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Pyrrhus (319-272 BC) – Victor without Gains

Roman Parallel – Marius (157-86 BC)

Important People

  • Demetrius (337-283) – Neighbor and even, for a time, brother-in-law. Son of Antigonus I and father of Antigonus II, Demetrius rules in Greece, Macedon (for seven years), Asia Minor but was ultimately conquered by Seleucus and imprisoned until he died of his own drinking habit.
  • Cassander (355-297) – Son of Antipater, who had served as regent of Macedon during Alexander’s campaigns and later served as regent after the death of Perdiccas, he did not inherit the Macedonian throne from his father but had to fight Polyperchon for it. He conquers Greece as well and, most infamously, ends the charade of the successors serving as satraps to a regent by killing the young Alexander IV and his mother and grandmother, Olympias.
  • Ptolemy I Soter (367-282) – The stable successor to Alexander who carves out Egypt (305 BC) for himself and founds a dynasty that rules Egypt from the prosperous port of Alexandria until Julius Caesar’s arrival. Ptolemy also strategic in his dynastic alliances to stave off further wars.
  • Cineas – Philosopher and orator, Cineas acts as a foil to Pyrrhus’s reckless moving from hope to hope. In the midpoint of this life, he attempts to help Pyrrhus think through why he should be driven from conquest to conquest and provides reflection on Pyrrhus’s accomplishments. Nevertheless, the philosopher accompanies him on all Pyrrhus’s expeditions.
  • Fabricius – Our first direct encounters with Roman virtue. While not given his own biography, Fabricius looms large in contrast to Pyrrhus’s vices. Fabricius is stable, cautious, and dependable where Pyrrhus is reckless, overly optimistic, and flighty.
  • Antigone (first wife) – daughter of Berenice I, queen of Alexandria and wife of Ptolemy I Soter. This did not put Pyrrhus in line for the Egyptian throne, because this daughter was from a previous marriage of Berenice’s.
  • Lanassa (second wife) – daughter of King of Syracuse. After giving him two sons, she leaves him and takes her dowry back (an island). She later marries Demetrius.

Important Places

  • Epirus – Pyrrhus’s birthplace and kingdom by right, inheritance, and conquest.
  • Macedon – Neighboring kingdom to Epirus. Pyrrhus manages to win it and lose it without a fight.
  • Rome – The new power in the Western Mediterranean, having risen even more recently than Carthage, now threatens the entire Italian peninsula, including the Greek-speaking colonies in the south.
  • Tarentum – The colony that asks Pyrrhus for help, and then quickly comes to regret asking.
  • Beneventum – The battle in which the Romans manage, not exactly to beat Pyrrhus, but to convince him that Italy won’t be worth the fight.

Key Vices and Virtues

  • Excessive Appetite for Conquest (πλεονεξία) – Not a vice in the Aristotelian canon, but one important to historians like Thucydides, who saw it as the root of the Athenian downfall. This Life becomes a meditation on knowign one’s political limits and serving in the capacity one has been placed. The philosopher Cineas provides some of this perspective for us without being too heavy-handed.
  • Justice – Once again ignored by most of Alexander’s successors, we do se key aspects of it lived up to by the Romans. It is called the virtue of kings in this life and one philosopher observes that the Roman Senate strikes him as “An Assembly of Kings.” When Justice and Power are joined, Plutarch sees not only a properous state nor even just a stable situation, but a good government promoting virtue in its people. This life sets us up so well to enter into the Roman story, because Plutarch wants to remind even the Romans of their past virtues and encourage them to live up to those old virtues in the height of their power.

C. 1 – Kings in Greece After the Flood

  1. Dodona, an important site for the worship of Zeus [and one of the oldest oracles in Greece], was either established by Deucalion and Pyrrha (the flood story for the Greeks) or Phaethon, an immigrant with Pelasgus (the story of the Pelasgians).
  2. Neoptolemus [not the Diadochoi mentioned in the Life of Eumenes, but the son of Achilles] (to whom Alexander also traced his lineage), left a line of kings descending from him in this area, called the Pyrrhidae since he had been called Pyrrhus as a boy. Achilles also here worshiped under the name Aspetus.
  3. Kings here lapse into barbarism and obscurity, and Greek customs had to be reintroduced by a certain Tharrhypas.
  4. Aeacides (also a Homeric name referring to Salamis and the sons of Aeacus, Achilles and Ajax), Tharrhypas’s grandson, married a Phthia (probably from Eastern Greece, since her name corrseponds with the region Achilles is from) and they had two daughters and a son, Pyrrhus.

C. 2 – Flight from Political Turmoil

  1. Molossians grow factious and oust Aeacides for a relative, with those friends of Aeacides siezed and killed. Pyrrhus, still a baby, was smuggled out of the area by Androcleides and Angelus, bringing even a nurse to keep the baby alive.
  2. Their slow flight soon found them caught and they handed the baby over to faster men with the orders to hasten for Megara (in Macedon?) while they would slow down the pursuers.
  3. Nearly arrived, the swollen river stands between them and the city they seek and night is falling.
  4. They tried to ask for help from those on the opposite bank, but they remained unheard because of hte roar of the river.
  5. Then they begin writing messages on bark, crumpling the message around a rock, and throwing it over the river for those on the other side to read.
  6. Was it a javelin? Those on the other side made a raft and paddled across. The first man landing from the other side was named Achilles who took Pyrrhus to safety.

