Prepared for AmblesideOnline from Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives by Anne White.
Reading for Lesson One
Part One (optional)
It is written, that since [the flood], the first king of the Thesprotians, and of the Molossians, was Phaeton, one of those who came with Pelasgus, into the realm of Epirus. But some say otherwise, that Deucalion, and his wife Pyrrha remained there, after they had built and founded the temple of Dodone, in the country of the Molossians. But howsoever it was, a great while after that, Neoptolemus the son of Achilles [yes, that Achilles], bringing thither a great number of people with him, conquered the country, and after him left a succession of kings, which were called after his name, the Pyrrides: because that from his infancy he was surnamed Pyrrhus, as much to say as "red": and one of his sons whom he had by Lanassa, the daughter of Cleodes, the son of Hillus, was also named by him Pyrrhus [not our Pyrrhus, this is long before]. And this is the cause why Achilles is honoured as a god in Epirus, being called in their language, Aspetos, that is to say, mighty, or very great.
But from the first kings of that race until the time of Tharrytas [Dryden: Tharrhypas], there is no memory nor mention made of [their lives], nor of their power that reigned in the meantime, because they all became very barbarous, and utterly void of civility. Tharrytas was indeed the first that beautified the cities of his country with the Grecian tongue, brought in civil laws and customs, and made his name famous to the posterity that followed.
This Tharrytas left a son called Alcetas; of Alcetas came Arymbas [or Arrybas], of Arymbas and Troiade his wife, came Aeacides, who married Phthia, the daughter of Menon Thessalian. This Aeacides had two daughters by his wife Phthia, to say, Deidamia and Troiade, and one son called Pyrrhus.
In his time the Molossians rebelled, drave him out of his kingdom, and put the crown into the hands of the sons of Neoptolemus. Whereupon all the friends of Aeacides that could be taken, were generally murdered, and slain outright. Androclides and Angelus in the meantime stole away Pyrrhus, being yet but a suckling babe (whom his enemies nevertheless eagerly sought for to have destroyed) and fled away with him as fast as possibly they might, with few servants, his nurses and necessary women only to look to the child, and give it endospore: by reason whereof [taking care of the baby] their flight was much hindered, so as they could go no great journeys, but that they might easily be overtaken by them that followed. For which cause they put the child into the hands of Androclion, Hippias, and Neander, three lusty young men, whom they trusted with him, and commanded them to run for life to a certain city of Macedon, called Megares [Dryden: Megara]: and they themselves in the meantime, partly by entreaty, and partly by force, made stay of those that followed them till night.
So as with much ado having driven them back, they ran after them that carried the child Pyrrhus, whom they overtook at sunset. And now, weening they had been safe, and out of all danger: they found it clean contrary. For when they came to the river under the town walls of Megares, they saw it so rough and swift, that it made them afraid to behold it: and when they gauged the ford, they found it unpossible to wade through, it was so sore risen and troubled with the fall of the rain, besides that the darkness of the night made every thing seem fearful unto them.
So as they now that carried the child, thought it not good to venture the passage over [by] themselves alone, with the women that tended the child: but hearing certain countrymen on the other side, they prayed and besought them in the name of the gods, that they would help them to pass over the child, showing Pyrrhus unto them afar off. But the countrymen by reason of the roaring of the river understood them not. Thus they continued a long space, the one crying, the other listening, yet could they not understand one another, till at the last one of the company bethought himself to pull off a piece of the bark of an oak, and upon that he wrote with the tongue of a buckle, the hard fortune and necessity of the child. Which he tied to a stone to give it weight, and so threw it over to the other side of the river. Others say that he did prick the bark through with the point of a dart which he cast over.
The countrymen on the other side of the river, having read what was written, and understanding thereby the present danger the child was in, felled down trees in all the haste they could possibly, bound them together, and so [the men] passed over the river. And it fortuned that the first man of them that passed over, and took the child, was called Achilles: the residue of the countrymen passed over also, and took the other that came with the child, and conveyed them over as they came first to hand.
And thus having escaped their hands, by easy journeys they came at the length unto Glaucias, king of Illyria, whom they found in his house sitting by his wife: and [they] laid down the child in the midst of the floor before him. The king hereupon stayed a long time without uttering any one word, weighing with himself what was best to be done: because of the fear he had of Cassander, a mortal enemy of Aeacides. In the meantime, the child Pyrrhus, creeping [on] all fours, took hold of the king's gown and crawled up by that, and so got up on his feet against the king's knees. At the first, the king laughed to see the child: but after it [he] pitied him again, because the child seemed like a humble suitor that came to seek sanctuary in his arms. Other[s] say that Pyrrhus came not to Glaucias, but unto the altar of the familiar gods, alongst the which he got up on his feet, and embraced it with both his hands. Which Glaucias imagining to be done by god's providence, presently delivered the child to his wife, gave her the charge of him, and willed her to see him brought up with his own.
Shortly after, his enemies sent to demand the child of him: and moreover, Cassander caused two hundred talents to be offered him, to deliver the child Pyrrhus into his hands. Howbeit Glaucias would never grant thereunto, but contrarily, when Pyrrhus was come to twelve years old, brought him into his country of Epirus with an army, and [e]stablished him [as] king of the realm again.
