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Pyrrhus

Updated on December 1, 2016

Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, born about 318 B.C. Pyrrhus was the son of a deposed King of Epirus, a land now in Albania and Greece. He fought on the side of Demetrius I of Macedonia in the wars over the division of the empire of Alexander the Great. In about 300 B.C. he became an ally of Ptolemy I of Egypt, who helped him regain his throne. Pyrrhus then challenged Macedonia's supremacy over the Greek states, but was driven back to Epirus. In 280 B.C. he raised a large army and went to the aid of the Greek city of Tarentum (now Taranto) in southern Italy, which was resisting Rome's campaign to conquer all Italy. Pyrrhus won two victories over the Roman army, but his losses were extremely heavy. This is the origin of the term "Pyrrhic victory", a victory won at too great a price. After fighting the Carthaginians in Sicily, Pyrrhus returned to the Italian mainland and was defeated by the united forces of Romans at Beneventum (now Benevento) in 275 B.C. He then returned to Epirus, enlarged his army, and began a campaign to conquer southern Greece. He was killed during an attack on Argos in 272 B.C.

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