Curses on Those Who Mistreat Elephants

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Elephants chained to a truck

I’ve been cheering for Jean Spoljaric and her brave band of protestors calling attention to the terrible mistreatment of animals at Cole Brothers and all other circuses.

It reminded me of Pompey’s second consulship in Rome in 55 BCE. Everyone knows the Romans loved a good slaughter in the arena. Aspiring politicians brought exotic animals from all over the known world to be slaughtered by experts known as bestiarii.

Turns out the one animal the Romans didn’t like seeing slaughtered was elephants. Here is Pliny the Elder’s account of some games held by Pompey. I found it on a great website called Rome Reborn:

“During festivities for the dedication of the Temple of Venus Victrix in Pompey’s second consulship [55 BC], twenty elephants (some say seventeen) fought against African Gaetulians armed with javelins. One of the elephants put up an amazing fight. Unable to walk because its feet had been wounded, the elephant crawled on its knees toward the javelin-throwers and tossed their shields high in the air.

To the delight of the spectators, these shields cut graceful arcs in the air on their way back down, as if thrown with artistry and not by an enraged beast. Another astonishing spectacle was an elephant who was killed with one throw of a javelin that plunged straight through its eye into the vital core of its brain.

Banding together, the elephants attempted to break through the iron fencing that enclosed them, which caused such fear among the spectators that Caesar subsequently surrounded the arena with a canal prior to providing a similar show during his dictatorship [in 49 BC], a fence which was later removed by Nero to add seating reserved for the knights.

Finally, when Pompey’s elephants had given up all hope of escape, they appealed to the crowd’s mercy with uncanny gestures, lamenting their fate with a sort of wailing. The people were so disturbed by this suffering that they forgot all about the great general and the magnificent entertainment he had arranged for their sake. In tears, they rose to their feet and called down curses on Pompey, which were soon enough fulfilled.”

Soon after, Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar and fled to Egypt, where he was beheaded by the Egyptians. Cole Brothers beware!