Now, when he was seventeen years of age, the Molossians rebelled again against him, and drave out his friends, and servants, and destroyed all his goods, and yielded themselves unto his adversary Neoptolemus. King Pyrrhus having thus lost his kingdom, and seeing himself forsaken on all sides, went to Demetrius (Antigonus' son) that had married his sister Deidamia.
And in that great battle which was stricken near to the city of Hipsus, where all the kings fought together, Pyrrhus being then but a young man, and with Demetrius, put them all to flight that fought with him. And afterwards when peace was concluded betwixt Demetrius and Ptolemy, Pyrrhus was sent [as] a hostage for Demetrius into the realm of Egypt: where he made Ptolemy know (both in hunting, and in other exercises of his person) that he was very strong, hard, and able to endure any labour. Furthermore perceiving that Berenice amongst all King Ptolemy's wives, was best beloved and esteemed of her husband, both for her virtue and wisdom: he began to entertain and honour her above all the rest. For he was a man that could tell how to humble himself towards the great (by whom he might win benefit) and knew also how to creep into their credit: and in like manner was he a great scorner and despiser of such as were his inferiors. Moreover, for that he was found marvellous honourable and of fair condition, he was preferred before all other young princes, to be the husband of Antigona, the daughter of Queen Berenice, whom she had by Philip, before she was married unto Ptolemy.
Reading for Lesson Two
From thenceforth growing through the alliance of that marriage, more and more into estimation and favour by means of his wife Antigona, who shewed herself very virtuous and loving towards him: he found means in the end, to get both men and money to return again into the realm of Epirus, and to conquer it: so was he then very well received of the people, and the better for the malice they bare to Neoptolemus, because he [Neoptolemus] dealt both hardly and cruelly with them. That notwithstanding, Pyrrhus, fearing lest Neoptolemus would repair unto some of the other kings to seek aid against him, thought good to make peace with him. Whereupon it was agreed between them, that they should both together be kings of Epirus.
But in process of time, some of their men secretly made strife again between them, and set them at defiance one with another: and the chiefest cause as it is said, that angered Pyrrhus most, grew upon this. The kings of Epirus had an ancient custom of great antiquity, after they had made solemn sacrifice unto Iupiter Martial, (in a certain place in the province of Molosside, called Passaron) to take their oath, and to be sworn to the Epirotes, that they would reign well and justly, according to the laws and ordinances of the country: and to receive the subjects' oaths interchangeably also, that they would defend and maintain them in their kingdom, according to the laws in like manner. This ceremony was done in the presence of both the kings, and they with their friends did both give and receive presents of each other.
At this meeting and solemnity, among other[s], one Gelon, a most faithful servant and assured friend unto Neoptolemus, who besides great shows of friendship and honour he did unto Pyrrhus, gave him two pairs of draught oxen, which one Myrtilus a cupbearer of Pyrrhus being present, and seeing, did crave of his master. But Pyrrhus denied to give them unto him, whereat Myrtilus was very angry. Gelon perceiving that Myrtilus was angry, prayed him to sup with him that night. [He] began to persuade him after supper to take part with Neoptolemus, and to poison Pyrrhus. Myrtilus made as though he was willing to give ear to this persuasion, and to be well pleased withal. But in the meantime, he went and told his master of it, by whose commandment he made Alexicrates, Pyrrhus' chief cupbearer, to talk with Gelon about this practise, as though he had also given his consent to it, and was willing to be partaker of the enterprise. This did Pyrrhus to have two witnesses, to prove the pretended poisoning of him.
Thus Gelon being finely deceived, and Neoptolemus also with him, both imagining they had cunningly spun the thread of their treason: Neoptolemus was so glad of it, that he could not keep it to himself, but told it to certain of his friends. And on a time going to be merry with his sister, he could not keep it in, but must be prattling of it to her, supposing nobody had heard him but herself, because there was no living creature near them, saving Phoenareta, Samon's wife, the king's chief herdman of all his beasts, and yet she was laid upon a little bed [near]by, and turned towards the wall: so that she seemed as though she had slept. But having heard all their talk, and nobody mistrusting her: the next morning she went to Antigona, King Pyrrhus' wife, and told her every word what she had heard Neoptolemus say to his sister.
Pyrrhus hearing this, made no countenance of anything at that time. But having made sacrifice unto the gods, he bade Neoptolemus to supper to his house, where he slew him, being well informed before of the good will the chiefest men of the realm did bear him, who wished him to dispatch Neoptolemus, and not to content himself with a piece of Epirus only, but to follow his natural inclination, being born to great things: and for this cause therefore, this suspicion [of Neoptolemus] falling out in the meanwhile, he prevented Neoptolemus, and slew him first.
And furthermore, remembering the pleasures he had received of Ptolemy and Berenice, he named his first son by his wife Antigona, Ptolemy, and having built a city in the Prescque, an Isle of Epirus, did name it Berenicida. When he had done that, imagining great matters in his head, but more in his hope, he first determined with himself how to win that which lay nearest unto him: and so took occasion by this means, first to set foot into the Empire of Macedon.
The eldest son of Cassander [the king of Macedonia], called Antipater, put his own mother Thessalonica to death, and drave his brother Alexander out of his own country, who sent to Demetrius for help, and called in Pyrrhus also to his aid.
