Pyrrhus - World History

Pyrrhus - World History
Posted on 30-12-2022

Pyrrhus ( 280 ) King Pyrrhus of Epirus fights against Rome.

Under Ptolemy II, Egypt continued to flourish. The new king cared even more about the Egyptian economy than his father did. The canal system became much more efficient. He put the canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea back into operation, explored the Upper Nile, founded cities on both shores of the Red Sea to protect trade, changed the policy on Lake Moeris: instead of keeping the level of the water, partially drained it and laid out a wide network of canals to irrigate the exposed soil. The population of the area increased, as did the cities. To protect trade across the Mediterranean, he had a tall tower built in the port of Alexandria, on the island of Faros:it had a square base about 25 meters on each side and its height must have been more than 150 meters (some say 250). It was crowned by a statue of the god Poseidon, and at its top a large bonfire was kept burning, which at night could be seen from afar and guided the ships. Another monumental work in the city was a mausoleum for Alexander the Great, whose remains were transferred from Memphis.

He also continued his father's patronage policy. He persuaded a priest named Manetho to write a history of Egypt in Greek. Unfortunately the work is not preserved, but the references to it by other authors are one of the best sources we have of the country's history.

The Alexandria library continued to grow. Among the many scientists he welcomed was Euclid, about whom we don't know much, except that he lived in the third century, but he wrote a treatise in which he exposed Greek arithmetic and geometry in a systematic way and following an axiomatic method that has been considered perfect for thousands of years, and until recently continued to be used as a basic textbook.

Another illustrious figure of the time was Aristarchus of Samos,who measured the relative distance from the Earth to the Moon and the Sun. His theory was correct, but, since he did not have suitable measuring instruments, he concluded that the Sun is twenty times further away than the Moon (when in fact it is 400 times further away). From here he came to the conclusion that the Sun has a diameter seven times greater than that of the Earth (it is actually 100 times greater). The important thing is that from these data Aristarchus considered it implausible that the Sun revolves around the Earth, and thought that it was more reasonable to assume that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the Sun. Unfortunately, Aristarchus' ideas were not shared by their contemporaries and were forgotten.

In 280 Rhodes finished the construction of the statue with which he proposed to commemorate his resistance to the siege of Demetrius years before. It was an image of the sun god, who apparently was the one who had saved them. It became known as the Colossus of Rhodes, as it was about 35 meters high and was located in the port, so it could be seen from afar.

But the most interesting event that was about to take place was the confrontation between the two most sophisticated armies in the world: the Roman legion and the Macedonian phalanx. That same year Pirro landed in Italy with 25,000 soldiers and 20 elephants to help Taranto. Unlike Alexander of Epirus and Agathocles, Pirro knew how to handle the Tarentines. He closed down the theaters and other entertainment societies and started training the citizens. He sent those who protested the most to Epirus and that silenced the rest. That same year he prepared to face the Romans. He prepared the ground for the phalanx near the city of Heracleia, halfway between Taranto and Thurii.

The Romans attacked, but when Pyrrhus launched the elephants against them they had to retreat. The Romans had been baffled, not to say terrified, by animals they had never seen before. They called them "lucano oxen". However, Pirro walked through the battlefield and observed that all the dead had their wounds in front of them. They had all died fighting. They did not withdraw until they received the order to do so and, even so, they knew how to do it in good order, without panicking.

The Samnites received the news of the Roman defeat with jubilation, and immediately joined Pyrrhus. However, Pirro did not see things so clearly. He sent to Rome a Greek orator, Cineas,to make a reasonable peace. Cineas spoke before the senate, and his speech almost convinced the senators, but then Appius Claudius Caecus appeared, the old blind censor, so weak they had to carry him to the senate, but he spoke very clearly: no peace while a only foreign soldier remained in Italy. Claudius commanded great respect, and the senate immediately accepted his position. Cineas had to leave and Pirro had to fight. He marched into Campania, taking city after city, and came within 40 kilometers of Rome, but could not shake the loyalty of the Latin cities, so he had to return to Taranto for the winter.

