The Ptolemaic War Elephant
by Jeff Jonas

"When Ptolemy and his sister after their progress had reached the extremity of his left wing and Antiochus with his horse-guards had reached his extreme right, they gave the signal for battle and brought the elephants first into action.

A few only of Ptolemy's elephants ventured to close with those of the enemy, and now the men in the towers on the back of these beasts made a gallant fight of it, striking with their pikes at close quarters and wounding each other, while the elephants themselves fought still better, putting forth their whole strength and meeting forehead to forehead. The way in which these animals fight is as follows. With their tusks firmly interlocked they shove with all their might, each trying to force the other to give ground, until the one who proves strongest pushes aside the other's trunk, and then, when he has once made him turn and has him in the flank, he gores him with his tusks as a bull does with his horns.

Most of Ptolemy's elephants, however, declined the combat, as is the habit of African elephants; for unable to stand the smell and the trumpeting of the Indian elephants, and terrified, I suppose, also by their great size and strength, they at once turn tail and take to flight before they get near them. This is what happened on the present occasion; and when Ptolemy's elephants were thus thrown into confusion and driven back on their own lines, Ptolemy's guard gave way under the pressure of the animals.."

Polybius on Raphia Book V from*.html


I have often been asked which 28mm African elephant is the best.... for a very long time I have recomended the Foundry 28mm African model even though it is expensive and difficult to get ahold of nowadays.
But of course I haven't had images of mine to show off, until now.  Furthermore, as much as I have always liked this model, it still needed to be fiddled with to turn it properly Ptolemaic.  The reason I like this model is that it is not too big. Many 28mm elephants tend to be gigantic. This one is not too big for an African breed, and yet not too small. 

I wanted this to be a Ptolemaic beast so I made some changes to the Foundry model (which is part of their older Carthaginian line). The elephant itself is very nice and captures the look of the large eared African forest elephant very well. It has a nice relaxed gait. I have watched the elephants for many hours at the San Diego Zoo's Wild animal park, and so many kits nowadays insist on ungainly and awkward ambling for their pachyderms, which is unfortunate since elephants are very graceful actually.

The only real change to the beast was the addition of the bell around its neck. I did this with some green putty... it's a little big. A Foundry phalangite  shield with an appropriate embossed design was added to the tower.

The Carthaginian crew went through some changes. I swapped out some RAFM heads with Macedonian style helmets for the fighting crew. The mahout has a RAFM head, I thought the hair style matched some of the drawing in Sekunda's Ptolemaic army book published by Montvert.  Of course one needn't go through all this trouble if one wishes to do a Carthaginian elephant. Polybius described pikes in use from towers and the Foundry pikeman looks really good with RAFM Thracian helmet stuck on with a pin.

The paint scheme is mostly patterned after the references in Duncan Head's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars, in fact the cover of the that famous reference work was mostly copied entirely. I like to give my Ptolemaic troops green tunics, this is my own choice, although green is a color that they are shown wearing on grave steles, for some reason green just fits Egypt for me.

The base is made out of  doubleply matte board (the good stuff)  mounted on an magnet sheet. The base size is 55mm x 75mm which seems appropriate for the size of this model. I don't cotton to those who believe an elephant should be based  on a 40mm x 40mm base, not only is that pure gamesmanship, but does not make for a pleasant display or even provide sufficient stability to protect your fine modeling and brushwork from being toppled over because of too small of a footprint.   The texture is very simple. I puttyed a little under the feet to smooth things out then when dry brushed on some white glue and drizzled on some small and medium sized sand. Once that was completely dry I ran over it with a wash of burnt umber. Then dry brushed over the top with some grey/tan. The Boojum like cactus was made out of left over putty from the bell making session (above). I painted on some areas of dry cracking to add variety to the flat areas, then finally applied some mixed static grass. All in all a multiple stepped process, but well worth the effort for a stand alone showcase model like a war elephant.


AMPW cover artwork by Ian Heath shows a spirited battle between a Ptolemaic
elephant on the left against a larger Seleucid Asian beast.


Anyway I hope you all enjoy the photos of this model.  Some other African elephants are available too, the A&A model is very nice, but large. Magister Militum has a smallish 25mm African as well.  The Gripping Beast models shown in the Warhammer Hannibal supplement are very nice, all of these can be converted to Ptolemaic elephants too.



The old RAFM elephant is also a fine Ptolemaic beast:



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