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Pyrrhic victory

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


“Pyrrhic victory” is a victory achieved at excessive cost, for example with large losses in people and war equipment that are disproportionate to the achieved results. The name comes from the name of the king of Epirus – Pyrrus, who in the third century BCE waged a war against Rome. He had i.e. heavy losses but won at the battle of Ausculum in 279 BCE.

According to the Plutarch, Pyrrhus said after the battle to the officers’ who were congratulating him the success:

Another such victory and I come back to Epirus alone.

This referred to the fact that the victory cost Pyrrhus about 3500 killed and a large number of wounded (a total – tens of percent of the army’s personnel), losses which in the conditions of war on foreign territory were impossible to complete, while the Romans, despite the fact that their losses were almost twice as large (amounted to about 6000 killed) by operating on their own land, it was much easier for them to form new legions. In fact, the Romans were still defeated in their encounters with Pyrrhus and wanted to show that they were the winners and explained the departure of Pyrrhus to Sicily for the war against Carthaginians with their alleged successes.

  • Plutarch, Pyrrhus
  • Władysław Kopaliński, Słownik mitów i tradycji kultury, Warszawa 1985

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