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The Crossing of the Elephants

The mode of getting the elephants across was as
The passage of the elephants.
follows. They made a number of rafts strongly compacted, which they lashed firmly two and two together, so as to form combined a breadth of about fifty feet, and brought them close under the bank at the place of crossing. To the outer edge of these they lashed some others and made them join exactly; so that the whole raft thus constructed stretched out some way into the channel, while the edges towards the stream were made fast to the land with ropes tied to trees which grew along the brink, to secure the raft keeping its place and not drifting down the river. These combined rafts stretching about two hundred feet across the stream, they joined two other very large ones to the outer edges, fastened very firmly together, but connected with the others by ropes which admitted of being easily cut. To these they fastened several towing lines, that the wherries might prevent the rafts drifting down stream, and might drag them forcibly against the current and so get the elephants across on them. Then they threw a great deal of earth upon all the rafts, until they had raised the surface to the level of the bank, and made it look like the path on the land leading down to the passage. The elephants were accustomed to obey their Indian riders until they came to water, but could never be induced to step into water: they therefore led them upon this earth, putting two females in front whom the others obediently followed. When they had set foot on the rafts that were farthest out in the stream, the ropes were cut which fastened these to the other rafts, the towing lines were pulled taut by the wherries, and the elephants, with the rafts on which they stood, were quickly towed away from the mound of earth. When this happened, the animals were terror-stricken; and at first turned round and round, and rushed first to one part of the raft and then to another, but finding themselves completely surrounded by the water, they were too frightened to do anything, and were obliged to stay where they were. And it was by repeating this contrivance of joining a pair of rafts to the others, that eventually the greater part of the elephants were got across. Some of them, however, in the middle of the crossing, threw themselves in their terror into the river: but though their Indian riders were drowned, the animals themselves got safe to land, saved by the strength and great length of their probosces; for by raising these above the water, they were enabled to breathe through them, and blow out any water that got into them, while for the most part they got through the river on their feet.

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load focus Greek (Theodorus Büttner-Wobst after L. Dindorf, 1893)
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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), REMULCUM
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