Book Review: Pyrrhus of Epirus


by Jeff Champion

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2017. Pp. xx, 156. Illus., maps, plans, notes, biblio., index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 1473886643

Second Only to Alexander

This biography by Jeff Champion, who has written widely in ancient military history, most notably the two-volume The Tyrants of Syracuse: War in Ancient Sicily and Antigonus the One-Eyed: Greatest of the Successors, originally published in 2009, was very well received at the time and was quickly accepted as a standard work on the man.

Pyrrhus (c. 318–272 BC), became king of Epirus in 297 BC. In his life, he sought to emulate the deeds of his kinsman of Alexander the Great, and proved an able commander, named by Hannibal as second only to Alexander among the Great Captains of the day.

Champion fits Pyrrhus into his times. He explains the nature of the Epirote military system, based on the Macedonian phalanx, discusses the political and strategic environment, and explores in considerable detail Pyrrhus’s campaigns against Romans, Carthaginians, and fellow Greeks. Pyrrhus won almost all his battles, even against the Romans, but they proved so tenacious that even in defeat he suffered such losses as to cause the phrase “Phyrrhic victory” to be coined to denote a victory that was hardly worth the cost. In the end, Pyrrhus died an unlikely death, supposedly killed by a roof tile hurled by an old woman while fighting in the streets of Argos.

Pyrrhus of Epirus has long been hard to find, and this reissue, although not a revision, is very welcome.


Note: Pyrrhus of Epirus is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review editor   

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