"Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

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"Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

Post by Paralus »

The following is a book chapter on Pyrrhos, "The Eagle", of Epeiros. This was penned for a book on ancient generals which, as sometimes happens with books, went astray never to see the light of day. The original remit was a picture of Pyrrhos painted on the canvas of glory hunting. Meant for a general audience, footnotes were out and the bibliographical essay tightly limited. This meant that expositions of various positions taken and the logic behind them was either difficult or not possible. As well, what appears in the bibliographical essay necessarily looks little better than Justin's epitome of Trogus! Happy enough to discuss, though, if asked.

Given it comprises of over 6,600 words, it will be presented in sections. Something it is eminently suited to given the nature of the beast it is written about. In that regard, best to familiarise oneself with Pyrrhos' theme song - at least from the perspective of his ever traveling and toiling philoi and army who, today, would have passports the thickness of good old telephone directories...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgNdNcKYosU

The full chapter can be read here.
Last edited by Paralus on Sun Apr 12, 2020 1:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

Post by Paralus »

1

From Rochdale to Ocho Rios
From Ocho Rios to Dorking
From Dorking it's back to Rochdale
Oh where are we now?

Introduction

When, in the 1970s, Graham Gouldman penned those lyrics about 10CC’s life ‘on the road’, it is unlikely he had Pyrrhus, king of the Epirotes, in mind. Nevertheless, one can’t help feeling Pyrrhus’ soldiers would have identified as they followed their king on his tireless tours of Mediterranean martial opportunity. The Romans will certainly have seen the irony in the album title from which the song comes: Bloody Tourists. In roughly twenty-five years, Pyrrhus re-took Epirus, campaigned in Macedonia, Greece, Italy, across to Sicily, back to Italy, then Macedon again, before a Peloponnesian finale. This constant flitting about from theatre to theatre, often mid campaign, gives the impression of a military savant afflicted with attention deficit syndrome and Peter Green’s “skilful yet feckless condottiere” (Alexander to Actium, 1990, 230) typifies modern views.

Born in 319/18 (Justin 17.3.17, 21; Plutarch. Pyrrhus. 4.1 – hereafter Pyrrh) into the Molossian royal house, Pyrrhus claimed a lineage back to Achilles. His father, Aeacides, had co-ruled Epirus with Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus’ second cousin. By the time Pyrrhus was eighteen he had already been evicted from his homeland twice: firstly in 317 after the unseating of his father and secondly in 302 while attending a wedding at the court of his supporter, the Illyrian king, Glaucias. Cassander, the Macedonian king, had placed Neoptolemus on the throne: Epirus and Pyrrhus had been rudely introduced to the power politics of the wider world. This was the world of the Diodochi (Successors of Alexander). A world where alliances and treaties were made and unmade as circumstance and self-interest dictated and where, in 21 years of warfare, four belligerent kingdoms had been carved from Alexander’s empire. Ambition fuelled this world; glory and empire its reward. Pyrrhus, late on that glory trail by dint of birth, had much time to make up.

2

From Rochdale to Ocho Rios
Macedonia, Demetrius and Lysimachus

As Pyrrhus pondered his expulsion in autumn 302, Demetrius Poliorcetes (the ‘besieger’), Pyrrhus’ brother in law, was readying for a final showdown in central Greece with Cassander when orders reached him from his father Antigonus Monophthalmus in Asia. Great forces were assembling in Anatolia where a final decision impended for the coalition of Lysimachus, Seleucus, Cassander and Ptolemy on the one side and Antigonus’ empire on the other. Demetrius and his forces were needed in Asia and having agreed a temporary settlement, the besieger and his army sailed east. Pyrrhus, unable to reclaim Epirus, reacted in what would become be his trademark fashion: frustrated in one endeavour, he turned to another and joined his brother-in-law’s departing forces. Disappointed at home, Pyrrhus had contrived to arrive in Asia just in time for the greatest battle of the Diadoch era. (Diodorus, 20.113.5; Pyyrh. 4.1-2; Demetrius, 28.1 – hereafter Dem).

That battle, the “battle of the kings”, took place in the summer of 301 near the small town of Ispus in modern day Anatolia. The combined forces of Lysimachus, Seleucus and Cassander (less Ptolemy who contented himself with Coele-Syria) – some 64,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and over 400 elephants – faced off against the might of the Antigonid Asian Empire: 70,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 75 elephants (Plutarch, Dem. 28.3, claims the coalition had “500 more horse” but as Seleucus had 12,000 cavalry himself [Diod. 20.113.4] the figure is likely corrupted: 500 for 5,000). This was a winner take all contest with the loser’s realms to be picked over by the victor. Numbered amongst Antigonus’ cavalry was Pyrrhus. The battle, a catastrophic defeat for the Antigonids, is sketchily described due to the loss of Diodorus’ narrative but the performance of Pyrrhus is not. At the crisis of the battle Demetrius, with the best of the cavalry, launched a furious charge against the left wing of the allied forces commanded by Antiochus the son of Seleucus. The charge itself was a brilliant success and in the thick of it was Pyrrhus who “routed the enemy opposed to him, and made a brilliant display of valour among the combatants” (Pyrrh. 4.3). Seleucus prevented the Antigonid cavalry from returning to the aid of the infantry with his elephants, sealing Antigonus’ fate, but the young Pyrrhus had tasted battle and found it to his liking.

