The Epirotes

See also for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Pyrrhus.


Pyrrhus of Epirus

A nephew of Alexander the great, Pyrrhus had the family trade of a military genius. But his restless mind never allowed for the good use of the battles he won. Several battles won against Macedon, Rome and Carthaginians in Sicily, never gained him a lot for long.

The Epirote Phalanx

Pyrrhus used a phalanx army just like the Macedonians. The copper colours part in the middle of the pikes is a nice technique to make the pikes look more interesting.

Macedonian Phalanx (Foundry models)

The spears are made from a kind of copper. First I make a point, then I flattened the point with a hammer.


   The Tarentum Conscript Phalanx

Pyrrhus arrived in Tarentum (Italy) after a desperate cry for help from them against the Romans expansion drift. But the Tarantines were not eager to fight with Pyrrhus. So he took control of the city and started drilling the Greek hoplite style army into a pike phalanx.


   Black Tree Greek hoplites

I like to use the Epirote this way:

The phalanx is best at pinning the enemy, and sometimes even pushing the enemy back. With the help of light troops like the colourful Samnites between the phalanx or on their flank this is a very dangerous centre. On the flank the Agema Companions in a wedge are the elite unit that can perforate the enemy in their flank. In front of this wedge the Tarantines are placed to screen the Companians, harass the enemy with javelins with a Parthian Shot and draw them away with their Feigned Flight. Expensive but invaluable. On the other flank the Chaeonian Guards are the perfect unit to defend this flank. Drilled, Stubborn and flexible in their choice of weapons and tactics. Again the Samnites or other light troops can add support if needed. And then there is the mandatory elephant. Hold of the cavalry on the flank with it, or add the extra punch in the centre.

For this phalanx I used little wooden sticks as are commonly used when preparing food. Normally available metal ones are too thin, and to short. The sticks were a little too thick, so I spent a weekend making then thinner with a knife. The front rank(s) should have the spears pointed straight forward. But that would make it difficult to use them on the battlefield then an enemy wants to charge them. So I decided to have them pointed a little higher.

Above you can see light armoured Chaeonians attacking a phalanx formation. It is clear that the phalanx has an advantage with their very long spears against opponents armed with much shorter weapons.


The Elephants

Elephants are standard equipment in the army of Pyrrhus.


It is said that he invented the howdah (tower) that gave the crew extra sight and protection in war. The account of Dionysius of Pyrrhus' battle at Asculum is the first time a tower is mentioned.

The Romans called the elephant the "Lucinian cow", when they they encountered them for the first time in that part of Italy.


a converted toy elephant

Anti-elephant weapons in Dionysius, book XX:

When the king [Pyrrhus] had ordered the elephants seem to be led up to the part of the line that was in difficulties, the Romans mounted on the pole-bearing waggons, upon learning of the approach of the beasts, drove to meet them. At first they checked the onrush of the beasts, smiting them with their engines and turning the fire-bearing grapnels into their eyes. Then, when the men stationed in their towers no longer drove the beasts forward, but hurled their spears down from above, and the light-armed troops cut through the wattled screens surrounding the waggons and hamstrung the oxen, the men at the machines, leaping down from their cars, fled for refuge to the nearest infantry and caused great confusion among them.

The Chaeonian Guard

Pyrrhus' guard was made out of Chaeonians. One of the three tribes that formed Epirus.

Wargames Foundry

The Italian allies

The Samnites joined Pyrrhus in his campaign against Rome. They were sworn enemies of the Romans in the early period of Rome.


A&A Samnites

Some more pictures of Pyrrhus' Italian allies are to be found here here.


Polybius on Pyrrhus:

The Roman general Scipio (Africanus) was known to have asked Hannibal who was the greatest general. In response Hannibal proclaimed Alexander the Macedonian king the greatest. When asked who the second greatest was Hannibal exclaimed Pyrrhus. When asked who was the third greatest Hannibal pronounced himself. With a laugh Scipio proceeded to ask Hannibal's rank if he had defeated him in battle. "Then, beyond doubt, " he replied, " I should place myself before all other generals."


The Light Troops

I like these poorly dressed peasant troops. You can use them in almost every kind of army, and they really show of the lack of armour, and low leadership.

Wargames Foundry light javelinmen

The Cavalry

The Greek city state of Tarentum asked for Pyrrhus' help, but when his army arrived, they were not that keen to help him anymore, and are described as cowardly and weak. The Tarantine cavalry, however, always had a good name in Greece.

Navigator cavalry
I painted these soldiers with an Oscan/Samnite type of design; they were in close contact with the native Italians.


Pyrrhus' army could be best used the way Alexander did. Pin the enemy with the Phalanx and give a decisive blow with their shock cavalry in a wedge formation.

The shock cavalry by Wargames foundry and leader by Navigator.


Click here for a little more on Epirus history.


Battle reports

Carthaginians vs Pyrrhus of Epiros

Heraclea (Romans vs Pyrrhus of Epiros)


See also for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Pyrrhus.

Back to Picture page

To the Index page