Elephants once ranged widely all over Africa and Asia and as such, they were familiar creatures with legendary and even mythic qualities, due probably in no small part to the awe they inspired because of their immense size and power. Elephant ivory has also always been highly valued and prized and was traded all over the known world since the most ancient of times.
Elephants in Africa and Asia were also associated with Kings, Emperors, Pharaohs, Rajahs and Nobility, and they were used in warfare, playing the role of the first tank. When Hannibal marched his elephants through the Alps to invade Rome, his War Elephants, although not strategically important, had a tremendous psychological effect on the Roman Legionnaires they faced in battle. They must have felt they were facing monsters.
In India, the God Ganesh, or Ganesha has the head of an Elephant and Ganesh is a prominent feature in Hindu art and temples all over Southeast Asia. Elephants in Asia are regarded with reverence, symbolizing a benign divinity and benevolence. In Asia today there are still religious ceremonies where people make offerings to elephants, wash them and anoint them with special oils and pigments, seeking their blessings and good will.
Elephant herds are always led by an adult female, and elephants often live to a great age, occasionally surpassing humans. In times of drought, the elephant herds will always remember which watering holes are the most reliable. This is where the myth that an elephant never forgets anything comes from. Elephants will come to the aide of another elephant in trouble or distress and will often refuse to leave the body of an elephant that has died for several days. Because of these traits, elephants are symbols of wisdom, loyalty, strength, fidelity and longevity