After the conclusion of Samnite War , Pyrrhic war began when all of central Italy was put under Roman control. Roman territories were brought closer to Magna Graecia cities in Northern Italy, bringing about conflicting interests and subsequent fights.
An overview of Pyrrhic War
The pyrrhic war began shortly after the end of Samite wars with the Lucians and Brattain’s fighting in the early 3rd century BC. The continued attacks on Greek colonies did not deter them from appealing to Roman regional power for assistance. At that moment, the City of Magna Graecia, Tarentum was the most powerful.
The city of Magna Graecia and Tarentum signed a treaty with Rome clearly stating that it would not send any of her troops into the Gulf of Taranto. This situation led conflicts between Rome and Tarentum because the former started interfering with the affairs of Greek colonies in Southern Italy.
Soon, other states in Magna Graecia including Croton, Locris and Rhegum asked for Rome’s support in their struggles with their neighbors. Rome sent a troop to garrison town of Thurri in 282 BC since it had been attacked by Lucania. Tarentum saw this as a hostile act and responded by sinking the fleet and expelling roman troops from Thurii.
The city and states of Magna Graecia had sought help from mercenary kings during their struggles but now, Tarentum sought assistance from King Pyrrhus of Epirus, on the Greek Peninsula across the Adriatic Sea from southern Italy. Pyrrhus landed in Italy with 25, 000 men and twenty war elephants in 280 BC. His first move against the Romans took place at Heraclea, small coastal town.
Pyrrhic War first and second engagement
The first engagement of the war took place at Heraclea, a small coastal town. The romans had 50,000 thousand troops who drove to the Lucanian territory to prevent them from aligning with Pyrrhus. Romans technically lost at the battle at the small coastal town, Heraclea and Pyrrhus lost a large number of troops. The pattern became quite common during the fight between Pyrrhus and Romans. Despite winning main engagements, Pyrrhus could no longer keep up with the war without support.
After marching to northern parts of Latium, Pyrrhus was not happy with the domination of Romans. He hoped that many cities would join his cause. He misjudged the situation because Roman military alliances were more stable. Roman rule was evident as many states enjoyed roman protection. Leaders of the states also enjoyed their positions under the leadership of the romans. However, only a few Lucanians and Samnite’s sided with Pyrrhus.
This led to the second engagement took place at the battle of Ausculum. It took two days with massive fights between ancient armies. The Romans were led by Publious Dentius Mus and used the terrain of the area to their advantage thus, reducing the effect of the elephants and Epirote Calvary. The first day was a virtual draw and the second day of the fight was a stalemate. At the end of the battle, more than 6000 Romans and 3, 5OO Epirotes died. Pyrrhus was left in the command of the field. It was the results of this fight that was considered the Pyrrhic victory.
Pyrrhus upon receiving the congratulatory message said ‘’ that one other such victory, would utterly undo him’’. He acknowledged the costly victories and thought of signing peace treaties to Rome with no success and he remained in Italy. Appius Claudius who built the Appian Way refused the negotiations calling for the freedom of Tarentum and her allies.
Pyrrhus went to Sicily in 278 BC, aided the Greek city against Carthage and became quite victorious. Rome formed alliances with Carthage against Pyrrhus and later on, Rome’s interest became conflicts. Pyrrhus in 275 BC went back to Italy, faced the romans in Southern Italy, town of Malventum and was defeated. With the victory of him, Pyrrhus left Italy for good and went to Green mainland.
Results of the war
Pyrrhus lost in the war, more than a third of his army died in the fight and there was little to show for his efforts. Two years later, he died in a street battle in Argos.
Tarentum which was the third significant Greek city in the state of Italy finally accepted to sign an alliance with Rome in 272 BC. Rome became the mistress of the entire southern and central Italy.
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