Pyrrhus of Epirus
Overview
 
Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 and statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 of the Hellenistic era
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians
Molossians
The Molossians were an ancient Greek tribe that inhabited the region of Epirus since the Mycenaean era. On their northeast frontier they had the Chaonians and to their southern frontier the kingdom of the Thesprotians, to their north were the Illyrians. The Molossians were part of the League of...

, of the royal Aeacid house (from circa 297 BC), and later he became king
King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

 of Epirus
Epirus (ancient state)
Epirus was an ancient Greek state, located in the geographical region of Epirus, in the western Balkans. The homeland of the ancient Epirotes was bordered by the Aetolian League to the south, Thessalia and Macedonia to the east and Illyrian tribes to the north...

 (r.
Reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

 306–302, 297–272 BC) and Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 (r. 288–284, 273–272 BC). He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. Some of his battles, though successful, cost him heavy losses, from which the term "Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

" was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

's Parallel Lives
Parallel Lives
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century...

(Greek: Βίοι Παράλληλοι).
Pyrrhus was the son of Aeacides
Aeacides of Epirus
Aeacides , king of Epirus , was son of Arymbas and grandson of Alcetas I. He succeeded to the throne of Epirus on the death of his cousin Alexander, who was slain in Italy. Aeacides married Phthia, the daughter of Menon of Pharsalus, by whom he had the celebrated Pyrrhus and two daughters, Deidamia...

 and Phthia
Phthia of Epirus
Phthia was a daughter of Menon of Pharsalus, the Thessalian hipparch, and wife of Aeacides, king of Epirus, by whom she became the mother of the celebrated Pyrrhus, as well as of two daughters: Deidamia, the wife of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and Troias, of whom nothing more is known...

, a Thessalian woman, and a second cousin of Alexander the Great (via Alexander's mother, Olympias
Olympias
Olympias was a Greek princess of Epirus, daughter of king Neoptolemus I of Epirus, the fourth wife of the king of Macedonia, Philip II, and mother of Alexander the Great...

).
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 and statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 of the Hellenistic era
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians
Molossians
The Molossians were an ancient Greek tribe that inhabited the region of Epirus since the Mycenaean era. On their northeast frontier they had the Chaonians and to their southern frontier the kingdom of the Thesprotians, to their north were the Illyrians. The Molossians were part of the League of...

, of the royal Aeacid house (from circa 297 BC), and later he became king
King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

 of Epirus
Epirus (ancient state)
Epirus was an ancient Greek state, located in the geographical region of Epirus, in the western Balkans. The homeland of the ancient Epirotes was bordered by the Aetolian League to the south, Thessalia and Macedonia to the east and Illyrian tribes to the north...

 (r.
Reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

 306–302, 297–272 BC) and Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 (r. 288–284, 273–272 BC). He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. Some of his battles, though successful, cost him heavy losses, from which the term "Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

" was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

's Parallel Lives
Parallel Lives
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century...

(Greek: Βίοι Παράλληλοι).

Early life

Pyrrhus was the son of Aeacides
Aeacides of Epirus
Aeacides , king of Epirus , was son of Arymbas and grandson of Alcetas I. He succeeded to the throne of Epirus on the death of his cousin Alexander, who was slain in Italy. Aeacides married Phthia, the daughter of Menon of Pharsalus, by whom he had the celebrated Pyrrhus and two daughters, Deidamia...

 and Phthia
Phthia of Epirus
Phthia was a daughter of Menon of Pharsalus, the Thessalian hipparch, and wife of Aeacides, king of Epirus, by whom she became the mother of the celebrated Pyrrhus, as well as of two daughters: Deidamia, the wife of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and Troias, of whom nothing more is known...

, a Thessalian woman, and a second cousin of Alexander the Great (via Alexander's mother, Olympias
Olympias
Olympias was a Greek princess of Epirus, daughter of king Neoptolemus I of Epirus, the fourth wife of the king of Macedonia, Philip II, and mother of Alexander the Great...

). He had two sisters: Deidamia
Deidamia I of Epirus
Deidamia was daughter of Aeacides, king of Epirus and his wife Phthia, and sister of Pyrrhus. While yet a girl she was betrothed by her father to Alexander IV, the son of Roxana and Alexander the Great, and having accompanied that prince and Olympias into Macedonia, was besieged in Pydna together...

 and Troias. Pyrrhus was only two years old when his father was dethroned, in 317 BC, his family taking refuge with Glaukias, king of the Taulantians
Taulantii
Taulantii was the name of a cluster of Illyrian tribes. According to Greek mythology Taulas , one of the six sons of Illyrius, was the eponymous ancestor of the Taulanti. They lived on the Adriatic coast of Illyria , between to the vicinity of the city of Epidamnus...

