Sun 12 Dec, 2004 08:15 am
In fighting Alexander the Great in India, Porus used elephants to attack the Macedonian infantry.
Later, the Macedonians used elephants almost entirely as a screen against cavalry.
The Carthaginians Hanno and Hannibal stormed the Roman camps with elephants more or less successfully.
And after Plautius had defeted had defeated the Britons north of the Midway, Claudius arrived with elephants to make a triumph progress through Camulodunum (Colchester).
I'm now justz wondering, why this wasn't carried on later.
What lead to the vanish of elephants?
Why became horses more important?
For one thing, I don't think Hannibal's use of elephants was all that successful. As you say, "...more or less..." For another thing, transporting elephants on the ships of those times was a pretty cumbersome undertaking. They take up a lot of room and those ships were not very large. Moving them overland in Europe would also present a problem because of the climate. Hannibal is to be admired (from a military standoint, that is) for his perseverance in getting at least some of the beasts across the Alps, a daunting task. Claudius's use of elephants against the British did work rather well, chiefly because the Britons had never seen an elephant, nor heard of them, probably. It was a perfect example of the efficacy of shock action against an enemy.
I think that using elephants presents major logistical problems. First, you have to tame and train the beasts (how many belligerents of the time had outposts in either Africa or India?). Then you have to transport them from their homes (see above re: ships of the times). And, finally, elephants, while huge and intimidating, are not exactly speedy animals, except for short bursts of speed in pursuit of something. Horses, on the other hand, were ready to hand, not that hard to train, and didn't take up much space on a vessel (compared to elephants, that is). They were also locally available if the ones you brought with you should be killed in battle.
There are probably other reasons why elephants went out of fashion, psychological reasons. To the later combatants, after the fall of the Roman Empire, an elephant was too exotic a beast to be seriously considered. Horses were familiar. I'll bet they continued to use elephants in battle on the Indian subcontinent while in Europe the concept of the chevalier was developing.
Hi, Walter. Long time since you and I interacted.
Horses would certainly be easier to feed in northern climates.
Thanks for the replies.
You are correct - in various ways - Andrew (like e.g. that we didn't interact for some time
Reading (again) the Roman history of Britain, I got the idea of this thread.
Claudius had left Rome for the first time ever, and he bought those elephants with his army.
It may have been be less for strategic reasons and more to impress the British tribes.
But even if the latter is true, why wasn't it used later again?
(To answer my own question: it may well have been reasoned in the difficulties breeding elephants in rough European climate and transport difficulties.)
I'm not sure, but I did once hear something about elephants throwing off their riders as well, killing them. Sorry, I can't find a source for that. Now, this link was interesting: http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Post/166955
Thanks for the link, cav.
All this reminded me of one of my favourite in my childhood (printed in "old German" ['gothic']) about Carl Hagenbeck.
And, indeed ... History of elephant training
[And of course I do remember that Charlemagne took his elephant, Abul-Abbas, when he went to fight the Danes in 804 :wink: ]
That was an interesting link Walter.
so succinct I saw no reason to not quote it directly
During the more than four centuries of its existence, the Roman army changed from an essentially infantry formation to a predominantly cavalry-led force. The change was brought about primarily by the type of enemy it faced on the frontiers. To the east, rivals such as the Persians, which employed all cavalry armies, had inflicted serious defeats to Roman infantry. The only way to effectively counter these armies was with more and better cavalry forces. The same was essentially true when facing the mounted Germanic tribes to the north and west, and eventually the mounted nomadic tribes of the steppe.
in addition to the obvious logistical problems outlined above
a elephant can eat 770 pounds of food a day, compared to a horse at appox 25lbs, any concentration of elephants can strip an area, and they require substantially longer to consume their feed, this impacts their mobility\reaction range, while both horses and elephants can cover nearly the same ground per day, horses are a far superior "weapon" logistically easier to maintain and tactically more "nimble"