In the eventual political settlement, Pyrrhus found himself in Egypt as a hostage. This settlement, as all such between the Diadochi, would last only until one party deemed it inconvenient. Seemingly sidelined, this sojourn would kick start Pyrrhus’ career of military adventurism as the agreement faltered. Pyrrhus not only convinced Ptolemy of his abilities, but he so charmed Berenice, Ptolemy’s most influential wife, that she arranged the marriage of her daughter Antigone to the dashing Epirote (Pyrrh. 4.4). Thus, in 297 after Demetrius had repulsed Ptolemy’s 150 ships in a clash before Athens, Ptolemy, adept at Diadoch poker, sent the ambitious Pyrrhus back to Epirus “with money and an army to regain his kingdom” (Pyrrh. 4.4-5.1; Paus. 1.6.8). With limited resources and bound by marriage, Pyrrhus would be a thorn of just the right size for Demetrius’ side.

Problems arose for Pyrrhus immediately as the incumbent king was Neoptolemus, the ailing Cassander’s man. A joint kingship was agreed, but neither man trusted the other. Upon Cassander’s demise, Pyrrhus murdered Neoptolemus. Pyrrhus, who had seen first-hand how the Diadochi worked, hardly needed the advice of his philoi (Friends) to “follow his natural bent” and not share power (Pyrrh. 5.7). Although his throne was secured, wider world of the Diadochoi was more attractive to Pyrrhus than the constraints of the Epirote ‘Commonwealth’ and Pyrrhus had lost enough time.

Expansion beyond the Epirote commonwealth necessitated resources, both men and materiel. On the death of his wife Antigone in 295/4, Pyrrhus contracted his first political marriage taking Lanassa, daughter of Agathocles (tyrant of Syracuse), into his bed and Corcyra into his realm (Diod. 21.4.1; Pyrrh. 9.2). Following his intervention in Macedonia on behalf of Cassander’s son Alexander, against his brother Antipater, Pyrrhus took the south western Macedonian border lands, including Ambracia where he made his capital, as his price. Demetrius promptly murdered Alexander and had himself acclaimed king of Macedonia. Pyrrhus now had a dangerous neighbour no longer related by marriage.

In 289 matters between Pyrrhus and Demetrius came to a head as Lanassa left Pyrrhus and offered both herself and Corcyra to Demetrius who readily accepted. The Besieger then invaded Epirus. As it happened, both armies missed each other and Pyrrhus advanced into the passes of the Pindus range where he encountered the forces of Demetrius’ general Pantauchus. It would be a transformative moment for the Epirot king. The two armies closed and “there was a sharp and terrible conflict between the soldiers” of both forces. With the battle in the balance, Pantauchus “the best of the generals of Demetrius for bravery, dexterity, and vigour of body” sought out his opposite. The reaction was instinctive as Pyrrhus, “who yielded to none of the kings in daring and prowess” and feeling “that the glory of Achilles should belong to him by right of valour rather than of blood alone”, launched into personal combat with Pantauchus wounding him twice so that he was carried from the field. The Epirotes, spectators to this feat of personal bravery by their king, were so inspired that they “cut to pieces the phalanx of the Macedonians, pursued them as they fled, slew many of them, and took five thousand of them alive” (Pyrrh. 7.1-5; Dem. 41.1-2).

The Macedonians, too, had witnessed Pyrrhus’ Homeric imitatio Alexandri. Demetrius and the other kings aped Alexander’s mannerisms but Pyrrhus, they said, equaled Alexander’s “impetuosity and might in conflicts” and “Pyrrhus, and Pyrrhus alone, in arms and action” (Pyrrh. 8.1). The Epirotes, fired by this Alexanderesque showing , christened him with the epithet he bore for the rest of his life: “the Eagle”. While Pyrrhus protested it was his Epirotes who allowed him to fly, the glory and comparisons to his all-conquering cousin – whom Pyrrhus thought he closely resembled if Lucian (Ind 21) is to be believed – was certainly not lost on him (Pyrrh. 10.1).

Demetrius and Pyrrhus agreed a peace in 289/8. A matter of mutual convenience, Demetrius wanted the respite to begin assembling an invasion force for Asia. News of this invasion force – supposedly 98,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and 500 ships – revived the coalition of Ipsus. Seeking to engage Demetrius on two fronts Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy urged Pyrrhus to ignore his agreement and invade Macedonia from the west, while Lysimachus invaded from the east (Pyrrh. 10.4 & 11.1; Dem. 43.3-4). Unsurprisingly, opportunity trumped integrity and, in 287, the Eagle invaded Macedonia. Plutarch (Pyrrh. 11.2-3) reports Pyrrhus dreaming that Alexander himself approved of the invasion and that success would be his. The loyalty of Demetrius' Macedonians wavered at facing Lysimachus, the former somatophylax (‘bodyguard’) of Alexander, and so Demetrius turned to confront Pyrrhus, painting him as a foreigner. It would be his final mistake in Greece. Encamped opposite each other, the Macedonians realised it was Pyrrhus against whom they’d be fighting. The Eagle, in full regal splendour with his Alexander-like goat horned helm and surely publicising Alexander’s otherworldly imprimatur, sent messengers into Demetrius’ camp. The exasperated Macedonians promptly deserted and acclaimed Pyrrhus king of Macedonia while Demetrius escaped to Asia (Pyrrh. 11.3-6; Dem. 44.4-8).

In the event it was a shared kingship with Lysimachus who had pressed his claim to divide the country (Pyyrh. 12.1). The arrangement lasted only until one party found it inconvenient. In 285 the Besieger was imprisoned by Seleucus in Asia. Lysimachus immediately drove Pyrrhus out of Macedonia, winning over his fickle Macedonians on the basis that Pyrrhus was a foreigner and not to be preferred to Alexander’s somatophylax. Pyrrhus found himself reduced to the borders of the Epirote kingdom (Pyrrh. 12.4-7).

