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Then, indeed, at the sight of the animals, which was out of all common experience, at their frightful trumpeting, and also at the clatter of arms which their riders made, seated in the towers, both the Romans themselves were panic-stricken and their horses became frenzied and bolted, either shaking off their riders or bearing them away.
— Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Dio's Roman History

The Greeks were first introduced to war elephants at the Battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander the Great defeated King Darius and his supposed million-man army. Darius had 15 such animals from India, but for some reason, they were too exhausted to take part in the fight. Later Alexander faced the Giant King Porus of India he battle of the Hydaspes, where his phalanx clashed with 200 Indian war elephants. Though a victory, the phalanx only barely defeated them and saw such carnage that they were never the same again. Afterwards, the Greeks sought to acquire more of these creatures, which could spook enemy horses, rendering enemy cavalry useless.

Perhaps the most famous use of Greek war elephants was by King Pyrrhus of Epirus, who unleashed them on the Romans in southern Italy. At the battle of Heraclea, in 280 B.C., the Romans were making progress in the battle until Pyrrhus gave the signal for his twenty elephants to attack. The Romans had never seen such vast animals, and their sight, trumpeting, and the clatter of the weapons of the soldiers riding on their backs in the tower made the Romans panic-stricken. Their horses were terrified and bolted from the battlefield. Disheartened, the Romans fled, many being killed in pursuit by the elephants and their riders. Before the Romans could be pursued further, an elephant was wounded, and as it struggled with the wound and trumpeted, it threw the others of its kind into confusion, and thus the Romans were spared.

The Romans once again fell to the elephants at the battle of Asculum in 279 B.C. The Romans made 300 anti-elephant carts loaded with hooks, burning torches, and troops, which held the elephants back for a time. However, the soldiers in the elephant's towers rained down with javelins, and supportive light infantry disabled the oxen pulling the carts. Once again, Greek war elephants sent the Romans to flight. Only later at the battle of Maleventum, in 275 BC, did the Romans get revenge (according to some ancient sources, pigs wee set on fire and let loose among the elephants, who panicked). Later, Pyrrhus used the animals in the failed siege of Sparta and then foolishly in the siege of Argos, sending the animals inside the city. Pyrrhus was killed in battle, and his forces were defeated.

Greek war elephants varied considerably. The two species used were the Asian elephant and the now-extinct North African elephant, which was smaller. They Sometimes had the lower part of their tusks capped with metal, and while all had caparisons and towers, some had little to no armour, while others had armour on their heads (sometimes plumed), laminar armour on the legs (several leather or metal bands) and scale armour. The scales of elephant scale armour are directed upwards, which offered good protection from ground-based attacks. At least an average of three people rode an elephant: one mahout and two warriors in the tower, who had bows and arrows and either javelins or lances. Sarissas were also sometimes used. The towers were depicted as wooden frameworks with rawhides stretched across. To add sufficient armour, it is believed that they were covered with boards. Another alternative was that they were made of hurdles fixed won a wooden carcass, similar to a Pluteus, a mobile wooden siege shield that was well used at the time. Whatever the case, rawhides (most likely hanging loose) would have covered the towers, to protect against incendiary weapons.  

Battle vs. Troll (The Lord of the Rings) (by Deathblade 100)[]

Cave Troll:RedRedRedRed

Greek War Elephants:BrownBrownBrownBrown

Four Greek War Elephants patrol the open plains. Each of them has a crew of three: a mahout and two soldiers. They hear a roar in the distance as four Cave Trolls lumber onto the battlefield. Each troll has two Goblins, struggling to control the great beasts. The trolls roar as they see the elephants, frightening the crews.

The trolls run forward with one throwing a boulder towards the elephants, killing one.Brown The crews of the other three elephants open fire with their Toxotes bows and javelins bringing one of the great beasts down.Red A Cave Troll slams a weighted chain into an elephant, wounding it. A Greek throws a javelin at the troll, hitting it in the neck but not killing it.

A Cave Troll picks up its spear and impales a Greek elephant.Brown A thrust from a Sarissa wounds a troll just as the wounded elephant gores it with its tusks. The dying troll swings its club down onto the elephant, before dying.BrownRed The last elephant's crew thrust with a Sarissa injuring a troll. The elephant charges, trampling one of the remaining goblins. A bloodcurdling roar pierces the air as a troll swings his weighted chain into the elephant's chest.Brown

The troll leader looks at the dead elephants and says in Black Speech "The Master will be pleased", before turning and sitting down, crushing one of it's handlers, while its comrade wanders off.

Expert's Opinion[]

The Cave Troll had better weapons than the Greek War Elephant. To see the original votes, weapons and descriptions, click here

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