Saturday, 14 May 2011
Pyrrhus was the son of Aeacides and Phthia, a Thessalian woman, and a second cousin of Alexander the Great (via Alexander's mother, Olympias). Pyrrhus was only two years old when his father was dethroned, in 317 BC, his family taking refuge with Glaukias, king of the Taulantians, one of the largest Illyrian tribes. Pyrrhus was raised by Beroea, Glaukias's wife and a Molossian of the Aeacidae dynasty.
Glaukias restored Pyrrhus to the throne in 306 BC until the latter was banished again, four years later, by his enemy, Cassander. Thus, he went on to serve as an officer, in the wars of the Diadochi, under his brother-in-law Demetrius Poliorcetes. In 298 BC, Pyrrhus was taken hostage to Alexandria, under the terms of a peace treaty made between Demetrius and Ptolemy I Soter. There, he married Ptolemy I's stepdaughter Antigone (daughter of Berenice I of Egypt, Ptolemy's mistress and a Macedonian noble) and restored his kingdom in Epirus in 297 BC with financial and military aid from Ptolemy I. Pyrrhus had his co-ruler Neoptolemus II, puppet of the now-deceased Seleucus, murdered. Through his marriage to Antigone, she bore him a son called Ptolemy and possibly a daughter called Olympias.
In 295 BC, Pyrrhus transferred the capital of his kingdom to Ambrakia (modern Arta). Next, he went to war against his former ally and brother-in-law Demetrius, and, by 286 BC, he had taken control over the kingdom of Macedon. Pyrrhus was driven out of Macedon by Lysimachus in 284 BC.
In 281 BC, the Greek city of Tarentum, in southern Italy, fell out with Rome and was faced with a Roman attack and certain defeat. Rome had already made itself into a major power, and was poised to subdue all the Greek cities in Magna Graecia. The Tarentines asked Pyrrhus to lead their war against the Romans.
Pyrrhus was encouraged to aid the Tarentines by the oracle of Delphi. His goals were not, however, selfless. He recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy. He made an alliance with Ptolemy Ceraunus, King of Macedon and his most powerful neighbor, and arrived in Italy in 280BC.
And thus like King Pyrrhus of Epirus, I begin to recruit my army.