Plutarch claims Fortune had given Pyrrhus the opportunity to live in peace, enjoying his kingdom. His Pyrrhus, an Achilles deploring idleness, was “tedious to the point of nausea if he were not inflicting mischief on others or suffering it at others' hands” (Pyrrh. 13.1). A king the equal of Alexander’s Successors or Alexander himself, Pyrrhus wanted far more than Epirus. For him, such ‘enjoyment’ was simply further delay. The world of the Successors, though, did not possess an idle gear and events would soon provide an outlet for the frustrated Eagle.
Last edited by Paralus on Thu Apr 09, 2020 4:53 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined”: Pyrrhos the Eagle, a view.

Post by Alexias »

Thanks for that, most interesting.

The troop numbers, if to be believed, are staggering. Alexander has been accused of so reducing the manpower of Macedonia that they were easy meat for the Romans 150 yeas later, but this is nearly a generation later. The wars of the Successors must have been far more costly in terms of manpower. The constant disruption of wars in Greece itself and the constant changes in leadership must have almost have made Alexander's reign seem like a golden age of peace.


We appear to have many men with massive egos and ambition and as, a result of Alexander's conquests, a wide stage, military experience, and the money to enable them to act upon it.
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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

Post by Paralus »

The numbers are, for the most part, believable. What I'd question are the numbers given for Demetrios in 302. While these include a core of Macedonians, the rest are Balkan (Greek, Illyrian, etc). I'd suggest they're exaggerated, but more after I complete the formatting and upload.
Last edited by Paralus on Thu Apr 09, 2020 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

Post by Paralus »

3

From Ocho Rios to Dorking…
Bloody Tourists I: Empire in the West

In 281, the last of Alexander’s Diadochoi, Seleucus and Lysimachus, met in battle at Corupedion. Lysimachus lost the battle, his kingdom and his life while Seleucus was poised to unite Alexander’s empire (the Ptolemaic kingdom aside). Before the battle Seleucus had received Ptolemy Ceraunus (‘the Thunderbolt’), the estranged son of Ptolemy Soter, by-passed in the Ptolemaic succession. Murderously violent and nothing if not ungrateful, Ceraunus would be king; if not of Egypt then Macedonia. He murdered Seleucus and then had himself acclaimed king of Macedon. Pyrrhus began making preparations for the inevitable conflict with his new, unstable neighbour when opportunity knocked. (Just. 17.2.1-4; Paus. 10.19.7; Appian. Syr. 62).

To the west, Rome had come into conflict with Magna Graecia having violated an existing treaty and leading Tarentum to declare war (Franke, CAH, Vol VII.2, 456). Plutarch, somewhat unjustly, pictures a Tarentum full of ‘swillers’ and ‘hot heads’ rather than soldiers and heroes who, having determined upon war, set about finding someone to fight it. The Tarentines had earlier helped Pyrrhus in the recapture of Corcyra during 281 (Paus. 1.12.1; Just. 25.4.8) and he appealed not only as “a most formidable general” but also one available – perhaps “too available” (Green, 1990, 228) – and in their debt. Ambassadors were duly sent promising that a force “amounting to twenty thousand horse and three hundred and fifty thousand foot” would await him (Pyrrh. 13.5-6). Pyrrhus sent an advance force of 3,000 under Cineas and his general Milo. Cheated of Macedonia, Pyrrhus turned his back on Greece and set about “inflicting mischief” in Magna Graecia.

That Pyrrhus saw this as far more than aiding Tarentum is shown by his coinage at the time representing this as a panhellenic crusade (Franke, ibid, 463-466), while Plutarch’s story of the conversation between Pyrrhus and Cineas (Pyrrh. 14) paints it as empire in the west with a glorious, all-conquering return to Greece. Regardless, the other kings were only too eager to help him from the stage: Ptolemy II Philadelphus supplying 5,000 Macedonian infantry, a number of cavalry and twenty elephants for not “more than two years’ service”, while Antiochus supplied money and Gonatas transports (Just. 17.2.11-14. For Philadelphus see Hammond, Historia 37 (4), 1998; Adams, The Unbalanced Relationship between Ptolemy II and Pyrrhus, 2008, 96-97 and Westall, ‘Initial Contacts’, 2011, 356-357).

Impatient, Pyrrhus left as early as possible in the spring of 280 and, surviving near disaster at sea, fetched up onshore in Messapian territory. Having collected his forces, Pyrrhus entered Tarentum where he found that some of the Tarentines, occupied with “drinking-bouts, revels, and festivals”, seemed certain the imminent war was a spectator sport. Pyrrhus occupied the city, executed the worst offenders while sending others to Epirus as hostages and set the remainder to military training. The Tarentines, who’d requested a mercenary general, had instead got themselves a king and “found themselves invaded by a foreign army as well” (Green, 1990, 229). That army, less the advance force, consisted of “twenty elephants and three thousand horse, twenty thousand foot, two thousand archers, and five hundred slingers” (Pyrrh. 15.1).

The Eagle meant business and the Romans reacted typically: vacillating towns were garrisoned, armies were sent to Etruria and Samnia while another, under Publius Valerius Lavinius numbering some 40,000 men, marched south to engage Pyrrhus before he could raise further allies, garrisoning Lucania on the way (Zon. 8.3; numbers Leveque, Pyyrhos, 1957, 321-322. Garoufalias, Pyrrhus, 1979, 338, n. 88). Pyrrhus, his allies yet to join him, played for time by offering to arbitrate the matter in typical Greek fashion. It is unlikely Pyrrhus had any real idea of nature of his enemy but Lavinius’ response – that he’d no use for “nonsense and palaver” and would “stand trial in the court of Mars” – gave the Eagle an inkling (Zon. 8.3; Pyyrh. 16.3-4). He received another when, camped in the plain of the Siris near to Heracleia, he noted the order of Roman camp across the river remarking "the discipline of these Barbarians is not barbarous” (Pyrrh. 16.5).

