by Aubrey Stewart and George Long
I. Historians tell us that after the flood the first king of the Thesprotians and Molossians was Phæthon, who was one of those who came into Epirus under Pelasgus; while some say that Deukalion and Pyrrha after founding the temple at Dodona lived there in the country of the Molossians. In later times Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, brought an army thither, obtained possession of the country, and founded a dynasty of kings, who were named after him the sons of Pyrrhus: for Pyrrhus was his own nickname as a child, and he also gave the name of Pyrrhus to one of his children by his wife Lanassa, the daughter of Kleodæus, who was the son of Hyllus. From this period Achilles has been honoured like a god in Epirus and is called Aspetus in the dialect of the country. After the earliest kings, the dynasty sunk into barbarism, and ceased to attract attention from its weakness and obscurity. Of those of later days, Tharrhypas was the first of those who made himself famous. He adopted the customs and letters of Greece, and gave just laws to his country. Tharrhypas was the father of Alketas, who was the father of Arybas, who married Troas and by her became the father of Æakides. This man married Phthia the daughter of Menon of Thessaly, who had gained great distinction in the Lamian war, and who yielded in reputation to no one except to Leosthenes himself. By Phthia Æakides had two daughters, Deidameia and Troas, and one son, Pyrrhus.
II. When the Molossians revolted, drove out their king Æakides, and invited back the children of Neoptolemus to the kingdom, the friends of Æakides were seized and put to death, but Androkleides and Angelus stole away Pyrrhus, who was still an infant and was being searched for by his enemies. They took with them some wet nurses for the child and some few other servants, but finding their flight impeded by them, they entrusted the child to Androkleion, Hippias, and Neander, strong and trusty young men, bidding them hurry on with what speed they might, and get to Megara, a fort belonging to the Macedonians, while they themselves, partly by entreaties and partly by fighting, managed to delay the pursuers till late in the evening. The enemy, after making their way through these men with some difficulty, pursued those who were carrying off Pyrrhus. The sun had now set, and the fugitives had begun to hope that they would soon be safe, when they were filled with despair by meeting with the river which runs past the fort, a wild torrent which they found it impossible to cross, as the stream was swollen with recent rains, and appeared all the more terrible because of the darkness. They decided that they never could convey the child and his nurses across by their own exertions, but observing several of the inhabitants standing upon the further bank they besought them to assist their passage, and they showed Pyrrhus to them, crying aloud and holding out their hands to entreat for help. The men could not hear what they said because of the roaring of the water, and much time was wasted in vain clamouring until one of the fugitives, perceiving this, wrote with the tongue of a brooch upon a piece of oak bark a few words explaining who the child was, and in what danger, wrapped the piece of bark round a stone to steady its flight, and threw it across. Some say that they fastened the bark to a javelin and so hurled it across. When the men on the further bank read the letter, and perceived in what imminent peril the fugitives were, they cut down some trees, formed a raft, and so crossed over. It chanced that the first man who crossed and received Pyrrhus into his arms was named Achilles: the rest of the fugitives were ferried over by his companions.
III. Having thus escaped from their pursuers they proceeded to Glaukias, the king of the Illyrians. They found him sitting at home with his wife, and they laid the child on the ground between them. The king was full of thought, for he feared Kassander, the mortal enemy of Æakides, and he remained silent for a long time. Meanwhile Pyrrhus of his own accord crawled up to Glaukias, took hold of his cloak and then stood up at his knees, causing the king first to smile and then to feel pity for him, as he stood like a suppliant holding his knees and weeping. Some say that he did not embrace Glaukias, but that he laid hold of an altar and stood, putting his hands round it, so that Glaukias thought that he must be acting under some divine impulse. In consequence of this he at once gave Pyrrhus in charge to his wife, bidding her bring him up with her own children. Shortly after, when his enemies demanded that he should be given up, and Kassander even offered two hundred talents, Glaukias refused to betray him, and when he was twelve years of age he marched into Epirus with an army and restored him to the throne.
The appearance of Pyrrhus was more calculated to strike terror into the beholder than to impress him with an idea of the dignity which becomes a king. He had not a number of separate teeth, but one continuous bone in his upper jaw, with only slight lines showing the divisions between the teeth. He was thought to be able to cure diseases of the spleen by sacrificing a white cock, and then gently pressing with his right foot in the region of the spleen of the sufferer, who lay upon his back meanwhile. No man was so poor or despised that Pyrrhus would not touch him for this disorder if requested to do so. He also received, as a reward, the cock which was sacrificed, and was much pleased with this present. It is said that the great toe of that foot had some divine virtue, so that when the rest of his body was burned after his death, it was found unhurt and untouched by the fire. But of this hereafter.
IV. When he was about seventeen years of age, and appeared to be firmly established upon his throne, he chanced to leave the country to attend the wedding of one of the sons of Glaukias, with whom he had been brought up. The Molossians now again rose in revolt, drove out his friends, sacked the treasury, and made Neoptolemus their king. Pyrrhus having thus lost his kingdom, and being entirely destitute, fled for refuge to Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, who had married his sister Deidameia. When a young girl Deidameia had been nominally the wife of Alexander, the son of Roxana, but after the misfortunes of that family Demetrius had married her when she came of age. In the great battle of Ipsus, in which all the successors of Alexander the Great took part, Pyrrhus, while yet a youth, served with the forces of Demetrius, routed those who opposed him, and gained great distinction. He did not desert Demetrius after his defeat, but was entrusted with the care of those cities which Demetrius possessed in Greece, and kept them faithful to his cause. When he made a treaty with Ptolemy, Pyrrhus was sent to Egypt as a hostage, where he hunted and practised gymnastics with Ptolemy, showing great bodily strength and endurance. Observing that Berenike was the most powerful and intelligent of Ptolemy's wives, he paid especial court to her, and, as he knew well how to gain the favour of the powerful, though he was inclined to domineer over his inferiors, and was temperate and well-behaved, he was chosen out of many other noble youths to be the husband of Antigone, one of the daughters of Berenike, whom she bore to Philip before she married Ptolemy.
V. His influence was greatly increased by this match, and, as Antigone proved a good wife to him and furthered his designs, he prevailed upon his friends to supply him with money and troops, and send him upon an expedition to recover his throne in Epirus. When he landed, many of the people of the country were willing to accept him as their king, because of their dislike to the ferocious and arbitrary rule of Neoptolemus; but he, fearing that if he drove out his rival he would apply to some of the kings, made terms and friendship with him, and agreed to share the kingdom. As time went on, however, many encouraged him to attack Neoptolemus, and fomented suspicion between them. Pyrrhus, however, was especially exasperated by the following incidents. It was customary for the kings of Epirus to sacrifice to Zeus Areios in Passaron, a place in the Molossian country, and to take an oath to their subjects that they would govern according to the laws, while the people on their part swore to be faithful to the throne. These ceremonies were performed by both the kings, who, with their friends, afterwards conversed together, giving and receiving presents. Now Gelon, a trusty friend of Neoptolemus, after giving Pyrrhus a friendly welcome, presented to him two yoke of oxen for the plough. Myrtilus, the cupbearer, who was present, asked Pyrrhus for these oxen, and as Pyrrhus did not give them to him but to some one else, he did not conceal his annoyance, which was observed by Gelon. He at once invited Myrtilus to dinner and proposed to him that he should join the party of Neoptolemus and remove Pyrrhus by poison. Myrtilus apparently acquiesced, and accepted the offer, but told the whole intrigue to Pyrrhus, who bade him put Alexikrates, his chief cupbearer, also in communication with Gelon, on the pretence that he too wished to take part in the plot; for he wished as many persons as possible to know of the attempt which was about to be made. Thus Gelon was deceived, and in turn deceived Neoptolemus, who, imagining his plot to be on the point of success, could not restrain his delight, but let out the secret to his friends. On one occasion, when in his cups, he talked freely about this matter to his sister Kadmeia, not imagining that any one else heard him; for there was no one present except Phænarete, the wife of Samon the king's neatherd, and she lay upon a couch with her face towards the wall, apparently asleep. However she heard all that passed, unsuspected, and next day went to Antigone, the wife of Pyrrhus, and told her all that she had heard Neoptolemus say to his sister. When Pyrrhus heard this he did not act at once; but when next he offered sacrifice he invited Neoptolemus to dinner and killed him, as he knew that the strongest party in Epirus was on his side, and had often urged him to rid himself of Neoptolemus and not be satisfied with a mere share of the crown, but to engage in the great designs which his genius prompted. These considerations, together with the suspicions which he had of Neoptolemus's treachery, induced him to be beforehand with him by putting him to death.
