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Elephants at Raphia: Reinterpreting Polybius 5.84-5

Charles, Michael B. (2007) Elephants at Raphia: Reinterpreting Polybius 5.84-5. Classical Quarterly, 57, pp. 306-311.

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Abstract

The battle of Raphia, waged near Gaza between the Seleucid king Antiochus III and Ptolemy IV Philopater of Egypt in 217 B.C., represents the first time that the larger Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) would meet African elephants in battle. As is generally accepted, the larger African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) was unknown to the ancients, which means that Ptolemy's Africans would have been of the smaller forest variety (Loxodonta africana cyclotis). The forest elephant, which closely resembles its larger African cousin, is widely regarded as the African type used by both the Carthaginians and the Ptolemaic princes. This particular beast, now confined to the equatorial regions of the continent, was once relatively common in northern Africa until hunted to local extinction. To follow the general interpretation of Polybius, the Seleucid Indian elephants proved too intimidating for Ptolemy's smaller African beasts.5 Moreover, Antiochus’ 102 elephants outnumbered Ptolemy's seventy-three (Polyb. 5.79.2, 5.79.13), which were divided on both sides and placed on the wings.

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3 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 9144
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Elephants, Raphia, Polybius
DOI: 10.1017/S0009838807000341
ISSN: 1471-6844
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300) > Classical Greek and Roman History (210306)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Business Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 Cambridge University Press
Copyright Statement: Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Deposited On: 27 Aug 2007
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2011 23:32

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