CTE-03 Carthaginian Indian War Elephant



Carthage learnt the use of elephants from fighting in Sicily against Pyrrhus of Epirus between 278 and 276 BC.
The Carthaginians quickly realized they could easily acquire African Forest Elephants which inhabited North Africa in great numbers. It was much easier to capture these elephants than import elephants from India. It was not long before Carthage had the most powerful elephant corps in the Mediterranean world, with stables housing up to 300 elephants located in the capital. They would replace chariots as the Carthaginian’s main striking force.

The elephants primarily used by the Carthaginian armies were of the now extinct smaller African kind. They stood between 2m and 2.5m tall.
These elephants were taken from the now long vanished forests of Numidia. Their primary use was to terrify the uninitiated man and horse, and they carried a single rider known as a mahout, who was armed with a javelin. Each elephant could also carry an additional soldier armed with javelins or a long spear.

It is believed that the elephants deployed at Zama did not carry infantry in howdahs on their backs.
Most scholars doubt it as the forest species being smaller than Asian elephants, it is believed could not carry the additional weight. Any elephants with towers were believed to have been imported from India. However, the Egyptian Ptolemies as well as Numidian kings are recorded as having put towers on forest elephants, and the Roman poet Juvenal mentions towers on Hannibal’s elephants.