CKM 2018-19 / Aziz Yardımlı






Pyrrhus of Epirus

Pyrrhus of Epirus (W)

Pyrrhus Ι (ΠύρροςPyrrhos; 319/318–272 BC) was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians,  of the royal Aeacid house (from c. 297 BC), and later he became king (Malalas called him also toparch) of Epirus (r. 306–302, 297–272 BC). He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. Several of his victorious battles caused him unacceptably heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives.

Early life

Pyrrhus was the son of Aeacides and Phthia, a Thessalian woman, and a second cousin of Alexander the Great (via Alexander’s mother, Olympias). He had two sisters: Deidamia and Troias. In 317 BC, when Pyrrhus was only two, his father was dethroned (for supporting Olympias against Cassander). Pyrrhus' family took refuge with Glaukias of the Taulantians, one of the largest Illyrian tribes. Pyrrhus was raised by Beroea, Glaukias's wife and a Molossian of the Aeacidae dynasty.

Glaukias restored Pyrrhus to the throne in 306 BC until the latter was banished again, four years later, by his enemy, Cassander. Thus, he went on to serve as an officer, in the wars of the Diadochi, under his brother-in-law Demetrius Poliorcetes who had 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. There, he married Ptolemy I's stepdaughter Antigone (a daughter of Berenice I of Egypt from her first husband Philip—respectively, 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 murdered. In 295 BC, Pyrrhus transferred the capital of his kingdom to Ambrakia (modern Arta). Next, he went to war against his former ally and brother-in-law Demetrius and in 292 BC he invaded Thessaly while Demetrius was besieging Thebes but was repulsed. In 288 BC, Pyrrhus and Lysimachus shared rulership over the kingdom of Macedon until 284 BC when Lysimachus drove Pyrrhus out of the region back into Epirus.

Struggle with Rome

Routes taken against Rome in the Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC).

The Greek city of Tarentum, in southern Italy, fell out with Rome due to a violation of an old treaty that specified Rome was not to send warships into the Tarentine Gulf. In 282 BC, the Romans installed garrisons in the Greek cities of Thurii (on the western end of the Tarentine Gulf), Locri, and Rhegium, and sent warships to Thurii. Although this was designed as a measure against the Italian peoples of Lucania, the Tarentines grew nervous and attacked the Romans in Thurii, driving the Roman garrison from the city and sinking several Roman warships. Tarentum was now faced with a Roman attack and certain defeat, unless they could enlist the aid of greater powers. Rome had already made itself into a major power, and was poised to subdue all the Greek cities in Magna Graecia. The Tarentines asked Pyrrhus to lead their war against the Romans. Pyrrhus was encouraged to aid the Tarentines by the Oracle of Delphi. He recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy. He made an alliance with Ptolemy Keraunos, King of Macedon and his most powerful neighbor, and arrived in Italy in 280 BC.

Pyrrhus entered Italy with an army consisting of 20,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, and 20 war elephants in a bid to subdue the Romans. The elephants had been loaned to him by Ptolemy II, 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, his elephants and his deadly phalanx infantry, he defeated the Romans, led by Consul Publius Valerius Laevinus, in the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, in the Roman province of Lucania. There are conflicting sources about casualties. Hieronymus of Cardia 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 Epirot. Several tribes, including the LucaniansBruttii, Messapians, and the Greek cities of Croton and Locri, joined Pyrrhus. He then offered the Romans a peace treaty which was eventually rejected. Pyrrhus spent the winter in Campania.

When Pyrrhus invaded Apulia (279 BC), the two armies met in the Battle of Asculum, where Pyrrhus won a costly victory. The consul Publius Decius Mus was the Roman commander, and while his able force was ultimately defeated, they managed to almost break the back of Pyrrhus' Epirot army, which guaranteed the security of the city itself. In the end, the Romans had lost 6,000 men and Pyrrhus 3,500 including many officers.  Pyrrhus later famously commented on his victory at Asculum, stating, "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined".  It is from reports of this semi-legendary event that the term Pyrrhic victory originates.