C. 3 – Adopted

  1. The group find themselves suppliants before the King of the Illyrians, placing the child before him and his wife. The King sits silently pondering for a long time.
  2. Pyrrhus crawled toward the king and pulls up on his robes to reach his knees. Now this 6 month old has assumed the position of an official suppliant, crying at the knees of the king, who at first laughed and then pitied the baby. Some say the baby crawled to the altar and there supplicated the gods.
  3. Either way, the king accepts the baby and raises him until he is twelve years old, at which point he returns the boy to his kingdom and places him on his throne.
  4. Physical description: More terrible than majestic looking – weird jaw and teeth. Had miraculous healing powers (like Edward the Confessor) especially for those suffering spleen ailments. Anyone who asked received this healing treatment.
  5. Big toe of his right foot not consumed by fire… but Plutarch’s getting ahead of himself.

C. 4 – Pyrrhus among the Diadochoi

  1. By 302 BC, Pyrrhus is 17 years old and thought he had established himself on his own throne, so he leaves for a brother’s wedding, but they revolt in his absence and choose a cousin of Pyrrhus as king.
  2. Pyrrhus then teams up with his brother-in-law, Demetrius (who had married Deidameia see Life of Demetrius 35.2). Pyrrhus fought and lost at Ipsus with Demetrius, though much younger than Demetrius.
  3. Pyrrhus performed well at the battle, and did not abandon Demetrius even as he lost. He even served as a hostage to Ptolemy for Demetrius to ratify the treaty between Ptolemy and Demetrius.
  4. He continues to hunt and train in the court of Ptolemy and grows close to Ptolemy’s most important wife, Berenice. He marries an Antigone, a daughter of Berenice from a previous marriage.

C. 5 – Poisoned Plans

  1. Antigone makes a great wife and he returns to Epirus not to oust Neoptolemus but to arrange a joint rule.
  2. Their mutual distrust just grows, though, and the Molossians and Epirotes had a custom to exchange solemn oaths to Zeus to uphold the laws and kingdom.
  3. At this event, a follower of Neoptolemus gives Pyrrhus two oxen. Then Pyrrhus’s cup-bearer asks for the oxen and Pyrrhus chooses two other oxen to give him, offending Myrtilus.
  4. Gelon, the original ox-giver, notices this discontent and invites Myrtilus to dinner where he wines and dines him into attempting to poison Pyrrhus. Myrtilus pretends to accept but informs Pyrrhus.
  5. Neoptolemus then began to speak of his plan as if it had already been succesful and the wife of a herdsman, pretending to be asleep, overhears the whole plan.
  6. This wife goes to Antigone who informs Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus invites Neoptolemus to supper and kills him there.
  7. He had to anticipate Neoptolemus and saw that the majority of Epirotes favored Pyrrhus.

C. 6 – War in Macedonia

  1. His first son named after Ptolemy and he builds a city in Epirus which he names after Berenice (his mother-in-law). He then looks to Macedon to take part in larger and more important affairs.
  2. Cassander’s eldest son, Antipater, killed his own mother and drove his brother, Alexander, into exile (cf. Life of Demetrius 36.1). Alexander reaches out to Demetrius for help, but Demetrius can’t come immediately and Pyrrhus is right at hand. Pyrrhus asks for regions of Greece and Macedonia in return for his help.
  3. Alexander gives in (youth or necessity?). Pyrrhus then starts winning battles against Antipater and giving that territory to Alexander. But now Lysimachus gets involved. Lysimachus uses Pyrrhus’s love of Ptolemy to forge a letter demanding Pyrrhus ceases hostilities upon receiving 300 talents from Antipater.
  4. Pyrrhus recognizes the fraud immediately because the greeting is wrong… but he makes the peace anyway (why?).
  5. A bull, boar, and ram are brought to the sacrifice to ratify the treaty, but the ram dies of its own accord. Some laugh but the seer said this omen forewarned the imminent death of one of the three kings (Pyrrhus, Antipater, or Alexander (not Ptolemy, Seleucus, or Lysimachus?))

C. 7 – Pyrrhus v. Pantauchus (Demetrius’s best general)

  1. Pyrrhus and Alexander had handled it, but Demetrius shows up (late) anyway and now has to be told that he’s not really needed. Alexander and Demetrius start to plot against each other, but Demetrius made the first move and declared himself King of Macedonia. (Cf. Life of Demetrius 36, 37)
  2. “Greed for Power” (πλεονεξία) made Demetrius and Pyrrhus mistrustful/suspicious of each other. When Deidameia dies, the last link joining them is severed and they each own half of Macedonia.
  3. Demetrius conquers Aetolia and leaves a commander in charge of the garrison (Pantauchus) while Demetrius heads for Epirus itself. Meanwhile, Pyrrhus leaves Epirus and falls upon Pantauchus. (Life of Demetrius 51)
  4. Pyrrhus sights Pantauchus (best of Demetrius’s generals) in the fray and, fired to meet the glory of Achilles in deed as in blood, he challenges Pantauchus to one-v-one.
  5. Spears first, then swords at close quarters. Pyrrhus wounded once but gives two wounds and Pantauchus retires from the field. Then the Epirotes, inspired by their general, overwhelm the Macedonian phalanx and put it to flight (5K prisoners).

