Quintus Sertorius, a Roman statesman come general, grew up in Umbria, the green heart of what is now central Italy.
Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from the hills, mountains, and valleys of his birthplace. In 81 BC, he traveled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.
The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon. During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, this diverse group of extinct proboscideans, elephant-like animals walked the Earth.
Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them. Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical ogre Antaeus and were thus reported back to Rome as such. It was hundreds of years before their true heritage was known.
I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco a few years ago and see the Tetralophodon remains. At the time, the tales of Antaeus ran through my head. Could this be the proof that Quintus wanted. As it happens, indeed it is was.