, one of the largest Illyrian
Illyrians
The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited part of the western Balkans in antiquity and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula...

 tribes. Pyrrhus was raised by Beroea
Beroea of Epirus
Beroea of Epirus was an ancient Greek princess of the tribe of the Molossians, that was married to the Illyrian king Glaukias. She raised Pyrrhus of Epirus....

, Glaukias's wife and a Molossian of the Aeacidae
Aeacidae
Aeacidae refers to the descendants of Aeacus, most notably Peleus, son of Aeacus, and Achilles, grandson of Aeacus. Neoptolemus was the son of Achilles and the princess Deidamea. The kings of Epirus and Olympias, mother to Alexander the Great, claimed to be members of this lineage.Aeacus of Greek...

 dynasty.

Glaukias restored Pyrrhus to the throne in 306 BC until the latter was banished again, four years later, by his enemy, Cassander
Cassander
Cassander , King of Macedonia , was a son of Antipater, and founder of the Antipatrid dynasty...

. Thus, he went on to serve as an officer, in the wars of the Diadochi
Diadochi
The Diadochi were the rival generals, family and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for the control of Alexander's empire after his death in 323 BC...

, under his brother-in-law Demetrius Poliorcetes
Demetrius I of Macedon
Demetrius I , called Poliorcetes , son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Stratonice, was a king of Macedon...

 who married Deidamia. In 298 BC, Pyrrhus was taken hostage to Alexandria, under the terms of a peace treaty made between Demetrius and Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter I , also known as Ptolemy Lagides, c. 367 BC – c. 283 BC, was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty...

. There, he married Ptolemy I's stepdaughter Antigone
Antigone of Epirus
Antigone was a Greek Macedonian noblewoman. Through her mother’s second marriage was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty and through marriage was a Queen of Epirus....

 (a daughter of Berenice I of Egypt
Berenice I of Egypt
Berenice I was a Greek Macedonian noblewoman and through her marriage to Ptolemy I Soter, became the first Queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt.-Family:...

 from her first husband Philip
Philip (first husband of Berenice I of Egypt)
Philip was a Greek Macedonian nobleman that lived in the 4th century BC.Philip was the son of Amyntas by an unnamed mother. He served as a military officer in the service of the Greek King Alexander the Great. Philip was known in commanding one division of the Phalanx in Alexander’s wars and...

, Ptolemy I's wife and a Macedonian noble) and restored his kingdom in Epirus in 297 BC with financial and military aid from Ptolemy I. Pyrrhus had his co-ruler Neoptolemus II of Epirus
Neoptolemus II of Epirus
Neoptolemus II of Epirus was a son of Alexander I of Epirus and Cleopatra of Macedonia....

, puppet of the now-deceased Seleucus, murdered. In 295 BC, Pyrrhus transferred the capital of his kingdom to Ambrakia (modern Arta
Arta, Greece
Arta is a city with a rich history in northwestern Greece, capital of the peripheral unit of Arta, which is part of Epirus region. The city was known in ancient times as Ambracia . Arta is famous for its old bridge located over the Arachthos River, situated west of downtown...

). Next, he went to war against his former ally and brother-in-law Demetrius, and, by 286 BC, he had taken control over the kingdom of Macedon. Pyrrhus was driven out of Macedon by Lysimachus
Lysimachus
Lysimachus was a Macedonian officer and diadochus of Alexander the Great, who became a basileus in 306 BC, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon.-Early Life & Career:...

 in 284 BC.

Struggle with Rome

In 281 BC, the Greek city of Tarentum
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

, in southern Italy
Mezzogiorno
The Midday is a wide definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the southern half of the Italian state, encompassing the southern section of the continental Italian Peninsula and the two major islands of Sicily and Sardinia, in addition to a large number of minor islands...

, fell out with Rome and was faced with a Roman attack and certain defeat. Rome had already made itself into a major power, and was poised to subdue all the Greek cities in Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

. The Tarentines asked Pyrrhus to lead their war against the Romans.

Pyrrhus was encouraged to aid the Tarentines by the oracle of Delphi
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

. His goals were not, however, selfless. He recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy. He made an alliance with Ptolemy Ceraunus, King of Macedon and his most powerful neighbor, and arrived in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 280 BC.