Pyrrhus contrived to delay battle until some of his allies arrived, deploying a detachment of infantry along the bank of the Siris to deny the Romans the fords (Pyrrh. 16.5). Lavinius was having none of it and immediately attempted to push his infantry across the river where the Greeks stalled him. Undaunted, the consul sent his cavalry to cross the stream elsewhere and take the enemy in the flanks and rear. Simultaneously, he crossed again with the infantry. The Greeks, facing envelopment, retired from the river. Pyrrhus, who had not intended to fight, hastily ordered his heavy infantry into line and charged with his 3,000 cavalry to support his advance guard. The cavalry battle degenerated into an infantry battle on horseback yet Pyrrhus, in the thick of it, directed it “as if he were surveying it from a distance” while “vigorously repelling his assailants”. Bringing aid “to those whom he thought to be overwhelmed”, Pyrrhus had his horse speared from under him only to be rescued by his Friends (Pyrrh. 16.6-10; Zon 8.3).

Unable to prevent the crossing, Pyrrhus ordered a retreat to his infantry and reformed. At the insistence of his Friends, he exchanged his resplendent armour with a certain Megacles and then charged as the phalanx engaged the Roman maniples. The infantry battle oscillated, swinging the Romans’ way when Megacles was killed and Pyrrhus was thought dead. Removing his helmet, Pyrrhus showed himself to all and rallied the Epirotes. Finally, Pyrrhus committed his elephants, hastily brought up from behind each wing, and followed himself with his cavalry. The Romans, terrified, collapsed as the elephants “destroyed many with their trunks and tusks and crushed and trampled underfoot many more” and Pyrrhus pursued them to their camp. (Eutrop. 2.11.2-3; Pyrrh. 17.1-3; Zon. 8.3).

Pyrrhus had won a victory – costly, but a victory all the same. He had lost nearly 4,000 men including many irreplaceable officers and Friends. For the Romans it was a defeat the shock of which still bleeds from the pro-Roman source tradition. Their camp been taken and there were 7,000 dead and almost 2,000 prisoners (Eutrop. 2.II.6 , Pyrrh. 16.4-5). Pyrrhus, in no position to look after prisoners, offered the captured Romans employment and was astounded when they refused. He’d received another indication of the nature of the enemy, eventually releasing them without ransom (Liv. 22.59-17-18; Enn. 186-193; Just. 18.1.10; DionHal. 20.6.1-3; Eutrop. 12.2; Plut. Pyrr. 20.10-11).

Lavinius retreated to Rome as Lucania, the Samnites and Bruttians went over to Pyrrhus who’d advanced to within 18 miles of Rome (Eutrop. 2.12.1; Zon 8.4). The senate ordered the raising of two new legions, conscripting the proletarii, while war with the Etruscans was concluded on terms, allowing the army of Tiberius Coruncanius to march south. It was not quite panic but as near as Rome would come to it (Pyrrh 18.1; Zon.8.4). Pyrrhus, meanwhile, had retired to Campania, the scale of his glorious project, so simple from Epirus, now apparent. Rome, which even before this war had “urgently needed a long period of peace” (Franke, ibid, 467), sent Gaius Fabricius and Quintus Aemilius to Pyrrhus to negotiate a peace that Pyrrhus, too, would welcome. The agreed proposal – Rome abandoning southern Italy – came to nought while the Carthaginian embassy in Rome at the same time seeking mutual aid against Pyrrhus, would achieve its goal within the year (see bibliographical essay).

In spring 279, Pyrrhus and an army of about 40,000 left Campania for Apulia hoping to raise Rome’s allies in revolt. While he made several gains, there was no uprising (Zon 8.5). By mid-summer Pyrrhus had reached the junction of the Via Aurelia Aeclanesis and the Via Herculia near an obscure town called Asculum; encamping near to the east bank of the Aufidus. Across the River Carapelle, to his northwest, were two consular armies under P. Sulpicius and P. Decius Mus. The Roman commanders, learning from Heracleia, had chosen a solid defensive position aimed at neutralising Pyrrhus’ advantages: cavalry and elephants. They would be content for Pyrrhus to sacrifice his resources trying to force any further advance; a template to be reprised at Maleventum. After Pyrrhus could either advance and fight or retire. Always confident and with the Romans happy to hold, Pyrrhus advanced. Dionysius (20.1.1-4) preserves Pyrrhus’ overall battle line:

“King Pyrrhus gave the Macedonian phalanx the first place on the right wing and placed next to it the Italiote mercenaries from Tarentum; then the troops from Ambracia and after them the phalanx of Tarentines equipped with white shields, by the allied force of Bruttians and Lucanians; in the middle of the battle-line he stationed the Thesprotians and Chaonians; next to them the mercenaries of the Aetolians, Acarnanians and Athamanians, and finally the Samnites, who constituted the left wing”.

The light infantry, elephants and cavalry were stationed on the wings. Pyrrhus’ cavalry agema was “out of” the line to allow him to join battle where he might have the greatest effect. The Romans held the better ground; the battlefield being rough and lightly wooded, neither circumstance suiting Pyrrhus or his tactics. Pyrrhus, now with many Italiaote and Italian allied troops, would alter those tactics though. Given the terrain and the necessity of blending disparate troops types, the Eagle alternated maniples of the allies and speirai of his phalanx troops. This had the ancillary benefit of spreading his phalanx brigades across the line and making it more flexible – something Antigonos Doson would replicate at Sellasia over fifty years later (Plb. 18.28.10; cf Dionysius’ general alternate deployment above).

