Pyrrhus of Epirus
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Pyrrhus of Epirus was rated by Hannibal as the second greatest general yet seen (placing himself third). Indeed, Hannibal referred to Pyrrhus as his teacher, although the two never met, since he learnt so much of the art of war from his writings. Pyrrhus was born into the royal house of Epirus, northwest Greece, and was a second-cousin of Alexander the Great. His mother was forced to flee into exile to protect his life when he was a mere infant, yet he prospered in troubled times and went from a refugee to become king. Always an adventurer with an eye for the main chance, he was deeply involved in the cut-and-thrust campaigning, coups and subterfuges of the Successor kingdoms. At various times he was king of Epirus (twice), Macedon (twice) and Sicily, as well as overlord of much of southern Italy. In 281 BC he was invited by the southern Italian states to defend them against the aggressive expansion of the burgeoning Roman republic. His early victories over the Roman armies at Heraclea and Asculum (assisted by his use of elephants) were won at such a high price in casualties that they gave us the expression 'Pyrrhic victory'. These battles were the first clashes between the hitherto-dominant Hellenistic way of warfare (as developed by Alexander) and the Roman legions, and so full of tactical interest. He failed in Italy and Sicily but when on to further military adventures in Greece, eventually being killed in action while storming the city of Argos.
expand his kingdom by military force. The instrument he would use was the Epirot army. Thucydides describes the fifth-century Epirot army as a typical tribal levy; disorganized, brave when things were going their way, but easily discouraged. ‘The Chaonians, filled with self-confidence, and having the highest reputation for courage … rushed on with the rest of the barbarians’, but ‘a panic seizing the Chaonians … they were seen to give way.’19 This was the Greek stereotype of the barbarian
Macedonian throne that followed Cassander's death in 297. Cassander was succeeded by his son Philip IV, but he too died of natural causes the following year. The next eldest brother, Antipater, should then have inherited the kingdom. His youngest brother Alexander was, however, the favourite of their mother Thessalonice, another daughter of Philip II. She connived to have the kingdom divided between the two brothers. Antipater received the eastern portion and Alexander the western, with the
them into the mountains. The territory they advanced into was difficult country - hilly and overgrown, perfect for the tactics of the Samnites. They ambushed the Roman army, inflicting heavy casualties and taking many prisoners. The two consuls blamed each other for the defeat and split their forces. Junius continued to ravage the territory of the Samnites - so casualties may not have been as heavy as Zonaras claims - or more likely only a portion of the army had been defeated. Rufinus attacked
Antigonus, in a manner common to the era of the Successors, completely reversed his fortunes. Although he treated Helenus and the captured Epirot army well, he was able to impose harsh peace conditions for their release. Helenus was forced to cede all of Macedonia and Thessaly to Antigonus in order to obtain their freedom. His victory had also ensured his continued domination of the Peloponnesus. Antigonus later learnt, however, that his victory in Greece was not sufficient to overcome the aura
a history of the Greek and Persian Wars of the fifth century. He is alternately known as ‘the father of history’ or, largely unjustly, as the ‘father of lies’. 4. Hammond, pp. 552-4. 5. Thucydides, 2.80. Thucydides was a commander in and wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War (431-411), he died in 395 before he could complete his work. 6. Hammond, p. 423. 7. Pausanias, 1.11. 8. See Hammond, pp. 557-61. 9. Pausanias 8.7; Plutarch, Alexander, 10. Pausanias wrote a geographic guide to Greece