Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 4, 2012

Way to go Yankees !

From Ghosts of Cannae, War Elephants :

This brand of military disconnect also helps explain another characteristic Punic military delusion, a reliance on war elephants. Like the Romans, the Carthaginians got their first dose of panzer pachyderms from Pyrrhus, military history’s favorite Epirote,when they fought him in Sicily during his short sojourn there in 278. Unlike the Romans, who simply learned to deal with the elephants, the Carthaginians had their own by 262 and soon became addicted.This proved to be a bad habit. Elephants can be panicked easily, not a good quality during warfare.

When this happened, they tended to treat friend and foe alike, flailing wildly and stepping on anyone in the way, which was often the Carthaginians themselves. Granted, the elephants were terrifying to uninitiated enemy troops, and could disrupt cavalry, since horses found their scent repulsive. But there were simply too many ways they could be thwarted, and their net effect was to add another uncontrolled variable to the battlefield. They do appear to have played some role in defeating the Roman general Regulus when he invaded Africa in 256, but it is hard to find another comparable Carthaginian success with pachyderms. And this must be weighed against the elephantine expense of capturing, training, and transporting them,a negative cost-benefit result by any realistic accounting.But Carthage was plainly struck by their jumbo size and power—an ancient ultimate weapon—a mirage the possession of which might render all other military shortcomings irrelevant, a particularly beguiling notion to an acquisitive people not much used to fighting on the ground. Also, elephants were available. Carthaginians,after all, lived in Africa, and so-called forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis)were likely to be found north of the Sahara. Although they were smaller than the Indian models ridden by the Hellenistic Greeks, they were still plenty impressive, standing nearly eight feet tall at the shoulder.

Even Hannibal was fooled, making a heroic effort to herd some over the Alps, only to have them die well before he ever reached Cannae.Still, he remained interested, and his disastrous last stand at Zama in 201 featured eighty of the giant beasts. But war is not a circus, and they panicked as usual, marking Hannibal as the last and greatest of the Punic pachyderm true believers.
Pg. 67 Robert L.O'Connell

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