Terrifying due to their size, these war elephants break formations with their powerful charges.
After Alexander the Great’s expedition to India, the use of war elephants in combat gradually became widespread in the Mediterranean basin. The Carthaginians probably encountered war elephants for the first time when battling these powerful heirs of Hellenistic culture, at the turn of the 3rd century BCE. The earliest trace of their use in Carthaginian armies dates from the first Punic War (264 to 241 BCE) during the Siege of Agrigentum in 261 BCE. Driven by mahouts, elephants were mainly used for powerful charges to intimidate and disrupt enemy armies, and were particularly frightening for cavalry. This made them emblematic elements of Carthaginian victories during the Punic Wars, but also of the epic story of Hannibal, who brought elephants across the Pyrenées and then the Alps to fight the Romans on their own soil, before they all died of the cold.