Unable to usefully deploy his cavalry or elephants on the first day, Pyrrhus was unable to force a passage and sunset called an end to the bloody stalemate (Pyrrh. 21.5). The Eagle was not to be so easily stopped and overnight he managed to occupy the favourable ground which the Romans seem to have left (Salmon, ‘Asculum’, PBSR, V. 12, 1932). In the battle on the following day the Romans, though hard pressed, broke the Epirote line when the Lucanians and Bruttians gave way (DionHal. 20.2.6). Pyrrhus, who’d stayed out of the line for this purpose, directed cavalry detachments to seal the breach (ibid 20.3.1). As matters escalated the Eagle learned that his camp had been set afire but ignored this. Instead, he set about repairing his line and loosing his elephants onto the Romans forcing through the breach. Pyrrhus, with his remaining cavalry, followed the elephants and the Romans gave way “where Pyrrhus himself was pressing hard upon his opponents” (Pyrrh. 21.7) and fell back onto their camp. The Eagle pursued them until he was wounded and then called off the engagement (Pyrrh. 21.5-8; Zon. 8.5; DionHal. 2.2-3.7).

The Romans, according to Hieronymus, lost 6,000 dead – a figure that refutes later Roman accounts of victory – while Pyrrhus had lost 3,505. These Plutarch describes as “a great part of the forces with which he came, and all his Friends and generals except a few” (Pyrrh, 21.10). Congratulated on his victory, Pyrrhus famously remarked “if we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined” (Pyrrh. 21. 9-10).

The Romans had achieved their goal: his allies vacillating, Pyrrhus retired to Tarentum where news arrived that Macedonia was without a king, Ceraunus having lost his head to the Celts. Entreaties also arrived from Sicily begging the Eagle’s aid against Carthage. The Italian campaign at an impasse, Pyrrhus sent Cineas to Syracuse to prepare his way. Taken to task by the Tarentines Pyrrhus haughtily instructed them “to keep quiet and await his convenience” (Pyrrh. 22.3). Just as Greece and Macedonia would be conquered on the Eagle’s return as king of Italy, so Italy would be subdued on his return from winning Sicily.
Last edited by Paralus on Thu Apr 09, 2020 4:54 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

Post by Paralus »

4

From Dorking it’s back to Rochdale…
Sicilian Interlude

In the summer of 278 Pyrrhus reached a divided Syracuse. The Carthaginians, who held the west of Sicily, abandoned the city rather than defend against both land and sea invasion. Pyrrhus entered the city as a saviour and Sosistratus, “master of Acragas and of many other cities”, handed Syracuse over to him and the admiral Thoenon, commander of the fortress of Ortygia, followed suit. Pyrrhus made immediate use of the adulation as envoys from many Sicilian poleis arrived, offering soldiers. Largely due to Cineas, the campaign had begun positively; so positively that Pyrrhus, yet to leave Syracuse, was already dreaming of empire in Africa (Diod. 22.8).

Having been proclaimed ‘king of Sicily’ (Just 23.3.2-3), Pyrrhus, in spring 277, set out to “reconquer” his new kingdom. Progress was, initially, easy and Sosistraus added many cities and over 8,800 troops to the Eagle’s burgeoning army. Crossing into Carthaginian territory Pyrrhus stormed Heraclaeia and Azones and approached the great fortress city of Eryx. This city, well garrisoned by the Carthaginians, was naturally strong and not easy to storm (Diod. 22.10.1-3). Pyrrhus commenced a mighty siege of the fortress which paid little immediate dividend. Typically, Pyyrhus tired of the lack of instant results and decided to storm the city. Invoking Heracles and declaring “that he would institute games and a sacrifice in his honour, if the god would render him in the sight of the Sicilian Greeks an antagonist worthy of his lineage and resources” he ordered his artillery to clear the battlements. This done, the Eagle, like Alexander at the city of the Malloi, led the charge on the walls being first up the nearest ladder. But where Alexander just survived, Pyrrhus would triumph. Possessed by the divinity and “a terrible sight for his enemies to look upon”, Pyrrhus mounted the wall where he engaged any and all comers. Some he simply threw down from the wall but most fell to his sword as he laid about him in bloodlust. Joined by his philoi on the battlements, the Eagle led the successful storming of the city after which he duly celebrated games in honour of the deity. (Pyrrh. 22.4-7; Diod. 22.10.3).

This would be the high water mark of Pyrrhus’ Sicilian campaign. Although he subdued the Mamertines, a warlike people about Messana, Pyrrhus, as ever, had bigger things in mind. The Carthaginians sent overtures of peace but Pyrrhus arrogantly rebuffed them, demanding they evacuate the island. In truth, Pyrrhus wanted to subdue the Carthaginians and their African holdings. A debilitating siege of Iaetia, impossible to take without control of the sea, proved his excuse. Pyrrhus would liberate Siciliy by invading Carthage. To do so required a large fleet, sailors and money to fund both. The Syracusans and other Siciliots, realising the nature of their erstwhile saviour, balked at the prospect and turned to the Mamertines and Carthaginians. At this time Pyrrhus received renewed calls from Italy: the Romans were again on the march (FastTr. p98). Predictably, Pyrrhus, his dreams of African empire frustrated, abandoned his Sicilian project and sailed for Italy.

5

From Rochdale to Ocho Rios…
Bloody Tourists II: Italian Denouement

Chased by the Carthaginian fleet, Pyrrhus made his return to Italy in 276 where, having marched on Rhegium, he laid siege to it (Zon.8.6). Taking money from Locri, Pyrrhus abandoned Rhegium and set out for Tarentum. On the march the Mamertine garrison of Rhegium seriously hindered his rear guard with frequent attacks. Having had enough of this, Pyrrhus and his hypaspists confronted the attackers where Pyrrhus was wounded. Enraged, the Eagle pushed past his [/i]hypaspists[/i] and set upon the largest and fiercest of the attackers who had called him out – if he were alive. Plutarch claims the Eagle, “full of wrath” and “smeared with blood”, clove the man apart with one blow. The Mamertines, thinking Pyrrhus “some superior being”, retired and the Greeks continued to Tarentum (Pyrrh24).

