Author Topic: Elephant Breaching  (Read 382 times)

Justin Swanton

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2021, 02:22:14 PM »
Quote
No, I'm not talking about pachyderm pregnancy problems.

Weirdly, my instant thought was whales breaching and for a split second imagined elephants leaping in the air .  Thankfully, the thought quickly passed :)

There is a precedent...sort of...


Erpingham

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2021, 02:41:17 PM »
Inspired to venture into unfamiliar territory of Ghaznavid elephants, I found a mention of Sultan Mahmud capturing a fort with elephants smashing the gates in 1002 in this article

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44156208 . p.215

It does give different references to those mentioned by Richard, though forgets to fully define them, just giving author name.

In this case, the elephant destroys the gate with its "teeth" .


  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2021, 05:38:03 PM »
The one other incident which occurs to me is Perdikkas' failed attack on Ptolemy at the Fort of the Camels, as per Diodorus.  Unsuccessful, and the description is of the elephants being used to assault the walls rather than gates.  Nor is it clear what was the nature of the fort and its defences - was it primarily a wooden palisade, in which case the use of elephants against them would seem much more credible?  Diodorus talks of the elephants destroying the wall/palisade, but the attack was in combination with an escalade, so it could be more that they were being used in place of siege towers (given it was a hasty assault) to clear / distract defenders from the parapet whilst the lads got up the ladders.
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David Stevens

NickHarbud

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2021, 09:07:24 AM »
Inspired to venture into unfamiliar territory of Ghaznavid elephants, I found a mention of Sultan Mahmud capturing a fort with elephants smashing the gates in 1002 in this article

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44156208 . p.215

It does give different references to those mentioned by Richard, though forgets to fully define them, just giving author name.

In this case, the elephant destroys the gate with its "teeth" .

Anthony's reference paper appears to be looking at the same siege of Taq in 1002 AD that Kistler talks about.  I like the bit about using teeth.  It brings to mind evangelical sermons on the subject of there being "...a great gnashing of teeth in Heaven and, if you have none, teeth will be provided."  Perhaps the author meant tusks?

Incidentally, following Rich's post, I had a closer look at Kistler, a consultant on Oliver Stone's film "Alexander", for which he trained as a mahout and has the certificate to prove it.  Notwithstanding such practical experience, he is not a historian.  Many reviewers of his work (including the illustrious Jeff Jonas) find it somewhat dodgy, being based upon largely on secondary material and sundry pre-war magazine articles.

To summarise so far.  We have a few examples of the attempted use of elephants in breaching gates, most of which tell us they were not very effective and it was eminently practical to drive them off before the gate was splintered.  In terms of breaching method, we have either brute force from head-butting and pushing (against which many gates incorporate spikes) or some sort of destruction by tusks (or possibly teeth).

8)
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altfritz

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2021, 11:10:14 PM »
In part it would depend upon how strongly made and/or maintained the gates are. Are they reinforced? How strong is the beam? How strong are the hinges? Did the Governor embezzle all the funds earmarked for maintenance?

I suspect a great many places were just poorly built and/or maintained. Or that it was just too hard to keep up with the degradation caused by the climate.

Muskets don't count for driving them off - out of period - though I guess boiling water or oil might substitute.
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NickHarbud

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Re: Elephant Breaching
« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2021, 10:45:45 AM »
Muskets don't count for driving them off - out of period - though I guess boiling water or oil might substitute.

Well Amida was originally fortified by the Romans prior to the siege in 359 AD, and one can imagine they had scorpions and similar bolt-shooting engines that should be quite capable of either driving off the elephants or messing up their entire day.  Javelins hurled from the battlements or through murder holes would probably also work quite well.
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