|Civilization:||Greek — Epirus|
|military — General|
Pyrrhus was the King of Epirus and a major figure during the final years of the Wars of the Diodochi. He is most famous for his battles against Rome when he led the Greeks of southern Italy against that rising power, but he also fought battles in Sicily, Greece, and Macedonia. Although widely acknowledge as the most brilliant general of his age, and greatly admired by his soldiers, Pyrrhus almost never followed up on his battlefield victories, and virtually all that he gained was eventually lost. Although personally chivalrous, he behaved more as a soldier of fortune, than a statesman or national leader.
In 281 B.C. came the great opportunity of his life. An embassy was sent to him from the Greek city Tarentum in southern Italy with a request for aid against Rome. Once a treaty was concluded with the Tarantines, his general Milo crossed with a body of troops and occupied the citadel. Pyrrhus soon followed with a miscellaneous force of about 25,000 men and some elephants. The Tarentines and Italian Greeks shrank, however, from anything like serious effort, and resented his calling upon them for men and money. Rome meantime made serious preparations for war. For the first time in history Greeks and Romans met in battle at Heraclea near the shores of the Gulf of Tarentum, and the cavalry and elephants of Pyrrhus secured for him a complete victory, though at so heavy a cost as to convince him of the great uncertainty of final success (hence is derived the phrase of a Pyrrhic victory). Although he now had the Samnites as well as the Lucanians and the Bruttians and all the Greek cities of southern Italy with him, he found every city closed against him as he advanced on Rome through Latium. The peace negotiations, carried on by the skilful diplomatist Cineas, the minister of Pyrrhus, led to no result; the senate seemed inclined to come to terms, but the fiery and patriotic eloquence of the aged and blind Appius Claudius (the censor) carried the day. Cineas was ordered to leave the city at once and to tell his master that Rome could not negotiate so long as foreign troops remained on the soil of Italy.
In the second year of the war (279 B.C.), Pyrrhus again defeated a Roman army at Asculum, but failed to break up her Italian confederacy. Instead of following up on this victory, he quitted Italy for Sicily, at the invitation of the Syracusans, with the idea of making himself the head of the Sicilian Greeks and driving the Carthaginians out of the island. He passed three years in Sicily, but offended the Greek cities, which he governed in the fashion of a despot. Finding that he could no longer hold Sicily in face of the ill feeling thus aroused, he decided to return to Italy, but found the situation there a difficult one. The Italian Greeks refused to supply him with enough men or money rebuild his army. Thoroughly disheartened, he made one more effort and engaged a Roman army at Beneventum (275 B.C.) but was defeated with the loss of his camp and the greater part of his army. Nothing remained but to go back to Greece.
The brief remainder of his life was passed in camps and battles, without any glorious result. He gainied a victory on Macedonian soil over Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedonia, whose troops hailed him as king. In 273 B.C. he was invited by Cleonymus to settle by force of arms a dispute about the royal succession at Sparta. He besieged the city, but was repulsed with great loss. Next, at the invitation of a political faction, he went to Argos, where, during a fight by night in the streets, he was struck on the head by a huge tile. He fell from his horse, and was put to death by one of the soldiers of Antigonus.
— Adapted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Key events during the life of pyrrhus:
|Born in Epirus.|
|Ascended to the throne of Epirus|
|Fought with Demetrius and Antigonus I at the battle of Ipsus.|
|Visited Ptolemy in Alexandria.|
|Helped win control of Macedonia from Demetrius.|
|Driven back to Epirus by his former ally, Lysimachus.|
|Called to Tarentum to fight the Romans in Italy.|
|Great victory against Rome at Heraclea.|
|Another victory over Rome at Asculum.|
|Called to Sicily to help drive the Carthaginians off the Island.|
|Returned to Italy. Defeated by Rome at Beneventum.|
|Killed during a night battle in Argos.|Other Resources
|Master of Strategy in||Stories from Ancient Rome by Alfred J. Church|
|Fighting King in||Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch by F. J. Gould|
|Pyrrhus and His Elephants in||The Story of the Romans by H. A. Guerber|
|Pyrrhus in||Famous Men of Greece by John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland|
|Pyrrhus in||Our Young Folks' Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman|
|Pyrrhus, King of the Epirots in||The Story of Rome by Mary Macgregor|
|Pyrrhus and the Romans in||Historical Tales: Greek by Charles Morris|
|Great Conflict in||On the Shores of the Great Sea by M. B. Synge|
Pyrrhus viewing the Roman Encampment.
The Elephant Concealed
The Fallen Elephant
Death of Pyrrhus
An elephant stretched out his trunk over the roman's head and loudly trumpeted.
in Stories from Ancient Rome
Pyrrhus and his Elephants
in The Story of the Romans
Elephants of Pyrrhus
in Famous Men of Rome
The armour of Pyrrhus was richer and more beautiful than that of his soldiers.
in The Story of Rome
|General of Alexander, founded Egyptian Dynasty that lasted for 300 years.|
|Son of Antigonus, active in the wars of the Diadochi.|
|Bodyguard of Alexander. Took control of Thrace on his death. Engaged in Wars of Diadochi.|
|Minister of Thessaly, and friend and advisor of Pyrrhus of Epirus.|
|Incorruptible Roman ambassador who negotiated with Pyrrhus. Emblem of Roman Republican virtue.|
|Contender for the throne of Sparta who called Pyrrus to his aide.|