Greatest number of war elephants ever used?

Oct 2018
1,737
Sydney
On the species of elephants, I once read that the war elephants came from Asia because no one in Africa knew how to tame and control them...that Hannibal got his elephants from the Persians/Parthians. You just can't go into the jumgles of Southern Africa and catch wild elephants, tame them and train them and ride them back north over the Sahara desert. I mean wouldn't it be easier to buy them from Asia.?
But the Carthaginians and Numidians had access to local North African elephants that lived in the Atlas Mountains and elsewhere, and the Ptolemies and Axumites had access to elephants in Ethiopia.
 
Jul 2019
146
Ghana
On the species of elephants, I once read that the war elephants came from Asia because no one in Africa knew how to tame and control them...that Hannibal got his elephants from the Persians/Parthians. You just can't go into the jumgles of Southern Africa and catch wild elephants, tame them and train them and ride them back north over the Sahara desert. I mean wouldn't it be easier to buy them from Asia.?
I don't know where you got your information from but Kushites, who bordered Ptolemaic Egypt, were using war elephants during the Meroitic period. Their size looks a lot smaller than African Bush elephants. These are the size of forest elephants (who's current range borders South Sudan)... The statuette of the war elephant is from Meroë (Sudan). The outline on the right, of the relief of a divine figure riding an elephant is from the great enclosure of Musawwarat es Sufra, and the picture of war elephants holding bound captives by a rope is from the temple of Apedemak (god of war), also in Musawwarat es Sufra (Sudan):
Kingdom of Kush Kushite mounted war elephant from Meroë and Arensnuphis from Musawwarat.jpg

Elephants of Aborepi.jpg
 
Jul 2014
1,645
world
Elephants are very expensive to feed. Ever hear of the expression "White Elephant"? Elephants in North Africa are the smaller 'Forest Elephant' variety. Some Indian elephants were sent West but they were usually rare.

Pruitt
I believe Thailand and Burma fought wars over the possesion of white elephants because a white elephant foretold the birth of Buddha. The king woild have earned great merit and honour for possesing the white colored elephants. The wars and cost associated with it resulted in the modern idiom the "white elephant" as meaning something big and expensive.
 
Jul 2019
146
Ghana
Another point on the Carthaginian elephants is that they didn't use Indian Elephants. They used African elephants (probably with African mahouts too).

The confusion arises from Hannibal's personal elephant, which was called "Surus", his biggest elephant, which has been interpreted as the elephant being "Syrian". Whether it was a native Syrian elephant or an Indian elephant imported via the Seleucids is not clear, but it seems to refer to a single elephant, not the entire elephant corps.

Carthaginians depicted their elephants on some of their coins, and they very clearly depict African elephants. They're also clearly smaller than African bush elephants, which lends credence to the idea that they used a separate subspecies of elephant, now extinct in North Africa, but which is similar in size to the African forest elephant, which is quite trainable.

"A Carthaginian shekel, dated 237–227 BC, depicting the Punic god Melqart (equivalent of Hercules/Heracles), most likely with the features of Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal Barca; on the reverse is a man riding a war elephant" Carthago Nova, Spain:
Carthago Nova c 220 BC possibly Hamilcar Barca.jpg



Forest elephants from North Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, not far from the border with South Sudan, trained for ranger duties:
Riding African forest elephant.jpg
 
Nov 2011
1,111
The Bluff
In the Mediterranean region, the Battle of Raphia in 217 BC saw 73 African elephants in the Ptolemaic army and 102 Asian elephants in the Seleucid army.

Probably the largest number of war elephants in a battle in the Mediterranean region was at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC where the army of Antigonus I had 75 elephants and the the allied army that fought against him had 400 elephants in the forces of Seleucus I - all these elephants were probably Asian elephants.
The nature of the Lagid elephants at Raphia is debated. Whatever is decided about them it is a more pertinent fact that the Lagid army had not campaigned in the field for near a generation by the time of Raphia. Indeed, Polybios describes in great detail the reorganising, recruitment and training of the army for Raphia. There is no doubt the Lagid elephant corps was in no better shape. See the paper referenced in the post DiocletianIsBetterThanYou linked.

On Ipsos, all those elephants were Asian (Indian). Ditto Paraitakene, Gabiene, Megalopolis and Gaza.
 
Sep 2019
68
Vergina
So it looks like Karnal is the one to beat. Does anyone here know how reliable the accounts are for Karnal or the aforementioned First Battle of Panipat? Those are incredible numbers!
One only has to stop and consider the feed and water such a throng of elephants gathered in one place would require daily to answer that question.
I am skeptical as well however I have Axworthy's book on Nader Shah and he lists the same 2,000 elephants. Though in the footnote he states only 500 for the battlefield with the rest being used for baggage-moving artillery. The Indians supposedly had upwards of a million camp followers for the battle it looks like all of Delhi basically moved to watch the engagement. So perhaps this could explain how they were able to keep the elephants fed?
 
Jul 2019
146
Ghana
One only has to stop and consider the feed and water such a throng of elephants gathered in one place would require daily to answer that question.
If only history was that simple... Even modern day wild elephant herds can number as many as 350 (Hwange National Park has 44.000 elephants in a 14.651 km² area). Historical elephant herds could number in the thousands as late as the 19th century. India had thousands of years experience training and handling huge numbers of elephants, and the Mughal Empire was one of the largest and most powerful in South Asian history (granted, they were in decline at this point). I don't know how accurate the claim of 2000 elephants is, but I won't put it beyond the logistical capabilities of the Mughals. And water is not an issue when there are rivers around, which was the case.
 
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