Sunday, 6 January 2013

Christmas, by Luke - Part IV

Happy New Year! This is Part IV in a series of new translations of the nativity story from Luke. To read from the beginning, go to Part I , Part II and Part III.

And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped up in cloth in a manger. Suddenly, alongside the angel a great host from heaven appeared, praising God and saying

“Glory in the highest to God,
and on earth good will to men.”

And when the angels had passed back into heaven, the shepherds spoke to each other: “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they departed with great haste and found Mary, Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. Having seen him, they went out and spread the word; what they had been told about this child, and everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were exactly what they had been told they would be.
2.12 καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον ἐν φάτνῃ. 2.13 καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἐγένετο σὺν τῷ ἀγγέλῳ πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου αἰνούντων τὸν θεὸν καὶ λεγόντων· 2.14 δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. 2.15 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἀπῆλθον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οἱ ἄγγελοι, οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους· διέλθωμεν δὴ ἕως Βηθλεὲμ καὶ ἴδωμεν τὸ ῥήμα τοῦτο τὸ γεγονὸς ὃ ὁ κύριος ἐγνώρισεν ἡμῖν. 2.16 καὶ ἦλθαν σπεύσαντες, καὶ ἀνεῦραν τήν τε Μαριὰμ καὶ τὸν Ἰωσὴφ καὶ τὸ βρέφος κείμενον ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ· 2.17 ἰδόντες δὲ ἐγνώρισαν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ λαληθέντος αὐτοῖς περὶ τοῦ παιδίου τούτου. 2.18 καὶ πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν περὶ τῶν λαληθέντων ὑπὸ τῶν ποιμένων πρὸς αὐτούς· 2.19 ἡ δὲ Μαρία πάντα συνετήρει τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα συνβάλλουσα ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῆς. 2.20 καὶ ὑπέστρεψαν οἱ ποιμένες, δοξάζοντες καὶ αἰνοῦντες τὸν θεὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἤκουσαν καὶ ἴδον καθὼς ἐλαλήθη πρὸς αὐτούς.

[The Adoration of the Magi - Peter Paul Rubens, c.1634 - King's College Chapel, Cambridge]
(Frame model's own)

Consummatum Est

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas, by Luke - Part III

This is Part III in a series of new translations of the nativity story from Luke. To read from the beginning, go to Part I and Part II.

In those days Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that a census should be taken of the inhabited world; the first one since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. Everyone went to their own city to register for the census. And Joseph went out of  Galilee, going from Nazareth to Judea, and into Bethlehem, the city of David, because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She had her first son, wrapped him up and laid him in a manger, because there was no room available at the inn.
   And there were shepherds in the same region living outdoors and keeping watch over their flock through the night. An angel of the Lord was sent upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid; I have come bearing the good news of great joy, a joy that will be for every people. Today, for you, a saviour who is Christ and lord has been born in the the city of David.
2.1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. 2.2 αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ ἐγένετο πρώτη ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. 2.3 καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν. 2.4 ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυεὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυείδ, 2.5 ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. 2.6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, 2.7 καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι. 2.8 Καὶ ποιμένες ἦσαν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἀγραυλοῦντες καὶ φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ποίμνην αὐτῶν. 2.9 καὶ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτοῖς καὶ δόξα κυρίου περιέλαμψεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν. 2.10 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ ἄγγελος· μὴ φοβεῖσθε· ἰδοὺ γὰρ εὐαγγελίζομαι ὑμῖν χαρὰν μεγάλην ἥτις ἔσται παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, 2.11 ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς κύριος ἐν πόλει Δαυείδ·

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas, by Luke - Part II

I'm posting a new translation of the nativity story in Luke, piece by piece, for Christmas. You can find the first part here.

Mary gathered her things and hurried to a town in the hills of Judea. She went straight to Zachariah’s house, where she greeted Elizabeth. And as Mary greeted her, Elizabeth's baby kicked inside her, and she was filled with a holy spirit. She screamed out with excitement: “Mary, you are a blessed woman, and blessed is the fruit growing within you! But what have I done, to deserve the mother of my lord coming to me? As the sound of your greeting rang in my ears, my baby kicked with joy inside me! A woman such as you is truly blessed, if she believes that what the lord says to her will come true.”