Demetrius, being troubled with other matters, could not so quickly go thither. And Pyrrhus being arrived there, demanded, for his charge sustained, the city of NymphAea, with all the sea coasts of Macedon: and besides all that, certain lands also that were not belonging to the ancient crown and revenues of the kings of Macedon, but were added unto it by force of arms, as Ambracia, Acarnania, and Amphilochia. All these, the young King Alexander leaving unto him, he took possession thereof, and put good garrisons into the same in his own name: and conquering the rest of Macedon in the name of Alexander, put his brother Antipater to great distress.
In the meantime King Lysimachus lacked no good will to help Antipater with his force, but being busied in other matters, had not the mean[s] to do it. Howbeit knowing very well that Pyrrhus in acknowledging the great pleasures he had received of Ptolemy, would deny him nothing: he determined to write counterfeit letters to him in Ptolemy's name, and thereby instantly to pray and require him to leave off the wars begun against Antipater, and to take, towards the defraying of his charges, the sum of three hundred talents.
Pyrrhus opening the letters, knew straight that this was but a fetch and device of Lysimachus. For King Ptolemy's common manner of greeting of him, which he used at the beginning of his letters, was not in them observed: To my son Pyrrhus, health. But in those counterfeit was, King Ptolemy, unto King Pyrrhus, health. Whereupon he presently pronounced Lysimachus for a naughty man.
Nevertheless, afterwards he made peace with Antipater, and they met together at a day appointed, to be sworn upon the sacrifices unto the articles of peace.
There were three beasts brought to be sacrificed, a goat, a bull, and a ram: of the which, the ram fell down dead of himself before he was touched, whereat all the standers-by fell a-laughing. But there was a soothsayer, one Theodotus, that persuaded Pyrrhus not to swear: saying, that this sign and token of the gods did threaten one of the three kings with sudden death. For which cause Pyrrhus concluded no peace.
Reading for Lesson Three
This overthrow did not so much fill the hearts of the Macedonians with anger, for the loss they had received, nor with the hate conceived against Pyrrhus: as it won Pyrrhus great fame and honour, making his courage and valiantness to be wondered at of all such as were present at the battle that saw him fight, and how he laid about him. For they thought that they saw in his face the very life and agility of Alexander the Great, and the right shadow as it were, showing the force and fury of Alexander himself in that fight. And where other kings did but only counterfeit Alexander the Great in his purple garments, and in numbers of soldiers and guards about their persons, and in a certain fashion and bowing of their necks a little, and in uttering his speech with an high voice: Pyrrhus only was like unto him, and followed him in his martial deeds and valiant acts. Furthermore, for his experience and skill in warlike discipline, the books he wrote himself thereof, do amply prove and make manifest.
Furthermore, they report, that King Antigonus being asked whom he thought to be the greatest captain: made answer, "Pyrrhus, so far forth as he might live to be old," speaking only of the captains of his time. But Hannibal generally said, Pyrrhus was the greatest captain of experience and skill in wars of all other, Scipio the second, and himself the third: as we have written in the Life of Scipio.
So it seemeth that Pyrrhus gave his whole life and study to the discipline of wars, as that which indeed was princely and meet for a king, making no reckoning of all other knowledge. And furthermore touching this matter, they report that he being at a feast one day, a question was asked him, whom he thought to be the best player of the flute, Python or Cephesias: whereunto he answered, that Polyperchon in his opinion was the best captain, as if he would have said, that was the only thing a prince should seek for, and which he ought chiefly to learn and know.
He was very gentle and familiar with his friends, easy to forgive when any had offended him, and marvellous desirous to requite and acknowledge any courtesy or pleasure by him received.
After the death of Antigona, he married many wives to increase his power withal, and to get more friends. For he married the daughter of Autoleon, king of Paeonia, and Bircenna the daughter of Bardillis, king of Illyria, and Lanassa, the daughter of Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, that brought him for her dower the Isle of Corfu, which her father had taken. By Antigona his first wife, he [Pyrrhus] had a son called Ptolemy: By Lanassa, another called Alexander: and by Bircenna, another (the youngest of all) called Helenus: all which though they were martial men by race and natural inclination, yet were they brought up by him in wars, and therein trained as it were even from their cradle.
They write, that one of his sons, being but a boy, asked him one day to which of them he would leave his kingdom: Pyrrhus answered the boy, "To him that hath the sharpest sword." That was much like the tragical curse wherewith Oedipus cursed his children:
Let them (for me) divide, both goods, yea rents and land:
With trenchant sword, and bloody blows, by force of mighty hand.
So cruel, hateful, and beastly is the nature of ambition and desire of rule.
[Pyrrhus heard that Demetrius was sick, and decided to take advantage of the situation by making raids into Macedonia. The Epirotes found they had bitten off a bit more than they felt like chewing, as Demetrius (sick or not) gathered an army and pushed them back.]
