The Macedonian war-elephant.

Macedonian Warelephant]

Alexander was so impressed by the elephants of the army of an Indian king called Poros that he immediately added them to his army. The battlefield was even dominated by a combination of the phalanx and the elephants during the era of the diadochs after the death of Alexander. The power of the elephant was even more increased when battle-towers were placed on the back of them. In this tower were normally a pikeman and an archer who could attack enemies who attempted to stop the elephant from breaking through their formations. The elephant was controlled by a driver who was of Indian origin. The driver was armed with several javelins.

Tactics of the war-elephant.

The main advantages of the elephants were their size and their terrifying sight. They were especially useful against cavalry as the horses who were not used to the sight and the sound of an elephant bolted most of the time. A row of elephants with 20 till 50 metres space between them was enough to stop a massive cavalry attack most of the times. However, there was one big disadvantage: elephants were very hard to kill, but many wounds or the loss of the driver was often enough to scare the elephant and then he also became a big danger to the friendly army. That is why they were normally escorted by a group of light infantry.

The elephants at the end of the era of diadochs had a permanent escort of light infantry, a tower big enough to hold four men, and leather or metal rings around their legs which had to prevent that the enemy cut the muscles in the heels of the elephant. The smaller African jungle-elephant was also used by the Ptolemies and Cartage. It is not known if Cartage also used battle-towers, but the Ptolemies certainly did. The elephant in this picture is characteristic for the period from 280 till 200 BC.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 21-Jan-1998 23:13:28 CET
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© Copyright 1997 by Martijn Moerbeek, a member of the Monolith Community
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