C. 8 – Tactical Genius; Second to Alexander

  1. The Macedonians fighting against Pyrrhus respect him more after fighting him. Pyrrhus mimics Alexander in arms and action, the other kings only in pomp, purple robes, and personal attendants.
  2. Pyrrhus wrote on military tactics. Antigonus admired him, and Hannibal later placed him as the best of all generals (after Alexander).
  3. The most kingly branch of learning (contrast with Demetrius and city-sacking) was tactics and what made a good general good.
  4. Kind and mild (ἐπιεικὴς καὶ πρᾶος), but eager in returning favors. Sad when a friend dies before he can return the favor he owed him. Favors are not like debts, they cannot be paid to the heirs.
  5. When a man mocked and spread lies about him, many thought Pyrrhus should banish the man. But Pyrrhus knew that would only spread his slanders to another land and people. Young men mock him, but Pyrrhus realizes that they only do so in their cups.

C. 9 – Wives, Sons, and Heirs

  1. Takes several wives for strategic reasons after the death of Antigone (his first wife), alliances with Paeonians, Illyrians, and the daughter of Agathocles of Syracuse. He had three sons by three different wives.
  2. Sons want to know to whom he’ll leave the kingdom. His reply “to the one who keeps his sword sharpest.” Alas, this just brings on the curse of Oedipus, whose sons fight for the throne after his death (Seven Against Thebes, Euripides Phoenissae 68).

C. 10 – Pyrrhus in Macedonia, Loses a Wife

  1. Called an eagle by his troops, he reminded them that their arms are his wings. Learning that Demetrius has fallen ill, he raids Macedonia again.
  2. He reaches Edessa without a fight, but Demetrius rouses himself and since Pyrrhus had come only for plunder, he falls back and Demetrius chases him out.
  3. Now Demetrius hatches his plan to regain his father’s kingdom. He didn’t want Pyrrhus as an unsettled neighbor, so he offers him peace and alliance against the other kings.
  4. Pyrrhus agrees, and then realizes what Demetrius is up to (cf. Life of Demetrius 44). The other kings now encourage him to finish what he started in Macedonia, particularly since Demetrius had already taken Corcyra and Lanassa (Pyrrhus’s wife from Agathocles of Syracuse).
  5. Lanassa felt slighted by Pyrrhus devotion to his barbarian wives, retired to the city of her dowry (Corcyra) and offered herself to Demetrius in marriage. Demetrius accepted, sailed to Corcyra with a garrison and married Lanassa. (why is this not mentioned in the Life of Demetrius?)

C. 11 – Pyrrhus Takes Macedonia…For Now

  1. The other kings continue to encourage Pyrrhus while also moving against Demetrius themselves. Ptolemy arrives with a huge fleet and Lysimachus invades Macedonia via Thrace, so Pyrrhus invades Macedonia from the south thinking Demetrius would face Lysimachus first.
  2. Pyrrhus dreams of Alexander lying on a couch promising him help. When asked how, Alexander says his name is enough, rises, mounts a Nisaean (importance?) horse and leads the way.
  3. Encouraged by this dream, Pyrrhus continues deeper into southern Macedonia, taking Beroea. Demetrius doesn’t close the gap because he’s afraid his men will defect to Lysimachus.
  4. Thinking of Pyrrhus as a foreigner, he doesn’t worry about his men defecting to him. The rumors about Pyrrhus tell much of his heroics on the battlefield and underscore his mild treatment (πράως δὲ καὶ φιλανθρώπως) of prisoners.
  5. Some of Demetrius’s men begin to seek out Pyrrhus to switch sides.
  6. Some of Demetrius’s men warn him of what’s happening and advise him to withdraw quietly. Pyrrhus takes Macedonia without a battle

C. 12 – Pleonexia Plays Out

  1. Lysimachus claims a part in this defeat of Demetrius and demands a division of the kingdom. Pyrrhus accepts, not sure how many of his newly-minted soldiers would remain faithful when offered another opportunity to defect.
  2. But this doesn’t solve the problem for neighbors who have enough rapacity (πλεονεξία) to set no natural limit on their acquisition of empire: deserts, mountains, and seas do not stop them.
  3. Those who struggle with this vice are always at war: plots and jealousies (ἐπιβουλεύειν καὶ φθονεῖν) and war and peace (ὥσπερ νομισμάτων, πολέμου καὶ εἰρήνης) become like coins in common circulation, using whichever one achieves their advantage, utterly ignoring justice. They call justice and friendships the hiatuses they use to gear up for more war.
  4. Pyrrhus makes this clear: he goes to Athens to keep the power of Demetrius weak.
  5. Then he makes peace with him…until Demetrius leaves for Asia when Pyrrhus tries to help Thessaly revolt and attacks the garrisons in the Greek cities. Pyrrhus notices something Demetrius noticed in his own life: a professional standing army obeys better when under orders of battle and war. This also because Pyrrhus’s personality couldn’t stand peace and quiet. When Demetrius finally defeated in 301 BC at the Battle of Ipsus, Lysimachus (now secure from an attack from Demetrius, his former neighbor in Asia Minor) now attacks Pyrrhus.
  6. Lysimachus captures Pyrrhus’s baggage and provisions, and then tries to convince Pyrrhus’s soldiers to re-defect back to Lysimachus from this foreigner.
  7. After many of his men leave him, Pyrrhus withdraws to his Epirotes and cedes Macedonia to Lysimachus as he got it: without a fight. Thus when kings call democracies wishy-washy for changing sides they should keep in mind that the democracies have been taught to do so by kings. Both seem to think the one with the greatest advantage to be the one who least follows justice. (πλεῖστα νομίζοντας ὠφελεῖσθαι τὸν ἐλάχιστα τῷ δικαίῳ χρώμενον.)