VI. In memory of Berenike and Ptolemy he named a boy who was now born to him Ptolemy, and gave the name of Berenike to a city which he founded on the peninsula of Epirus. He now began to revolve great designs, casting his eyes especially upon the territory of his neighbours; and he was soon enabled to interfere in the affairs of Macedonia on the following grounds. The elder of the sons of Kassander put his mother, Thessalonika, to death, and drove his younger brother Alexander into exile. This prince now applied both to Demetrius and to Pyrrhus for aid. Demetrius was engaged in other matters and was slow to render him any assistance, but Pyrrhus offered his services, demanding as the price of his assistance the districts called Stymphæa and Paranæa in Macedon itself, and of the Macedonian conquests Ambrakia, Akarnania, and Amphilochia. The youth agreed to these terms, and Pyrrhus at once occupied those countries, which he secured by garrisoning their fortresses, while he began to press Antipater hard in his endeavours to gain the remainder of Macedonia for his brother. At this time king Lysimachus, an eager partisan of Antipater, was too much occupied with other matters to send him any material help, but, knowing that Pyrrhus would never disoblige or thwart Ptolemy in anything, sent a forged letter to him, in which it was stated to be Ptolemy's desire that he should withdraw his forces on the receipt of three hundred talents from Antipater. Pyrrhus, however, as soon as he opened the letter saw the deceit; for it did not begin with Ptolemy's usual greeting to him, "The father to the son wishes health" but "King Ptolemy to king Pyrrhus wishes health." He reproached Lysimachus for his conduct, but nevertheless made a peace, which they all met to ratify by a solemn oath upon a sacrifice. A bull, a boar, and a ram were brought to the altar, when suddenly the ram fell down dead. The others laughed at this, but the soothsayer Theodotus, who was conducting the sacrifice forbad Pyrrhus to swear, saying that Heaven by this portended the death of one of the three kings who were there met together. Pyrrhus therefore refused to ratify the peace.
VII. Alexander now was in a fair way to succeed, when he was joined by Demetrius, who was evidently unwelcome, and a dangerous ally. Before many days had passed the two princes, from mutual distrust, began to plot against each other. Demetrius, seizing his opportunity, assassinated the youthful Alexander, and proclaimed himself king of Macedonia. He had before this been on bad terms with Pyrrhus, who had made incursions into Thessaly, and the usual disease of princes, grasping covetousness, had made them suspicious and quarrelsome neighbours, especially since the death of Deidameia. Now, however, as they both claimed Macedonia, they were brought into direct collision, and Demetrius, after mating a campaign in Ætolia and leaving Pantauchus with a large force to guard his conquests there, himself marched against Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus, as soon as he heard of this, proceeded to meet him, but by a mistake in the road they passed by one another, so that Demetrius invaded Epirus and ravaged the country there, and Pyrrhus, falling in with Pantauchus, fought a battle with him. The struggle was a long and severe one, especially near where the generals fought, for Pantauchus, who was admitted to be the strongest and bravest of the generals of Demetrius, in the pride of his heart challenged Pyrrhus to a single combat, while Pyrrhus, who yielded to none of the kings of the age in strength and courage, and who wished to be thought a true son of Achilles by valour as well as by descent, rushed forward beyond the front ranks to meet Pantauchus. They fought with spears at first, and then, drawing their swords, contended hand to hand with equal skill and courage. Pyrrhus received one hurt, but he wounded Pantauchus in the thigh and in the throat, and overthrew him. Pyrrhus did not slay him, however, as he was rescued by his friends. The Epirots, elated at their king's victory, and filled with enthusiasm by his courage, bore everything before them, routed the phalanx of the Macedonians, and pursued the fugitives, of whom they slew many and took five thousand prisoners.
VIII. The Macedonians who had witnessed the exploits of Pyrrhus were struck with admiration, and perhaps found some solace for their defeat in the praises they bestowed on the conqueror. He was, they said, indeed a soldier, worthy to command soldiers; the only king of the age in whom there could be traced any likeness to the great Alexander. Pyrrhus revived this image by the fire and vigour of his movements in the field of battle; the rest only mimicked the hero, whose title they assumed, in their demeanour, and in the trappings and state of royalty. We can form an opinion about his knowledge and skill in military matters from the writings which he has left on these subjects. It is related, moreover, that Antigonus, when asked who was the greatest of generals, answered "Pyrrhus, if he lives to be old," speaking only of the generals of his own time. Hannibal, however, considered Pyrrhus to have been the first general that ever lived for skill and resource, placing Scipio next, and himself third, as is written in the Life of Scipio. Indeed Pyrrhus devoted the whole of his intellect to the art of war, regarding it as the only study fit for a king, and holding all other occupations to be frivolous. At a wine party he was once asked whether he thought Python or Kaphisias the better flute player, to which he answered that Polysperchon was the best general, as though that were the only subject on which a king should form or express an opinion. Yet he was mild-tempered and gentle towards his friends, full of gratitude for kindness, and eager to repay it. He grieved greatly over the death of Æropus; not so much because he was dead, for that, he said, was the common lot of mankind, but because he himself had delayed repaying him a kindness until it was too late. Debts of money, he said, can be paid to the heirs of a creditor, but men of honour are grieved at not being able to return a kindness during the lifetime of their benefactor. In Ambrakia once Pyrrhus was advised to banish a man who abused him in scurrilous terms. He answered, "I had rather he remained where he is and abused me there, than that he should wander through all the world doing so." Once some youths spoke ill of him over their wine, and being detected were asked by him whether they had used such words of him. "We did, O king," answered one of the young men, "and we should have said more evil of you if we had had more wine." At this answer Pyrrhus laughed, and acquitted them.
IX. After the death of Antigone he married several wives, for the sake of advantageous political alliances. One was the daughter of Autoleon, king of the Pæonians; another was Birkenna, daughter of Bardyllis, king of the Illyrians, while the third, Lanassa, daughter of Agathokles, despot of Syracuse, brought him as a dowry the city and island of Korkyra, which had been captured by Agathokles. By Antigone he had already one son, Ptolemy; by Lanassa he had another son, Alexander, and Helenus, the youngest of his sons, by Birkenna. They were all brought up to be good soldiers, being trained in arms by Pyrrhus himself. It is said that when one of his sons, while yet a child, asked him to which of them he would leave his kingdom, he answered "To him whose sword is the sharpest." This saying differs but little from that celebrated tragic curse upon the brothers who were to "divide their heritage with whetted steel." So savage and unsocial a quality is ambition.
X. After this battle Pyrrhus returned home, delighted at the glory which he had acquired. When the Epirotes gave him the title of the Eagle, he answered "I owe it to you that I am an eagle, for it is your arms that enable me to take so high a flight." Shortly afterwards, learning that Demetrius was dangerously ill, he suddenly invaded Macedonia, meaning merely to make a short incursion, but he very nearly obtained possession of the entire kingdom, as he overran the country without opposition and marched as far as Edessa, while many of the natives assisted him and joined his army. The danger roused Demetrius from his sick bed, and his partisans hastily collected a considerable force and marched to attack Pyrrhus. As he had only come with the intention of plundering he avoided giving battle and retreated, but on his way lost a part of his army by an attack of the Macedonians.
Demetrius, though he had thus easily driven Pyrrhus out of his kingdom, did not despise him. He had determined to go to war on a great scale to recover his father's throne, with a force of a hundred thousand men and five hundred ships of war; and he did not wish to be thwarted in this design by Pyrrhus, or to leave him as a fierce and dangerous neighbour for Macedonia. Consequently, as he had no leisure to go to war with him, he wished to come to terms with him and make peace, so that he might be at liberty to attack the other kings. These considerations led him to conclude a truce with Pyrrhus. However, the greatness of the force at Demetrius's disposal now led him to assume such an arrogant tone that the other kings were alarmed and sent letters to Pyrrhus in which they expressed their surprise that he should overlook the magnificent opportunity which Demetrius would offer him by engaging in a foreign war, and asked him whether, when he was able to drive that restless intriguer out of Macedonia, he intended not to do so, but to sit idle at home while Demetrius gained wealth and power, until at length he would have to fight for his hearth and home in Molossia, and that too when Demetrius had just deprived him of Korkyra by means of his wife. For Lanassa had quarrelled with Pyrrhus because he paid too much attention to his barbarian wives, had retired to Korkyra, and, as she still wished to be a queen, invited Demetrius to take possession of her person and of the island. He at once proceeded thither, married Lanassa, and placed a garrison in the city.
