The Successes and Struggles in the Reign of King Pyrrhus

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Pyrrhus was the king of Epirus and lived from 318 BCE to 272 BCE. He is widely acknowledged as being one of the most brilliant generals of his age. He led his soldiers to many victories, but is most famous for his battles against Rome. Along with being an outstanding general, he was a praised author. His books on the art of war have been quoted and acclaimed by many ancient authors. Despite his many great qualities Pyrrhus was a lousy politician. Many people believe that if he had had better political sense he would have been able to keep control of the land he conquered and his battles against Rome
Pyrrhus became king at the age of 12 but was soon dethroned by an uprising in 302 BCE. For the next few years he served as an officer in the wars of the Diadochi. In 298 BCE, he was sent to Alexandria as a hostage under the treaty of Demetrius and Ptolemy. Pyrrhus befriended Ptolemy and then married Ptolemy’s step daughter, Antigone. In 297 BCE Ptolemy restored Pyrrhus to his kingdom. Three years later, with military and financial aid from Ptolemy, Pyrrhus went to war against his former ally Demetrius, king of Macedonia. Pyrrhus took control of the entire western half of Macedonia and Thessaly. He was driven out of Macedonia in 286 BCE when he was defeated by Lysimachus at Edessa.
Pyrrhus’s battle against Rome started in 281 BCE when the Greek city of Tarentum in southern Italy asked for his assistance against Rome. This was to be the first time that the Romans and Greeks ever met on the battlefield. Pyrrhus came to Italy with an army of about 25 000 men and 20 war elephants. The first battle (the battle of Heraclea) took place in 280 BCE. Due to his elephants and superior cavalry Pyrrhus’s army won a costly victory. After this v...

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...litary might and trained professionals. After being defeated at Heraclea many Roman senators feared that Pyrrhus would conquer all of Rome. Pyrrhus himself may have only influenced Rome in a small way but, the Pyrrhic war foreshadowed how Rome would fight and conquer for years to come. Rome emerged from these wars as an even bigger military power than they were before.
Pyrrhus’s skill as a general and his books on the art of war influenced many generals who came after him, including Hannibal. Plutarch wrote that “the other kings… represented Alexander with their purple robes, their body-guards, the inclination of their necks, and their louder tones in conversation; but Pyrrhus alone, in arms and action.” (3) What Pyrrhus lacked as a king he made up for on the battlefield. He will always be remembered for his bravery as a soldier and his brilliance as a commander.
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