And Mary said “In my soul, the lord towers over everything, and my spirit rejoices constantly in God my saviour, because he kept watch over me as I made myself humble. And from now on every generation will say I'm blessed, because his power has done such great things for me. Even his name is holy, and he is merciful, from one generation to the next, to those who fear it. He drew his mighty arm and scattered those who had proud thoughts in their heart. With one hand, he tore the powerful from their thrones, and with the other he held up the lowly. He fed the hungry with his goodness, but sent the rich away empty-handed. He even welcomed Israel back, mercifully, just like he said to Abraham and his descendants, as each generation passed."

And, when Mary had stayed with Elizabeth for three months, she returned home.
1.39 Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα, 1.40 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ. 1.41 καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς. καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, 1.42 καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. 1.43 καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ; 1.44 ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. 1.45 καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου. 1.46 Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ· μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον, 1.47 καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, 1.48 ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί, 1.49 ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός. καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 1.50 καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. 1.51 ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν· 1.52 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, 1.53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς. 1.54 ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, 1.55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. 1.56 Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς. 

How about an interesting Greek factlet?
The original text of the New Testament has no
spaces, no punctuation... and is all
in capitals.

So my first bit would look like this:


[The Visitation -Piero di Cosimo, c.1490 - National Gallery, Washington]
(Frame model's own)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas, by Luke

Full of festive cheer, I translated the nativity story from Luke (1.26-2.20). I'll be posting it in letters, with the original Greek alongside, over the next couple of weeks.

Merry advent,

When Elizabeth had been pregnant for six months, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a town in Galilee, called Nazareth. He went to speak with a virgin who was engaged to a man called Joseph (related to David, no less). The virgin’s name was Mary, and, entering her house, he announced himself, “Greetings, you blessed child! The Lord is certainly with you!” His words stunned Mary. What kind of person was this, barging into her house with such a greeting? But the angel said to her, “Don't be afraid, Mary; the grace of God is upon you. It's true! Look here, you will conceive, and when your child is born you will give him the name Jesus. That child will be great - the son of the Highest! And the lord God will give him the throne of his father David; he will be king of the people of Jacob, and his reign will never end.” Mary said to the angel, “But how, as I haven't known a man?” So the angel answered her, “A holy spirit will come upon you, and you will be enveloped in shadow by the power of the Highest; and because of that, the child shall be called holy, the son of God. Look, even your cousin Elizabeth is pregnant with a son in her old age. People called her sterile, but now she is six months pregnant. With god, everything that can be said is possible.” And Mary said, “I truly behold the servant of the lord; Please, let it be exactly as you have said.” 

And the angel left.
1.26 Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ 1.27 πρὸς παρθένον ἐμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωσὴφ ἐξ οἴκου Δαυείδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ. 1.28 καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν· χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. 1.29 ἡ δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη, καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος. 1.30 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ· μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ· εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ· 1.31 καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. 1.32 οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυῒδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, 1.33 καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος. 1.34 εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον· πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω; 1.35 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ, πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ, καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι· διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ. 1.36 καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνειληφυῖα υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ· 1.37 ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα. 1.38 εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ· ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη κυρίου· γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

How about an interesting Greek factlet?
The word for virgin in the text is 
parthenon (παρθενον), as in, yes, THE Parthenon. 
Why not read about the debate over how the two are linked,
if you have 10 minutes?

[The Annunciation - El Greco, c.1600 - Museo del Prado]
(Frame model's own)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Fifty Shades of Greying Philosopher

[Aristotle and Phyllis, c.1490]

What did Aristotle look like, when he was alive? Before today, I thought it was something a bit like this:

[Aristotle - Roman copy after a lost bust by Lysippos c.300BC]

Right? Lightly furrowed brow, big curly beard and a forehead struggling to contain that throbbing brain. Well, today I decided my vague intuitions probably weren't going to stretch to a whole post, so I did some digging, gentle reader, on your behalf. And you know what I found? Zilch. No contemporary sculptures survive, just copies, and the only description we have comes third-hand from Diogenes Laërtius, 600 years after he died: "His calves were slender, his eyes small, and he was conspicuous by his attire".