Ruler of Sicily

In 278 BC, Pyrrhus received two offers simultaneously. The Greek cities in Sicily asked him to come and drive out Carthage, which along with Rome was one of the two great powers of the Western Mediterranean. At the same time, the Macedonians, whose King Ptolemy Keraunos had been killed by invading Gauls, asked Pyrrhus to ascend the throne of Macedon. Pyrrhus decided that Sicily offered him a greater opportunity, and transferred his army there.

Soon after landing in Sicily, he lifted the Carthaginian siege of Syracuse in the same year. 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, 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 realized 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, foreshadowing the Punic Wars, said to his companions: "What a wrestling ground we are leaving, my friends, for the Carthaginians and the Romans."  While his army was being transported by ship to mainland Italy, Pyrrhus’ navy was destroyed by the Carthaginians at the Battle of the Strait of Messina, with 98 warships sunk or disabled out of 110.

Retreat from Italy

While Pyrrhus had been campaigning against the Carthaginians, the Romans had rebuilt their army by calling up thousands of fresh recruits. When Pyrrhus returned from Sicily, he found himself vastly outnumbered against a superior Roman army under Manius Curius Dentatus. 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 essentially all the gains he had made in Italy. The city of Tarentum remained under the dominion of the Epirotes.


In his Life of PyrrhusPlutarch records that Hannibal ranked him as the greatest commander the world had ever seen, though in the life of Titus Quinctius Flamininus, Plutarch writes that Hannibal placed him second after Alexander the Great. This latter account is also given by Appian. 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.

Pyrrhus was known for his benevolence. 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 termPyrrhic victory” 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: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

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 Hellenistic powers continued to quarrel among themselves, sapping the financial and military strength of Greece and to a lesser extent, Macedon and the greater Hellenistic world. By 197 BC, Macedonia and many southern Greek city-states became Roman client states; in 188 BC, the Seleucid Empire was forced to cede most of Asia Minor to Rome's ally Pergamon (Pergamum). Rome inherited that state, and most of Asia Minor in 133 BC. Total Roman domination over Greece proper was marked by the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC; Greece then formed an integral part of the Roman world leading into the Byzantine period.

Pyrrhus wrote memoirs 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 bore him a daughter called Olympias and a son named Ptolemy in honour of her stepfather. She died in 295 BC, possibly in childbirth, since that was the same year her son was born. His second wife was Lanassa, daughter of King Agathocles of Syracuse (r. 317–289 BC), whom he married in about 295 BC; the couple had two sons, Alexander and Helenus; Lanassa left Pyrrhus. His third wife was the daughter of Audoleon, King of Paeonia; his fourth wife was the Illyrian princess Bircenna, who was the daughter of King Bardylis II (r. c. 295–290 BC); and his fifth wife was the daughter of Ptolemy Keraunos, whom he married in 281/280 BC. Portraits of Pyrrhus as have come down to us do not necessarily reflect his likeness.


Epirus (ancient state)

Epirus (ancient state) (W)

 (Northwest GreekἌπειροςÁpeirosAtticἬπειρος, Ḗpeiros) 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, Thessaly and Macedonia to the east, and Illyrian tribes to the north. For a brief period (280–275 BC), the Epirote king Pyrrhus managed to make Epirus the most powerful state in the Greek world, and his armies marched against Rome during an unsuccessful campaign in Italy.
• Epirote tribes established united political entity
330 BC
280–275 BC
• Monarchy abolished
231 BC
• Conquered by the Roman Republic in the Third Macedonian War
167 BC
Kingdom of Epirus (330–231 BC)

In 330 BC, upon Alexander the Molossian's death, the term "Epirus" appears as a single political unit in the ancient Greek records for the first time, under the leadership of the Molossian dynasty. Subsequently, the coinages of the three major Epirote tribal groups came to an end, and a new coinage was issued with the legend Epirotes. After Alexander's I death, Aeacides of Epirus, who succeeded him, espoused the cause of Olympias against Cassander, but was dethroned in 313 BC.