C. 13 – Pyrrhus Turns West to Rome

  1. Now he had the opportunity to enjoy what he had in peace without being bothered, ruling over the Epirotes. He, like Achilles, could not endure idleness, longing for war-cry and battle (Iliad 1, 491).
  2. So Pyrrhus looked West and the Greek colony of Tarentum, fighting a war they could not win or end, summoned Pyrrhus to make him leader. Why? Most at leisure and formidable general (also closest, methinks?). The most sensible citizens overruled and the war-party wins the day and calls Pyrrhus to Italy.
  3. Meton dresses up as a drunken reveller and enters the Tarentine assembly garlanded like a party-goer from the night before. This depraved and vicious people applaud him and ask for a song.
  4. His speech: Enjoy your freedom while you still have it. Once Pyrrhus arrives, your food and daily life will change permanently.
  5. Some feared the Romans, and they cast Meton out as a “drunken reveler.” They send ambassadors to Pyrrhus in 281 BC, calling for a leader of reputation and sound-planning (δόξαν and ἔμφρονος)
  6. They also promise him exorbitant numbers of cavalry and infantry for his disposal.

C. 14 – Cineas Challenges Pyrrhus: For What are We Fighting?

  1. A student of Demosthenes, Cineas of Thessaly, represents Pyrrhus as an ambassador to the Greek cities in Italy.
  2. This man’s eloquence, Pyrrhus claimed, had won him more cities than his spear. Cineas asks Pyrrhus about this newest expedition. How shall you use your victory?
  3. Pyrrhus responds: Once I conquer the Romans, I shall possess all Italy… Cineas: And after Italy?
  4. Pyrrhus: Sicily! Now that Agathocles has died. Cineas: And will our expedition stop at Sicily?
  5. If heaven grant us victory, why not Libya and Carthage, as Agathocles almost succeeded.
  6. So when even Greece and Macedonia are again subject to you, what will we do? Pyrrhus: σχολήν ἄξομεν πολλήν, καὶ κώθων, ὦ μακάριε, καθημερινὸς ἔσται, καὶ διὰ λόγων συνόντες ἀλλήλους εὐφρανοῦμεν.” We’ll enjoy much leisure, drinking, and conversation.
  7. Why can’t we do that now?
  8. Pyrrhus troubled, but not convinced, (ἠνίασε μᾶλλον ἢ μετέθηκε) and forges ahead to what he eagerly desires.

C. 15 – A Stormy Crossing

  1. Pyrrhus sends Cineas ahead with 3k soldiers and then arranges a much larger crossing for his main army (including 20 elephants!). Halfway across, a freak storm blows up.
  2. He comes to land by himself, with no idea where his other ships are. Some ended up as far away as Libya and Sicily, some ships were crushed on the rocks.
  3. Because his royal galley was big, it had more protection against the large swells.
  4. Seeing the danger shift at one point, Pyrrhus jumps into the water, swimming through the night and finally coming up to shore near dawn.
  5. He sees how many men and ships he can gather from his original fleet: 2 elephants, 2K infantry, 3K cavalry.

C. 16 – Battle of Heracleia – Costs for Being Conspicuous

  1. Cineas marches out to meet Pyrrhus while he waits to hear from his other ships and soldiers.
  2. Assessing the situation in Tarentum, he sees the Tarentines would rather pay the Epirotes to fight for them while they enjoyed the pleasures of civilian life. He shut down festivals, bars, gymnasia, and baths to force the people to focus on the war on their doorstep. Many ran away, thinking it slavery not to live however they wanted. (δουλείαν τὸ μὴ πρὸς ἡδονὴν ζῆν καλοῦντας)
  3. Laevinus, the Roman consul, marches against him without his allies, and so he offers to act as arbiter for the dispute between the Italian Greeks and the Roman.
  4. Laevinus responds: We do not fear you as an enemy or choose you as a mediator. He camps close enough to observe the Romans for the first time and is amazed at their discipline (τάξις – what a general studies! Taktika!!).
  5. He comments to a friend that their discipline certainly isn’t barbaric, and he decides to wait for his allies and station a guard on his side of the river.
  6. Sure enough, the Romans cross not wanting Pyrrhus’s strength to grow. Pyrrhus’s guards scatter but he quickly musters enough horsemen to begin the attack before the Romans have fully reformed.
  7. He is too late, though, and the Roman advance on his in good order (ἐν τάξει) but he must attack and leads prominently from the front, standing out because of his armor. In all his leading from the front, he never grows confused or loses his situational awareness. (GRK: τὸν λογισμὸν οὐδὲ τοῦ φρονεῖν)
  8. He continued to direct the battle as if he was seeing it from a distance. A friend sees a Roman closing fast on Pyrrhus with intent to kill.
  9. Pointing him out to Pyrrhus, who replies that no Italian will get to close quarters with Pyrrhus today as the Italian charges.
  10. The Italian closes with Pyrrhus, killing his horse. Pyrrhus’s friend defends him by taking out the other man’s horse, and the man is then surrounded and goes down fighting. His name is still remembered to Plutarch’s day (and our own).