Thus now, the peace concluded betwixt Demetrius and Pyrrhus, the other kings and princes began to find out Demetrius' intent, and why he had made so great preparation; and [they] being afraid thereof, wrote unto Pyrrhus by their ambassadors, that they wondered how he could let go such opportunity and occasion, and to tarry till Demetrius might with better leisure make wars upon him. And why he chose rather to tarry and fight with him for the altars, temples, and sepulchres of the Molossians, when he should be of greater power, and have no wars elsewhere to trouble him: than now that he [Pyrrhus] might easily drive him out of Macedon, having so many things in hand, and being troubled as he was in other places. And considering also that very lately he [Demetrius] had taken one of his [Pyrrhus'] wives from him, with the city of Corfu. For Lanassa misliking, that Pyrrhus loved his other wives better then her (they being of a barbarous nation), got her[self] unto Corfu: and desiring to marry some other king, sent for Demetrius, knowing that he of all other kings would soonest be won thereunto. Whereupon Demetrius went thither, and married her, and left a garrison in his city of Corfu.
Now these other kings that did advertise Pyrrhus in this sort, themselves did trouble Demetrius in the meanwhile: who tracted time, and yet went on with his preparation notwithstanding. For on the one side, Ptolemy entered Greece with a great army by sea, where he caused the cities to revolt against him. And Lysimachus on the other side also, entering into high Macedon by the country of Thracia [Thrace], burnt and spoiled all as he went. Pyrrhus also arming himself with them, went unto the city of Berroea, imagining (as afterwards it fell out) that Demetrius going against Lysimachus would leave all the low country of Macedon naked, without garrison or defense.
And the selfsame night that Pyrrhus departed, he imagined that King Alexander the Great did call him, and that also he went unto him, and found him sick in his bed, of whom he had very good words and entertainment: insomuch as he promised to help him thoroughly. And Pyrrhus imagined also that he was so bold to demand of him again: "How (my Lord) can you help me, that lie sick in your bed?" and that Alexander made answer: "With my name only." And that moreover he suddenly therewithal got up on his horse Nisea, and rode before Pyrrhus to guide him the way.
Reading for Lesson Four
This vision he had in his dream, [was that] which made him bold, and furthermore encouraged him to go on with his enterprise. By which occasion, marching forward with all speed, in few days he ended his intended journey to the city of Berroea, which suddenly he took at his first coming to it: the most part of his army he laid in garrison there, the residue he sent away under the conduct of his captains, here and there, to conquer the cities thereabouts.
Demetrius having intelligence hereof, and hearing also an ill rumour that ran in his camp amongst the Macedonians, durst not lead them any further, for fear lest (when he should come near to Lysimachus, being a Macedonian king by nation, and a prince esteemed for a famous captain) they would shrink from him, and take Lysimachus' part: for this cause therefore he turned again upon the sudden against Pyrrhus, as against a strange prince, and ill beloved of the Macedonians.
But when he came to encamp near him, many coming from Berroea into his camp, blew abroad the praises of Pyrrhus, saying that he was a noble prince, invincible in wars, and one that courteously treated all those he took to his party: and amongst those, there were other[s] that were no natural Macedonians born, but set on by Pyrrhus, and feigned themselves to be Macedonians, who gave out that now occasion was offered to set them at liberty from Demetrius' proud and stately rule, and to take King Pyrrhus' part, that was a courteous prince, and one that loved soldiers and men of war. These words made the most part of Demetrius' army very doubtful, insomuch as the Macedonians looked about, to see if they could find out Pyrrhus to yield themselves unto him.
He had at that present left off his headpiece: by mean[s] whereof, perceiving he was not known, he put it on again, and then they knew him afar off, by sight of his goodly fair plume, and the goat's horns which he carried on the top of his crest. Whereupon there came a great number of Macedonians to his part, as unto their sovereign lord and king, and required the watchword of him. Other[s] put garlands of oaken boughs about their heads, because they saw his men crowned after that sort. And some were so bold also, as to go to Demetrius himself, and tell him, that in their opinions he should do very well and wisely to give place to fortune, and refer all unto Pyrrhus. Demetrius hereupon, seeing his camp in such uproar, was so amazed, that he knew not what way to take, but stole away secretly, disguised in a threadbare cloak, and a hood on his head to keep him from knowledge. Pyrrhus forthwith seized upon his camp, took all that he found, and was presently proclaimed in the field, King of Macedon.
Lysimachus on the other side, came straight thither after him, and [said that] he had helped to chase Demetrius out of his realm, and therefore claimed half the kingdom with him [Pyrrhus]. Wherefore, Pyrrhus not trusting the Macedonians too far as yet, but rather standing in doubt of their faith, granted Lysimachus his desire, and thereupon divided all cities and provinces of the realm of Macedon between them. This partition was profitable for them both at that present, and stood then to good purpose, to pacify the war that otherwise might suddenly have risen between them.
But shortly after, they found that this partition was no end of their enmity, but rather a beginning of quarrel and dissension between them. For they whose avarice and insatiable greedy appetite, neither the sea, the mountains, [nor the] inhabitable deserts could contain, nor yet the confines that separate Asia from Europe determine: how should they be content with their own, without usurping others, when their frontiers join so near together, that nothing divides them? Sure it is not possible. For to say truly, they are willingly together by the ears, having these two cursed things rooted in them: that they continually seek occasion how to surprise each other, and either of them envies his neighbour's well doing. Howbeit in appearance they use these two terms, of peace and wars, as they do money: using it as they think good, not according to right and justice, but for their private profit. And truly they are men of far greater honesty, that make open war, and avow it: than those that disguise and colour the delay of their wicked purpose, by the holy name of justice or friendship.