He entered Italy with an army consisting of 3,000 cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

, 2,000 archers
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

, 500 slingers
Sling (weapon)
A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling....

, 20,000 infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 and 20 war elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s in a bid to subdue the Romans. The elephants had been loaned to him by Ptolemy II
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 BCE to 246 BCE. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice, and was educated by Philitas of Cos...

, who had also promised 9,000 soldiers and a further 50 elephants to defend Epirus while Pyrrhus and his army were away.

Due to his superior cavalry and his elephants, he defeated the Romans, led by Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 Publius Valerius Laevinus
Publius Valerius Laevinus
Publius Valerius Laevinus was commander of the Roman forces at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, in which he was defeated by Pyrrhus of Epirus. In his Life of Pyrrhus, Plutarch wrote that Caius Fabricius said of this battle that it was not the Epirots who had beaten the Romans, but only Pyrrhus who...

, in the Battle of Heraclea
Battle of Heraclea
The Battle of Heraclea took place in 280 BC between the Romans under the command of Consul Publius Valerius Laevinus and the combined forces of Greeks from Epirus, Tarentum, Thurii, Metapontum, and Heraclea under the command of King Pyrrhus of Epirus....

 in 280 BC. There are conflicting sources about casualties. Hieronymus of Cardia
Hieronymus of Cardia
Hieronymus of Cardia, Greek general and historian from Cardia in Thrace, was a contemporary of Alexander the Great .After the death of Alexander he followed the fortunes of his friend and fellow-countryman Eumenes. He was wounded and taken prisoner by Antigonus, who pardoned him and appointed him...

 reports the Romans lost about 7,000 while Pyrrhus lost 3,000 soldiers, including many of his best. Dionysius gives a bloodier view of 15,000 Roman dead and 13,000 Greek. Several tribes, including the Lucani
Lucani
Lučani is a town and municipality located in the Dragačevo region within the Moravica District of Serbia . The population of the town is 3,425, while population of the municipality was 20,855....

, Bruttii
Bruttii
The Bruttii , were an ancient Italic people who inhabited the southern extremity of Italy, from the frontiers of Lucania to the Sicilian Straits and the promontory of Leucopetra, roughly corresponding to modern Calabria.-History:...

, Messapians, and the Greek cities of Croton
Crotone
Crotone is a city and comune in Calabria, southern Italy, on the Ionian Sea. Founded circa 710 BC as the Achaean colony of Croton , it was known as Cotrone from the Middle Ages until 1928, when its name was changed to the current one. In 1994 it became the capital of the newly established...

 and Locri
Locri
Locri is a town and comune in the province of Reggio Calabria, Calabria, southern Italy. The name derives from the ancient Greek town Locris.-History:...

, joined Pyrrhus. He then offered the Romans a peace treaty which was eventually rejected. Pyrrhus spent the winter in Campania
Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

.

When Pyrrhus invaded Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

 (279 BC), the two armies met in the Battle of Asculum where Pyrrhus won a very costly victory. The consul Publius Decius Mus
Publius Decius Mus (279 BC)
Publius Decius Mus was a Roman politician and general. As consul in 279 BC, he and his fellow consul, Publius Sulpicius Saverrio, combined their armies against Pyrrhus of Epirus at the Battle of Asculum. Pyrrhus was victorious, but at such a high cost that the security of Asculum was guaranteed...

 was the Roman commander, and his able force, though defeated, broke the back of Pyrrhus' Hellenistic army, and guaranteed the security of the city itself. The battle foreshadowed later Roman victories over more numerous and well armed successor state military forces and inspired the term "Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

", meaning a victory which comes at a crippling cost. At the end, the Romans had lost 6,000 men and Pyrrhus 3,500 but, while battered, his army was still a force to be reckoned with.

Ruler of Sicily

In 278 BC, Pyrrhus received two offers simultaneously. The Greek cities in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 asked him to come and drive out Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, which along with Rome was one of the two great powers of the Western Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. At the same time, the Macedonians
Ancient Macedonians
The Macedonians originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios...

, whose King Ceraunus had been killed by invading Gauls
Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

, asked Pyrrhus to ascend the throne of Macedon. Pyrrhus decided that Sicily offered him a greater opportunity, and transferred his army there.

