 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. The War with Hannibal: The History of Rome from Its Foundation, Books... Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. 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. They were established as rulers of Mauretania (approx. The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (1974). However, it was the elephant itself that was the principal weapon, employed as a sort of mobile wrecking ball. Indra, the sky god, who wields thunder and lightning, might be compared with Zeus. 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. "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. According to Plutarch, 475 elephants took part in the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE during the Successor Wars. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. 6:34.). Starting with the association with Alexander’s Indian triumph, the exuvia (elephant’s scalp) might best be understood as an attribute of an Indian deity, such as Indra, Shiva, or Krishna. 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. Tarentum, a Greek city in southern Italy recruited him to combat a growing and belligerent neighbour to the north, Rome. Some ancient sources claim that elephants were given wine before battle in order to rouse them into a fighting frenzy. Fame is accompanied by Plato and Aristotle, Alexander, and Charlemagne. 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. 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. One of the most precious artifacts among the Boscoreale treasure discovered in 1895 CE (now in the Louvre) – and perhaps one of the most beautiful works of ancient art – is a silver emblema dish with an allegorical portrait attributed to Cleopatra Selene (40-5 BCE), the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Incidentally, Eleazar Maccabaeus was crushed by a Seleucid elephant, after piercing it with his spear at the Battle of Beth Zechariah in 162 BCE. Furthermore, the scalp is worn over the head as Heracles wore the scalp of the Nemean Lion. The Macedonian army then encountered elephants in the field at the Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BCE; the westernmost tributary of the Indus now called the Jhelum) against a king called Porus (perhaps Paurava, i.e., “King of the Purus”). Alexander’s elephant headdress is generally understood as an emblem of his victory over Porus. 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. This was at the Battle of Raphia (on the Sinai peninsula) in 217 BCE between Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III. The first use of elephants by humans began about 4,000 years ago in India. Greek authors continued to associate elephants with legends and fabulous monsters – that is, for our modern mind non-existing figments of ancient imagination. 24 Dec 2020. These huge beasts would have terrified men and horses both visually and orally with their trumpeting. 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. Roman Mosaic Showing the Transport of an Elephant, Detail of Roman Sarcophagus with an Elephant, Detail of a 6th Century CE Elephant Mosaic. License. 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. Indeed, the Seleucid Empire made sure to exclusively control the traffic in Asian elephants. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. They were also used to combat any elephants in the opposition’s ranks. 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. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. Seleukos I Nikator famously swapped parts of his eastern empire to gain 500 elephants from Indian emperor Chandragupta in 305 BCE. In Alexander’s posthumous portraiture, it seems to be tied around his neck by two writhing snakes. The religious association of the elephant with victory and power is therefore obvious. The rider was crucial as he had trained the animal for years and it would obey only his commands. This latter eventuality was, in part, avoided by the stationing of a small team of infantry to protect the elephant’s legs. Sword blades or iron points were added to the tusks and bells hung from the body to create as much noise as possible. Still, Caesar was able to defeat Metellus Scipio at the Battle of Thapsus in Tunisia (46 BCE) and he captured over 60 elephants after his African victory and displayed 40 in a Roman triumph. When Hannibal (247 - c. 182 BCE) moved against Rome, he crossed the Pyrenees from Spain with 37 elephants among his vast forces. Early use of elephants in battle by Alexander’s successors involved only a rider (mahout) and perhaps a spearman. 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. During the late Roman Empire elephants were also given and received as gifts to improve diplomatic relations with neighbouring states. Understood as an emblem of military might, in antiquity and well beyond, I have argued that the elephant was a mythic monster. 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