- Oct 2018
Is it therefore the case that Delbruck rejects all instances of elephants disrupting or attempting to disrupt enemy infantry formations from the front as unhistorical? If I recall correctly, Hydaspes, Gaza, Bagradas 255 BC, Metaurus and Zama are all examples. Only one of those efforts proved a success, but if we accept the accounts of these battles as they are, sending elephants against front-line infantry wasn't an unusual move (although I suppose we could say that making such a move after all those failures was an increasingly foolhardy approach). I also question the idea that the elephants couldn't keep up with the phalanx, being the huge (consider their strides) and deceptively quick animals that they are, but maybe that statement of Delbruck's stems from something in the accounts of Magnesia that I haven't noticed.You might find Delbruck's section on Magnesia helpful:
Warfare in Antiquity, 398-9.
He has some further analysis on the battle that challenges contemporaries of his time who tried to justify the accounts, I can post if you wish.
If I interpreted the final sentence correctly, I also question the suggestion that we should whole-sale reject the battle accounts of Appian. Appian's accounts of Cannae and Zama are obviously not to be trusted, but his account of Magnesia seems to be partly based on that of Livy or a shared source with Livy. In other words, Appian can be useful, but it depends on where he is getting his information. For example, we tend to trust his account of the Third Punic War since it appears to be based on the now-fragmentary account of Polybius.
This said, I agree with Delbruck (and nuclearguy165, earlier in this thread) that the numbers can't be trusted.