Pyrrhus of Epirus (319–272 BC)


319 BC This seems to be the year when Pyrrhus was born, a famous king in a country from Balkan Peninsula, Epirus, in the North of Greece and in the West side of Macedonia. He was the only son of Aeacides. His mother, Phthia, was from Thessalia and his aunt was the famous Olimpia, the mother of the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great.

His father joined the fights between Alexander the Great’s successors (Diadochus), by Olimpia’s side, that is why the little prince, two years old, was sent to the Court of Glaucos, the king of Illirya, married to a princess from Epirus. Here he lived forten years and got a good education. After an unsuccessful attempt to take back the throne (during this time his father had been killed when he was fighting against Diadochus), Pyrrhus was sent hostage to Alexandria, to Ptolemy I Soter’s Court, the king of Egypt.

At that time Alexandria was one of the most famous cities in the world and Pyrrhus accomplished the education, being the favourite of Bernice, Ptolemy’s wife. Here he got Antigone as wife, Bernice’s daughter, who helped him to recover his throne.

297 BC After two decades of wandering, Pyrrhus came back in the country, as a king, together with Neoptolem II.

295 BC He was the only master, after Neoptolem had tried to poison him (but himself died because of Pyrrhus). After a series of battles he strengthened his rule and increased the country’s territories becoming one of the strongest kings at that time.

         At the beginning of Century III BC a conflict between Romans and the population of a strong city in the South of Italy, Tarent, started.

280 BC On July, Pyrrhus demonstrated his abilities as a commander within Heracleea battle. After Roman legions and Epirus’s phalanx faced in more attacks, Pyrrhus freed the elephants, which he had kept hidden until that moment. Romans had never seen such huge animals and were very scared. They disorderly ran followed by Pyrrhus’s chivalry. The victory of the King from Epirus was full but there were loss for both parts.

Winter determined Epirus’s King to withdraw to Tarent. Fights started again in the spring of 279 BC and the Roman army was led by new consuls, Sulpicius and Publius Decius Mus.

Decisive battle took place at Ausculm, in a swampy, inhospitable area for Pyrrhus’s chivalry and elephants. Romans and Epirus’s people fought for two days without any respite except nightfall. Pyrrhus was close to his soldiers in the first lines until an arrow stuck in his arm. Many Romans died, but the loss of the army from Epirus was very big. Both parts declared that were the winners. Romans could have done this, even if the victory was his, he could not continued to harness it.

Because Romans had signed a treaty with Puns, too, who ruled Sicilia, Pyrrhus decided to conquer this region. He obtained victories but Romans were not doing anything and were ready to fight. At Meleventum, Pyrrhus was obliged to withdraw after hard losses. Meleventum changed its name into Beneventum because it had brought luck to Romans.

274 BC After he searched in vain help, Pyrrhus decided to come back in his native country, after six years of war. When he arrived home, he did not have peace and attacked Macedonia in order to get the lost resources during the fights against Romans. Then he went in Greece. Here, the battles were difficult and his son, Ptolemy, died.

272 BC After two years since his son had died, Pyrrhus died too, not because of a wound in the battle, but because the shot given by an old lady.

It is said that, during the fight to conquer, Argos, Pirus fought against a young who had struck him with a spear. This was the son of an old woman from Argos, who was watching the battle on the roof of her house. When she saw that her son was hardly fighting she snatched a tile from the roof and threw it on the Pyrrhus’s head. Dazed because of the blow, he dropped the horse reins that drove him under a fig where he spent some time. He was recognized by an unknown man, Zopyros, in the moment when he started to feel better and was killed [].






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