Pyrrhus of Epirus
See also www.richardevers.nl for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Pyrrhus:
Pyrrhus (318/9-272 BC)
King of Hellenistic Epirus whose costly military successes against Macedonia and Rome gave rise to the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” His Memoirs and books on the art of war were quoted and praised by many ancient authors, including Cicero. He was the nephew and successor of Alexander 'the Molossian' and had also married a daughter of Agathocles of Syracuse, and seems to have regarded himself as a predestined successor to both.
Upon becoming ruler at the age of 12, Pyrrhus allied himself with Demetrius, son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus of Macedonia. Dethroned by an uprising in 302, Pyrrhus fought beside Demetrius in Asia and was sent to Alexandria as a hostage under the treaty between Ptolemy I Soter and Demetrius. Ptolemy befriended Pyrrhus and in 297 restored him to his kingdom.
At first Pyrrhus reigned with a kinsman, Neoptolemus, but soon he had his colleague assassinated. In 294 he exploited a dynastic quarrel in Macedonia to obtain the frontier areas of Parauaea and Tymphaea, along with Acarnania, Ampholochia, and Ambracia. Corcyra and Leucas were given to him in a marriage dowry. Next, he went to war against his former ally, now Demetrius I Poliorcetes of Macedonia. Pyrrhus took Thessaly and the western half of Macedonia and relieved Athens from Demetrius' siege, but was driven back into Epirus by Lysimachus (who had supplanted Demetrius) in 284.
In 281 Tarentum (in southern Italy) asked for Pyrrhus' assistance against Rome. He crossed to Italy with about 25,000 men, and in 280 won a complete, if costly, victory over a Roman army at Heraclea. In 279 Pyrrhus, again suffering heavy casualties, defeated the Romans at Ausculum (Ascoli Satriano) in Apulia.
He then crossed to Sicily (278) and, as “king of Sicily,” conquered most of the Punic province except Lilybaeum (Marsala). However, his despotic methods provoked a revolt of the Greek Sicilians, and in 276 (or early 275) he returned to Italy. In 275 he suffered heavy losses in a battle against Rome at Beneventum (Benevento).
The next year he invaded Macedonia, drove out Antigonus II Gonatas to Thessalonica, and took over the defecting Macedonian army. Suddenly abandoning Macedonia, however, he launched an unsuccessful attack on Sparta to restore Cleonymus (272). Violations of royal tombs by a garrison of Gauls at Aegae offended people, and Pyrrhus went south to invade the Peloponnese, leaving his son Ptolemy in charge. Antigonus Gonatas regained control of Macedonia and conveyed an army by sea to Corinth against Pyrrhus, whose son Ptolemy was killed in an ambush by the forces of King Areus of Sparta. At Argos Pyrrhus was trapped between the armies of the Macedonians and the Spartans and killed by a tile thrown from a rooftop in 272 BC, supposedly by an old woman seeing him fighting her son sword to sword in the street below. Other sources read that he was assassinated by a servant.