Pyrrhus was proclaimed king of Sicily. He was already making plans for his son Helenus to inherit the kingdom of Sicily and his other son Alexander to be given Italy. In 277 BC, Pyrrhus captured Eryx
Eryx (Sicily)
Eryx , was an ancient city and a mountain in the west of Sicily, about 10 km from Drepana , and 3 km from the sea-coast...

, the strongest Carthaginian fortress in Sicily. This prompted the rest of the Carthaginian-controlled cities to defect to Pyrrhus.

In 276 BC, Pyrrhus negotiated with the Carthaginians. Although they were inclined to come to terms with Pyrrhus, supply him money and send him ships once friendly relations were established, he demanded that Carthage abandon all of Sicily and make the Libyan Sea a boundary between themselves and the Greeks. The Greek cities of Sicily opposed making peace with Carthage because the Carthaginians still controlled the powerful fortress of Lilybaeum, on the western end of the island. Pyrrhus eventually gave in to their proposals and broke off the peace negotiations. Pyrrhus' army then began besieging Lilybaeum. For two months he launched unsuccessful assaults on the city, until finally he realised he could not mount an effective siege without blockading it from the sea as well. Pyrrhus then requested manpower and money from the Sicilians in order to construct a powerful fleet. When the Sicilians became unhappy about these contributions he had to resort to compulsory contributions and force to keep them in line. These measures culminated in him proclaiming a military dictatorship of Sicily and installing military garrisons in Sicilian cities.

These actions were deeply unpopular and soon Sicilian opinion became inflamed against him. Pyrrhus had so alienated the Sicilian Greeks that they were willing to make common cause with the Carthaginians. The Carthaginians took heart from this and sent another army against him. This army was promptly defeated. In spite of this victory Sicily continued to grow increasingly hostile to Pyrrhus, who began to consider abandoning Sicily. At this point, Samnite and Tarentine envoys reached Pyrrhus and informed him that of all the Greek cities in Italy only Tarentum had not been conquered by Rome. Pyrrhus made his decision and departed from Sicily. As his ship left the island, he turned and said to his companions: "What a wrestling ground we are leaving, my friends, for the Carthaginians and the Romans." foreshadowing the Punic Wars
Punic Wars
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place...


Retreat from Italy

While Pyrrhus had been campaigning against the Carthaginians, the Romans rebuilt their army by calling up thousands of fresh recruits
Army recruit
Recruit or army recruit is a term often colloquially used to refer to the lowest military rank in various armed services. It usually implies that the soldier so labeled has not yet completed basic training....

. When Pyrrhus returned from Sicily, he found himself vastly outnumbered against a superior Roman army. After the inconclusive Battle of Beneventum in 275 BC, Pyrrhus decided to end his campaign in Italy and return to Epirus which resulted in the loss of all his Italian holdings. Before leaving Italy Pyrrhus sent requests for military and financial assistance to southern Greece and Macedon, as well as to the Hellenic empires of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties. These appeals were all in vain.

Last wars and death

Though his western campaign had taken a heavy toll on his army as well as his treasury, Pyrrhus went to war yet again. Attacking King Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas was a powerful ruler who firmly established the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia and acquired fame for his victory over the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans.-Birth and family:...

, he won an easy victory and seized the Macedonian throne.

In 272 BC, Cleonymus
Cleonymus of Sparta
Cleonymus was a member of the Spartan royal family of the Agiads. He was the second son of Cleomenes II and a pretender to the Spartan throne. He did not succeed his father , allegedly because he was violent and tyrannic. His nephew Areus I became new king instead...

, a Spartan
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 of royal blood who was hated among fellow Spartans, asked Pyrrhus to attack Sparta and place him in power. Pyrrhus agreed to the plan intending to win control of the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 for himself but unexpected strong resistance thwarted his assault on Sparta. He was immediately offered an opportunity to intervene in a civic dispute in Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

. Entering the city with his army by stealth, he found himself caught in a confused battle in the narrow city streets. During the confusion, an old Argead woman watching from a rooftop threw a roofing tile which stunned him, allowing an Argive soldier to behead him.

The same year, upon hearing the news of Pyrrhus's death, the Tarentinians surrendered to Rome.

Legacy

While he was a mercurial and often restless leader, and not always a wise king, he was considered one of the greatest military commanders of his time. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 records that Hannibal ranked Pyrrhus as the greatest commander the world had ever seen, though Appian
Appian
Appian of Alexandria was a Roman historian of Greek ethnicity who flourished during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius.He was born ca. 95 in Alexandria. He tells us that, after having filled the chief offices in the province of Egypt, he went to Rome ca. 120, where he practised as...

 gives a different version of the story, in which Hannibal placed him second after Alexander the Great.

