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Surus: The Bravest Elephant of Carthage

Hannibal riding an elephant.  © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro /  CC BY-SA 4.0

Hannibal riding an elephant. © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Roman writer Pliny mentioned a particular elephant whose name was Surus, who fought for Carthage during the Punic Wars.  In Punic (the language spoken by Carthaginians), Surus means “the Syrian”.  This means that Surus the elephant was probably a Syrian Elephant, or an Indian Elephant from Syria, so was bigger than the other African Forest Elephants.  Surus must have stood out as the largest, most intimidating elephant in the army! 

Surus gained a reputation for being the bravest of Hannibal’s elephants, and some even believe that Surus was Hannibal’s personal elephant.  Pliny mentions that Surus had one tusk broken, perhaps a battle scar.