Pyrrhus (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Capable of expanding his domain by exploiting chaos in surrounding regions, Pyrrhus won costly victories against the Romans, leading to the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” A fine tactician and commander, he lacked the ability to set and meet long-term goals.
Related to Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Pyrrhus became Epirote monarch at age twelve but was dethroned by a revolt. This led to his flight and involvement in the Battle of Ipsus in 301 b.c.e., alongside his Macedonian supporters. After Ptolemy Soter helped him regain his kingdom (297 b.c.e.), he assassinated his kinsman Neoptolemus II (with whom he was supposed to share the throne) and undertook campaigns against Demetrius I Poliorcetes, king of Macedonia, in Greece and Macedonia. Next, he deployed 25,000 men and 20 elephants to victory over the Romans at Heraclea in 280 b.c.e., but at great cost to man and animal, provoking his comment, “One more such victory and I shall be lost.” From this comment comes the term, “Pyrrhic victory,” to mean a victory in which the costs come close to outweighing the benefits.
Asculum (279 b.c.e.) brought another inconclusive victory and bad battle wounds. Pyrrhus nevertheless tried to uproot the Carthaginians from Sicily, and when Carthage and Rome allied, Pyrrhus returned to Italy, where he was defeated at Beneventum (275 b.c.e.) when his elephants were forced back on his own army,...
(The entire section is 304 words.)
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