Aeacides’s son Pyrrhus came to the throne in 295 BC. Pyrrhus, being a skillful general, was encouraged to aid the Greeks of Tarentum and decided to initiate a major offensive in the Italian peninsula and Sicily. Due to its superior martial abilities, the Epirote army defeated the Romans in the Battle of Heraclea (280 BC). Subsequently, Pyrrhus's forces nearly reached the outskirts of Rome, but had to retreat to avoid an unequal conflict with a more numerous Roman army. The following year, Pyrrhus invaded Apulia (279 BC) and the two armies met in the Battle of Asculum where the Epirotes won the original Pyrrhic victory, at a high cost.

In 277 BC, Pyrrhus captured the Carthaginian fortress in Eryx, Sicily. This prompted the rest of the Carthaginian-controlled cities to defect to Pyrrhus. Meanwhile, he had begun to display despotic behavior towards the Sicilian Greeks and soon Sicilian opinion became inflamed against him. Though he defeated the Carthaginians in battle, he was forced to abandon Sicily.

Pyrrhus's Italian campaign came to an end following the inconclusive Battle of Beneventum (275 BC). Having lost the vast majority of his army, he decided to return to Epirus, which finally resulted in the loss of all his Italian holdings. Because of his costly victories, the term "Pyrrhic victory" is often used for a victory with devastating cost to the victor.


📹 Pyrrhus 1 — Before Rome (VİDEO)

📹 Pyrrhus 1 — Before Rome (LINK)

The life of Pyrrhus of Epirus is remarkable. His was born a few years after the death of his relative Alexander the Great, grew up during the wars of the Diadochi, learned war under Alexander's generals, lived through and fought in many battles. We know him from his wars against the Romans and their legions, but his military career started earlier than that. So, what was the life of Pyrrhus of Epirus before his Italian battles?


📹 Pyrrhus 2 — Battle of Heraclea 280 BC — Pyrrhic Wars (VİDEO)

📹Pyrrhus 2 — Battle of Heraclea 280 BC — Pyrrhic Wars (LINK)

Our animated historical documentary series about Pyrrhus of Epirus continues! In the previous video, our hero was involved in the wars of the Diadochi of Alexander the Great and this involvement only increased. However ambitious Pyrrhus preferred to achieve new conquests and win wars against new opponents, so when a Greek city of Tarentum invited him to Italy to defend it against the Roman Republic, Pyrrhus agreed. The war with Rome was now inevitable and its first engagement would be the battle of Heraclea.Our animated historical documentary series about Pyrrhus of Epirus continues! In the previous video, our hero was involved in the wars of the Diadochi of Alexander the Great and this involvement only increased. However ambitious Pyrrhus preferred to achieve new conquests and win wars against new opponents, so when a Greek city of Tarentum invited him to Italy to defend it against the Roman Republic, Pyrrhus agreed. The war with Rome was now inevitable and its first engagement would be the battle of Heraclea.


📹 Pyrrhus 3 — Pyrrhus vs. Romans and Carthaginians (Asculum, Sicilian Campaign) (VİDEO)

📹 Pyrrhus 3 — Pyrrhus vs. Romans and Carthaginians (Asculum, Sicilian Campaign) (LINK)

In the previous episode of our animated historical documentary series on the king of Epirus Pyrrhus and Pyrrhic wars, the Greek king defeated the Roman legions at the battle of Heraclea. Although the battle was impressive, the Roman republic wasn't planning to relent and sign a peace treaty. Pyrrhus and his phalanx would have to fight Rome at the battle of Asculum, but even that wasn't enough to sate the appetites of the king and he would later attack the Carthaginians on Sicily.


📹 Pyrrhus 4 — Pyrrhus — Against Everyone (Beneventum, Sparta and Argos) (VİDEO)

📹 Pyrrhus 4 — Pyrrhus — Against Everyone (Beneventum, Sparta and Argos) (LINK)

Previous video in our animated historical documentary series on Pyrrhus of Epirus saw him fighting against the Carthaginians on Sicily and again against the Roman Republic at Asculum and although he gained many victories, his war against the Romans was ongoing and at Beneventum they have finally defeated him. With his overall situation in Italy untenable, he headed back to Greece, where he fought his final wars against the Macedonians, Spartans and Argives.


📹 Pyrrhus of Epirus — Enemy of Rome (VİDEO)

📹 Pyrrhus of Epirus — Enemy of Rome (LINK)

A brief look at one of the first and greatest adversaries of the Romans.







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