March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Thirteen Asian elephants, at least, were imported into Europe via Portugal during the sixteenth century. No elephants entered, so far as is known, from Egypt or the Levant. Of the elephants brought in through Lisbon, one reached Rome, two got to Vienna by different routes, one arrived at Madrid, and one lodged for a period at Dieppe before being taken across the channel to England. On its peregrinations from Lisbon to other European cities, the Asian elephant was viewed for the first time by throngs of Frenchmen, Englishmen, Spaniards, Italians, Flemings, Walloons, and Germans, as brief stopovers were made in urban centers such as Alicante, Civitavecchia, Genoa, Milan, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, and in many smaller towns and villages.” D. F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, Vol. II
Of course many elephants, Indian and African, had been seen in Europe well before the sixteenth century, beginning in 280 BC with 20 in the army of Pyrrhus of Epirus; 37 war elephants in Hannibal’s army during the Second Punic War (218-203 BC); an elephant brought by emperor Claudius, during the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, to the British capital of Colchester; Abul-Abbas, an Asian elephant given to Charlemagne by Harun ar-Rashid in AD 797 or 802; the Cremona elephant, presented to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor by Al-Kamil in 1229; the elephant given by Louis IX of France to Henry III of England, for his menagerie in the Tower of London in 1255; the elephant given by Afonso V of Portugal to René d’Anjou about 1477; an elephant presented to Ercole d’Este in 1497 by the merchants of Cyprus. Rhinoceroses were also imported, including one (which also came to Italy via Portugal) immortalized in Durer’s woodcut , and Clara, who toured Europe for 17 years in the mid 18th century.