When asked once who is the best of the known military commanders Antigonos replied “Pyrrhus, if he grows old”. Hannibal placed Pyrrhus first due to his experience and skills, Scipio second and himself third.
Pyrrhus the 1st (318 – 272 B.C.) was the king of the Molossoi, a Hellenic tribe that lived in Epirus, and one of the greatest leaders of the early Hellenistic period. He is considered an exquisite strategic mind, one of the brightest in the world’s strategy history. He is the only one to be compared, for his strategical abilities and his heroism, to Alexander the Great, to whom he was related.
His thirst for expansion led him to the famous campaigns against the Romans, though they did not have the results the great leader expected. He won the battles but his winning came with great losses for his army in South Italy and Sicily. Thus, his attempt was not enough to establish his supremacy in the new land and that is how we inherited the famous expression “a Pyrrhic victory”, namely a victory with so many losses that it feels more like a defeat.
Nevertheless, Pyrrhus had more than just ambitions for expansion. He also worked towards the prosperity of the cities of Epirus, he transferred the capital of the state to Amvracia and built temples, theatres, monuments and statues. As the capital of his kingdom, which started from Epidamnos – today’s Durrës – and included Corfu and the entire Epirus, Amvracia flourished for decades.
Although his plans to conquer territories in Italy failed, Pyrrhus expanded his kingdom in Greece, thus becoming the kind of power that had to be taken into account. Nevertheless, after his death the short role played by Epirus in the Hellenistic history ended.