Which Pyrrhus did truly then verify. For desiring to keep Demetrius down from rising another time, and that he should not revive again as [if he had] escaped from a long dangerous disease: he went to aid the Grecians against him, and was at Athens, where they suffered him to come into the castle and do sacrifice there unto the goddess Minerva. But coming out of the castle again the same day, he told the Athenians he was greatly beholden unto them for their courtesy, and the great trust they had reposed in him: wherefore to requite them again, he gave them counsel, never to suffer prince nor king from thenceforth to enter into their city, if they were wise, nor once open their gates unto them.
So, after that he made peace with Demetrius, who within short time being gone to make wars in Asia, Pyrrhus yet once again (persuaded thereunto by Lysimachus) caused all Thessaly to rise against him, and went himself to set upon those garrisons which Demetrius had left in the cities of Greece, liking better to continue the Macedonians in war, than to leave them in peace: besides that himself also was of such a nature, as could not long continue in peace.
Demetrius thus in the end being utterly overthrown in Syria, Lysimachus seeing himself free from fear on that side, and being at good leisure, as having nothing to trouble him otherwise: went straight to make war upon Pyrrhus, who then remained near unto the city of Edessa, and meeting by the way with the convoy of victuals coming towards him, [the army of Lysimachus] set upon the conductors, and rifled them wholly. By this means, first he [Lysimachus] distressed Pyrrhus for want of victuals: then he corrupted the princes of Macedon with letters and messengers, declaring unto them, what shame they sustained to have made a stranger their king (whose ancestors had ever been their vassals and subjects) and to have turned all those out of Macedon, that had been familiar friends of King Alexander the Great. Many of the Macedonians were won by these persuasions, which fact so feared Pyrrhus, that he departed out of Macedon with his men of war, the Epirotes, and other[s of] his confederates: and so lost Macedon by the selfsame means he won it.
Kings and princes therefore must not blame private men, though they change and alter sometime[s] for their profit: for therein they do but follow the example of princes, who teach them all disloyalty, treason, and infidelity, judging him most worthy of gain, that least observeth justice and equity.
Reading for Lesson Five
So Pyrrhus being come home again to his kingdom of Epirus, forsaking Macedon altogether, fortune made him happy enough, and indeed he had good means to live peaceably at home, without any trouble, if he could have contented himself only with the sovereignty over his own natural subjects. But thinking, that if he did neither hurt other[s], nor that other[s] did hurt him, he could not tell how to spend his time, and by peace he should pine away for sorrow, as Homer said of Achilles:
He languished and pined by taking ease and rest:
And in the wars where travail was, he liked ever best.
And thus seeking matter of new trouble, fortune presented him this occasion. About this time, the Romans by chance made war with the Tarentines, who could neither bear their force, nor yet devise how to pacify the same, by reason of the rashness, folly, and wickedness of their governors, who persuaded them to make Pyrrhus their general, and to send for him for to conduct these wars: because he was less troubled at that time, than any of the other kings about them, and was esteemed of every man also to be a noble soldier, and famous captain.
[Omitted for length: a Tarentine named Meton warned the people that Pyrrhus would be a hard master rather than a friend, but he was ignored.]
The decree thus confirmed by voices of the people, they sent ambassadors into Epirus to carry presents unto King Pyrrhus, not only from the Tarentines, but from other Grecians also that dwelt in Italy, saying that they stood in need of a wise and skillful captain, that was reputed famous in martial discipline.
There was in King Pyrrhus' court one Cineas Thessalian, a man of great understanding, and that had been Demosthenes the orator's scholar, who seemed to be the only man of all other in his time in common reputation, to be most eloquent, following the lively image and shadow of Demosthenes' passing eloquence. This Cineas, Pyrrhus ever entertained about him, and sent him ambassador to the people and cities thereabouts: where he verified Euripides' words:
As much as trenchant blades, in mighty hands may do.
So much can skill of eloquence, achieve and conquer too.
And therefore Pyrrhus would often say, that Cineas had won him more towns with his eloquence, than [he] himself had done by the sword: for which he did greatly honour and employ him in all his chief affairs.
Cineas perceiving that Pyrrhus was marvellously bent to these wars of Italy, finding him one day at leisure, discoursed with him in this sort: "It is reported, and it please your majesty, that the Romans are very good men of war, and that they command many valiant and warlike nations: if it please the gods we do overcome them, what benefit shall we have of that victory?"
Pyrrhus answered him again: "Thou dost ask me a question that is manifest of itself. For when we have once overcome the Romans, there can neither Grecian nor barbarous city in all the country withstand us, but we shall straight conquer all the rest of Italy with ease: whose greatness, wealth, and power, no man knoweth better than thyself."
Cineas, pausing a while, replied: "And when we have taken Italy, what shall we do then?"
Pyrrhus not finding his meaning yet, said unto him: "Sicilia as thou knowest, is hard adjoining it, and doth as it were offer itself unto us, and is a marvelous populous and rich land, and easy to be taken: for all the cities within the island are one against another, having no head that governs them, since Agathocles died, more than orators only that are their counsellors, who will soon be won."
"Indeed it is likely which your grace speaketh," quoth Cineas: "but when we have all in our hands: what shall we do in the end?"
Then Pyrrhus laughing, told him again: "We will then (good Cineas) be quiet, and take our ease, and make feasts every day, and be as merry one with another as we can possibl[y be]."