XI. Besides writing to Pyrrhus in this strain the kings themselves contrived to find work for Demetrius, who was still engaged in preparations for his campaign. Ptolemy sailed to Greece with a large force and induced many of the Greek cities to revolt from Demetrius, while Lysimachus, starting from Thrace, invaded and plundered Upper Macedonia. At the same time Pyrrhus marched upon the city of Berœa, truly conjecturing that Demetrius, in his haste to repel the invasion of Upper Macedonia, would leave the lower part of the country unprotected. That night he dreamed that he was called by Alexander the Great, and that he at once went to him, and found him reclining on a couch. The hero received him kindly, and promised him that he would aid him. When Pyrrhus mustered courage to ask, "How, O king, being yourself ill, can you assist me?" Alexander answered, "With my name," and mounting a Nisæan horse appeared to lead the way. This dream gave Pyrrhus great confidence: he quickly marched over the intervening country and took Berœa, where he fixed his headquarters, and sent out detachments to reduce other places. Demetrius, when he heard this news, and heard also the tumult of grief and indignation which it excited in his camp, feared to march any closer to Lysimachus, lest if his army came near to a king who was a Macedonian, and so distinguished a man, the troops might transfer their allegiance to him. He therefore resolved to retrace his steps, and attack Pyrrhus, as being a foreigner, and an enemy of the Macedonians. However, when he pitched his camp near Berœa, many came out from that city loudly praising Pyrrhus, as an invincible warrior and a great man, who had treated the vanquished with kindness and magnanimity. Some of these were emissaries of Pyrrhus himself, disguised as Macedonians, who said that now was the time for them to relieve themselves from the harsh tyranny of Demetrius by adopting Pyrrhus, a popular man and a true friend of the soldier, as their king. The greater part of Demetrius's troops was much excited by this means, and when the two armies met face to face, all eyes were turned in search of the hero. For a time they could not find him, for he had taken off his helmet; but when he had put it on again, and enabled them to recognise him by the lofty crest, and the goat's horns at the sides, the Macedonian soldiers quitted their ranks, and came running up to ask him, as their chief, for the pass-word. Others, seeing that his attendants wore garlands of oak-leaves, crowned themselves in like manner. Some already ventured to tell Demetrius that his best course would be to give up all as lost: and he, observing, that this advice seemed to be borne out by the temper of his army, withdrew in terror, disguised in a mean dress, and a broad-brimmed Macedonian hat. Pyrrhus, advancing without striking a blow, obtained possession of his enemy's camp, and was saluted king of the Macedonians.
XII. Lysimachus soon appeared upon the scene, pointed out that the fall of Demetrius was as much due to his own exertions as to those of Pyrrhus, and demanded a partition of Macedonia. To this Pyrrhus, not yet certain of the loyalty of his new subjects, was obliged to consent. This measure was beneficial for the moment, as it prevented their going to war; but soon it became apparent that the partition was a source of endless quarrels and recriminations. For when men are ambitious to such a degree that no seas, mountains, or wildernesses, nay not even the boundaries of Europe and Asia, will serve as barriers to their frantic desire for more territory, it is not to be expected that they will remain quiet when their frontiers touch one another, but they always are at war, from the natural jealousy of their disposition. The names of peace and war they use as mere symbols, as it suits their convenience, and they are really better men when they are openly at war than when they give the name of peace and friendship to a cessation of active wickedness. The truth of this was proved by Pyrrhus, who in order to prevent Demetrius from recovering from the great disaster which he had sustained, espoused the cause of Greece, and marched to Athens. Here he went up to the Acropolis and sacrificed to the goddess Athena. On descending he thanked the Athenians for their confidence in him, but advised them if they consulted their own interest never to admit any king within their walls. After this he made peace with Demetrius, but shortly after he was gone to Asia, Pyrrhus, at the instigation of Lysimachus, induced the Thessalians to revolt and join him, and began to besiege the fortresses on the Greek border, both because he found the Macedonians easier to manage when they were at war than when they were idle, and also because he himself was of a nature which could not endure inaction. Finally however Demetrius was irretrievably ruined in Syria, and now Lysimachus, having nothing further to fear from him, at once attacked Pyrrhus. He fell upon him suddenly near Edessa, defeated him, and reduced the troops under him to great distress for provisions. Next he began to corrupt the leading Macedonians, reproaching them with having rejected a Macedonian who had been the friend and companion of Alexander, and chosen in his stead as their master a foreigner, and one, too, of a race that had always been subject to the Macedonians. As many listened to these treacherous insinuations, Pyrrhus became alarmed, and withdrew with his Epirotes and the allied troops, thus losing Macedonia in the same way that he had gained it. So that kings have but little reason for reproaching the common people for changing sides in an emergency, for in doing so they do but imitate the kings themselves, their teachers in the art of treachery and faithlessness, who think that those men gain the greatest advantages who take least account of justice and honour.
XIII. Pyrrhus, now that he had lost Macedonia, might have spent his days peacefully ruling his own subjects in Epirus; but he could not endure repose, thinking that not to trouble others and be troubled by them was a life of unbearable ennui, and, like Achilles in the Iliad,
"he could not rest in indolence at home,
He longed for battle, and the joys of war."
As he desired some new adventures he embraced the following opportunity. The Romans were at war with the Tarentines; and as that people were not sufficiently powerful to carry on the war, and yet were not allowed by the audacious folly of their mob orators to make peace, they proposed to make Pyrrhus their leader and to invite him to be their ally in the war, because he was more at leisure than any of the other kings, and also was the best general of them all. Of the older and more sensible citizens some endeavoured to oppose this fatal decision, but were overwhelmed by the clamour of the war party, while the rest, observing this, ceased to attend the public assembly. There was one citizen of good repute, named Meton, who, on the day when the final decision was to be made, when the people were all assembled, took a withered garland and a torch, like a drunkard, and reeled into the assembly with a girl playing the flute before him. At this, as one may expect in a disorderly popular meeting, some applauded, and some laughed, but no one stopped him. They next bade the girl play, and Meton come forward and dance to the music; and he made as though he would do so. When he had obtained silence he said "Men of Tarentum, you do well in encouraging those who wish to be merry and amuse themselves while they may. If you are wise you will all enjoy your freedom now, for when Pyrrhus is come to our city you will have very different things to think of, and will live very differently." By these words he made an impression on the mass of the Tarentine people, and a murmur ran through the crowd that he had spoken well. But those politicians who feared that if peace were made they should be delivered up to the Romans, reproached the people for allowing any one to insult them by such a disgraceful exhibition, and prevailed on them to turn Meton out of the assembly. Thus the vote for war was passed, and ambassadors were sent to Epirus, not from Tarentum alone, but from the other Greek cities in Italy, carrying with them presents for Pyrrhus, with instructions to tell him that they required a leader of skill and renown, and that they possessed a force of Lucanians, Messapians, Samnites and Tarentines, which amounted to twenty thousand cavalry, and three hundred and fifty thousand infantry. This not only excited Pyrrhus, but also made all the Epirotes eager to take part in the campaign.
XIV. There was one Kineas, a Thessalian, who was thought to be a man of good sense, and who, having heard Demosthenes the orator speak, was better able than any of the speakers of his age to delight his hearers with an imitation of the eloquence of that great master of rhetoric. He was now in the service of Pyrrhus, and being sent about to various cities, proved the truth of the Euripidean saw, that
"All can be done by words
Which foemen wish to do with conquering swords."
Pyrrhus at any rate used to say that more cities were won for him by Kineas with words, than be himself won by force of arms. This man, observing that Pyrrhus was eagerly preparing for his Italian expedition, once when he was at leisure conversed with him in the following manner. "Pyrrhus," said he, "the Romans are said to be good soldiers, and to rule over many warlike nations. Now, if heaven grants us the victory over them, what use shall we make of it?"
"You ask what is self-evident," answered Pyrrhus. "If we can conquer the Romans, there is no city, Greek or barbarian, that can resist us, and we shall gain possession of the whole of Italy, a country whose size, richness, and power no one knows better than yourself." Kineas then, after waiting for a short time, said, "O king, when we have taken Italy, what shall we do then?" Pyrrhus, not yet seeing his drift, answered, "Close to it Sicily invites us, a noble and populous island, and one which is very easy to conquer; for, my Kineas, now that Agathokles is dead, there is nothing there but revolution and faction, and the violence of party spirit." "What you say," answered Kineas, "is very probably true. But is this conquest of Sicily to be the extreme limit of our campaign?" "Heaven," answered Pyrrhus, "alone can give us victory and success; but these conquests would merely prove to us the stepping-stones to greater things. Who could refrain from making an attempt upon Carthage and Libya when he was so close to them, countries which were all but conquered by Agathokles when he ran away from Syracuse with only a few ships? and if we were masters of these countries, none of the enemies who now give themselves such airs at our expense will dare to resist us." "Certainly not," answered Kineas; "With such a force at our disposal we clearly could recover Macedonia, and have the whole of Greece at our feet. And after we have made all these conquests, what shall we do then?" Pyrrhus laughing answered, "We will take our ease and carouse every day, and enjoy pleasant conversation with one another." Having brought Pyrrhus to say this, Kineas asked in reply, "But what prevents our carousing and taking our ease now, since we have already at hand all those things which we propose to obtain with much blood-shed, and great toils and perils, and after suffering much ourselves and causing much suffering to others?" By talking in this manner Kineas vexed Pyrrhus, because he made him reflect on the pleasant home which he was leaving, but his reasoning had no effect in turning him from his purpose.