During the winter, Rome sent an embassy to negotiate the release of some Roman prisoners. At the head was Gaius Fabrizio, who had been consul two years before. Pirro received Fabrizio with great honors and tried to convince him to plead for peace before the Senate. He offered him increasing sums of money, but Fabrizio refused them all. It is even said that he had an elephant carried on his back and they made it bellow, but Fabrizio did not move a muscle. Shocked, Pyrrhus decided to release the hostages without ransom (this is told by the Romans, so it may not be true).

They also say that the following summer Pirro's doctor secretly went to the Roman camp and proposed to poison Pirro in exchange for money, but Fabrizio had him arrested and handed him over to Pirro.

In 279 Pyrrhus faced the Romans again. He chose a flat piece of land near the city of Ausculum, about 100 miles north of Taranto. One of the consuls was then Publius Decio Mus, son and grandson of those who immolated themselves to defeat the Latins and the Gauls, respectively. He also decided to do the same, but this time the gods must have been tired of numbers, because the Romans did not know how to defeat the phalanx, and when Pyrrhus launched his elephants they had to withdraw once more.

However, Pyrrhus's army suffered heavy casualties, especially among the men he had brought with him. This was serious, since he could not fully trust the Tarentines, much less the Italians. His army was so depleted that when the Romans withdrew he chose not to pursue them. When someone congratulated him on the victory he said: "Another victory like this and I will return to Epirus without a single man." Since then the expression "pyrrhic victory" has been used to refer to a victory at a cost that does not compensate.

Pyrrhus could not expect reinforcements from his country, for meanwhile a horde of Gauls had descended on Macedonia and Epirus. Ptolemy Ceraunos died trying to defend Macedonia, and for a few years the country had no ruler. Each city managed as best it could to defend itself against Gallic looting. In fact, Pyrrhus would have done well to return to Epirus to defend the country from him, but he did not want to leave halfway what he had started.

After the death of Ptolemy Ceraunos, his widow and stepsister, Arsinoe, returned to Egypt, where she became the second wife of her brother Ptolemy II. Since then she was known as Arsinoe Filadelfo (the one who loves her brother). After her death, Ptolemy II was also known as Ptolemy II Philadelphus.Marrying a sister was a tradition among the kings of Egypt, and it seems that Ptolemy II wanted to continue this tradition as one more feature of integration between the Greek and Egyptian cultures. Now Ptolemy II was married to two women named Arsinoe. There was a rivalry between the two and the first (the daughter of Lysimachus) ended up taking part in a plot, for which she was banished. For her part, the other Arsinoe gave names to several cities and after her death she was deified as Aphrodite Zefiritis.

Syracuse asked Pirro for help. On the one hand there was the old threat from Carthage, but on the other hand, in Sicily the Mamertines continued to roam, the soldiers that Agathocles had brought from Italy and who were now engaged in pillage. Pyrrhus must have seen a good excuse here for a change of scenery for a while, and he set out for Sicily. There he waged a two-front war: he cornered the Carthaginians at Lilybaeum, at the western end of the island, and the Mamertines at Messana, at the northern end.

In 278, the Gauls who had invaded Macedonia advanced south into Greece itself. Athens was in charge of the Greek defense once again. This time next to her was not Sparta, but Aetolia,the region situated to the southwest of the peninsula, which had been of little importance throughout the Hellenic period, but was now beginning to be. Athenians and Aetolians waited for the Gauls at Thermopylae. It happened almost like the other time: the Greeks resisted firmly, until some traitors showed the foreigners the way through the mountains. But now the Greeks were aware of this possibility and their troops could be evacuated by sea. The Gauls continued south and approached Delphi, where countless treasures had been accumulated over the centuries that no Greek would have dared touch. Somehow the Gauls were defeated. It's not really known what happened. for the Greeks attributed the victory to divine intervention. It is possible that seeing Delos threatened, they all had been willing to fight at any cost. The fact is that the Gauls left Greece and went to Thrace.

