How did Hannibal cross the Alps with elephants?

Question from Mohammed Nazir

During his war with Rome, the ancient sources say that Hannibal marched his army across the Alps in just 16 days with 37 war elephants in tow. Some historians believe that Hannibal used a smaller species of African elephant, which would have fared better through the narrow passes, but still would have needed 100 kilograms of feed each day. 

Some of the beasts may have perished during the crossing, but we know from later accounts of Hannibal’s army that war elephants played a role at the vanguard of his army, terrifying the Romans on the other side of the field.


Answered by James Horton for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 120.

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