XV. He first despatched Kineas to Tarentum with three thousand men; next he collected from Tarentum many horse-transports, decked vessels, and boats of all sorts, and embarked upon them twenty elephants, twenty-three thousand cavalry, twenty-two thousand infantry, and five hundred slingers. When all was ready he put to sea; and when half way across a storm burst upon him from the north, which was unusual at that season of the year. He himself, though his ship was carried away by the tempest, yet, by the great pains and skill of the sailors and pilots, resisted it and reached the land, with great toil to the rowers, and beyond everyone's expectation; for the rest of the fleet was overpowered by the gale and scattered. Some ships were driven off the Italian coast altogether, and forced into the Libyan and Sicilian seas, and some which could not weather the Iapygian Cape were overtaken by night, and being dashed by a violent and boisterous sea against that harbourless coast were utterly lost, except only the king's ship. She was so large and strongly built as to resist the waves as long as they broke upon her from the seaward; but when the wind changed and blew directly off the shore, the ship, which now met the waves directly with her head, was in great danger of going to pieces, while to let her drive out to sea again now that it was so rough, and the wind changed so frequently, seemed more terrible than to remain where they were. Pyrrhus rose and leapt into the water, and at once was eagerly followed by his friends and his body-guard. The darkness of night and the violent recoil of the roaring waves made it hard for them to help him, and it was not until daybreak, when the wind abated, that he reached the land, faint and helpless in body, but with his spirit invincible in misfortune. The Messapians, upon whose coast he had been thrown, now assembled from the neighbouring villages and offered their help, while some of the ships which had outlived the storm appeared, bringing a few horsemen, about two thousand foot, and two elephants.
XVI. With these Pyrrhus marched to Tarentum; Kineas, as soon as he heard of his arrival, bringing out the Tarentine army to meet him. When he reached the city he did nothing to displease the Tarentines until his fleet returned to the coast and he had assembled the greater part of his army. But then, as he saw that the populace, unless ruled by a strong hand, could neither help him nor help themselves, but intended to stay idling about their baths and entertainments at home, while he fought their battles in the field, he closed the gymnasia and public walks, in which the people were wont to waste their time in empty talk about the war. He forbade all drinking, feasting, and unseasonable revels, and forced the people to take up arms, proving himself inexorable to every one who was on the muster-roll of able-bodied citizens. This conduct made him much disliked, and many of the Tarentines left the city in disgust; for they were so unused to discipline, that they considered that not to be able to pass their lives as they chose was no better than slavery.
When news came that Lævinus, the Roman consul, was marching to attack him with a large force, and was plundering the country of Lucania as he advanced, while Pyrrhus's allies had not yet arrived, he thought it a shameful thing to allow the enemy to proceed any farther, and marched out with his army. He sent before him a herald to the Roman general, informing him that he was willing to act as arbitrator in the dispute between the Romans and the Greek cities of Italy, if they chose to terminate it peacefully. On receiving for an answer that the Romans neither wished for Pyrrhus as an arbitrator, nor feared him as an enemy, he marched forward, and encamped in the plain, between the city of Pandosia and Heraklea. Learning that the Romans were close by, and were encamping on the farther side of the river Siris he rode up to the river to view them; and when he observed their even ranks, their orderly movements, and their well-arranged camp, he was surprised, and said to the nearest of his friends: "These barbarians, Megakles, have nothing barbarous in their military discipline; but we shall soon learn what they can do." He began indeed already to feel some uncertainty as to the issue of the campaign, and determined to wait until his allies came up, and till then to observe the movements of the Romans, and prevent their crossing the river. They however, perceiving his object, at once crossed the river, the infantry at a ford, the cavalry at many points at once, so that the Greeks feared they might be surrounded, and drew back. Pyrrhus, perceiving this, ordered his officers instantly to form the troops in order of battle and wait under arms while he himself charged with the cavalry, three thousand strong, hoping to catch the Romans in the act of crossing the river and consequently in disorder. When he saw many shields of the Roman infantry appearing over the river bank, and their horsemen all ranged in order, he closed up his own ranks and charged them first himself, a conspicuous figure in his beautiful glittering armour, and proving by his exploits that he deserved his high reputation; especially as, although he fought personally, and engaged in combat with the enemy, yet he continually watched the whole battle, and handled his troops with as much facility as though he were not in the thick of the fight, appearing always wherever his presence was required, and reinforcing those who seemed likely to give way. In this battle Leonnatus the Macedonian observing one of the Italians watching Pyrrhus and constantly following him about the field, said to him, "My king, do you see that barbarian on the black horse with white feet? He seems to be meditating some desperate deed. He is a man of spirit and courage, and he never takes his eyes off you, and takes no notice of any one else. Beware of that man." Pyrrhus answered, "Leonnatus, no man can avoid his fate; but neither that Italian nor any one else who attacks me will do so with impunity." While they were yet talking the Italian levelled his lance, and urged his horse in full career against Pyrrhus. He struck the king's horse with his spear, and at the same instant his own horse was struck a sidelong blow by Leonnatus. Both horses fell; Pyrrhus was saved by his friends, and the Italian perished fighting. He was of the nation of the Frentani, Hoplacus by name, and was the captain of a troop of horse.
XVII. This incident taught Pyrrhus to be more cautious. He observed that his cavalry were inclined to give way, and therefore sent for his phalanx, and arrayed it against the enemy. Then he gave his cloak and armour to one of his companions, Megakles, and after partially disguising himself in those of his friend, led his main body to attack the Roman army. The Romans stoutly resisted him, and an obstinate battle took place, for it is said that the combatants alternately yielded and again pressed forward no less than seven distinct times. The king's exchange of armour too, though it saved his life, yet very nearly lost him the victory: for many attacked Megakles, and the man who first struck him down, who was named Decius, snatched up his cloak and helmet, and rode with them to Lævinus, displaying them and shouting aloud that he had slain Pyrrhus. The Romans, when they saw these spoils carried in triumph along their ranks, raised a joyful cry, while the Greeks were correspondingly disheartened until Pyrrhus, learning what had taken place, rode along the line with his head bare, stretching out his hands to his soldiers and telling them that he was safe. At length he was victorious, chiefly by means of a sudden charge of his Thessalian horse on the Romans after they had been thrown into disorder by the advance of the elephants. The Roman horses were terrified at these animals, and long before they came near, ran away with their riders in panic. The slaughter was very great: Dionysius says that of the Romans there fell but little short of fifteen thousand, but Hieronymus reduces this to seven thousand, while on Pyrrhus's side there fell, according to Dionysius, thirteen thousand, but according to Hieronymus less than four thousand. These however, were the very flower of Pyrrhus's army; for he lost all his most trusty officers, and his most intimate personal friends. Still, he captured the Roman camp, which was abandoned by the enemy, induced several of their allied cities to join him, plundered a vast extent of country, and advanced within three hundred stades (less than forty English miles) of Rome itself. After the battle many of the Lucanians and Samnites came up; these allies he reproached for their dilatory movements, but was evidently well pleased at having conquered the great Roman army with no other forces but his own Epirotes and the Tarentines.
XVIII. The Romans did not remove Lævinus from his office of consul, although Caius Fabricius is reported to have said that it was not the Epirotes who had conquered the Romans, but Pyrrhus who had conquered Lævinus; meaning that he thought that the defeat was owing not to the greater force but the superior generalship of the enemy. They astonished Pyrrhus by quickly filling up their ranks with fresh levies, and talking about the war in a spirit of fearless confidence. He decided to try whether they were disposed to make terms with him, as he perceived that to capture Rome and utterly subdue the Roman people would be a work of no small difficulty, and that it would be vain to attempt it with the force at his disposal, while after his victory he could make peace on terms which would reflect great lustre on himself. Kineas was sent as ambassador to conduct this negotiation. He conversed with the leading men of Rome, and offered their wives and children presents from the king. No one, however, would accept them, but they all, men and women alike, replied that, if peace were publicly concluded with the king, they would then have no objection to regard him as a friend. And when Kineas spoke before the Senate in a winning and persuasive manner he could not make any impression upon his audience, although he announced to them that Pyrrhus would restore the prisoners he had taken without any ransom, and would assist them in subduing all Italy, while all that he asked in return was that he should be regarded as a friend, and that the people of Tarentum should not be molested. The common people, however, were evidently eager for peace, in consequence of their having been defeated in one great battle, and expecting that they would have to fight another against a larger force, because the Italian states would join Pyrrhus. At this crisis Appius Claudius, an illustrious man, but who had long since been prevented by old age and blindness from taking any active part in politics, when he heard of the proposals of Pyrrhus, and that the question of peace or war was about to be voted upon by the Senate, could no longer endure to remain at home, but caused his slaves to carry him through the Forum to the Senate House in a litter. When he reached the doors of the Senate House his sons and sons-in-law supported him and guided him into the house, while all the assembly observed a respectful silence.
