Elephant Kingdom - The Search for the Giant Sun Throwing Elephant

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A position of elephantarch was established by the successors of Alexander in their respective realms Plutarch, Demetrius 25, , and the term Indov' was appropriated to refer to elephant drivers in respect to the first Indians who trained the Greek kings' elephants Polybius 1. The armies of Alexander's successors used elephants almost exclusively against cavalry. Occasionally they were used in siege warfare for such jobs as tearing down wooden fortifications.

2, Years of Terror: Why You Don't Want to Fight an Elephant in a War | The National Interest

When drawn up for battle, the intervals between the animals were filled with light-armed troops. At the battle of Gaza BC there was a unit of 50 javelineers, slingers and archers of whom a third were bowmen in each interval. Diodorus implies that this was the standard number of light armed men per elephant.

The elephant's main weak spot was the soles of its feet. At the siege of Megalopolis BC heavy wooden frames studded with iron spikes were laid in the path of the elephants. At the battle of Gaza spiked devices, possibly caltrops, connected by chains were thrown in front of them. As the war was centered mainly on Lucania, elephants received the nickname of Lucanian cows. All the elephants so far mentioned were Indian. Pliny the Elder writes about these elephants at some length at the beginning of Book 8. Pliny knew that the elephant's tusks were teeth, not bones.

He seems unaware of elephants from south of the Sahara Desert and usually speaks of India as the source of elephants. Some historians believer that Alexander the Great Egypt did import occasional elephants up the Nile River from central Africa, but never in quantity. When Alexander died, his kingdom was split between his generals. The Selucids of Syria had access to elephants from India, but the Ptolmys were cut off in Egypt where elephants were very hard to come by.

A journey to Elephant Kingdom

The use of elephants gave the Selucids a tactical military advantage against the Ptolemies of Egypt. In order to counteract this tactical deficit, Ptolemy Philadelphos decided to import African elephants into his army. In order to do this as fast as possible, he needed to move elephants from central Africa, north as fast as possible. So Philadelphos developed a series of ports on the Red Sea and farther down the East Africa coast, complete with elephant stopping stations.

The ports of Philotera and Berenice were developed and the Egyptian port of Myos Hormos was improved. Elephants were then captured, trained and eventually moved from the south to Egypt via Egyptian ships and the new Egyptian ports. As this took time, these elephants did not appear in Ptolemic armies until near the end of Philadelphos' rule.

Polybus, in his description of the battle of Raphia, BC, the year after Hannibal crossed the Alps fought between the Ptolomies and the Selucids, mentions that the African elephant was smaller than the Indian. This has led to a storm of controversy as, of course the opposite is true. This was often quoted as an example to show that Polybius was not as well informed as his admirers claimed. However, in more recent years it has been shown that there was a species known as the North Africa elephant, which was common in North Africa in Polybius' day but is now extinct.

This species measures about 2. During his account of the battle of Raphia, Polybius gives a vivid description of elephants fighting each other. They met dead on with tusks interlocked.

Who Knew? 14 Fascinating Facts About Elephants

Each pushed with all its weight, trying to compel the other to give ground. Finally, the stronger would force the weaker one's trunk to one side and then gore him in the exposed flank. Although the Indians who opposed Alexander did not use towers on their elephants, the Indian elephant was large enough to be fitted with one.


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Towers seem first to have been used by Pyrrhus when he invaded Italy. The North African forest type was rather too small to carry a tower and certainly the Carthaginians never seem to have used them. However, at Raphia, Ptolemy's elephants clearly carried them. The smaller African bush elephants with their saddle backs would usually have been ridden like a horse. These were most likely Indian war elephants as 1 Maccabees describes their driver as being Indian. Upon the backs of the elephants were wooden towers filled with fighting men.

In BC, Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus now North Albania , with an army of 25, men and 26 elephants won a hard-fought victory over the Romans at Heraclea. At a crucial phase of the battle, Pyrrhus ordered his elephants to charge and it was too much for the Roman legions. In BC the elephant reached the height of its fame when Hannibal crossed the Alps at the head of an army which included 37 elephants.

But the difficulties of the terrain and the climate proved too hard for the bulky-bodied elephants and many of them perished on the way. Nevertheless, Hannibal's military genius and Carthaginian fortitude triumphed in the end.

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Some historians feel that these elephants were African bush elephants, and others say they were North African elephants, and still others feel they must have been Indian elephants, while one of Hannibal's elephants was known as "Sarus," which means "the Syrian. Eventually, however, the heyday of the elephant was over and they soon fell out of favor. It is felt that their use may have declines because of the difficulty of obtaining them.

Classifications of Elephants There are, and were many different species of elephants.

Today, only two main species exist, but in the time of the Nabataeans, four separate species were known at that time, and could have been used for warfare. One thousand years earlier, several races of the Asian and African elephants had become extinct. For example, the Elephas maximus rubridens existed in China as far north as Anyang, in northern Honan Province.

Writings from the 14th century BC state that elephants were still to be found in Kwangsi Province. The small North African race became extinct by the 2nd century BC. The large African bush elephants Loxodonta africana were exterminated from the Transvaal region of South Africa early in the 20th century, but they still occur over much of the continent south of the Sahara Desert. The African forest elephant still inhabits the forests of western equatorial Africa, particularly in the Congo region. It is considered by some to be a subspecies Loxodonta africana cyclotis of the African elephant; others believe it to be represented by several subspecies; still others consider it to be a separate species L.

The African elephant can be quickly distinguished from the Indian elephant by its greater size and its larger ears, which may reach a length of 1. The African elephant is tallest at the shoulder, has more wrinkled skin, and bears tusks in both male and female. The Indian elephant is tallest at the arch of the back, bears noticeable tusks in the male only the female having tusks so small that they appear absent , and has one lobe instead of two on its trunk.

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The Indian elephant has two humps on its forehead, the African elephant's forehead is flatter. The ears are said to reflect the geographical local from which they originate. The Indian elephant has smaller ears, shaped like the Indian subcontinent. The African elephant has larger ears, reminiscent of the shape of the large African continent. Despite their great weight, which in African elephants reaches 7, kg 15, lb and in Indian elephants 5, kg 11, lb , elephants walk almost noiselessly and with exceptional grace, their columnar legs keeping their bulk moving forwards in smooth, rhythmic strides.

A thick cushion of resilient tissue grows on the base of the foot, absorbing the shock of the weight and enabling the animal to walk high on its hoof-like toes.

Form and function

Elephants normally walk at about 6. They cannot gallop or jump over ditches, but they readily take to rivers and lakes, where the water supports them and enables them to swim for long distances without tiring. Although African elephants can be trained, the Indian elephant has by far the longer tradition of service to humankind.

Indian elephants are still used for logging, especially in mountainous terrain, and were probably employed as work animals as early as BC. Both species live in habitats ranging from thick jungle to savanna. They live in small family groups led by old cows; where food is plentiful the groups join in larger herds. Most bulls live in bachelor herds apart from the cows. Elephants migrate seasonally, according to the availability of food and water.

They spend many hours eating and may consume more than kg pounds of grasses and other vegetation in a day. Gestatioon averages 22 months. Maturemale elephants annually enter a condition known as musth, which is marked by secretions from the musth glands behind the eye, an increase in aggression, and association with females that usually leads to mating.

Since elephants rarely bear young in captivity, they are corralled kept in an enclosure in the wild, often with the use of domestic elephants and mahouts professional elephant handlers.