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Pyrrhus of Epirus

319-272 BC
Pyrrhus
• King of Epirus
• Claims he is a successor to Alexander
• Came to the aid of Tarentum in southern
Italy
– Rome expanding south into Greek territory
– Greek city-states = freedom, so anti-Rome
Stage 1
• Told by the Oracle of Delphi, he invaded
southern Italy with:
– ~25,000 infantry + skirmishers
– 3,000 cavalry
– 20 elephants
Stage 1
• Battle of Heraclea in
280 Bc
– Romans got a real
bloody nose
– Pyrrhus first “real”
threat to supremacy
– Peace treaty rejected
Stage 1 , concluded
• Following spring, Battle of
Ausculum in 279 BC
– Roman lose again, but inflict
higher casualties on Pyrrhus
• Pyrrhic Victory = win battles,
lose the war
– Pyrrhus tries his fortunes
helping out Syracuse against
Carthage, who has been trying
to take over Sicily
Stage 2
• 279 BC, Gauls invade Greece and sack
Delphi, killing Macedonian King
– Option 1: go claim Macedonian kingdom
– Option 2: Fight Carthage, i.e. form a new
empire in west
• Pyrrhus chose option 2
Stage 2
• He beats Carthage, taking the
fortress mountain of Mt. Eryx
• Proclaimed King of Sicily
• Opinion turns, and he has to leave
Sicily
Stage 3
• He makes one
more try for Italy
• Rome is ready, and
he is defeated at
the battle of
Maleventum in
275 BC
– The town is
renamed
Beneventum ‘good
wind’
Pyrrhus’ End
• He returns to Epirus and tries to secure Greece
– In the city of Argos, and old woman hits him from a
rooftop with a tile
– An Argive soldier nearby kills him.
• His last words when leaving Italy, “Oh, what a
battlefield I leave for Rome and Carthage!” (i.e.
Sicily and the 1st Punic War)