In the spring of 275, Pyrrhus left Tarentum for what would be his final encounter with the Romans. His allies, especially the Samnites, were largely non-committal. Despite a lack enthusiasm in Rome due to the previous bloody reverses (ValMax. 6.3.4 and Livy, Per. 14a), Manius Curius and Cornelius Lentulis with, a consular army each, moved into Samnium and Bruttium respectively. Pyrrhus, faced with being caught between two Roman armies, divided his forces sending the one part to block Lentulis while he advanced to Malaventum (later Beneventum) to confront Curius who occupied a strong defensive position and was in no hurry to attack (Pyrrh 25.1). Pyrrhus, lacking information regarding any outcome with Lentulis, had no choice. Splitting his force once more, he led a picked column of infantry and elephants in a night march to flank the Roman camp, occupying the heights above it. The troops became lost and were not in position until near sunrise, exhausted. Worse, the Romans were fully aware of the night march. Pyrrhus led the attack but the fatigued troops were unable to press an early advantage and were routed (Pyrrh. 25.2-3; DionHal. 20.12.1-3; Zon. 8.6). The battle on the plain fared little better and at day’s end the defeat was total.

Pyrrhus fruitlessly requested troops and funding from Antigonus Gonatas in Macedonia and the other dynasts (Paus.1.13.1-2; Polyaen. 6.6.1; Just. 25.3.1-3). Leaving his son Helenus and Milo in Tarentum with a garrison Pyrrhus returned to Epirus with 8,000 infantry and 500 cavalry, a poignant comment on the manpower cost of his grandiose campaigns for western and African empire. Nevertheless, far from Justin’s “ignominious retreat out of Italy” (23.3.12), the Eagle would conquer Italy after he had conquered Greece. For Rome the ‘Pyrrhic war’ established her Italian hegemony, for Pyrrhus “it was simply one more episode in a hand-to-mouth career of military adventurism” (Green, 1990, 230).
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

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6

Oh where are we now?
Macedonia, Sparta and Argos.

In spring 274, having rested what remained of his army in Epirus, Pyrrhus enrolled Gallic mercenaries with what funds he had and promptly invaded Macedonia. The raid was little more than a financing operation (Pyrrh26.3). Antigonos Gonatas took the field and was defeated in the Aous Gorge. Here Pyrrhus, having destroyed Antigonos’ Gauls, approached the defeated Macedonians and offering them friendship, won them over to his side (Pyrrh26.2-4). This would last only until Pyrrhus’ Gallic mercenaries exacted payment by plundering the Macedonian royal graves in Aegae (Pyyrh. 26.6-7).

There resided at Pyrrhus’ court one Cleomynus, a Spartan of royal lineage who wished Pyrrhus to make good his claim. Pyrrhus, already contemplating rule over Greece and Asia (Just 25.3.4.1), was not difficult to persuade. Despite his son Ptolemy defeating Antigonus (Just. 25.3.7-8), Gonatas was far from finished; nor was Pyrrhus’ hold over Macedonia secure. Ignoring such banalities Pyrrhus, in 272, marched on the Peloponnese where he grandly proclaimed that he would free the Peloponnesian cities from Antigonos’ rule. The 25,000 infantry, 2,000 horse and 24 elephants painted a rather different picture: Pyrrhus would conquer the Peloponnese after which he would conquer Asia. Italy, Sicily and Carthage would await their turn. It would prove a costly error.

Pyrrhus began his Peloponnesian campaign of emancipation by liberating Sparta from the Spartans. Entering Laconia, Pyrrhus defeated a combined Spartan-Argive army before arriving late in the day at Sparta (Polyaen. 8.49.1; Paus. 1.13.6). The grasping Cleonymus urged an immediate assault. Pyrrhus countered “saying that they would accomplish just as much by day” (Pyrrh27.9 – 28.1). It was another error. By morning the Spartan women had dug a trench over 200 metres long in which they’d lodged wagons, sealing off the gap in Sparta’s defences. Sparta. The next morning, undeterred, Pyrrhus led his forces out in a frontal assault on those very defences. With picked men, Pyrrhus charged “against the many shields of the Spartans”. The trench afforded no firm footing and the assault, inevitably, began to fail. It is here that Justin (25. 9-10) has Pyrrhus’ son Ptolemy die leading a flanking charge around the trench and into the city; Plutarch (Pyrrh28.1-2), however, has Ptolemy survive the encounter. Pyrrhus tried for three days to take Sparta including a frantic assault where he forced his way over the trench, full of bodies and detritus, only to have his horse killed from under him. Rescued by his Friends, he called off the attack. Denied the result he’d had at Eryx, in Sicily, the Eagle, wings rudely clipped, fell to plundering the countryside. While pondering a familiar crossroad, Pyrrhus received a dispatch from Aristeas in Argos. He was offering Pyrrhus the city.

“Determined to make good each disaster by a fresh undertaking”, Pyrrhus broke camp and marched to his final battle (Pyrrh30.1-2). Along the way his not quite retreating column was harassed by the Spartans. Here Ptolemy, according to Plutarch, was sent back to deal with them and he was killed in the process. Pyrrhus turned back with his Molossian cavalry and met the Spartans head on where, transported by grief and rage, he ran his son’s killer, one Evalcus, through with his spear. Although this unhorsed him, Pyrrhus recovered and, in a blood fury, proceeded to kill all those picked Spartans fighting over the body of their leader (Pyrrh30.3-6).

Deprived of battle by Antigonus who had occupied occupied the Argive citadel (Just. 25.5.1; cf Paus. 1.13.7), Pyrrhus intrigued a night entry into Argos. The entire action went awry as elephants jammed the gates. As at Sparta, Pyrrhus withdrew and laid siege (Just. ibid; Paus 1.13.6-8). Opportunity presented when pursuing a defeated sally from the city, Pyrrhus forced entry into Argos and his elephants and troops followed. There developed an increasingly fraught street battle where both movement and generalship were neutered. At this moment, Aureus and the Spartans arrived and assaulted the Eprirote army which was assaulting the walls (Pyrrh32.2). Pyrrhus ordered a withdrawal to his son, Helenus, who held the gates. Confusion reigned as orders were misunderstood and the prince, instead, rallied to the aid of his father. Pyrrhus, “seeing the stormy sea that surged about him, took off the coronal with which his helmet was distinguished, gave it to one of his companions” and then plunged into the surrounding melee where he took a spear through the breastplate. Confronting the assailant, Pyrrhus was struck on the head by a roof tile thrown by a woman and fell to the ground. Before he could rally, his attacker produced an Illyrian short sword and hacked off his head (Pyrrh33.1-34.3).

Pyrrhus had met an ignominious death. For a general so renowned in antiquity – Hannibal, apocryphally, ranked him second behind Alexander – he appears as one lacking in overall strategic focus. Occasionally tactically brilliant, Pyrrhus “had neither Alexander’s intelligence nor his luck, and his enemies had their own ways of dealing with his pretensions” (Stewart, Faces of Power, 285). Pyrrhus led from the front – exposing himself with his men in the crisis of battle. In this he recalled Alexander whose successor he propagandised himself to be. Unlike that Macedonian king, Pyrrhus lacked the obstinate fixation on the strategic objective that so defined Alexander: Pyrrhus could win the battles; it was the wars that always defeated him. In Griffith’s words (Mercenaries, 63) Pyrrhus was “the great general and blind statesman” who “did know when he was beaten, or could quickly forget the knowledge”.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: "Bloody Tourists": Pyrrhus and Mediterranean Tours of Martial Opportunity

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7

Afterword and Bibliographical Essay

While space doesn’t permit a full discussion, several points need to be made about our only complete source, Plutarch (less fulsome ancient sources – Diodorus, Dionysius, Zonaras, Appian, etc – are noted throughout the text). The portrait in the preceding pages is largely necessarily his: the tragic hero who thrived on the glory of battle and delighted in Achillean combats but also the impulsive and grasping discontent forever making good his misfortunes with another adventure who ultimately overreaches. For what follows see Duff T, Parallels in Discontent: Plutarch’s Pyrrhus and Marius (2002) and Pelling C. B. R, Plutarch’s Adaptation of His Source-Material (Essays on Plutarch’s Lives, Scardigli [ed.], 1995). Plutarch chooses and shapes his sources to this theme and it is no surprise Pyrrhus is paired with the Marius where Marius 46.3-4 serves to sum up both men. Both men, lacking in education and ‘reason’, are always reaching beyond what they have. This is starkly illustrated when Pyrrhus is engaged by Cineas prior to the Italian adventure. Pyrrhus is discontented with his present fortune and seeks empire over Italy, Sicily and Carthage. The only matters Cineas can engage him in are drinking and chatting. “Such crass incuriosity would seem hardly compatible with first-class intelligence” so Wylie (Pyrrhus Πολεμιστής, 1999, p. 300). It is a constant theme throughout and Plutarch massages his sources and narrative to make the point.

Plutarch employs various literary devices to mould his narrative, compression and conflation of time and events being one. For example, one would never know from Plutarch that three years elapsed between Pyrrhus losing Macedonia and accepting an invitation from Tarentum. Chronology is subordinated to the theme of impulsivity. Further, although he knew, Plutarch makes no reference to Pyrrhus and Tarentum having been allied (over Corcyra). Plutarch also has Pyrrhus reprise his assault on the Mamertines when he single handedly avenges Ptolemy’s death. Justin has Ptolemy die at Sparta emulating his father who declares “that he had not been killed as soon as he had feared, or his own rashness deserved” (25.4.9-10). While the first suits Plutarch’s portrait, the second sits more easily with this writer.

Another theme in the Pyrrhus is the comparison between the eastern Hellenistic king or ‘despot’ and Roman virtus. Thus Pyrrhus, via Cineas, is seen as a lesser individual per his attempted ‘bribes’. The Roman Fabricius is presented as the ultimate in incorruptible Republican Roman virtue even advising Pyrrhus of an assassination attempt. This is as much a comment on the decline in such since the death of the Republic as any factual comparison (see Buszard The decline in Roman Statesmanship in Plutarch’s Pyyrhus-Marius, CQ 55, 2005).

For the ‘alternate’ version of Pyrrhus’ Argive and Spartan campaigns and death, see Edwards J, Plutarch and the Death of Pyrrhus: Disambiguating the Conflicting Accounts (2011). Edwards notes that Plutarch’s Sparta is defended only by a 200m trench. Pausanias (1.15.6) notes that it was palisaded and walled as it must have been to resist Demetrius Poliorcetes. For Plutarch, Pyrrhus’ assault on such a poorly defended town is yet another gross failure on the way to ultimate failure even though the battle was clearly a protracted siege of a defended position.

The standard modern scholarly work on Pyrrhus remains Pierre Leveque’s 1957 monograph Pyyrhos, still only available in French and this informs much of the numbers for the respective armies in Italy. P. Garoufalias’ gushing Pyrrhus King of Epirus (1979) is most useful for the over 250 pages of notes. Jeff Champion’s Pyrrhus of Epirus is an accessible work for the general reader. More generally, P. Green’s Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age includes several discussions of Pyrrhus’ activities placed within their wider historical context. P. R. Franke’s chapter on Pyrrhus in the Cambridge Ancient History (Vol VII2) includes a discussion of the Molossian’s propaganda through coinage. Kincaid also includes a chapter on Pyrrhus in his Successors of Alexander the Great. Comments on the likely make-up of Pyrrhus’ army can be found in Griffith’s Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World and The Forces of Epirus (R Evers, Ancient Warfare VI.4 – see below) Similarly, H. H. Scullard includes a summary chapter on Pyrrhus in his Hellenism and the Rise of Rome.

On the Roman negotiations between Pyrrhus and Rome and the Romano-Carthaginian alliance, treated in passing here, Mary Lefkowitz, Pyrrhus’ Negotiations with the Romans, 280-278 B. C. (1959), provides an in depth discussion of the evidence and modern views. On the Carthaginian agreement in particular, see R. E. Mitchell’s Roman-Carthaginian Treaties: 306 and 279/8 B.C. (1971). A different view can be found in Dextor Hoyos, The Roman-Punic Pact of 279 B.C.: Its Problems and Its Purpose (1984).

For Pyrrhus’ ‘donated’ forces in the first Italian campaign, see Hammond, N.G.L. Which Ptolemy Gave Troops and Stood as Protector of Pyrrhus' Kingdom? (1998), Adams G, The Unbalanced Relationship between Ptolemy II and Pyrrhus (2008), 96-97 and Westall, Rome and Ptolemaic Egypt: Initial Contacts (2011), 356-357 who also discusses the alliance between Rome and Egypt. Contra N. Vujčić, The army of Lysimachus After Corupedium, ŽAnt 69 (2019) 109–122.

Finally, Ancient Warfare VI.4 (Karwansaray) is dedicated to Pyrrhus. The introduction (McDonnell-Staff) with timeline is handy and the battle of Heraclaea (Pietrykowski) also gets a good treatment as does the Roman army of the time (M. Taylor). On Asculum, see Salmon A Topographical Study of the Battle of Ausculum, (1932) which informed the description herein.


Bibliography

Bickerman, E. J. 1947, The Apocryphal Correspondence of Pyrrhus, Classical Philology, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Jul., 1947), pp. 137-146.

Buszard, B. 2005, The Decline of Roman Statesmanship in Plutarch’s Pyrrhus-Marius, Classical Quarterly, Vol 55, No. 2 pp. 481-497

Champion, Jeff, 2009, Pyrrhus of Epirus, Pen & Sword

Duff, T., 2002, Parallels in Discontent: Plutarch’s Pyrrhus and Marius, in Kirianzopoulos, Proceedings of Eleventh Congress of the International Federation of the Societies of Classical Studies ii Athens, 331-351

Pelling C. B. R, 1995, Plutarch’s Adaptation of His Source-Material, in B. Scardigli (ed.), Essays on Plutarch’s Lives (Oxford 1995)

Edwards, Jacob, 2011, Plutarch and the Death of Pyrrhus: Disambiguating the Conflicting Accounts, Scholia Vol 20, 2011, 112-131.

Evers, Richard, 2012, The forces of Epirus: a One-Man Army, Ancient Warfare VI.4, Karwansaray 2012

Franke, P. R., 1989, Pyrrhus, The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol VII2 (2nd ed. 1989), pp.456-485.

Garoufalias, P., 1979, Pyrrhus King of Epirus, Stacey International, 1979

Green, P., 1990, Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age, University of California Press (1990)

Griffith, G.T., 1935, Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World, Cambridge, 1935.

Hammond, N. G L., 1988, Which Ptolemy Gave Troops and Stood as Protector of Pyrrhus' Kingdom? Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 37, H. 4 (4th Qtr., 1988), pp. 405-413.

Hoyos, B. Dexter, 1984, The Roman-Punic Pact of 279 B.C.: Its Problems and Its Purpose, Historia, Bd. 33, H. 4 (4th Qtr., 1984), pp. 402-439

Kinkaid, C. A., 1969, The Successors of Alexander the Great, Chicago: Argonaut, 1969.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. Pyrrhus' Negotiations with the Romans, 280-278 B. C., HSPh, Vol. 64 (1959), pp. 147-177.

Leveque, P., 1957, Pyyrhos, Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome ; fasc. 185

McDonnell-Staff, P., 2012, Historical introduction, Ancient Warfare VI.4, Karwansaray 2012.

Mitchell, Richard E., 1971, Roman-Carthaginian Treaties: 306 and 279/8 B.C., Historia, Bd. 20, H. 5/6 (4th Qtr., 1971), pp. 633-655.

Pietrykowski, J., 2012, The battle of Heraclea (280 BC): First Blood in Italy, Ancient Warfare VI.4, Karwansaray 2012

Salmon, E. T., 1932, A Topographical Study of the Battle of Ausculum, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 12 (1932), pp. 44-51.

Scullard, H. H., 1980, A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC (4th ed.), Methuen, 1980.

Stewart, A., 1994, Faces of Power: Alexander's Image and Hellenistic Politics, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Taylor, Michael J., 2012, The Roman army in the age of Pyrrhus: the rise of a Superpower, Ancient Warfare VI.4, Karwansaray 2012

Vujčić, N. The Army of Lysimachus After Corupedium, ŽAnt 69 (2019) 109–122

Westall, R., 2011, Rome and Ptolemaic Egypt: Initial Contacts, in Aegyptiaca et Coptica, Studi in onore di Sergio Pernigotti, eds. P Buzi, D Picchi, M Zecchi, BAR International, 2011.

Wylie, G., 1999, Pyrrhus Πολεμιστής Latomus, T. 58, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1999), pp. 298-313
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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