Cineas having brought him to that point, said again to him: "My Lord, what letteth us now to be quiet, and merry together, [if] we enjoy that presently without further travel and trouble, which we will now go seek for abroad, with such shedding of blood, and so manifest danger? and yet we know not whether ever we shall attain unto it, after we have both suffered, and caused other[s] to suffer infinite sorrows and troubles."
These last dangerous words of Cineas, did rather offend Pyrrhus, than make him think to alter his mind: for he was not ignorant of the happy state he should thereby forego, yet could he not leave off the hope of that [which] he did so much desire.
So he sent Cineas before [him] unto the Tarentines, with three thousand footmen: and afterwards the Tarentines having sent him great store of flatbottoms, galleys, and of all sorts of passenger [vessels], he shipped into them twenty elephants, three thousand horsemen, and two and twenty thousand footmen, with five hundred bowmen and slings. All things thus ready, he [Pyrrhus] weighed anchors, and hoisted sails, and was no sooner in the main sea, but the north wind blew very roughly, out of season, and drave him to leeward. Notwithstanding, the ship which he was in himself, by great toil of the pilots and mariners turning to windward, and with much ado and marvellous danger recovered the coast of Italy. Howbeit the rest of his fleet were violently dispersed here and there, whereof some of them failing their course into Italy, were cast into the seas of Libya, and Sicilia. The other[s], not able to recover the point of Apulia, were benighted, and the sea being high wrought by violence cast them upon the shore, and against the rocks, and made shipwrecks of them.
The [royal galley] only [was] reserved, which through her strength, and the greatness of her burden, resisted the force of the sea that most violently beat against her. But afterwards, the wind turning and coming from the land, the sea cruelly raking over the height of her forecastle: in fine [it] brought her in manifest peril of opening, and splitting, and in danger to be driven from the coast, putting her out again to the mercy of the winds, which changed every hour. Wherefore Pyrrhus casting the peril every way, thought best to leap into the sea. After him forthwith leapt his guard, his servants, and other[s of] his familiar friends, venturing their lives to save him. But the darkness of the night, and rage of the waves (which the shore breaking, forced so to rebound back upon them) with the great noise also, did so hinder their swimming: that it was even day before they could recover any land, and yet was it by means that the wind fell.
As for Pyrrhus, he was so sea-beaten, and wearied with the waves, that he was able to do no more: though of himself he had so great a heart, and stout a courage, as was able to overcome any peril. Moreover, the Messapians (upon whose coast the storm had cast him) ran out to help him, and diligently laboured in all they could possible to save him, and received also certain of his ships that had [e]scaped, in which were a few horsemen, about two thousand footmen, and two elephants.
With this small force, Pyrrhus marched on his journey to go by land unto Tarentum: and Cineas, being advertised of his coming, went with his men to meet him.
Reading for Lesson Six
Now when he was come to Tarentum, at the first he would do nothing by force, nor against the goodwill of the inhabitants: until such time as his ships that had escaped the dangers of the sea, were all arrived, and the greatest part of his army come together again.
But when he had all his army he looked for, seeing that the people of Tarentum could neither save themselves, nor be saved by any other, without straight order and compulsion, because they made their reckoning that Pyrrhus should fight for them, and in the meantime they would not stir out of their houses from bathing themselves, from banqueting, and making good cheer: first of all he caused all the parks and places of show to be shut up, where they were wont to walk and disport themselves in any kind of exercise, and as they walked, to talk of wars as it were in pastime, and to fight with words, but not to come to the blows. And further he forbade all feastings, mummeries, and such other like pleasures, as at that time were out of season. He trained them out also to exercise their weapons, and shewed himself very severe in musters, not pardoning any whose names were billed to serve in the wars: insomuch as there were many (which, unacquainted with such rough handling and government) forsook the city altogether, calling it a bondage, not to have liberty to live at their pleasure.
Furthermore, Pyrrhus having intelligence that Levinus the Roman consul came against him with a great puissant army, and that he was already entered into the land of Lucania, where he destroyed and spoiled all the country before him: albeit the Tarentines' aid of their confederates was not as yet come, he thought it a great shame to suffer his enemies' approach so near him, and therefore taking that small number he had, brought them into the field against Levinus. Howbeit he sent a herald before to the Romans, to understand of them, if (before they entered into this war) they could be content [that] the controversies they had with all the Grecians dwelling in Italy, might be decided by justice, and therein [if they would] refer themselves to his arbitrament, who of himself would undertake the pacification of them. Whereunto the consul Levinus made answer, that the Romans would never allow him for a judge, neither did they fear him for an enemy.
Wherefore Pyrrhus going on still, came to lodge in the plain which is between the cities of Pandosia, and of Heraclea: and having news brought him that the Romans were encamped very near unto him on the other side of the river of Siris, he took his horse, and rode to the riverside to view their camp. So having thoroughly considered the form, the situation, and the order of the same, the manner of charging their watch, and all their fashions of doing: he wondered much thereat. And speaking to Megacles, one of his familiars about him, he said: "This order, Megacles" (quoth he), "though it be of barbarous people, yet is it not barbarously done, but we shall shortly prove their force."
After he had thus taken this view, he began to be more careful than he was before, and purposed to tarry till the whole aid of their confederates were come together, leaving men at the riverside of Siris, to keep the passage, if the enemies ventured to pass over, as they did indeed.
