|Author||Charles River Editors|
|Publisher||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
|Publication Date||March 31, 2017|
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*Includes ancient accounts of Pyrrhus's life
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
"What a wrestling ground we are leaving, my friends, for the Carthaginians and the Romans." – Pyrrhus of Epirus
The phrase a “Pyrrhic victory” is often used to denote a win that costs the victor more than the loser, but few have any notion of how the term came into use. Indeed, it would probably come as a surprise to many that it derives from a remark made by Pyrrhus of Epirus after a battle in which he had defeated his Roman enemies at Asculum. In the wake of the battle, Pyrrhus reportedly said, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans we shall be utterly ruined.”
Pyrrhus lived between 319 BCE and 272 BCE, and he was king of Epirus for the last 25 years of his life. He also ruled Macedonia on two separate occasions, from 288-284 BCE and from 273-272 BCE In addition to these achievements, Plutarch recorded that Hannibal regarded this mercurial leader as the greatest commander the world had ever known after Alexander the Great.
Despite that high praise, he was hardly the image of the great warrior king. Plutarch wrote that he had, from an early age, a more terrifying appearance than a majestic one, with a distorted face and few teeth: “In the aspect of his countenance Pyrrhus had more of the terror than of the majesty of kingly power. He had not many teeth, but his upper jaw was one continuous bone, on which the usual intervals between the teeth were indicated by slight depressions. People of a splenetic habit believed that he cured their ailment; he would sacrifice a white cock, and, while the patient lay flat upon his back, would press gently with his right foot against the spleen. Nor was any one so obscure or poor as not to get this healing service from him if he asked it. The king would also accept the cock after he had sacrificed it, and this honorarium was most pleasing to him. It is said, further, that the great toe of his right foot had a divine virtue, so that after the rest of his body had been consumed, this was found to be untouched and unharmed by the fire. These things, however, belong to a later period.”
Nonetheless, Pyrrhus succeeded in making his small kingdom the pre-eminent polis in the Greek world, albeit for a very short time, and was able to challenge the growing might of Rome. Today, he is almost totally forgotten, with the possible exception of his wars against Rome, but the story of his life sheds much light on the post-Alexandrian Greek world and the rise of Rome, and it is a fascinating story in its own right of a talented, restless, and driven figure who, despite great success, was doomed to ultimate failure. He was in one sense an embodiment of the final Greek failure to maintain its position in the Mediterranean world in the face of the Roman challenge.
Pyrrhus of Epirus: The Life and Legacy of One of the Ancient World’s Most Famous Generals traces the history and legacy of one of the most influential cities of antiquity. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the history of Nippur like never before.
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