The Rise of the Roman Republic Pt 1: Pyrrhus of Epirus

Ok, I know this sounds a lot like my last 2 papers, but this is totally different. Those were more all-round commentaries on the expansion and survival of Rome, these are quite specific important enimies that Rome fought as it conquered Italy.

While Rome was still a young, growing nation, fighting for Italy, the Inhabitants of Greece new war better than anyone. 40 years after the death of Alexander the Great, Greece was still being fought over. Different rulers owned different provinces. One of these such rulers was Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. Pyrrhus was overthrown and exiled. He fought many wars whith many different people, including several of Alexanders claimants. Eventually, the Greek colony of Tarentum in Italy asked Pyrhuss to come fight the Romans, who had broken a treaty in Italy. Realizing he could set up his kingdom in Italy, Pyrhuss gathered an army and came to Italy in 280 B.C.

According to the database Ancient and Medieval History, Pyrrhus came with 20,00 infantrymen and 3,000 Greek cavalry. Wikepedia States that he also brought archers, slingers, and elephants, which I take to be correct since reports from his battles state him using Elephants. Not long after his arrival in Italy, Pyrhuss was confronted by a Roman army led by Consul Publius Valerius Laevinus and fought them at The Battle of Heraclea. There are conflicting views on Pyrrhus’s casualties, but one thing is certain: It was a Pyrrhic victory. (As you can probably guess, the fraise comes from him. If I was a General, I wouldn’t wasn’t a fraise about how you took a lot of casualties to be named after me.)

The Romans had recently made peace with The Etruscan League, And seeing that they did not need any forces defending the border or attacking Etruscan cities, they marched them down from the north. Pyrrhus, not wanting to fight a war on all fronts, withdrew to the city of Tarentum. After, he moved North, and fought the battle of Asculum. His army was a complex and versatile one, able to serve many functions. He had Greeks who fought in the Macedonian phalanx. He had basic infantry, probably Italian mercenaries who he had hired, plus tribesman from Italian city-states and tribes who hated the Romans, and a lot of cavalry, even more so than the Romans, and lastly, his mighty elephants. The romans had a less versatile army, (because before the Roman Empire had overthrown the Republic, they didn’t really have any auxiliary’s or mercenaries.) Pyrrhus won another costly victory, but kept going.

After Heraclea, Pyrrhus moved into Sicily. The Sicilian Greeks had asked him to expel the Carthaginians, (don’t worry, you’ll here more about them in my next paper) from Greece. He went through many complicated relations with the Carthaginians, but eventually he was expelled from Sicily and most of his fleet was destroyed. The Romans had now gathered a large army, and fearing defeat, Pyrrhus realized he had to leave Italy. He fought a few more battles in Greece, including the famous Siege of Sparta, but eventually was killed fighting other Greeks. I feel he is an unsung hero (well, maybe not a hero, but warrior) and was much more famous and renowned in the ancient world. My next paper, coming out on sunday, is set right after he left Italy. As Rome and Carthage expanded, they both realized something. There could be only one victor.

5 thoughts on “The Rise of the Roman Republic Pt 1: Pyrrhus of Epirus

  1. Fraises are for fruits! And 20,000, not 20,00… and probably a few other tiny things, but not that any of this is the point. As someone who’s been blogging for 12 years, it’s wonderful to see new entrants into the blogging world taking the opportunity and responsibility to heart. Social media’s got nuffin’ on a real blog. Keep up the great work, Macabee! Your explorations of history (and yourself) are an inspiration to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there! From Italy, many many compliment to you. I love that you are clearly a true, pure, history passionate. Best wishes and looking forward to read your next post.

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  3. Lots of good information here. I knew that Pyrrhus was a king whose army “won” a costly battle, but didn’t know any of the context. One question arose as I read your post: what motivated Pyrrhus to embark on all these campaigns and battles? It must have been very costly both in lives and treasure. It must have been politically hard to do too. And eventually it cost him his life. So why do it? Was he after personal glory?

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    1. Awesome question! You are totally correct that he lost a lot of stuff through his wars. He waged war on pretty much every major power in the Mediterranean. Mainly, in my view, it was just because he wanted to establish a kingdom. Originally he had one (Epirus) but when he was overthrown and beaten all over Greece, he decided it would be in Italy. When he was beaten there, he went to Sicily. Eventually, all these exploits made him attack several Greek City states, Rome, and Carthage.

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