For they made haste to prevent the aid that Pyrrhus looked for, and passed their footmen over upon a bridge, and their horsemen at diverse fords of the river: insomuch as the Grecians fearing lest they should be compassed in behind, drew back. Pyrrhus [being] advertised thereof, and being a little troubled therewithal, commanded the captains of his footmen presently to put their bands in battle [ar]ray, and not to stir till they knew his pleasure: and he himself in the meantime marched on with three thousand horse[men], in hope to find the Romans by the riverside, as yet out of order, and utterly unprovided. But when he saw afar off a greater number of footmen with their targets ranged in battle, on this side [of] the river, and their horsemen marching towards him in very good order: he caused his men to join close together, and himself first began the charge, being easy to be known from other [men], if it had been no more but his passing rich glistering armour and furniture, and withal, for that his valiant deeds gave manifest proof of his well deserved fame and renown.
For, though he valiantly bestirred his hands and body both, repulsing them he encountered withal in fight, yet he forgot not himself, nor neglected the judgement and foresight, which should never be wanting in a general of an army: but as though he had not fought at all, quietly and discreetly gave orders for everything, riding to and fro, to defend and encourage his men in those places, where he saw them in most distress.
[Omitted for length: Pyrrhus had a violent encounter with an Italian soldier, and lost his horse.]
This mischance made King Pyrrhus look the better to himself afterwards, and seeing his horsemen give back, sent presently to hasten his footmen forward, whom he straight set in order of battle: and delivering his armour and cloak to one of his familiars, Megacles, and being hidden as it were in Megacles' armour, returned again to the battle against the Romans, who valiantly resisted him, so that the victory depended long in doubt. For it is said, that both the one side and the other did chase, and was chased, above seven times in that conflict.
The changing of the king's armour served very well for the safety of his own person, howbeit it was like to have marred all, and to have made him lose the field. For many of his enemies set upon Megacles, that wore the king's armour: and the party that slew him dead, and threw him stark to the ground, was one Dexius by name, who quickly snatched off his headpiece, took away his cloak, and ran to Levinus the consul, crying out aloud, that he had slain Pyrrhus, and withal shewed forth the spoils he supposed [himself] to have taken from him. Which being carried about through all the bands, and openly shewed from hand to hand, made the Romans marvellous joyful, and the Grecians to the contrary, both afeared and right sorrowful: until such time as Pyrrhus, hearing of it, went and passed alongst all his bands bareheaded, and barefaced, holding up his hand to his soldiers, and giving them to understand with his own voice, that it was himself.
The elephants in the end were they indeed that won the battle, and did most distress the Romans: for, their horses seeing them afar off, were sore afraid, and durst not abide them, but carried their masters back in despite of them. Pyrrhus at the sight thereof, made his Thessalian horsemen to give a charge upon them whilst they were in this disorder, and that so lustily, as they made the Romans flee, and sustain great slaughter. For Dionysius writeth, that there died few less than fifteen thousand Romans at that battle. But Hieronymus speaketh only of seven thousand. And of Pyrrhus' side, Dionysius writeth, there were slain thirteen thousand. But Hieronymus sayeth less then four thousand: howbeit they were all of the best men of his army, and those whom most he trusted.
King Pyrrhus presently hereupon also took the Romans' camp, which they forsook, and won many of their cities from their alliance, spoiled, and overcame much of their country, [and in fact] he came within six and thirty miles of Rome itself. [Many of the Lucanians and Samnites came and joined him], whom he rebuked because they came too late to the battle. Howbeit a man might easily see in his face, that he was not a little glad and proud to have overthrown so great an army of the Romans with his own men and the aid of the Tarentines only.
Reading for Lesson Seven
On the other side, the Romans' hearts were so great, that they would not depose Levinus from his consulship, notwithstanding the loss he had received: and Caius Fabricius said openly, that they were not the Epirotes that had overcome the Romans, but Pyrrhus had overcome Levinus: meaning thereby, that this overthrow chanced unto them more through the subtlety and wise conduction of the general, than through the valiant feats and worthiness of his army. And hereupon they speedily supplied their legions again that were [di]minished, with other new soldiers in the dead men's place[s], and levied a fresh force besides, speaking bravely and fiercely of this war, like men whose hearts were nothing appalled.
Whereat Pyrrhus marvelling much, thought good first to send to the Romans, to prove if they would give any ear to an offer of peace, knowing right well that the winning of the city of Rome was no easy matter to compass, or attain, with that strength he presently had: and also that it would be greatly to his glory, if he could bring them to peace after this, his valiant victory.
[Omitted for length: Pyrrhus sent Cineas to Rome, to try to negotiate an alliance. Things seemed to be going well, until Appius Claudius spoke up.]