C. 17 – The Aftermath of Heracleia

  1. Pyrrhus learned to be more on guard and changes out of his conspicuous armor. The battle’s fortune switched seven or so times.
  2. The exchange of armor helped him personally but almost lost him the battle since the enemy now focused on his friend Megacles, who was killed. Then the Romans displayed Pyrrhus’s helmet and cloak as if he’d been killed.
  3. Pyrrhus had to make it known he was still alive in the midst of the battle. The elephants came in handy, crowding out the soldiers and terrifying the horses. Pyrrhus finally ended the battle with a Thessalian cavalry charge.
  4. The numbers of casualties reviewed but Pyrrhus’s losses worse not by numbers but because he lost his best troops, good friends and trusted generals.
  5. Pyrrhus siezes the Roman camp and marches within 40 miles of Rome. He also gains more Italian allies, Lucanians and Samnites.

C. 18 – Cineas Before the Senate

  1. Fabricius wants to distinguish and explains that the Epirotes did not beat the Romans, but Pyrrhus defeated Laevinus. The Romans re-fill their ranks and persist in the rhetoric and action of war.
  2. Pyrrhus knew he couldn’t conquer Rome with his current force, so he wanted to see whether they were now open to negotiation. Cineas goes to Rome as his ambassador, with gifts for certain wives and children of men in high authority.
  3. No gift accepted and every citizen replied that when Rome concluded a treaty, there would be friendship between them and Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus’s generous proposals (freely ransomed prisoners, helping the Roman army subdue the rest of Italy) mostly met with stony silence.
  4. In return for these generous offers, he asked for immunity for Tarentum and friendship with Pyrrhus. It seemed that the majority was silently leaning toward peace, BUT
  5. Appius Claudius enters, old and blind, to see for himself if the rumors of the Romans negotiating peace with Pyrrhus were true. He is carried in a litter into the Senate House. (generally Senators speak by rank, and his age immediately gives him the floor)
  6. As the eldest member now in the Senate, his sons and sons-in-law make room for him and everyone waits for him to speak.

C. 19 – The Eloquence of Appius Claudius

  1. I wish I were deaf as well as blind so that I might not hear these shameful resolutions debated, eclipsing the glory of Rome. We brag that if Alexander had made it to Italy in the days of our fathers and grandfathers, he would not have remained undefeated and Rome would remain as glorious as before.
  2. Was that empty boasting? We fear Molossians who had so often been easily conquered by the Macedonians. You tremble before a man who has been defeated by Alexander’s bodyguards! Pyrrhus has come here not to help Greeks but to escape enemies at home when he could not keep what he had in Macedonia.
  3. You will not be rid of him by allying with him. Everyone else will see how easy you are to subdue and Pyrrhus will never be punished for his insults, training the other Italian peoples to mock the Romans.” Claudius’s words convince everyone to keep the war going.
  4. The Romans would negotiate friendship as soon as Pyrrhus left Italy. Until then, he could only expect fighting. Cineas also observed the life and manners of the Romans, seeing their best men and form of government
  5. He called the Senate “a council of kings” and thought fighting against Rome would be like fighting against the Hydra, since they were able to field new armies so quickly after the defeat of old ones.

C. 20 – Testing Fabricius: Roman Virtue

  1. Fabricius, poor (πένητος δὲ ἰσχυρῶς) but honorable (and of consular rank?), leads an embassy and Pyrrhus tries to bribe him under the guise of friendship.
  2. Fabricius rejects the gold, so Pyrrhus follows up with fear: he hides an elephant and reveals him only close up and trumpeting.
  3. Fabricius doesn’t react. At dinner, Cineas begins to discuss Epicurean philosophy: the gods (don’t care), civil government (stay out of it… too worrisome), the highest good (pleasure).
  4. Fabricius interrrupts him before he finished wishing that all the enemies of Rome (esp. the Samnites) would subscribe to these doctrines, since it would make them so much easier to defeat. Pyrrhus so respects Fabricius now that he offers him personal friendship in his companion cavalry. Fabricius rejects the offer because his men would ultiamtely opt for Fabricius as king over Pyrrhus (i.e. Fabricius not just a better general, but also a more admirable man who would attract more followers).
  5. Pyrrhus did not react badly to this rather blunt and insulting remark. He returns the Roman prisoners of war to Fabricius for a furlough for Satunralia and to greet their relatives. The FIDES of the Romans so powerful that they decree a sentence of death to any Roman who does not return to being prisoner under Pyrrhus.

C. 21 – Pyrrhic Victory

  1. Fabricius, now consul (Plutarch has chronology wrong), receives a letter from Pyrrhus’s doctor offering to poison Pyrrhus if the Romans would promise an appropriate reward. Fabricius warns Pyrrhus about the plot.
  2. Plutarch quotes the letter itself. “Choose your friends and enemies more carefully!” (GRK: οὔτε φίλων εὐτυχὴς ἔοικας εἶναι κριτὴς οὔτε πολεμίων)
  3. “We want men to know we defeated you with virtue, not treachery” Pyrrhus read it, inquired for proof, and then punished the physician. In gratitude, Pyrrhus send the Roman prisoners back with Cineas to attempt another peace negotiation.
  4. The Romans will not accept the prisoners for nothing, so they exchange an equal number of Samnite and Tarentine prisoners. They again ask Pyrrhus to leave Italy before speaking of peace or friendship.
  5. So Pyrrhus marches toward Asculum on territory where his cavalry (and elephants) can’t operate. Night ended the battle.
  6. The next day, Pyrrhus maneuvered onto terrain that worked more to his advantage and attacked with slingers stationed between his elephants. Since the Romans can’t sidestep the elephants, they fight desperately face-to-face.
  7. The elephants wrought much damage, since the virtue of the Romans didn’t do much against them.
  8. Heavy losses to both sides as the Romans fall back to their camp.
  9. Dionysius doesn’t mention these two days of battle, nor that the Romans admitted defeat. He does say Pyrrhus was wounded and both sides lost a lot (seemingly in just one day). Pyrrhus claimed he couldn’t afford any more victories like this one. Pyrrhic Victory!
  10. Not only had he lost a lot of men, but most of his friends and generals with no backups to summon from home. His allies were growing colder and the Romans just kept coming.