XIX. Speaking from where he stood, he addressed them as follows:—"My countrymen, I used to grieve at the loss of my sight, but now I am sorry not to be deaf also, when I hear the disgraceful propositions with which you are tarnishing the glory of Rome. What has become of that boast which we were so fond of making before all mankind, that if Alexander the Great had invaded Italy, and had met us when we were young, and our fathers when they were in the prime of life, he would not have been reputed invincible, but would either have fled or perhaps even have fallen, and added to the glory of Rome? You now prove that this was mere empty vapouring, by your terror of these Chaonians and Molossians, nations who have always been a prey and a spoil to the Macedonians, and by your fear of this Pyrrhus, who used formerly to dance attendance on one of Alexander's bodyguards, and who has now wandered hither not so much in order to assist the Greeks in Italy as to escape from his enemies at home, and promises to be our friend and protector forsooth, when the army he commands did not suffice to keep for him the least portion of that Macedonia which he once acquired. Do not imagine that you will get rid of this man by making a treaty with him. Rather you will encourage other Greek princes to invade you, for they will despise you and think you an easy prey to all men, if you let Pyrrhus go home again without paying the penalty of his outrages upon you, nay, with the power to boast that he has made Rome a laughing-stock for Tarentines and Samnites."
By these words Appius roused a warlike spirit in the Romans, and they dismissed Kineas with the answer that if Pyrrhus would leave Italy they would, if he wished, discuss the question of an alliance with him, but that while he remained in arms in their country the Romans would fight him to the death, however many Lævinuses he might defeat. It is related that Kineas, during his mission to Rome, took great interest in observing the national life of the Romans, and fully appreciated the excellence of their political constitution, which he learned by conversing with many of the leading men of the state. On his return he told Pyrrhus that the Senate seemed to him like an assembly of kings, and that as to the populace, he feared that the Greeks might find in them a new Lernæan hydra; for twice as many troops had been enrolled in the consul's army as he had before, and yet there remained many more Romans capable of bearing arms.
XX. After this Caius Fabricius came to arrange terms for the exchange of prisoners; a man whom Kineas said the Romans especially valued for his virtue and bravery, but who was excessively poor. Pyrrhus, in consequence of this, entertained Fabricius privately, and made him an offer of money, not as a bribe for any act of baseness, but speaking of it as a pledge of friendship and sincerity. As Fabricius refused this, Pyrrhus waited till the next day, when, desirous of making an impression on him, as he had never seen an elephant, he had his largest elephant placed behind Fabricius during their conference, concealed by a curtain. At a given signal, the curtain was withdrawn, and the creature reached out his trunk over the head of Fabricius with a harsh and terrible cry. Fabricius, however, quietly turned round, and then said to Pyrrhus with a smile, "You could not move me by your gold yesterday, nor can you with your beast to-day." At table that day they conversed upon all subjects, but chiefly about Greece and Greek philosophy. Kineas repeated the opinion of Epikurus and his school, about the gods, and the practice of political life, and the objects at which we should aim, how they considered pleasure to be the highest good, and held aloof from taking any active part in politics, because it spoiled and destroyed perfect happiness; and about how they thought that the gods lived far removed from hopes and fears, and interest in human affairs, in a placid state of eternal fruition. While he was speaking in this strain Fabricius burst out: "Hercules!" cried he, "May Pyrrhus and the Samnites continue to waste their time on these speculations, as long as they remain at war with us!" Pyrrhus, at this, was struck by the spirit and noble disposition of Fabricius, and longed more than ever to make Rome his friend instead of his enemy. He begged him to arrange terms of peace, and after they were concluded to come and live with him as the first of his friends and officers. Fabricius is said to have quietly answered, "That, O King, will not be to your advantage; for those who now obey you, and look up to you, if they had any experience of me, would prefer me to you for their king." Pyrrhus was not angry at this speech, but spoke to all his friends about the magnanimous conduct of Fabricius, and entrusted the prisoners to him alone, on the condition that, if the Senate refused to make peace, they should be allowed to embrace their friends, and spend the festival of the Saturnalia with them, and then be sent back to him. And they were sent back after the Saturnalia, for the Senate decreed that any of them who remained behind should be put to death.
XXI. After this, when C. Fabricius was consul, a man came into his camp bringing a letter from King Pyrrhus's physician, in which he offered to poison the king, if he could be assured of a suitable reward for his services in thus bringing the war to an end without a blow. Fabricius, disgusted at the man's treachery, brought his colleague to share his views, and in haste sent off a letter to Pyrrhus, bidding him be on his guard. The letter ran as follows: "Caius Fabricius and Quintus Æmilius, the Roman consuls, greet King Pyrrhus. You appear to be a bad judge both of your friends and of your enemies. You will perceive, by reading the enclosed letter which has been sent to us, that you are fighting against good and virtuous men, and trusting to wicked and treacherous ones. We do not give you this information out of any love we bear you, but for fear that we might be charged with having assassinated you and be thought to have brought the war to a close by treachery because we could not do so by manhood."
Pyrrhus on receiving this letter, and discovering the plot against his life, punished his physician, and, in return for the kindness of Fabricius and the Romans, delivered up their prisoners without ransom, and sent Kineas a second time to arrange terms of peace. However, the Romans refused to receive their prisoners back without ransom, being unwilling either to receive a favour from their enemy, or to be rewarded for having abstained from treachery towards him, but set free an equal number of Tarentines and Samnites, and sent them to him. As to terms of peace, they refused to entertain the question unless Pyrrhus first placed his entire armament on board the ships in which it came, and sailed back to Epirus with it.
As it was now necessary that Pyrrhus should fight another battle, he advanced with his army to the city of Asculum, and attacked the Romans. Here he was forced to fight on rough ground, near the swampy banks of a river, where his elephants and cavalry were of no service, and he was forced to attack with his phalanx. After a drawn battle, in which many fell, night parted the combatants. Next day Pyrrhus manœuvred so as to bring the Romans fairly into the plain, where his elephants could act upon the enemy's line. He occupied the rough ground on either side, placed many archers and slingers among his elephants, and advanced with his phalanx in close order and irresistible strength. The Romans, who were unable on the level ground to practise the bush-fighting and skirmishing of the previous day, were compelled to attack the phalanx in front. They endeavoured to force their way through that hedge of spears before the elephants could come up, and showed marvellous courage in hacking at the spears with their swords, exposing themselves recklessly, careless of wounds or death. After a long struggle, it is said that they first gave way at the point where Pyrrhus was urging on his soldiers in person, though the defeat was chiefly due to the weight and crushing charge of the elephants. The Romans could not find any opportunity in this sort of battle for the display of their courage, but thought it their duty to stand aside and save themselves from a useless death, just as they would have done in the case of a wave of the sea or an earthquake coming upon them. In the flight to their camp, which was not far off, Hieronymus says that six thousand Romans perished, and that in Pyrrhus's commentaries his loss is stated at three thousand five hundred and five. Dionysius, on the other hand, does not admit that there were two battles at Asculum, or that the Romans suffered a defeat, but tells us that they fought the whole of one day until sunset, and then separated, Pyrrhus being wounded in the arm by a javelin, and the Samnites having plundered his baggage. He also states the total loss on both sides to be above fifteen thousand.
The armies separated after the battle, and it is said that Pyrrhus, when congratulated on his victory by his friends, said in reply: "If we win one more such victory over the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined." For a large part of the force which he had brought with him had perished, and very nearly all his friends and officers, and there were no more to send for at home. He saw, too, that his allies were becoming lukewarm, while the Romans, on the other hand, filled up the gaps with a never-ceasing stream of fresh recruits, and did not lose confidence by their defeats, but seemed to gather fresh strength and determination to go on with the war.
XXII. While in these difficulties he conceived fresh hopes of success, and engaged in an enterprise in another quarter, which was likely to interfere with the prosecution of his original design. An embassy arrived from Sicily, offering to place the cities of Agrigentum, Syracuse, and Leontini in his hands, and begging him to aid them in driving out the Carthaginians from the island, and freeing it from despots, while at the same time messengers came from Greece with the news that Ptolemy, surnamed Keraunus, or "the thunderbolt," had perished, with all his army, in an engagement with the Gauls, and that now was his opportunity to offer himself to the Macedonians, who were in great need of a king. Pyrrhus upbraided Fortune for placing so many opportunities within his reach at the same time, and, reflecting that he could only manage one with success, for some time remained plunged in thought. At last, thinking that the Sicilian offer was likely to lead to greater things, as Africa was close to that island, he decided to accept it, and at once sent Kineas to prepare the cities for his arrival, as was his wont in such cases. He himself, meanwhile, placed a strong garrison in the city of Tarentum, much to the disgust of its citizens, who asked him either to perform what he had come thither to do, namely, to assist them in fighting against the Romans, or else to evacuate their territory, and leave their city as he found it. In answer to this demand he harshly bade them keep quiet, and wait till he was at leisure to attend to their affairs, and at once set sail for Sicily. On his arrival there he found all his hopes realised, as the cities gladly delivered themselves into his hands. At first he willingly acceded to their request, that he should wage war on their behalf, and with an army of thirty thousand foot, two thousand horse, and two hundred ships, he attacked the Carthaginians, totally defeated them, and overran the part of Sicily which was subject to them. Eryx was the strongest of their fortresses, and was strongly garrisoned. Pyrrhus, learning this, determined to assault it. When his army was ready, he came forward, in complete armour, and vowed that he would hold public games and sacrifices in honour of Herakles, if he should prove himself that day, before all the Sikeliot Greeks, to be a worthy descendant of Achilles, and to deserve to command so great a force. The trumpet then sounded the charge, the barbarians were driven from the walls by a shower of missiles, and the scaling ladders planted against them. Pyrrhus was the first man to mount the wall, and there fought singly against a host, dashing some of them over the inner, and some over the outer edge of the wall, and wielding his sword with such terrible power that he soon stood on a pile of corpses. He himself was quite unhurt, and terrified the enemy by his mere appearance, proving how truly Homer has told us that of all virtues courage alone is wont to display itself in divine transports and frenzies. After the city was taken he made a magnificent sacrifice to the gods, and held gymnastic contests of all kinds.
