previous next


The first harnessed elephants that were seen at Rome, were in the triumph of Pompeius Magnus over Africa, when they drew his chariot; a thing that is said to have been done long before, at the triumph of Father Liber on the conquest of India. Procilius1 says, that those which were used at the triumph of Pompeius, were unable to go in harness through the gate of the city. In the exhibition of gladiators which was given by Germanicus,2 the elephants performed a sort of dance with their uncouth and irregular movements. It was a common thing to see them throw arrows with such strength, that the wind was unable to turn them from their course, to imitate among themselves the combats of the gladiators, and to frolic through the steps of the Pyrrhic dance.3 After this, too, they walked upon the tight-rope,4 and four of them would carry a litter in which lay a fifth, which represented a woman lying-in. They afterwards took their place; and so nicely did they manage their steps, that they did not so much as touch any of those who were drinking there.

1 Plutarch informs us, that Pompey had resolved to have his chariot drawn by four elephants, but finding the gate too narrow, he was obliged to use horses.—B.

2 See an account of this, and of the feats performed by the elephants, in Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. ii. c. 11.—B.

3 The Pyrrhic dance has been referred to in the last Book, c. 57. p. 231. It is not improbable that the elephants employed in this dance were caparisoned with armour.

4 However ill adapted the elephant may appear, from its size and form, for this feat, we have the testimony of Seneca, Suetonius, Dion Cassius, and Ælian, to the truth of the fact.—B.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (6 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: