« The other kings represented Alexander with their purple robes, their bodyguards, the inclination of their necks and their louder tones in conversation ; but Pyrrhus and Pyrrhus alone, in arms and action » (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, 8.3)
Pyrrhus apparently considered war as “the most kingly branch of learning, the rest he regarded as mere accomplishments and held them in no esteem” (Plutarch, ibid, 8.3). He was rated by Hannibal as the greatest general of all time.
Be it so, his political cursus is surprisingly chaotic, and Pyrrhus, whilst not actually one of the Diadochs, continually interacts with them and incarnates their confused period of history.
He was King of Epirus from -307 to -302 and then from -297 to his death in -262; King of Macedonia from -288 to -285 and again from -274 until -272. He was also overlord of Sicily from -278 to -276 and of course the champion of the Italian Greeks against Rome with his two “Pyrrhic victories” at Heracleia and Ausculum and his final defeat at Beneventum in -275.
From the wargaming point of view, an Epirote army of this period has three advantages – it can draw allies from my Samnite and Gallic armies; can fight numerous opponents and, to boot, it is a standard Hellenistic army which can be used throughout the Mediterranean basin.
My Pyrrhic army (80 pts for Mini Command & Colors Ancients) is made up as follows. I can also, by calling on more allied troops, field an 80pt army at full scale C&CA.
- 2 generals
- 1 Agema Hetairoi (HC)
These were the King's bodyguard, and Pyrrhus himself fought in this fashion. These heavily-armoured cavalrymen, personally connected to the royal family, fought with the xyston, a long lancewielded in both hands and used underarm.
- 2 Thessalian cavalry (MC)
It would appear that the Greeks of Thessaly (divided into four major city-states at this time) provided a contingent of their famous cavalry to Pyrrhus to avoid strife with him. The Epirote king is credited with having provided them with shields, no doubt after contact with the Tarentine light horse.
- 1 Acarnanian or Tarentine-Greek cavalry (LC)
- 3 Epirote or Macedonian phalanxes (HI)
This is a tried and trained war machine, having fought in the service of Pyrrhus (or the Diadochs) for decades.
- 1 Cretan archers (LB)
- 1 Epirote slingers (LB, LS)
These are the tough and hardened shepherds of Epirus and Illyria, accustomed to a transhumant lifestyle and innumerable border skirmishes or bouts of tribal warfare. Pyrrhus took 2,500 of them with him to Italy.
- 4 Epirote akontistai (L)
- 1 Elephant (El)
Pyrrhus' elephants, lent to him by Ptolemy, played a major role in his successes according to his contemporaries. It is likely, though not certain, that the elephants carried towers on their backs and that the crew fought with javelins rather than sarissa.
- 1 Tarentine phalanx (HI)
As Pyrrhus' employer, the Tarentines had not counted on providing actual military support. Pyrrhus however re-armed some of their hoplites and trained them to fight as a phalanx. The best of these were called the leukaspidai("White Shields").
- 1 Samnite or Italian Greek hoplites (MI)
- 2 Samnite or Lucanian auxilia (Ax)