XXIII. He now turned his arms against the so-called Mamertines of Messina, who troubled the Greek cities much, and had even made some of them tributary to themselves. They were numerous and warlike; indeed, in Latin, their name means the "children of Mars." Pyrrhus seized and put to death any of them whom he found exacting tribute from the Greeks, and after defeating them in a pitched battle, took many of their outlying forts. The Carthaginians now were inclined to come to terms with him. They offered, if peace were concluded, to pay him tribute, and to supply a fleet for his use. To these proposals Pyrrhus, dissatisfied with obtaining so little, answered that he would only make peace and friendship with them on one condition, which was that they would evacuate Sicily altogether, and regard the African sea as their frontier towards Greece. Elated by the greatness of the force at his disposal, and the success which attended his enterprises, he now aimed at the realisation of the large hopes of conquest with which he left Greece, and meditated an attack on Libya. He had a large fleet, but required many rowers to man it, and these he proceeded to obtain from the allied cities, not by gentle means, but by harsh, arbitrary, and despotic commands. Not that he was originally of a tyrannical disposition, but his character, which at first was open, trustful, and sociable, gradually altered for the worse, as he became less dependent upon public opinion and more firmly fixed upon his throne, until at length he gained the reputation of an ungrateful and suspicious despot. The Greek cities, though with much murmuring, submitted to this arbitrary impressment, having no other alternative; but Pyrrhus soon proceeded to even harsher measures. Thoinon and Sosistratus were the leading men in Syracuse. It was they who had first invited him into Sicily, and who, when he arrived there, had placed their own city in his hands and induced most of the other Greek communities to join him. Pyrrhus now regarded these men with suspicion, and knew not whether to take them with him or leave them behind. Sosistratus, terrified at the king's evident ill-will, made his escape, upon which Pyrrhus charged Thoinon with plotting against him with the other, and put him to death. This caused a sudden revulsion of feeling from him. The Greek cities began to regard him with mortal hatred, and some of them joined the Carthaginians, whilst others invited the Mamertines to assist them. And while Pyrrhus saw nothing in Sicily but disaffection and insurrection against his power, he received despatches from the Tarentines and Samnites, informing him that they were confined to the walls of their cities, and even so could barely defend themselves against the Romans, while their lands were all being laid waste, and they urgently needed help. This intelligence prevented his withdrawal from Sicily being regarded as a flight, but in reality he had failed in his attempt to conquer that island, and was as eager to return to Italy as a shipwrecked sailor is to reach the shore. It is said that as he was sailing away he looked back at Sicily and said to his friends, "What a fair field we are leaving for the Romans and Carthaginians to fight in." This prophecy, as he expected, was soon afterwards fulfilled.
XXIV. The barbarians combined to attack him as he retreated. He fought a battle at sea with the Carthaginian fleet during his passage to Italy, in which he lost many ships, while the Mamertines, ten thousand strong, had crossed into Italy before he could reach it, and although they did not dare to fight a pitched battle, yet harassed him by attacking him when entangled in some rough ground, and threw his entire army into confusion. Two elephants and many of his rear-guard perished. Pyrrhus himself was at the head of the column of march, but at once rode to the rear and restored the fight, but was in great danger from the brave and warlike Mamertines. He received a blow upon his head from a sword, which forced him to retire a little way from the battle, and greatly elated the enemy. One of them, a powerful man, splendidly armed, ran forward far beyond the rest, and boastfully challenged him to come forward and fight, if he were alive. At this Pyrrhus was so exasperated that he broke forcibly away from the officers who tried to restrain him, and, with his face covered with blood, and a savage expression of fury on his countenance, rushed upon the barbarian, and struck him a blow on the head which showed both the strength of his arm and the admirable temper of his sword, for it clave him completely asunder, so that his body fell down in two pieces. This checked the ardour of the barbarians, who admired and feared Pyrrhus as a superior being. He was able to march unopposed for the rest of the way to Tarentum, to which city he brought a force of twenty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. Taking with him the best troops of the Tarentines he now marched at once to attack the Romans, who were encamped in the territory of the Samnites.
XXV. The Samnites at this period were entirely ruined and broken in spirit from the numerous defeats which they had sustained at the hands of the Romans. Some dissatisfaction also was felt with Pyrrhus for having neglected them while he was campaigning in Sicily; so that not many of that nation joined him. Pyrrhus now divided his forces, sending one portion into Lucania to harass the other consul and prevent his coming to the assistance of his colleague, while he himself led the remainder to attack Manius Curius, who was quietly encamped near the city of Beneventum, awaiting the arrival of the Lucanian forces. It is also said that his soothsayers told him, that the omens were not in favour of his moving from where he was. Pyrrhus, eager to attack him before the other consul's army joined him, made a hurried night march with his best troops and elephants, hoping to surprise the Roman camp. But during the march, which was long, and through a densely-wooded country, their torches went out, the soldiers lost their way in the darkness, and got into confusion. Day at length appeared, and showed to the Romans Pyrrhus with his army, advancing from the heights near their camp. The sight caused some disorder and excitement, but as the omens were now favourable, and the emergency required prompt action, Manius Curius led out his men, attacked the first troops of Pyrrhus's army whom he met, routed them, and dismayed the whole force, so that many were slain and several elephants captured. This success emboldened Manius to begin a general action on the more level ground, where he defeated the enemy with one wing of his army, but on the other his troops were overpowered by the charge of the elephants and driven back to their camp. Curius now called to his aid the soldiers left to guard the camp, who were standing under arms along the ramparts, and were quite fresh and unwearied. They assailed the elephants with a shower of darts, which caused them to turn and fly, trampling down their own men in their flight. The Romans thus gained the victory, and at the same time the reputation of being the first military nation in the world. For their display of valour on this occasion led to their being thought invincible, and to their at once gaining possession of the whole of Italy, and shortly afterwards of Sicily also.
XXVI. Thus did Pyrrhus fail in his Italian and Sicilian expeditions, after spending six years of constant fighting in those countries, during which he lost a great part of his force, but always, even in his defeats, preserved his reputation for invincible bravery, being thought, in warlike skill and personal strength and daring, to be by far the first prince of his age. Yet he always threw away the advantages which he gained, in following some chimerical scheme of further conquest, being unable to take proper measures for the present because of his eagerness for the future. On this account Antigonus likened him to a player who made many good throws with the dice, but who did not know how to use them. He carried back to Epirus with him eight thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry, and, having no money, began to look out for a war, by which he might support his army. Some of the Gauls now joined him, and he at once invaded Macedonia, where Antigonus, the son of Demetrius, was now king, with the intention of plundering the country. Soon, however, as he took several cities, and two thousand Macedonian soldiers deserted their colours and joined him, he began to entertain more ambitious designs, marched against Antigonus himself, and was able to surprise his army, near the issue of a defile, by a sudden attack in the rear. Notwithstanding the general confusion, however, a strong body of Gauls, who formed the rear-guard, withstood him manfully, but, after a vigorous resistance, were nearly all cut to pieces, while the elephants, whose retreat was cut off, were surrendered by their leaders. After gaining such an advantage as this, Pyrrhus, trusting to his good fortune, and without calculating the numbers opposed to him, advanced to attack the Macedonian phalanx, which was full of disorder and consternation at the defeat of the rear-guard. No attempt was made by them to strike a blow. Pyrrhus stretched out his hand and called the Macedonian officers by their names, and they at once went over to him, and were followed by all their men. Antigonus escaped to the sea-coast, where he still retained some cities in their obedience.
Pyrrhus, considering that his victory over the Gauls was the most glorious part of his recent success, hung the finest of their arms and spoils in the temple of Athene Itonis, with the following epigram.
"These spoils doth Pyrrhus the Molossian king,
From the brave Gauls to thee, bright goddess, bring;
He beat Antigonus, with all his men:
Achilles' sons are warriors now as then."