Pyrrhus was also known to be very benevolent. As a general, Pyrrhus's greatest political weaknesses were his failures to maintain focus and to maintain a strong treasury at home (many of his soldiers were costly mercenaries).

His name is famous for the term "Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

" which refers to an exchange at the Battle of Asculum. In response to congratulations for winning a costly victory over the Romans, he is reported to have said: "One more such victory will undo me!" (Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

: Ἂν ἔτι μίαν μάχην νικήσωμεν, ἀπολώλαμεν)

Pyrrhus and his campaign in Italy was effectively the only chance for Greece to check the advance of Rome towards domination of the Mediterranean world. Rather than banding together, the various Hellenic powers continued to fight among themselves, sapping the financial and military strength of Greece and to a lesser extent, Macedon and the greater Hellenic world. By 197 BC
197 BC
Year 197 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Cethegus and Rufus...

, Macedonia and the southern Greek city-states were under the control of Rome and in 188 BC
188 BC
Year 188 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Messalla and Salinator...

, the Seleucid Empire was forced to cede most of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 to Rome. Total Roman domination over Greece proper was marked by the destruction of Corinth
Battle of Corinth (146 BC)
The Battle of Corinth was a battle fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BC, that resulted in the complete and total destruction of the state of Corinth which was previously so famous for its fabulous wealth...

 in 146 BC; Greece would then form an integral part of the Roman world leading into the Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 period.

Pyrrhus wrote Memoir
Memoir
A memoir , is a literary genre, forming a subclass of autobiography – although the terms 'memoir' and 'autobiography' are almost interchangeable. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir set out below...

s
and several books on the art of war. These have since been lost, although, according to Plutarch, Hannibal was influenced by them, and they received praise from Cicero.

Pyrrhus was married five times: his first wife Antigone borne him a daughter called Olympias
Olympias II of Epirus
Olympias was daughter of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus from his first wife Antigone. She was the wife of her own paternal half-brother Alexander II...

 and in 295 BC she died possibly in childbirth while giving birth to their son, Ptolemy who died in the same year as his mother. His second wife was Lanassa
Lanassa (wife of Pyrrhus)
Lanassa was a daughter of king Agathocles of Syracuse, Sicily, perhaps by his second wife Alcia. In 295 BC Agathocles married Lanassa to King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Agathocles himself escorted his daughter with his fleet to Epirus to her groom. Lanassa brought the island of Corcyra as dowry into the...

, daughter of King Agathocles of Syracuse, whom he married in about 295 BC and the couple had two sons Alexander
Alexander II of Epirus
Alexander II was a king of Epirus, and the son of Pyrrhus and Lanassa, the daughter of the Sicilian tyrant Agathocles.-Reign:He succeeded his father as king in 272 BC, and continued the war which his father had begun with Antigonus II Gonatas, whom he succeeded in driving from the kingdom of Macedon...

 and Helenus, Lanassa left Pyrrhus. His third wife was the daughter of Audoleon
Audoleon
Audoleon was an ancient Paeonian king son of Patraus or Agis. He was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, and was the father of Ariston, who distinguished himself at the battle of Gaugamela, and of a daughter who married Pyrrhus of Epirus...

, King of Paeonia; his fourth wife was Bircenna
Bircenna
Bircenna was an Illyrian princess and later an Epirote queen.Bircenna was the daughter of Bardylis II of the Dardanian Kingdom. Bircenna was one of the five wives of Pyrrhus of Epirus; she married him around 292 BC...

 an Illyrian Princess daughter of King Bardylis II
Bardylis II
Bardyllis II was an Illyrian king of the Dardanian Kingdom. Bardyllis II also called Bardyllis the Younger was the son of Cleitus and grandson of Bardyllis, both enemies of the Macedonian kingdom...

 and his fifth wife was the daughter of Ptolemy Keraunos
Ptolemy Keraunos
Ptolemy Keraunos was the King of Macedon from 281 BC to 279 BC. His epithet Keraunos is Greek for "Thunder" or "Thunderbolt".He was the eldest son of Ptolemy I Soter, ruler of Egypt, and his third wife Eurydice, daughter of the regent Antipater. His younger half-brother, also called Ptolemy,...

, who he married in 281/280 BC.

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