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Pyrrhic victory

A Pyrrhic victory is a victory which is only achieved with heavy losses on one's own side.

Pyrrhus was the King of Epirus between 295 and 272 BC. He entered Italy with 20,000 foot soldiers, 3,000 cavalry men, 2,000 archers, 500 hurlers and 20 elephants to help Tarentum with their struggle against the Romans.

Due to his superior cavalry and his elephants he defeated the Romans at Heraclea[?] under their consul Publius Valerius Laevinus[?] in 281 BC. He then offered a peace treaty, which was rejected by the Romans. Later (279 BC), the two armies met in the Battle of Ausculum[?], which Pyrrhus also won but with severe casualties. This is the battle the phrase refers to, because Pyrrhus is recorded to have commented afterwards: "If we win another battle against the Romans, we will be completely lost" (Plutarch, Pyrrhus 21,14).

Pyrrhus' mercenary soldiers were more expensive, but also better fighters than the Roman conscripts. They won every fight against the Romans, but the cost of replacing killed mercenaries battle for battle proved too heavy a financial burden.

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