After the battle he at once recovered the cities on the seaboard. He took Ægæ, treated the inhabitants very harshly, and left a garrison of Celtic mercenary troops in the town. These Gauls, with the insatiate greed for money for which that nation is noted, proceeded to break open the sepulchres of the Macedonian kings who were buried there, in search of plunder, and wantonly scattered their bones. Pyrrhus seemed but little disturbed at this outrage, either because his affairs gave him no leisure to think about it, or because he thought it dangerous to punish his barbarian allies: but the Macedonians were deeply grieved by it. And yet, although he was far from being firmly established in his new kingdom, he was already forming new schemes of conquest. In raillery he called Antigonus a shameless man because he had not yet laid aside the royal purple for the dress of a private man, and he eagerly accepted the invitation of Kleonymus the Spartan to go and attack Lacedæmon. This Kleonymus was by birth the rightful heir to the throne, but being thought to be a violent and tyrannical person he was hated and distrusted by the Spartans, who had chosen his nephew Areus to be their king. This was the reason of his having long borne a grudge against his countrymen, but besides this his feelings had been recently wounded by a family quarrel.
Kleonymus, now an elderly man, had married a beautiful wife of the royal blood, Chilonis, the daughter of Leotychides. She fell madly in love with Akrotatus, the son of Areus, a youth in the flower of his age, and the dishonour of Kleonymus became notorious all over Sparta. This private wrong, added to his previous exclusion from the throne, so enraged him, that he invited Pyrrhus to attack Sparta, which he did with an army of twenty-five thousand foot, two thousand horse, and twenty-four elephants, so that it was obvious that he did not mean to gain Sparta for Kleonymus, but to conquer the whole of Peloponnesus for himself, although he answered some Spartan envoys who waited on him at Megalopolis in specious language, stating that he had come with the intention of restoring to freedom the cities which were held in subjection by Antigonus, and actually going so far as to tell them that, if possible, he intended to send his younger sons to Sparta to be trained in the Laconian discipline, by which they would be able to surpass all the other kings of their age. He put off the envoys with these stories, and made them accompany his army, but on reaching the Lacedæmonian territory he at once began to plunder and lay it waste. When the envoys remonstrated with him for having invaded their country without a declaration of war, he answered—"We know well that neither do you Spartans tell any one beforehand what you mean to do." One of the envoys, by name Mandrokleides, said in his broad Laconian speech, "If you are a god, we shall not be harmed by you, for we have done no wrong; but if you are a man, you may meet with a stronger man than yourself."
XXVII. After this he marched upon Lacedæmon itself. Kleonymus urged him to make an assault immediately on the evening of his arrival, but Pyrrhus is said to have refused to do so, for fear that his soldiers might sack and destroy the city if they took it at night, while they might easily take it in the daytime. Indeed the Spartans were taken by surprise, and very few were in the city, the king Areus himself being absent in Crete on an expedition to assist the people of Gortyna. And it was this weakness and absence of defenders that really proved the salvation of the city, for Pyrrhus, not expecting any resistance, pitched his camp outside the walls, while the friends and helots of Kleonymus made ready his house and decorated it, expecting that Pyrrhus would sup there with him. At nightfall the Lacedæmonians at first proposed to send away the women to Crete, but they refused to leave the city. Archidamia even went to the senate-house with a drawn sword in her hands, and on behalf of the women of Sparta reproached the men for insulting them by supposing that they would survive the capture of their city. After this, they determined to dig a ditch along the side of the city nearest to Pyrrhus's camp, and to barricade the ends of it with waggons buried up to the axles in the ground, to resist the charge of the elephants. When this work was begun the women and girls appeared with their tunics girt up for work, and laboured at digging the ditch together with the older men. They bade those who were to fight on the morrow take rest, and they themselves alone dug one-third of the entire ditch. The width of the ditch was six cubits, its depth four cubits, and its length eight hundred feet, as we are told by Phylarchus, though Hieronymus makes its dimensions more moderate. At daybreak, when the enemy began to bestir themselves, the women armed the younger men, and handed over the ditch to them, bidding them defend it, as it would be pleasant for them to conquer in sight of their country, and glorious to die in the arms of their mothers and wives after having fought worthily of Sparta. Chilonis herself had retired to her own house, and had a halter ready about her neck, in order that if the city were taken she might not fall into the hands of Kleonymus.
XXVIII. Pyrrhus himself led a direct attack of his infantry against the Spartans, who were drawn up in deep order, and endeavoured to force his way through them, and to pass the ditch, which was difficult, because the newly dug earth afforded no secure footing to his soldiers. Meanwhile his son Ptolemy led a chosen body of two thousand Gauls and Chaonians round the end of the ditch, and endeavoured to break through the barricade of waggons. These stood so thick and so close together that they made it hard, not only for the assailants to cross them, but even for the Lacedæmonians to reach the point where they were menaced. However, as the Gauls began to pull the wheels out of the earth and to drag the waggons down towards the river, the young Akrotatus perceiving the danger, sallied out from the city at another point with three hundred men, and got round behind Ptolemy's force, from whom he was concealed by some hilly ground. Then he vigorously assailed the Gauls in the rear, and forced them to face about and defend themselves, which caused great confusion, as they were driven among the waggons and into the ditch by the Spartans until at last they were forced to retreat. This glorious exploit of Akrotatus was witnessed from the city walls by the old men and all the women. As he returned through the city to his appointed post, covered with blood and rejoicing in his victory, the Spartan women thought that he had grown taller and more handsome than before, and they envied Chilonis her lover. Some of the old men even followed him, shouting, "Go home, Akrotatus, and enjoy yourself with Chilonis: only beget brave sons for Sparta." Where Pyrrhus fought a terrible battle took place, and many valiant deeds were wrought. A Spartan named Phyllius, after greatly distinguishing himself and slaying many of the assailants, when he felt himself mortally wounded, made way for his rear rank-man to take his place, and died inside the line of shields, in order that his corpse might not fall into the hands of the enemy.
XXIX. The battle ceased at night, and during his sleep Pyrrhus dreamed a dream, that he cast thunderbolts upon Lacedæmon, set it all on fire, and rejoiced at the sight. Being awakened by his delight at this vision, he ordered his officers to hold the troops in readiness and related the dream to his friends, auguring from it that he should take the city by assault. They were all of them delighted at the vision, and certain that it portended success, except one Lysimachus, who said that he feared that, as places struck by thunderbolts may not be walked over, Heaven might mean to signify to Pyrrhus by this that he never should set foot in the city. Pyrrhus however answered that this was mere empty gossip, and that they had better take their arms in their hands and remember that
"The best of omens is King Pyrrhus's cause."
He rose, and at daybreak led his troops again to the assault. The Lacedæmonians defended themselves with a spirit and courage beyond what could be expected from their small numbers. The women mingled in the thick of the fight, supplying food, drink, and missile weapons wherever they were needed, and carrying away the wounded. The Macedonians endeavoured to fill up the ditch by flinging large quantities of wood into it, covering the arms and dead bodies which lay at the bottom. As the Lacedæmonians were resisting this attempt, they saw Pyrrhus on horseback trying to cross the line of waggons and the ditch, and force his way into the city. A shout was raised by the garrison at the spot, and the women began to scream and run wildly about. Pyrrhus had made his way through all obstacles and was about to attack the nearest of those who disputed his passage, when his horse, struck in the body by a Cretan javelin, reared in the death-agony, and threw Pyrrhus to the ground. He fell on a steep bank, and his fall caused such consternation among his followers that a timely charge of the Spartans drove them back. Upon this he gave orders to put a stop to the assault, for he imagined that the Lacedæmonians would soon offer terms of surrender, as they were nearly all wounded, and had lost many men. However, the good fortune of the city, which may have wished to test the Spartan courage to the utmost, or to prove its own power to save the city when all hope seemed lost, brought Ameinias the Phokian, one of the generals of Antigonus, with a body of mercenary troops to help the Spartans in this their darkest hour. Shortly after they had received this reinforcement, their king, Areus, arrived from Crete with two thousand men. The women now returned to their homes, not thinking it to be necessary any longer for them to take an active part in the war, while those old men too who had been forced by necessity to take up arms, were relieved by the new comers, who took their places in the line of battle against the enemy.
