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Seleukid Empire, Antiochos the Great, Elephants in the battle of Raphia

Seleukid Empire, Antiochos the Great, Elephants in the battle of Raphia

The Elephants in the Battle of Raphia

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.

The battle of Rhaphia
217 BC

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 forehead.

The way in which elephants fight is this: they get their

Fighting elephants.

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.

This 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

~Polybius, Histories

Thank you for this text Perseus Digital Library

Polybius Histories

Antiochos the Great, Elephant Tetradrachm

SELEUKID KINGS of SYRIA. Antiochos III ‘the Great’. 222-187 BC. AR Tetradrachm

SELEUKID KINGS of SYRIA. Antiochos III ‘the Great’. 222-187 BC. AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 17.03 g, 12h). Uncertain mint 56, probably in western Asia Minor (Sardes?). Struck circa 223-211 BC. Diademed head right / BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY, elephant walking right; monogram to left and right. SC 985.

Thank you Bradley Bowlin for kind permission to share this post from the Facebook group Ancient Coins, Roman, Greek, Provincial, Byzantine, Celtic and Hammered

The Battle of Raphia

The Battle of Raphia was fought on 22 June 217 BC near modern Rafah between the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator, king and pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt and Antiochus III the Great of the Seleukid Empire during the Syrian Wars. It was one of the largest battles of the Hellenistic kingdoms and was one of the largest battles of the ancient world. The battle was waged to determine the sovereignty of Coele Syria.


Coele Syria, Coelesyria (Greek: Κοίλη Συρία, Koílē Syría), also rendered as Coelosyria and Celesyria, otherwise Hollow Syria (Latin: Cava Syria, German: Hohl Syrien), was a region of Syria in classical antiquity. It probably derived from the Aramaic for all of the region of Syria but more often was applied to the Beqaa Valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges.


Thank you Wikipedia creative commons
By Asia_minor-Shepherd_1923.JPG:William Robert Shepherd  (1871–1934) American cartographer and historian

The battle site was near the modern Rafa on the southern border of Gaza.

Battle of Rapha 217 BC b