Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, born about 318 B. C., killed at Argos in 272. He was the son of Aeacides and Phthia, and traced his descent from Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, and was also connected with the royal family of Macedon. His father having been dethroned by the Epi-rotes, Pyrrhus was rescued and brought to Glaucias, king of the Taulantians, an Illyrian people, who educated him with his own children. When Cassander's power in Greece was weakened, his protector restored Pyrrhus to his throne; but he was again expelled by the Epirotes, and fled to his brother-in-law Demetrius Poliorcetes, who was then in Asia. He. distinguished himself at the battle of Ipsus in 301, and subsequently went into Egypt as a hostage for Demetrius. There he gained the good will of Ptolemy's wife Berenice, married her daughter Antigone, and was furnished by the king with a fleet and troops to recover Epirus. He found Neoptolemus in possession of the throne, and the two agreed to hold it in common; but presently, to prevent his own destruction, Pyrrhus put Neoptolemus to death (about 295). He now interfered in the quarrels of Antipater and Alexander, the two sons of Cassander, and took the part of the latter on condition that he should receive Acarnania, Amphilochia, Ambracia, and some Macedonian districts.
He then placed Alexander on the throne of Macedon, but the latter was soon dethroned by a powerful neighbor. Pyrrhus came and restored him to his kingdom. Soon afterward Demetrius, to whom Alexander had also applied for aid, put him to death and made himself king in his place. Hostilities soon arose between Pyrrhus and Demetrius,. who had formerly been close friends. In 291 Thebes revolted from Demetrius; and while the Macedonian king was engaged in the siege of that place Pyrrhus marched into Thessaly, but was forced to retire. Thebes fell in 290, and Demetrius invaded Epirus in 289, leaving Pan-tauchus in Aetolia with a large force. Pyrrhus, advancing to meet Demetrius, but taking a different route, entered Aetolia, encountered Pan-tauchus, vanquished him in single combat, and routed his army. The next year he invaded Macedonia, and marched as far as Edessa, but was driven back, and soon after concluded a peace with Demetrius, who was now anxious to regain his father's dominions in Asia. Hereupon Seleucus, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus entered into an alliance, which they persuaded Pyrrhus to join, to attack the Macedonian king in his European dominions.
Demetrius fled, and his kingdom was divided, a large share of Macedonia falling to Pyrrhus; but the Macedonians soon drove him out again, and put themselves under Lysimachus. In 281 an embassy from the Tarentines implored Pyrrhus to come over to Italy and assist the Greek inhabitants against the Romans. He set out in 280 with an army of 20,000 foot, 3,000 horse, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, and a number of elephants; but a great storm scattered the fleet, and Pyrrhus arrived at Tarentum with only a small part of his army. There, while waiting for the dispersed ships to come in, finding the inhabitants indisposed to take their proper share in the war, he compelled them to enter the army, closed their theatres, and soon showed himself their master as well as ally. Failing to negotiate with M. Valerius Laevi-nus, the Roman general, Pyrrhus met him on the. river Siris (now Sinno), and won a victory with the loss of a large number of his best troops. " Another such victory," he is reported to have said, "and I must return to Epirus alone." He now sent Cineas to Rome, offering peace on condition that the independence of the Italian Greeks should be recognized, and that the Samnites, Lucanians, Apu-lians, and Bruttians should regain the possessions they had lost in the war.
The Roman senate rejected the terms, and Pyrrhus marched to within 24 miles of Rome, plundering the country as he went; but the arrival of the Roman army from Etruria compelled him to retire. He took the field again in the spring of 279, and gained a hardly won victory at Asculum. Few of his Grecian troops were now left; and, unable to obtain reŽnforcements from home, he was willing to conclude a truce in order to drive the Carthaginians from Sicily. Previously the Roman consuls Fabricius and Aemilius had sent back to Pyrrhus a servant who had deserted and promised to poison his master, and in return for this Pyrrhus released all the Roman prisoners. He now passed over into Sicily, and at first was so successful that the Carthaginians agreed to assist him against the Romans on condition of peace. He rejected this offer, but failing in an attack upon Lilybaeum returned to Italy in 276. His fleet was attacked by the Carthaginians, and 70 of his ships were destroyed. In 275 he was routed near Beneven-tum by Curius Dentatus, and obliged to return to Epirus. In 273 he invaded Macedonia, of which Antigonus Gonatas, the son of Demetrius, was then king, and for the second time gained possession of that country.
At the instance of Cleonymus, who had been excluded from the Spartan throne, he marched into Laconia in 272 with 25,000 foot, 2,000 horse, and 24 elephants. - He arrived before Sparta at the close of day, but deferred the attack until the following morning. During the night the Spartans fortified themselves so strongly as to be able to hold the city until relieved by reŽnforcements. Taking up his winter quarters in Laconia, Pyrrhus was induced to interfere in the affairs of Argos, and in a conflict in the streets of that city he received a slight wound from a javelin. He was about to cut down the Argive who had attacked him, when the mother of the man hurled from the roof of a house a large tile which struck Pyrrhus on the back of the neck. He fell from his horse and was killed by soldiers of the enemy. Pyrrhus was regarded in subsequent times as one of the greatest generals that had ever lived. He wrote a work on the art of war, and his commentaries are quoted by Dionysius and Plutarch.