Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
...I have, in different papers, seen mentioned, that the towers on the elephants had from four to twelve men. If the twelve men is correct it would be a weight of about nine hundred kilo, plus the tower and the armour.
I would suggest that the number of men were less than twelve. First of all they would not have much room for movement, and secondly the weight to carry for the elephant, over many hours, might have been too much - although the elephants are very strong.
Not all the old authors are giving the correct numbers, some of them tend to overdo it a 'bit'...
Alvaro Velho speaks of five men, Cristovćo da Costa mentions the same number and adds the mahout, Barbosa describes three or four men fitting in the castle, armed with bows, muskets and other weapons and Castanheda, recalling Cambay, also emphasizes the wooden castles, in which go four or five archers and musketeers.
On the other hand in a letter sent by King Dom Manuel to Pope Lećo X announcing the conquest of the Melaka, the elephant towers are mentioned and, in a libretto written in Italian, from when the famous obedience embassy to the Pope took place, where an elephant was included as a gift:
le legname grossissimo un castello
e venti homini armati aum trato in quello.
Obviously twenty men is a gross exageration from the King; but Kings can cheat!
And so can the Portuguese anonimous painter in this XVI century watercolour, part of the Casanatense codice.