Elephants and Bells in the Greco-Roman World: A Link between the West and the East?

TitleElephants and Bells in the Greco-Roman World: A Link between the West and the East?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPerrot, S
JournalMusic in Art

Bells in the Greco-Roman world present an interesting paradox: although the instrument is occasionally found in archaeological excavations, its representations in visual arts are very rare. One possible explanation for this may be that bells were used in everyday life and not in special events. This makes the few documents depicting bells very precious. Particularly wide-spread in the Greco-Roman world are the representations of bell around the neck of an animal (pig, dog, giraffe and elephant). Elephants are the most interesting case because they can be found mainly on coins minted by cities or kingdoms at the periphery of the Hellenistic world, such as Etruria and the Indo-Greek kingdom of Bactria. The motive of elephant with a bell could have been created in Asia Minor during the Seleucid domination, thorough the mixing of Persian traditions of animal bells and Indian habits of war elephants. It is also likely that it was diffused to the West by Hannibal, who had diplomatic relationships with the Seleucid king, and to the East in the Indo-Greek kingdoms. [https://www.jstor.org/stable/musicinart.38.1-2.27]


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