C. 22 – Pyrrhus, Homeric Hero Worshipping Hercules

  1. New projects! Sicilians come to him offering him Agrigentum (repopulated just a couple generations before under Timoleon), Syracuse (who’d just lost their stable tyrant and Pyrrhus’s first father-in-law), and Leontini if only he would drive the Carthaginians out of the island. An opportunity also arises to be king in Macedonia again.
  2. Two opportunities too much for Pyrrhus and he wavers for a long time about which to accept.
  3. Sending Cineas on ahead, he garrisons Tarentum in preparation for leaving Italy. The Tarentines annoyed with him, he should either COMPLETELY leave or completely win the war. He ordered them to keep silent and sailed away.
  4. By 278, he was in Sicily, taking over the cities who had promised themselves to him. After taking most of the island, he moves on a fortified position in Eryx (MAP).
  5. So, he vows to Hercules (see Life of Alexander, who traces his lineage back to Heracles) that he would institute games in his honor if he made him a worthy adversary. He then led the charge and was the first to start climbing the wall.
  6. His virtue, as Homer says, seemed to give him divine help and frenzy (ἐνθουσιώδεις καὶ μανικὰς) (cf. Iliad V, 184, VI, 101, IX, 238) as the dead bodies mount around him and he remains untouched. After capturing the city, he sacrifices spectacularly to Hercules in thanksgiving.

C. 23 – Surrendering Sicily

  1. The Mamertines (sons of Mars, so named in Latin) had been wreaking havoc around Sicily in pursuit of spoils and treasure. Pyrrhus conquers them and destroys some of their fortified locations.
  2. When the Carthaginians start to negotiate peace, Pyrrhus responds exactly as the Romans had to him: Carthage must leave Sicily entirely before peace talks could begin.
  3. With good fortune and strong resources, acting despotically (δεσποτικῶς καὶ πρὸς ὀργὴν βιαζόμενος καὶ κολάζων [see all the words of force and pride]), he looks beyond Sicily even to Libya and starts forcibly recruiting oarsmen for his galleys from the free Greek cities he had just liberated. He added ingratitude and faithlessness to his reputation for military intensity (ἀχαριστίας τῇ χαλεπότητι καὶ ἀπιστίας) as he shifts from demagogue to tyrant.
  4. While the Sicilians put up with this for a while, there comes a breaking point in his dealing with the leadership of Syracuse. The two men who had invited him and given him the city with all their help and support were now neither invited on the next expedition nor kept in their positions of power in Syracuse.
  5. Worse, they were accused of crimes and one of them was put to death. Now the Greeks in Sicily hated him, even to the point of joining the Carthaginians or calling on the Mamertines for help! At this juncture, he hears from the Tarentines that the war was going badly and they needed his help again in Italy.
  6. So, under the pretext of helping Tarentum again, he sails away from Sicily. He could not master Sicily, looking back on it and commenting “What a wrestling-ground we have left for the Carthaginians and Romans!”

C. 24 – Mamertine Revenge

  1. On his way out, the Carthaginians attack him and he loses many ships. In Italy, some Mamertines had crossed to meet him and he has a battle on his hands as soon as he lands. He loses two elephants and a great many soldiers from the rearguard (most experienced?)
  2. In traveling back to defend the back of the army, he inspires many but also sustains a wound to the head, causing him to withdraw and encouraging the Mamertines. A huge Mamertine challenged Pyrrhus to show himself again.
  3. Angry, Pyrrhus forces his way through his troops stained with blood and looking fearsome. Before the Mamertine could strike Pyrrhus had sliced him clean through with the sword so that his body fell right there in two halves!
  4. The Mamertines fell back at this and Pyrrhus arrives in Tarentum (Autumn 276 BC), adds Tarentine troops to his own and marches once more against the Romans.

C. 25 – The Battle of Beneventum

  1. The Samnites had actually been broken by the Romans (finally… discuss the bloody Samnite Wars?). Many former allies annoyed at his actions in Sicily and they choose not to join him. Pyrrhus splits his army in half to take on the two Roman consuls separately and not allow them to unite against him.
  2. Camped near Beneventum (What was it called before? Maleventum (who names a city that? Oscan dialect…perhaps it meant something else in Oscan but was understood by the Romans to mean Maleventum (bad outcome/arrival), he awaits news from the other half of his army. Breaking camp at night with his best troops and most experienced elephants, Pyrrhus sets out to attack one of the two consuls right away.
  3. Marching in the dark, their torches fail and his men grow lost and spread out so that by daybreak the Romans clearly see them coming. Manius Curius, the consul, attacks as soon as he sees what’s happening and puts Pyrrhus’s men to confusion, then flight, then rout. The Romans even capture some of the elephants.
  4. Pushing the battle onto the plains, the battle has pockets of Roman success and pockets of Pyrrhic success (the elephants). Roman camp-guards now join the fray as the battle has been pushed back to their camp.
  5. The elephants are pushed back into the ranks of the Epirotes; this victory set the Romans up (in Plutarch’s estimation) to complete their conquest of Italy and even add Sicily shortly after this.