XXX. These reinforcements piqued Pyrrhus into making several more attempts to take the city, in which however he was repulsed and wounded. He now retired, and began to plunder the country, professing his intention to winter there. But no man can resist his destiny. There were in Argos two parties, one headed by Aristeas, and the other by Aristippus. The latter was favoured by Antigonus, which induced Aristeas to invite Pyrrhus to Argos. He was ever willing to embark on a new enterprise, because he regarded his successes merely as stepping-stones to greater things, and hoped to retrieve his failures by new and more daring exploits; so that he was rendered equally restless by victory or defeat. Accordingly he set off at once for Argos. Areus occupied the most difficult of the passes on the road with an ambuscade, and attacked the Gauls and Molossians who formed the rear-guard. Pyrrhus had been warned by his soothsayers that the livers of the victims wanted one lobe, which portended the loss of one of his relatives, but at this crisis the disorder and confusion into which his army was thrown by the ambush made him forget the omen, and order his son Ptolemy to take his guards and go to the help of the rear-guard, while he himself hurried his main body on through the defile. When Ptolemy came up a fierce battle took place. The flower of the Lacedæmonian army, led by Eualkus, engaged with the troops immediately around Ptolemy, and while they fought, a Cretan named Oryssus, a native of Aptera, running forward on the flank, struck the young man, who was fighting bravely, with a javelin, and killed him. His fall caused his troops to retreat, and they were hard pressed by the Lacedæmonians, who were so excited by their victory that they were carried by their ardour far into the plain, where their retreat was cut off by Pyrrhus's infantry. Pyrrhus himself, who had just heard of the death of his son, in an agony of grief now ordered the Molossian cavalry to charge them. He was the first to ride among the Lacedæmonians, and terribly avenged his son by cutting them down. Pyrrhus in battle was always a terrific figure, whom none dared to resist, but on this occasion he surpassed himself in courage and fury. At length he rode up to Eualkus, who avoided his charge, and aimed a blow at him with his sword which just missed Pyrrhus's bridle hand, but cut through his reins. Pyrrhus ran him through with his spear at the same moment, but fell from his horse, and, fighting henceforth on foot, slew all the chosen band commanded by Eualkus. This was a severe loss to Sparta, incurred as it was unnecessarily, after the war was really over, from the desire of their generals to distinguish themselves.
XXXI. Pyrrhus celebrated his son's obsequies with splendid games. His grief was partly satiated by the revenge which he had taken upon the enemy, and he now marched towards Argos. Hearing that Antigonus was encamped upon one of the heights near the city, he himself pitched his camp at Nauplia. On the next day he sent a herald to Antigonus with an insulting message, challenging him to come down upon the level ground and fight. Antigonus answered that he should fight only when he chose, but that if Pyrrhus was weary of his life, he could find many other ways to die. Ambassadors from Argos also came to each of them, begging them to withdraw their forces, and allow the city to remain independent and friendly to both, Antigonus accepted this offer, and handed over his son to the Argives as a hostage, while Pyrrhus agreed to retire, but, as he gave no pledge, was viewed with greater suspicion than before. A strange portent also happened to Pyrrhus, for the heads of the oxen which had been sacrificed, when lying apart from their bodies, were observed to put out their tongues and lap their own gore; and in the city the priestess of Apollo Lykius rushed about in frenzy, crying out that she saw the whole city full of slaughtered corpses, and an eagle coming to the fight and then disappearing.
XXXII. During the following night, which was very dark, Pyrrhus marched his troops up to the walls, found the gate called Diamperes opened to him by Aristeas, and was able to march his Gaulish troops into the city and seize the market-place unobserved: but the elephants could not pass through the gate until their towers were taken off their backs. The removal of these towers, in the darkness, and the replacing them when the elephants had passed through the gate, caused an amount of delay and confusion which at length roused the slumbering inhabitants; they ran together to the place called "the Shield," and the other places of strength in the city, and sent messengers to call Antigonus to their aid. He at once marched up close to the city, and remained there with a reserve, but sent his son and several of his officers with a large part of his forces to assist the Argives within their city walls. Areus the king of Sparta also arrived, with a thousand Cretans and the swiftest footed of the Spartans. All these troops now at once attacked the Gauls and threw them into great disorder. As Pyrrhus, however, marched in by the street called Kylarabis, his soldiers raised a warlike shout: and he, noticing that the shout was echoed by the Gauls in the market-place in an undecided, faint-hearted fashion, at once guessed that they were being hard pressed. He instantly pressed the horsemen with him to charge, which they did with great difficulty, as the horses kept falling into the water-courses with which the whole city is intersected. The night was spent in wild tumult and skirmishing in the narrow lanes, both parties being unable to recognize or obey their leaders, and eagerly awaiting the dawn. The first rays of light showed Pyrrhus the whole open square called "the Shield" full of enemies, while he was even more disturbed by the sight of a brazen statue in the market-place, representing a wolf and a bull about to attack one another; for he remembered an oracle which had long before foretold that he must die when he should see a wolf fighting with a bull. The Argives say that this statue commemorates the legend that Danaus when he first landed in the country at Pyramia, near Thyrea, was marching towards Argos when he saw a wolf fighting with a bull. Danaus decided that the wolf must represent himself, because he was a stranger, and was come to attack the people of the country, like it; and he stopped and watched the fight. When the wolf gained the day, he offered prayer to Apollo Lykius, made his attempt upon the throne of Argos, and was successful, as Gelanor, who was then king, was forced into exile by a revolution. This is the account which the Argives give of these statues.
XXXIII. This sight, and the failure of his plans, disheartened Pyrrhus, and he began to think of retreating. As the gates were narrow, he sent to his son Helenus, who had been left with a large force without the city, ordering him to break down a part of the wall, and protect the fugitives, if they were pressed by the enemy. But in the hurry and confusion the messenger did not clearly explain his orders, and by some mistake the young Helenus took all the remaining elephants and the best troops, and marched through the gate with them to help his father. Pyrrhus was already beginning to retire. As long as he fought in the market-place, where there was ample room, he effected his retreat in good order, and kept off the assailants by occasional movements in advance. But when his troops began to march down the narrow street leading to the gate, they were met face to face by the reinforcement coming to their assistance. At this crisis some of the soldiers refused to obey Pyrrhus's order to retreat, while others who were willing enough to do so could not stem the tide of men marching in from the gate. At the gate itself too the largest of the elephants had fallen sideways and lay there bellowing, blocking up the way for those who were trying to pass out, while one of the elephants of the reinforcing party, called "the Conqueror," was looking for his master, who had fallen off his back mortally wounded. Charging violently back against the surging tide of fugitives, the faithful beast trampled down friends and foes alike until he found his master's body, when he seized it with his trunk and carried it upon his tusks; and then, turning round in a frenzy of grief, overturned and crushed every one whom he met. As the men were thus crowded together, no one could do anything to help himself, but the whole mass surged backwards and forwards in one solid body. The enemy who attacked them behind did them but little hurt; they suffered chiefly from one another, because when a man had once drawn his sword or couched his lance he could not put it up again, and it pierced whoever might happen to be forced against it.
XXXIV. Pyrrhus, seeing the danger with which he was menaced on every side, took off the royal diadem from his helmet, and gave it to one of his companions. He himself, trusting to the fact of his being on horseback, now charged into the mass of assailants, and was struck through his cuirass by one of them with a spear. The wound was not a dangerous or important one, and Pyrrhus at once turned to attack the man from whom he had received it. He was an Argive, not of noble birth, but the son of a poor old woman, who, like the rest, was looking on at the battle from the roof of her house. As soon as she saw Pyrrhus attacking her son, in an ecstasy of fear and rage she took up a tile and hurled it at Pyrrhus. It struck him on the helmet, bruising the spine at the back of his neck, and he fell from his horse, blinded by the stroke, at the side of the sacred enclosure of Likymnius. Few recognized him, but one Zopyrus, who was in the service of Antigonus, and two or three others, seized him just as he was beginning to recover his senses, and dragged him into an archway near at hand. When Zopyrus drew an Illyrian sword to cut off his head Pyrrhus looked so fiercely at him that he was terrified, and bungled in his work, but at length managed to sever his head from his body. By this time most men had learned what had happened, and Halkyoneus, running up, asked to see the head, that he might identify it. When he obtained this he rode off with it to his father, and finding him sitting amongst his friends, he threw it down at his feet. Antigonus when he recognized it chased his son out of his presence, striking him with his staff, and calling him accursed and barbarous, and then covered his own face with his mantle and wept, remembering how in his own family his grandfather Antigonus and his father Demetrius had experienced similar reverses of fortune. He had the body and head of Pyrrhus decently arranged on a funeral pyre and burned. Halkyoneus, meeting Helenus in poor and threadbare clothes, embraced him kindly, and led him to Antigonus, who said to him, "This meeting, my boy, is better than the other; but still you do not do right in not removing these clothes, which rather seem to disgrace us who are, as it appears, the victors." He treated Helenus with great kindness, and sent him back to his kingdom of Epirus loaded with presents, and also showed great favour towards the friends of Pyrrhus, who, together with all his army and war material, had fallen into his hands.
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
Alcibiades and Coriolanus - Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar - Aratus & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho
- PLUTARCH: Lives of the noble Grecians and Romans (Complete and Unabridged)
- Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice by Timothy E. Duff (Oxford UP: 2002 pb) ISBN 0199252742.
- Albin Lesky, A History of Greek Literature , Hackett Publishing Company; Reprint edition (November, 1996)
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire