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Pyrrhic

Historical Overview Section


Pyrrhus was considered one of the greatest military commanders of his time. Plutarch records that Hannibal ranked Pyrrhus as either the greatest or the second greatest commander the world had seen (after Alexander). Pyrrhus was a second cousin of Alexander the Great (via Alexander's mother, Olympias) and was only two years old when his father was dethroned in 317 BC leading his family to take refuge with one of the largest Illyrian tribes. Restored to his throne in 306 BC only four years later be was banished by his enemy Cassander initiating a career as an officer, in the Early Successor?'s "Wars of the Diadochi" under his brother-in-law Demetrius. In 298 BC Pyrrhus was taken hostage to Later Ptolemaic? Alexandria, under the terms of a peace treaty made between Demetrius and Ptolemy I. There, he married Ptolemy I's stepdaughter and in 297 BC (with Ptolemy I's financial and military aid) restored his kingdom in Epirus. In 295 BC Pyrrhus transferred the capital of his kingdom to Ambrakia (modern Arta). Next, he went to war against his former ally and brother-in-law and one of the Early Successor?s Demetrius and by 286 BC he had taken control over the Early Successor? Macedonian kingdom - but not for long as soon after he was driven out of by Lysimachus in 284 BC.

He was then asked to lead the Greek city of Tarentum, against the Mid Republican Roman?s - Pyrrhus was encouraged to aid the Tarentines by the oracle of Delphi. His goals were not, however entirely selfless as he recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy. The war culminated in the battle of Asculum (279 BC), where Pyrrhus won a very costly victory. The consul Publius Decius Mus was the Roman commander, and his able force, though defeated, broke the back of Pyrrhus' Hellenistic army, and guaranteed the security of the city itself. The battle foreshadowed later Roman victories over more numerous and well armed successor state military forces and inspired the term "Pyrrhic victory", meaning a victory which comes at a crippling cost.

Author (and keen wargamer) Jeff Champion has written a recent book on Pyrrhus as part of the Pen & Sword series, including detailed descriptions of Pyrrhus' major battles and the surrounding historical events all written in a factual and candid manner. It includes maps, sufficient background information and describes the accuracy and context of the historical references, so that a non-historian can easily understand this work - ideal for the wargamer. The book is primarily a narrative account of Pyrrhus' career, and handles a good range of source material from Justin's Epitome of Trogus to Plutarch's life or Pyrrhus, Diodorus, Pausanias, Livy, Appian and several other ancient authors. Champion provides good authorial analysis of the sources and uses them to provides good accounts of the key battles at Heraclea, Asculum and Beneventum as well as a chapter on Pyrrhus' time in Sicily. Champion also puts Pyrrhus in context by providing background information such as the introduction sections of his chapters on Epirus, Rome, Sicily and also on the Successors to prove an assessment of previous events. You can get it on Amazon.co.uk or on Amazon.com via those links

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Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army

  • 4 Pike
  • 1 Spear
  • Ordinary General
  • 2 Javelin LF

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  • 2 Elephants
  • 2 LF Jav
  • 1 LF Bw
  • 2 Elite MF Spear

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  • 2 Pike
  • 2 Spear
  • 2 Elite HC
  • 1 CV
  • General
  • 1 LH


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