The Elephants in the Battle
Ptolemy, accompanied by his sister, having arrived at
the left wing of his army, and Antiochus with the royal guard
at the right: they gave the signal for the battle,
and opened the fight by a charge of elephants.
Only some few of Ptolemy's elephants
came to close quarters with the foe: seated on these the
soldiers in the howdahs maintained a brilliant fight, lunging at
and striking each other with crossed pikes.1
But the elephants
themselves fought still more brilliantly, using all their strength
in the encounter, and pushing against each other, forehead to
The way in which elephants fight is this: they get their
tusks entangled and jammed, and then push
against one another with all their might, trying
to make each other yield ground until one of
them proving superior in strength has pushed aside the other's
trunk; and when once he can get a side blow at his enemy,
he pierces him with his tusks as a bull would with his horns.
Now, most of Ptolemy's animals, as is the way with Libyan
elephants, were afraid to face the fight: for they cannot stand
the smell or the trumpeting of the Indian elephants, but are
frightened at their size and strength, I suppose, and run away
from them at once without waiting to come near them.
Antiochus's right wing successful.
is exactly what happened on this occasion: and upon their
being thrown into confusion and being driven
back upon their own lines, Ptolemy's guard
gave way before the rush of the animals; while
Antiochus, wheeling his men so as to avoid the elephants,
charged the division of cavalry under Polycrates. At the
same time the Greek mercenaries stationed near the phalanx,
and behind the elephants, charged Ptolemy's peltasts and made
them give ground, the elephants having already thrown their
ranks also into confusion. Thus Ptolemy's whole left wing
began to give way before the enemy.