Like I said, zilch. But I thought it might be interesting, at least, to show you what some artists thought he looked like. A few google image searches later ("aristotle art", "aristotle medieval", "aristotle woodcut") I noticed something odd. In the early 1500s, when the Renaissance was in its infancy, they thought Aristotle looked like this:


And this:


And this:


Now, if like me, you saw those and thought "What the hell, 16th Century?", I can offer you an explanation, but be warned - it's just as kinky as you were thinking.


The woman in these pictures is called Phyllis, and according to medieval legend she was the mistress of Alexander the Great, picked up in India. Aristotle, who was by now an old man in Alexander's court, advised that perhaps he ought to pay a little less attention to his new mistress, and a little more to running his empire (just sayin').


Except, Aristotle didn't care about that much at all. He wanted to free up Phyllis's time so she might pay more attention to, um, I don't know, the WORLD FAMOUS PHILOSOPHER here, I mean c'mon, guys.

[Tapestry, 1480]

Being pretty put out at losing Alexander's attention, Phyllis decided to teach Aristotle a lesson. As he made his advances (what they were, history does not relate, but you can use your imagination) she allowed herself to look just interested enough that he was willing to do anything to seal the deal.


So she asked him to prove his love by letting her ride around on his back, in the garden, with a bit in his mouth... while she whipped him with a cat o' nine tails. Also, she asked Alexander to watch, y'know, to punish him more or something.


Now, I'm not one to judge, but this story has no foundation in any Greek text we know of, and I think Aristotle could have been taught a pretty valuable lesson with, maybe, just a little bit less whipping and lot less nakedness (I'm looking at you, medieval moralizers). But haven't we learned a great deal more about whoever did come up with this story, and about the artists who chose to place, so lovingly, hand on bottom and mouth on bit? As for my original question, what did Aristotle look like? Well, I'm certainly not getting this image out of my head any time soon.

[Aquamanile, late 14th Century]

Want to know more about this? Really? (Arched eyebrow)

Here's a version of the story and a note on the origin
A really great collection of images of Phyllis and Aristotle
And another copy of the same Lysippos bronze bust
Diogenes's biography of Aristotle at Perseus
And other accounts of Aristotle's life

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

On Elephants & Castles

In the Gupta Empire, in about 700AD, where Indian mathematicians were establishing zero as a number, and Indian scientists were debating whether the Earth moved around the Sun, the courtiers were playing a board game. The rules were fairly simple; some pieces could move forwards, others could only move diagonally, and some made a crooked little jump in any direction. The game, Chaturanga ('four-parted'), was extremely addictive, and so it made its way to the West pretty much intact a few hundred years later as our modern game of chess. Except, instead of knights and rooks and bishops, the flavours of the crusade, the pieces were carved to represent the four traditional divisions of the Indian army - infantry, cavalry, chariots... and elephants.

Seven centuries later, in Northern Italy, we find the poet Hieronymus Vida (a hack and imitator of Virgil) polishing up a poem about the new game -  that's his first stanza at the top of the post. In mock-heroic style, it's being played by Hermes and Apollo, who are both camping about with nymphs and swains and 'flowry mead'. He even invented a Thracian goddess of chess, Caïssa,  to fill a gap in the market. What you'll see, though, is that while all the other pieces have morphed into their modern form from their Indian counterparts, the Renaissance mind couldn't bring itself to throw out the elephant with the bathwater. It's even gained a castle:

The elephant gradually disappeared from chess, and all we were left with was that 'frowning castle', the rook . But the image endured, of a towering Indian elephant with a stone turret carried on its back and no hint of a grudge on its face. Elephant and Castle station (a no-brainer) has a big red statue of it outside, standing on a grotty plinth, but you can also find it on the logo of a major American restaurant chain, and the Worshipful Company of Cutlers.

The fascination with the fortified elephant probably started with medieval monks in England and France, who were steadily refining bestiaries of all God's creatures, passed down since 500AD from the Greeks at Alexandria, and illuminating them with their best guess of the animal's disposition. They knew that the elephants had been used in war, and the Greeks mentioned men building platforms on them for archers, but giving them the strength and patience to bear a full-blown castle is all the work of the medieval genius. And, no sooner had the castle made an appearance than the bestiary illuminators were trying to outdo each other with ever more extensive ones. Like they say: monk see, monk do.

