The Ancients

War Elephants

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Episode notes

Move over Hannibal. More over Carthage. This podcast is all about a much BIGGER elephant power in antiquity. A power that, at its height, stretched from modern day Bulgaria to the Hindu Kush: the Seleucid Empire. Existing for almost 250 years, throughout this Empire’s long history the Indian elephant remained right at its heart. On the battlefield these giant beasts of war became symbolic of Seleucid warfare, fighting in almost all (if not all) the major military encounters the Seleucids had with other powers: from Ipsus to Magnesia. But away from the battlefield too, these animals retained their importance, particularly for the Seleucid Kings. The history of Seleucid elephant warfare is fascinating and it was a great pleasure to be joined by Dr Silvannen Gerrard to talk through this topic. Silvannen explained how these elephants were trained and used in war, but she also stressed their importance away from the battlefield - their prestige value, the logistics of looking after elephants and how they epitomised a vital trade link with ancient India. She also answered the all important question: did the Ancients send elephants into battle drunk? Oh, and make sure you listen RIGHT to the end! A few notes: Eumenes, Antigonus, Ptolemy and Seleucus were all prominent players fighting after Alexander the Great’s death. Ptolemy was the founder of the Hellenistic Ptolemaic Kingdom, centred in Egypt. Sarrisas were very long pikes – roughly 6 metres long. The Galatians: a conglomeration of Gallic tribes that settled in modern day central Anatolia. We (I mainly) go back and forth between 'Seleucid' and 'Seleukid'. Same kingdom!  

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