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King Pyrrhus of Epirus elephants in Greece
King Pyrrhus of Epirus
King Pyrrhus of Epirus elephants,
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Pyrrhus (/ˈpɪrəs/; Greek: Πύρρος, Pyrrhos; 319/318–272 BC) was a Greek king and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house, and later he became king of Epirus.
He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome, and regarded as one of the greatest generals of antiquity. Several of his victorious battles caused him unacceptably heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined.
282 BC: The Greek city of Tarentum, in southern Italy, fell out with Rome due to a violation of an old treaty that specified Rome was not to send warships into the Tarentine Gulf. The Tarentines asked Pyrrhus to lead their war against the Romans. He recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy and made an alliance with Ptolemy Keraunos, King of Macedon and his most powerful neighbor, and arrived in Italy in 280 BC.
280 BC: Pyrrhus entered Italy with an army consisting of 20,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, and 20 war elephants in a bid to subdue the Romans. The elephants had been loaned to him by
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
, who had also promised 9,000 soldiers and a further 50 elephants to defend Epirus while Pyrrhus and his army were away.
Due to his superior cavalry, his elephants and his deadly phalanx infantry, he defeated the Romans, led by Consul Publius Valerius Laevinus, in the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, in the Roman province of Lucania.
References for records about King Pyrrhus of Epirus
Koehl, Dan (2021). King Pyrrhus of Epirus, Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at
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