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After 2,000 years, Ptolemy’s war elephants are revealed

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tags: ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, Ptolemy, classical era




If you think back to history class, you might remember the tale of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 B.C. to sneak up on Rome during the Punic Wars. It was notable not just because he brought an entire army from Carthage to Rome the long way around, but because that army included elephants.

The use of war elephants dates back at least to the fourth century B.C., when Indian kings took Asian elephants into battle. The practice soon spread west to the Persian Empire and then northern Africa, where African elephants were put to military use. There’s only one known case, though, of an African elephant-Asian elephant matchup, at the Battle of Raphia near Gaza on June 22, 217 B.C. The battle, over the sovereignty of Syria, matched the forces of Ptolemy IV, pharaoh of Egypt, against those of Antiochus III, a Greek king whose reign stretched into western Asia.

Ptolemy won the battle — but not because his elephants were any help, at least according to Greek historian Polybius, who described the encounter in his work The Histories....

Read entire article at Science News


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