Needless to say, elephants can't carry castles. In fact, elephants seem pretty ill-suited to warfare. Pliny the Elder, writing just after the death of Christ, thought that elephants had no knees and couldn't get back up if they fell over, and a result were doomed to sleep standing up or resting against trees. They were also so afraid of the smallest squeal of a pig that they would about-turn and flee if they heard it. And, inevitably, "of all other living creatures, they cannot abide a mouse or a rat". 

This rumour was incredibly persistent in the ancient world, and while we now know that elephants do have knees and are permitted a lie-down once in a while, their fear of rodents has remained a bone of contention. Like Pliny says, it sounds ridiculous that "these terrible beasts (as outragious otherwise as they seeme)" could be afraid of such a small thing, but I challenge you to watch the Mythbusters episode about it and not feel the tiniest, teensiest, mouse-sized doubt. The Greeks who fought against elephants certainly believed that they were easily spooked; the siege of Megara in 266BC was only broken when the townspeople doused pigs in pitch, set them alight and sent them squealing towards the elephants, who crushed their own soldiers as they fled.

Somehow this timid, unpredictable giant and unwilling soldier became the most feared weapon of the ancient world. When Alexander the Great met the Persians at Gaugamela, he became the first westerner to see war elephants. The night before the battle, he summoned his soothsayer Aristander and together they sat around a fire through the night, offering sacrifice to Phobos, the god of fear. But the next day Alexander won the battle easily, and he caught and trained more elephants to use in his own army, snaring them with a honey-trap of tame female elephants in a pit. 

With the Persians in retreat, the rest of the empire fell without a serious battle being fought. So, with his elephants in tow, Alexander moved to conquer India. Yet by the time he reached India, five years later, and faced an army which had been using elephants for hundreds of years, he decided to abandon his own completely. Against 80 Indian elephants, and 30,000 soldiers, Alexander's tiny force won. The colossal beast, terrifying to someone who had never seen it before, was now seen as a tactical disadvantage.

Pyrrhus, in 280BC, took twenty elephants across the Adriatic to attack the Romans at Heraclea. The Romans, who had never fought elephants before, were routed in a spectacular capture of the peninsular. But a year later they returned, with ox-led chariots and flaming pots to scare the elephants, and while the Epirots under Pyrrhus won the day, they sustained terminal casualties and limped back to Greece, giving rise to the term Pyrrhic Victory. He didn't use elephants again.

Hannibal, the most famous of the elephant generals, suffered more than anybody else on their account. As he crossed the Alps in 218BC, his thirty-seven elephants gradually dwindled in the bitter cold until only a few were left when he marched into Northern Italy. A decade later, as he fought the Romans from the doorstep of Carthage, he sent 80 elephants against the Roman troops. They were posted in front of the infantry and, when ordered, would charge at 25mph in a straight line towards the Roman lines. However, Scipio Africanus (immortalised in the Italian national anthem) simply waited for the advancing elephants and, at the desired moment, ordered the blowing of trumpets. Just like the pigs at Megara, the squealing of the trumpets sent the elephants charging back at the Carthaginians. It was a heavy loss for Hannibal, and he submitted himself to voluntary exile.

The fall of Carthage marked the end of the use of elephants in European wars, at least on such a large scale. Their weaknesses were now too obvious, and their advantage too slight, to be worth dragging through mountains or floating across water. But as the centuries passed, and first-hand accounts became few and far between,  imagination was once again allowed to take hold. The elephant began to rebuild its reputation. Hannibal's elephants were probably able to carry three archers and a driver in a little wooden box on their backs, called a Howdah. By the early 13th Century, the Howdah had become a miniature wooden turret, and by the end of the 13th Century it was a whole castle.

The further people got from the war elephant, and the less information they had, the more awful it seemed. An exotic and impossible monster. It makes sense then that this ancient scaredy-cat, repelled by mice, pigs and trumpets, could only retain its original effect today in the realms of fantasy - as Tolkein's Oliphaunts, or in Age of Empires, or in chess - where its weaknesses can be painlessly stripped away. In these fantasy worlds, it is allowed to be the devastating force that Alexander must have imagined as he sat around the fire with Aristander, at Gaugamela. But in the real world, we couldn't resist the idea of a remorseless, impenetrable and indomitable beast, the kind of weapon that keeps you up at night, praying to Phobos.

So we built it. It even has a trunk.

[Panzerjäger Tiger (P), 'Elefant' - WW2 Tank-Destroyer]