The Ivory Palisade

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

War Elephant frieze-Hampi

“sicut quadripedum cum primis esse videmus
in genere anguimanus elephantos, India quorum
milibus e multis vallo munitur eburno,
ut penitus nequeat penetrari:
tanta ferarum
vis est,
quarum nos perpauca exempla videmus.”

“We see that in classes of quadrupeds,
above all with snake-handed elephants,
whose many thousands keep India fenced in
 with an ivory wall,
so there is no way 
one can move into its interior—
that’s how numerous those wild creatures are.
Yet we see very few examples of them.”
-Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book II

“The ivory wall defending India has been interpreted as 1) a legend referring to an actual wall of ivory or a living barrier of elephants 2) an exaggeration of the practice of using elephant tusks as palings or incorporating them into buildings 3) a metaphorical allusion to the use of elephants in warfare.”
-Robert Brown, Classical Philology, Vol. 86, No. 4 (Oct., 1991) Chicago

Rama going into Battle

Mammoth Bone House

Ivory Wall

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