C. 26 – Macedonia and Sparta

  1. Wasting six years on these campaigns, Pyrrhus won neither Sicily nor Italy. Nonetheless, his spirit had not been conquered. He was still considered the best of all the kings of his own day with respect to military skill, personal involvement, and daring (ἐμπειρίᾳ μὲν πολεμικῇ καὶ χειρὶ καὶ τόλμῃ πολὺ πρῶτος). What he won with his deeds; he lost indulging his hopes.
  2. Antigonus compared him to a gambler with dice throwing lucky numbers but not sure how to use them well. By the end of 274, he had returned to Epirus in need of money. Joined by some Gauls he invaded Macedonia for plunder, now ruled by Antigonus II Gonatas, son of Demetrius.
  3. After taking some cities, he surprised Antigonus in a narrow place, taking many Gallic mercenaries in his attack on the rear.
  4. After this good stroke, Pyrrhus kept advancing upon the Macedonian phalanx which refused to engage. So Pyrrhus offered for them to switch sides, which they did.
  5. Antigonus flees with a few loyal horsemen and Pyrrhus so proud of this achievement as to dedicate the spoils to Athena with an inscription boasting about his own prowess and connecting it with his ancestors’, the Aeacidae.
  6. Taking Aegae (one capital? Where in relation to Pella? MAP), he set a garrison of Gauls in it and they began to plunder the graves and tombs of kings, throwing away the bones as so much trash.
  7. Pyrrhus not bothered by the event and the Macedonians are annoyed to see the impious deed go unpunished. Believing he had already won (even though Antigonus had not ceased calling himself king of Macedon), Pyrrhus listens when a Spartan envoy named Cleonymus (name of glory) comes to him.
  8. No Spartan at home likes or trusts Cleonymus, who was violent and arbitrary (βίαιος εἶναι καὶ μοναρχικὸς). Cleonymus wanted the throne, but didn’t have it. Furthermore, he had married a beautiful young woman also descended from the royal Spartan line, but he was also (rather publicly known to be) hated by his wife, who loved the son of the reigning king, Areus.
  9. Domestic and political troubles brought him to ask Pyrrhus for help in Sparta around 272 BC. He came down with such a large army that most concluded he wanted to conquer the Peloponnesus, not acquire the Spartan throne for Cleonymus. He meets with the Spartan ambassadors at Megalopolis.
  10. He wanted to free cities subject to Antigonus and put his younger sons into Spartan training, to give them an advantage over all other rulers. But, arriving in Laconia, he began to plunder it.
  11. When the Spartans are annoyed at this, he reminds them that this is one tactic they are famous for: not announcing their plans beforehand. Mandrocleidas, the Spartan, responds that “If you are a god, you won’t hurt us; if a man, another will come stronger than you.”

C. 27 – The Difference One Night Makes

  1. Pyrrhus does not immediately attack Sparta as he comes within range, since he doesn’t want his soldiers to sack it at night. Since the city was under-manned, one night couldn’t make too big a difference. The king wasn’t even there, but in Crete helping the Gortynians (cf. Life of Agesilaus, who had done the same thing 100 years earlier).
  2. Pyrrhus set up camp and the Spartans meet together by night. First thought is to send the women away, but the women reject this. A Spartan woman enters the council with a sword in hand (Archidamia) reminding them that no Spartan woman would want to live after her city had perished.
  3. So, by night, they would dig a trench parallel with the camp of the enemy and sink as many waggons as they could on the edges of this trench to impede the advance of the elephants. The women, young and old, contribute to the work of the trench.
  4. The men who would fight are ordered to rest while the women complete a trench 9 feet wide and 6 feet deep, 800 feet long. Sources.
  5. At dawn, the women arm the men and order them to defend the trench. It would be glorious to die in the arms of your wives and mothers and sweet to die while the fatherland was watching. Chilonis (wife of Cleonymus) is ready to kill herself if she falls into the hands of Cleonymus.

C. 28 – The Battle for Sparta

  1. Pyrrhus attacks the trench while his son, Ptolemy, tries to go around it to where the wagons are buried. It’s a hard fight for both of them to gain any ground.
  2. One Spartan with 300 men sneaks around the back of Ptolemy and routs the barbarian mercenaries with much slaughter.
  3. As he returns to his post, the women think he deserves his lover (Chilonis) and the men weep tears of joy telling him to beget brave sons for Sparta with her.
  4. In the center, the Spartans defended bravely against Pyrrhus, especially one named Phyllius, pulling back only at the last instant so that his dead body may not become the property of the enemy.

C. 29 – Second Try for Sparta

  1. Night ended the battle and Pyrrhus dreams that he had thrown a thunderbolt at Sparta and lit it on fire. He woke up and ordered his men to prepare to storm the city; he was convinced by his dream he would take Sparta.
  2. Lysimachus not convinced by his dream as men shouldn’t tread where thunderbolts fall. Pyrrhus rejects this interpretation as nonsense. He then quotes and adapts one of Hector’s most famous ill-omened lines about poorly reading omens from the Iliad (12.243) which shows the Trojans almost at their high-water mark.
  3. The Spartans defended themselves bravely (προθυμίᾳ καὶ ἀρετῇ παρὰ δύναμιν) and the women were contributing all along the front as well (though not fighting). The Macedonians are working on filling the trench.
  4. Pyrrhus, trying to get around the trench has his horse shot out from under him and ends up on steep and slippery ground.
  5. The Spartans drive them away and at this point Pyrrhus calls off the fighting again, convinced the Spartans will want to concede something rather than fight again. The Fortune of Sparta turns again.
  6. One general of Antigonus arrives with mercenary troops and Areus, the king of the Spartans returns with 2000 men. The women fall back to leave the work of war to the men and the elderly, sick, and wounded are dismissed to be taken care of. The Spartans arm and prepare for battle again.

