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There is a famous combat mentioned of a Roman with an elephant, when Hannibal compelled our prisoners to fight against each other. The one who had survived all the others he placed before an elephant, and promised him his life if he should slay it; upon which the man advanced alone into the arena, and, to the great regret of the Carthaginians, succeeded in doing so.1 Hannibal, however, thinking that the news of this victory might cause a feeling of contempt for these animals, sent some horsemen to kill the man on his way home. In our battles with Pyrrhus it was found, on making trial, that it was extremely easy to cut off the trunks of these animals.2 Fenestella informs us, that they fought at Rome in the Circus for the first time during the curule ædileship of Claudius Pulcher, in the consulship of M. Antonius and A. Postumius, in the year of the City 655; and that twenty years afterwards, during the curule ædileship of the Luculli, they were set to fight against bulls. In the second consulship3 of Pompeius, at the dedication of the temple of Venus Victrix,4 twenty elephants, or, as some say, seventeen, fought in the Circus against a number of Gætulians, who attacked them with javelins. One of these animals fought in a most astonishing manner; being pierced through the feet, it dragged itself on its knees towards the troop, and seizing their bucklers, tossed them aloft into the air: and as they came to the ground they greatly amused the spectators, for they whirled round and round in the air, just as if they had been thrown up with a certain degree of skill,5 and not by the frantic fury of a wild beast. Another very wonderful circumstauce happened; an elephant was killed by a single blow. The weapon pierced the animal below the eye, and entered the vital part of the head. The elephants attempted, too, by their united efforts, to break down the enclosure, not without great confusion among the people who surrounded the iron gratings.6 It was in consequence of this circumstance, that Cæsar, the Dictator, when he was afterwards about to exhibit a similar spectacle, had the arena surrounded with trenches7 of water, which were lately filled up by the Emperor Nero,8 when he added the seats for the equestrian order.9 When, however, the elephants in the exhibition given by Pompeius had lost all hopes of escaping, they implored the compassion of the multitude by attitudes which surpass all description, and with a kind of lamentation bewailed their unhappy fate. So greatly were the people affected by the scene, that, forgetting the general altogether, and the munificence which had been at such pains to do them honour, the whole assembly rose up in tears, and showered curses on Pompeius, of which he soon afterwards became the victim. They fought also in the third consulship of the Dic- tator Cæsar, twenty of them against five hundred foot soldiers.10 On another occasion twenty elephants, carrying towers,11 and each defended by sixty men, were opposed to the same number of foot soldiers as before, and an equal number of horsemen. Afterwards, under the Emperors Claudius and Nero, the last exploit12 that the gladiators performed was fighting singlehanded13 with elephants.

The elephant is said to display such a merciful disposition towards animals that are weaker than itself, that, when it finds itself in a flock of sheep, it will remove with its trunk14 those that are in the way, lest it should unintentionally trample upon them.15 They will never do any mischief except when provoked, and they are of a disposition so sociable, that they always move about in herds, no animal being less fond of a solitary life. When surrounded by a troop of horsemen, they place in the centre of the herd those that are weak, weary, or wounded, and then take the front rank each in its turn, just as though they acted under command and in accordance with discipline. When taken captive, they are very speedily tamed, by being fed on the juices of barley.16

1 Val. Maximus, B. ix. c. 2, gives an account of the brutality of Hannibal on this occasion, in forcing the Roman captives to fight against each other, until only one was left; but he does not make mention of the combat with the elephant.—B.

2 Florus, B. i. c. 18, states, that this was practised in the later engagements with Pyrrhus, and that by these means the elephants were either destroyed or rendered useless. Cuvier remarks, that the trunk is composed of small muscles and fatty matter, enveloped by a tendinous membrane, and covered with skin.—B.

3 A.U.C. 678.—B.

4 "Venus the Conqueror." This temple was dedicated by Pompey, after his conquests in the East, in his second consulship, B.C. 55.

5 Pliny here refers to an art, practised among the Romans, of throwing up a shield into the air, in such a manner that, after performing a circuit, it would fall down on a certain spot; this trick is also alluded to by Martial, B. ix. Ep. 39.—B. The exercise with the boomerang, which was known to the ancient Assyrians, and has been borrowed in modern times from the people of Australasia, seems to have been somewhat similar to this.

6 "Clathri." These were gratings of iron trellis-work, placed in front of the lowest row of the spectators, to protect them from the wild beasts. This exhibition took place in Pompey's Amphitheatre, in the Campus Mar- tius. The arena of the amphitheatre was mostly surrounded by a wall, distinguished by the name of "podium," which was generally about eighteen feet in height, and the top of which was protected by this trellis-work. In the present instance, however, the "podium" can hardly have been so much as eighteen feet in height.

7 "Euripis." Julius Cæsar caused a canal, ten feet wide, to be formed in the Circus Maximus, around the bottom of the "podium," to protect the spectators from the wild beasts. These "euripi" probably took their name from the narrow channel so called, which lay between Bœotia and the island of Eubœa.

8 We learn, however, from Lampridius, in his Life of Heliogabalus, that this euripus was afterwards restored to the Circus.

9 Tacitus and Suetonius mention this separation of the equites from the rest of the spectators: it took place A.U.C. 816.—B. Up to the time of Augustus, A.U.C. 758, the senators, equites, and people sat indiscriminately in the Circus; but that emperor, and after him Claudius, Nero, and Domitian, separated the senators and the equites from the commons.

10 There are coins which bear the figure of an elephant and the word Cæsar, probably struck in commemoration of these games.—B.

11 The practice of placing towers filled with soldiers on the backs of the elephants is alluded to by Lucretius, B. v. 1. 1301, and by Juvenal, Sat. xii. 1. 110.—B. It still prevails in India.

12 "Consummatione gladiatorum." There is some doubt about the exact meaning of this. It may mean, "at the conclusion of the gladiatorial games," as exhibited; or, what is more probable, "as the crowning exploit of the gladiators," who wished thereby to secure their manumission, which was granted after remarkable feats of valour. Cælius Rhodiginus, B. xi. c. 11, prefers this last meaning: Dalechamps, with whom Ajasson coincides, the first.

13 "Postea singulis." Those who coincide with Dalechamps and Ajasson, as to the meaning, would read it, that at the end of the gladiatorial games, the elephants fought singly one against another, the gladiators having retired from the arena.

14 Pliny here uses the word "manu," "hand," which although, as he afterwards remarks, it may not be an inappropriate metaphor, could scarcely be admitted in our language.—B.

15 This trait has been observed in all ages; the elephant has been known to remove with its trunk a child lying in its way, and in danger of being injured. It appears to have an instinctive dread of trampling on a living animal; the same has also been observed in the horse.—B.

16 "Hordeo succo;" the exact meaning has been the subject of much discussion; it probably refers to some preparation of barley used by the ancients, perhaps a maceration of the corn in water; it is scarcely to be supposed, however, that the words are to be taken literally.—B.

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