The region comprising the northwest coast of Asia Minor, west of the kingdom of Pontus and north of the kingdom of Pergamum, was known as Bithynia. This region was virtually independent in the last years of the Persian Empire, and Alexander never sent an army there. Under Seleucus I, his governor, Zipetes, retained this autonomy, although Bithynia was formally part of the Seleucid Empire. It had been a year since Zipetes had died and he had been succeeded by his son Nicomedes, who now decided to become Nicomedes I,king of Bithynia. His situation was not very strong, not only because of the obvious opposition of Antiochus I, but because the throne had other claimants. In search of help, he invited a Gallic tribe from those in Thrace to cross over to Asia Minor. But the Gauls, after completing their mission, were uncontrollable: they pillaged as they had done in Greece and became a nightmare.

In 277 the most famous poet of ancient China died. His name was Qu Yuan, and he was a minister of the state of Chu, but he was dismissed for slander and ended up throwing himself into a river. His work is preserved as a large part of the anthology Elegías del país de Chu, in which the poem Lisao (pain from distance) stands out.

Meanwhile Rome sealed an alliance with Carthage against Pyrrhus. While Pyrrhus was in Sicily, the Romans had made great progress in Italy, so in 276 the Tarentines asked him to return. He did so and advanced northwest. Meanwhile, Macedonia was managing to unite under a new king. He was Antigonus Gonatas (the bowlegged one), a son of Demetrius Poliorcetes who had remained in Macedonia after his captivity. He had spent time studying in Athens with Zeno the Stoic, but then returned to his country to face the Gauls. He finally managed to seize the throne.

That same year a war broke out between Antiochus I and Ptolemy II, it is the First Syrian War, in which the border between Syria (which was part of the Seleucid empire) and Judea (which was Egyptian) was discussed. At this time, the wars between the Hellenistic kingdoms were more tactical. Both sides valued their armies too highly to put them to battle. It was more of a position-taking game than anything else, and there was little blood.

In 275 there was a new encounter between the legion and the phalanx, but this time the Romans already had ideas to solve the problem. They attacked in a mountainous place, without allowing Pirro to choose a plain like the previous times. Furthermore, before attacking they shot burning wax-tipped arrows at the elephants, which fell back from the fire and broke Pyrrhus's lines. The phalanx could not be adequately constituted and Pirro's army was totally defeated. He decided to return to Epirus and let the Greeks in southern Italy fend for themselves against Rome. Meanwhile, Magas of Cyrene married Apama,daughter of Antiochus I, entered into an alliance with him and forced Ptolemy II to recognize the independence of Cyrene.

In 274 Pyrrhus invaded Macedonia and expelled Antigonus, but Antigonus did not take long to regain power. Macedonia did not have the strength of former times, but Antigonus managed to maintain independence from it and even exercise some control over Greece. He also achieved certain victories against Egypt that earned him dominance of the Aegean.

In 272 the First Syrian War ended. The result was that Ptolemy II extended his rule over Phoenicia and into parts of Asia Minor.

The Romans took Taranto and made sure to destroy all of its war power, but they respected its independence. Now all the Greek cities in southern Italy recognized the authority of Rome, except Reggio, which offered resistance for a time. For his part, Pyrrho received a request for help from Cleonimo, a Spartan prince who was trying to access the throne. He immediately invaded the Peloponnese and attacked Sparta. He had no difficulty in defeating his army, but once again Sparta was saved because Pyrrhus had to go to Argos to attend to other business. There he died, apparently because a woman threw a tile at him from above as he was walking down the street. He was succeeded by his son, who reigned asAlexander II.

In 270 the Romans took Reggio, thereby dominating all of southern Italy. Perhaps Ptolemy II was the first Greek, after Pyrrhus, who understood that Rome was a respectable power. For this reason, and despite the distance, he decided to sign a friendship treaty with Rome.

When Pirro left Sicily, the Syracusans took care to keep Carthage within the limits that Pyrrho had imposed on it, but in the meantime the Mamertines recovered. At that time, the best general on the island was a Syracusan named Hiero, who had fought under Pyrrhus and was now facing the Mamertines again. He defeated them and confined them again in Messana. The Syracusans made him king, making him Hiero II of Syracuse. Meanwhile, the Gauls from Asia Minor formed their own state, which was called Galatia and occupied the central part of Asia Minor, south of Bithynia.

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