C. 30 – Losing a Son

  1. Pyrrhus falls back from Sparta against this new resistance and returns to pillaging the countryside. Making plans to winter in the Peloponnese, Fate could not be escaped. Now the Argives look to Pyrrhus to solve their problems. One of their feuding leaders is friends with Antigonus, so the other comes to ask help from Pyrrhus.
  2. Pyrrhus «always swirling from one hope to another», breaks camp and heads to Argos, harrassed by the Spartan king Areus and losing men in his rearguard.
  3. In one of these narrow valleys, he sends his son Ptolemy back to help the rear of the army and pulls the front of his army up on a faster march.
  4. Ptolemy killed while fighting, stabbed by a Cretan.
  5. As Ptolemy falls, his company is routed and the Spartans pursue. Pyrrhus, having just learned of his son’s death, now turns his Molossian cavalry back against the Spartans. This display passed all previous ones as he leads from the front
  6. Pyrrhus spears Evalcus, the leader of the Spartan band, and in so doing falls off his horse and then kills every Spartan with Evalcus almost single-handedly. The Spartans had won but lost all these men (a Pyrrhic victory inflicted by Pyrrhus?).

C. 31 – Antigonus v. Pyrrhus at Argos

  1. After venting his grief in battle and games, Pyrrhus continues to Argos, discovering that Antigonus controls the heights. He challenges Antigonus to fight in the plain for his kingdom.
  2. Antigonus responds that he relies on opportunities/strategy more than arms (στρατηγίαν οὐχ ὅπλων) and that Pyrrhus had many options for how to die. Argos asks both kings to withdraw and allow the city to be neutral. Antigonus agrees and gives his son as hostage. Pyrrhus agrees but puts no skin in the game.
  3. Three omens: severed cow heads licking their own gore, priestess of Apollo havnig visions of the city full of corpses, and a vanishing eagle… [Omens act like epic similes in a way, prefiguring the action by finding a parallel before describing it literally]

C. 32 – Battle in the Streets of Argos

  1. Pyrrhus approaches a gate at night, which is opened for him by an Argive and his Gauls control the marketplace before the Argives knew what happened. The delay in getting the elephants through the gates gave the Argives time to defend the high places (like the Aspis, their acropolis) and inform Antigonus.
  2. Antigonus marches on the city and Areus arrives shortly thereafter. When Pyrrhus enters the city from the east, he expects his war-shout to be answered by the Gauls and close the enemy in a vice, but he hears nothing from the Gauls and concludes they must be in distress.
  3. The night-battle grows confused and most of the armies are fighting in an unfamiliar city.
  4. At dawn, it becomes clear that the fortified positions are still occupied by armed Argives and their allies. He sees a votive offering bronze statue of a wolf fighting with a bull and recalls a prophecy that he would die when he saw a bull and wolf fight.
  5. These statues had been set up to commemorate an ancient event: Danaus saw a wolf fighting with a bull and, seeing himself in the wolf, watched the battle till its end. The wolf won and Danaus sacrificed to Apollo Lyceius (the wolf-ish) with this statue.

C. 33 – Confusion and Chaos

  1. Pyrrhus attempts to retreat in an orderly way from the city, and orders his son outside the city to tear down some of the wall to make their escape more easily.
  2. The messenger bungles the message and, in the confusion, Helenus (Pyrrhus’s son) marches into Argos with the rest of the army. He withdraws fighting from the marketplace
  3. But arriving in the street his auxiliary troops pour in through the gate and the narrow road so fast that no one can hear or execute his command to retreat.
  4. An elephant had fallen in the way of the gate, further impeding retreat and another elephant was trying to retreat out of the city.
  5. When that elephant found his master, he picked him up, rested him on his tusks and fought like mad to get the two fo them out of this crush of people.
  6. It was hard to maneuver even one’s weapons as one wanted and many were kiling their own soldiers through the confusion and tumult.

C. 34 – Decapitated and Buried by Enemies

  1. As Pyrrhus attempts to make a way out by fighting, he receives a wound from a boy whose mother is watching from the roof.
  2. She hurls a roof tile at Pyrrhus, hitting him in the neck and fracturing his spine so that he loses consciousness and falls there (by the statue of Licymnius).
  3. Some of Antigonus’s soldiers recognize him and drag him out of the fray to recover from the blow. One of them takes out a short-sword to cut off his head but then sees Pyrrhus recovering and trembles, slowly cutting the head off poorly.
  4. The son of Antigonus steals the head and brings it to his father, who beat the boy by way of correction. Then Antigonus weeps remembering the many reversals of fortune his father and grandfather had suffered.
  5. Antigonus brougth the head and body back together for burial and Alcyoneus (son of Antigonus) noticed that Helenus was simply dressed and attending the funeral, brought him to Antigonus.
  6. Antigonus gives Helenus better clothes, compliments his son for his better choice, and sends Helenus back to Epirus. (The End?)

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