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Carthaginian coin found in Valls (Spain) depicting Hannibal and an African elephant

Surus ("the Syrian") was believed to be the last war elephant of Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca's army in Italy.[1]

Several Roman writers give accounts of Surus, which was probably a large Asian elephant with one tusk. Although a Carthaginian coin struck in the time of Hannibal depicts an African elephant, historians believe Surus was an Indian elephant descended from those seized by Ptolemies of Egypt, Alexander's successors, in their campaigns in Syria.[2] According to some accounts, the animal was the last of the 37 war elephants Hannibal took with him on his 218 B.C. crossing of the Alps, during the Second Punic War.[3]

According to Plautus, Surus wore a red cloth, and may also have carried a red shield and a howdah (a construction on the animal's back), which served as a platform for Hannibal, who had difficulties overlooking the battlefield after losing one eye from an infection.


  1. ^ Jean-Paul Fritz (31 July 2018). "Hannibal et ses éléphants n'ont pas encore livré tous leurs secrets" (in French). L'Obs. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  2. ^ Wilford, John Noble (September 18, 1984). "THE MYSTERY OF HANNIBAL'S ELEPHANTS". New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  3. ^ Philip Ball (3 Apr 2016). "The truth about Hannibal's route across the Alps". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2019.


  • Gabriel, Richard A.; (2011). Hannibal: The Military Biography of Rome's Greatest Enemy. Potomac Books; p 33
  • Kistler, John M.; (2006). War Elephants. Westport, CT: Praeger; pp 122-123
  • Scullard, H. H. (1953). "Ennius, Cato, and Surus". The Classical Review 3 (3/4): 140–142.