Pyrrhus

King of Epirus (319 - 272 B.C)

Pyrrhus was the successor of the royal Molossian dynasty who bragged about their divine ancestor Triptolemus, son of Achilleas. Born just a few years after the death of Alexander the Great, he was raised under the weight of his legacy and the race for the succession of his throne that resulted into a series of civil wars within the Macedonian Empire. Pyrrhus was himself related to Alexander the Great, since Alexander’s mother Olympiada, was Princess of the Molossians.

Since his childhood Pyrrhus was a refuge in Illyria, Glaukias took him in and made him king of the Molossians, but not for long. The under aged king was soon dethroned and became a refuge for the second time in his youth. King Antigonus provided the asylum and the combat training to Pyrrhus. Ever since his first battle, Pyrrhus revealed his virtues and his bravery, though many of the battles he fought caused his side staggering losses. In the pivotal Battle of Ipsus, Pyrrhus gained the fame of an excellent warrior but being on the losing side of king Antigonus made him a hostage of Ptolemy in Egypt. His virtues soon made the royal couple to trust him with their daughter Antigone and helped him to regain his throne in 296 B.C.


Pyrrhus made Amvrakia the capital city of Epirus and developed there many glorious constructions dreaming of a state as glorious as Alexander’s Macedonian Empire. His desires were met when Tarantines, the Greek colony in the south of Italy, asked him to help them against the Roman threat. By that time, Pyrrhus was at his peak, his kingdom expanded from Avlona to Acheloos River and his recent victory against the Macedonians, who attacked his allies the Aetolians, made him feel invincible. In 280 B.C Pyrrhus entered Italy and defeated the Romans near Siri River, mainly thanks to the war elephants he introduced in the battlefield, surprising his opponents. In 279 B.C Pyrrhus marched against Rome and in the Battle of Asculum won a very costly victory. Several generals of his army were killed along with 3.500 soldiers (ever since a victory in a battle with staggering losses is called ‘Pyrrhic Victory’). Soon, Pyrrhus captured Eryx in Sicily where he defeated the Carthaginians and gained control of the rest of Sicily. For the following three years he remained in Sicily and in 276 B.C he gathered his troops and went back to Italy. In 274 B.C Pyrrhus was defeated by the Roman Legions of Manius Curius losing 33.000 soldiers and decided to end his campaign to Italy and return to Epirus.

Though his Italian campaign had taken a heavy toll on his army, his desires to expand were not settled and yet again Pyrrhus went to war. This time he defeated the Gaul mercenaries of the Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas near Aoos River. Soon after his victory he decided to march against Sparta which was defendless at the time, since the king and his army were absent. Unexpectedly, strong resistance by the women of Sparta thwarted his assault on their city, making him retreat to Argos. Entering the city during the night with his army by stealth, he found himself caught in a confused battle in the narrow city streets. During the confusion an old Argead woman watching from a rooftop threw a roofing tile which stunned him, allowing Zopyros, an Argive soldier, to kill him. This was the end of his reign, during which, he managed to register Epirus as one of the countries that contributed to the living history of the Greeks. Epirus would soon fall into oblivion for centuries to come, until the reign of Komninoi. Pyrrhus saw the Roman threat coming and along with the Carthaginian King Hannibal they were the only ones to fight against the Romans within their territory. During his reign, Amvrakia was developed into a glorious Greek capital city.


PYRRHUS - KING OF EPIRUS