Abr 04

Aspecto de pormenor de um dos desenhos do Códice Português da Biblioteca Casanatense, que ilustra um elefante de guerra. Ilustrações provavelmente datadas do séc. XVI e atribuídas a um autor português. Zoltán Biedermann (CHAM) proferiu, no dia 24 de Março, uma conferência intitulada Entre o sagrado e o profano: o negócio dos elefantes de Ceilão, séculos XVI-XVII. Tratou-se de uma conferência muito interessante em que Zoltán Biedermann fez algumas referências à antiguidade a que acrescento aqui alguns dados complementares. 

De facto, o elefante de guerra foi amplamente utilizado na antiguidade. Alexandre toma contacto com essa utilização durante a campanha na Índia. Na sequência da sua vitória sobre Porus, o elefante passa a ser usado tacticamente pelos reis helenísticos. Pausânias, na sua Descrição da Grécia (1.12.1), refere essa realidade:

«The first European to acquire elephants was Alexander, after subduing Porus and the power of the Indians; after his death others of the kings got them but Antigonus more than any; Pyrrhus captured his beasts in the battle with Demetrius. When on this occasion they came in sight the Romans were seized with panic, and did not believe they were animals. For although the use of ivory in arts and crafts all men obviously have known from of old, the actual beasts, before the Macedonians crossed into Asia, nobody had seen at all except the Indians themselves, the Libyans, and their neighbours. This is proved by Homer, who describes the couches and houses of the more prosperous kings as ornamented with ivory, but never mentions the beast».

Seleuco terá utilizado 480 elefantes na batalha de Ipsos, em 301 a.C. Ptolomeu II Filadelfo usou elefantes de origem africana. A batalha de Ráfia (217 a.C.), que opôs Ptolomeu IV a Antíoco III, envolveu a utilização de elefantes de ambos os lados. Ptolomeu usou 73 elefantes africanos e Antíoco empregou 102 elefantes indianos.

Políbio, nas Histórias (5.84), relata essa batalha:

«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. 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. 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 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. 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.»

(Traduções: www.perseus.tufts.edu)

publicado por Francisco Caramelo às 18:58

Abril 2004






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