Mon Aug 10 10:02:50 2009
One of the primary uses for war elephants was as deterrent—to induce fear in horses and men and prevent them from attacking in the first place. According to Arrian they were used to terrify and make the cavalry horses hard to control, discourage the advance of infantry and then charge and trample infantry, the tough hide being fairly resistant to spears. Of course the riders seem to have been susceptible to archers. Once the driver has been dispatched the elephant would either wander aimlessly or panic and trample anything in its path. Perhaps they were so successful a deterrent that they never were engaged at Gaugamela.

At Hydaspes River, war elephants caused considerable damage to Alexander’s elite Macedonian units before they were eventually repulsed, when they began to cause damage to their own lines. After the battle Alexander is supposed to have said “They are a military force of dubious value, and their ferocity is greater towards their own side; for they are driven by command against the enemy, but by fear against their own men.” Yet he added them to his own army after Hydaspes River.


~ by severalfourmany on August 10, 2009.

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