Elephants in Vegetius’ Epitoma rei militaris

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Publication details

Charles, MB 2014, 'Elephants in Vegetius’ Epitoma rei militaris', Museum Helveticum, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 1189-203.


The sources underlying Vegetius’ late-antique treatment of anti-elephant defences in the Epitoma Rei Militaris have hitherto not been examined in detail. A close examination of his material pertaining to elephant warfare reveals that most of it hails from sources dealing with the Roman Republic or the Hellenistic world in general, as would be expected. In some cases, these sources, or at least a broader underlying source tradition, can be identified with some security. Yet there are elements that do not fit this pattern and indeed could be indicative of anti-elephant warfare in late antiquity, more so given that Rome encountered the elephants of Sassanian Persia on several occasions in the fourth century A.D.

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