But Appius Claudius, a famous man, who came no more to the Senate, nor dealt in matters of state at all by reason of his age, and partly because he was blind: when he understood of King Pyrrhus' offers, and of the common bruit that ran through the city, how the Senate were in mind to agree to the capitulations of peace propounded by Cineas, he could not abide, but caused his servants to carry him in his chair upon their arms unto the Senate door, his sons, and sons-in-law taking him in their arms, carried him so into the Senate house. The Senate made silence to honour the coming in of so notable and worthy a personage: and he, so soon as they had set him in his seat, began to speak in this sort:
"Hitherunto with great impatience (my Lords of Rome) have I borne the loss of my sight, but now, I would I were also as deaf as I am blind, that I might not (as I do) hear the report of your dishonourable consultations determined upon in Senate, which tend to subvert the glorious fame and reputation of Rome. What is now become of all your great and mighty brags you blazed abroad, through the whole world? that if Alexander the Great himself had come into Italy, in the time that our fathers had been in the flower of their age, and we in the prime of our youth, they would not have said everywhere that he was altogether invincible, as now at this present they do: but either he should have left his body slain here in battle, or at the least wise have been driven to flee, and by his death or flying should greatly have enlarged the renown and glory of Rome? You plainly show it now, that all these words spoken then, were but vain and arrogant vaunts of foolish pride. Considering that you tremble for fear of the Molossians and Chaonians, who were ever a prey to the Macedonians: and that ye are afraid of Pyrrhus also, who all his lifetime served and followed one of the guard unto Alexander the Great, and now is come to make wars in these parts, not to aid the Grecians inhabiting in Italy, but to flee from his enemies there about his own country, offering you to conquer all the rest of Italy with an army, wherewith he was nothing able to keep a small part of Macedon only for himself. And therefore you must not persuade yourselves, that in making peace with him, you shall thereby be rid of him: but rather shall you draw others to come and set upon you besides."
After that Appius had told this tale unto the Senate, everyone through the whole assembly desired rather war than peace. They dispatched Cineas away thereupon with this answer: that if Pyrrhus sought the Romans' friendship, he must first depart out of Italy, and then send unto them to treat of peace: but so long as he remained there with his army, the Romans would make wars upon him, with all the force and power they could make, yea although he had overthrown and slain ten thousand such captains as Levinus was.
After this, there were sent ambassadors from Rome unto Pyrrhus, and amongst others, Caius Fabricius, touching the state of the prisoners. Cineas told the king, his master, that this Fabricius was one of the greatest men of account in all Rome, a right honest man, a good captain, and a very valiant man of his hands, yet poor indeed he was, notwithstanding. Pyrrhus taking him secretly aside, made very much of him, and amongst other things, offered him both gold and silver, praying him to take it, not for any dishonest respect he meant towards him, but only for a pledge of the goodwill and friendship that should be between them. Fabricius would [have] none of his gift: so Pyrrhus left him for that time.
Notwithstanding, the next morning, thinking to fear him, because he had never seen elephant[s] before, Pyrrhus commanded his men, that when they saw Fabricius and him talking together, they should bring one of his greatest elephants, and set him hard by them, behind a hanging: which being done at a certain sign by Pyrrhus given, suddenly the hanging was pulled back, and the elephant with his trunk was over Fabricius' head, and gave a terrible and fearful cry. Fabricius softly giving back, nothing afraid, laughed and said to Pyrrhus, smiling: "Neither did your gold (oh king) yesterday move me, nor your elephant today fear me."
Furthermore, whilst they were at supper, falling in talk of diverse matters, specially touching the state of Greece, and the philosophers there: Cineas by chance spake of Epicurus, and rehearsed the opinions of the Epicurians touching the gods and government of the commonwealth, how they placed man's chief felicity in pleasure; how they fled from all office and public charge, as from a thing that hindereth the fruition of true felicity; how they maintained that the gods were immortal, neither moved with pity nor anger, and led an idle life full of all pleasures and delights, without taking any regard of men's doings.
But as he still continued this discourse, Fabricius cried out aloud, and said: "The gods grant that Pyrrhus and the Samnites were of such opinions, as long as they had wars against us."
Pyrrhus marvelling much at the constancy and magnanimity of this man, was more desirous [by] a great deal to have peace with the Romans, than before. And [he] privately prayed Fabricius very earnestly, that he would treat for peace, whereby he might afterwards come and remain with him, saying that he would give him the chief place of honour about him, amongst all his friends.
Whereunto Fabricius answered him softly: "That were not good (oh king) for yourself," quoth he: "for your men that presently do honour and esteem you, by experience if they once knew me, would rather choose me for their king, than yourself."
Such was Fabricius' talk, whose words Pyrrhus took not in ill part, neither was offended with them at all, as a tyrant would have been: but did himself report to his friends and familiars the noble mind he found in him, and delivered him upon his faith only, all the Roman prisoners: to the end that if the Senate would not agree unto peace, they might yet see their friends, and keep the feast of Saturn with them, and then to send them back again unto him. Which the Senate established by decree, upon pain of death to all such as should not perform the same accordingly.
[Omitted for length: Caius Fabricius and his co-consul did Pyrrhus a favour by uncovering a plot by his own physician to poison him. In thanks, Pyrrhus sent home their prisoners of war (seemingly without conditions). But the Romans preferred not to owe any favours to an enemy who refused to leave Italy, and so they sent the same number of prisoners back to the Epirotes.]
Reading for Lesson Eight
Wherefore Pyrrhus seeing no remedy, but that he must needs fight another battle, after he had somewhat refreshed his army, [they] drew towards the city of Asculum, where he fought the second time with the Romans: and was brought into a marvellous ill ground for horsemen, by a very swift running river, from whence came many brooks and deep marshes, insomuch as his elephants could have no space nor ground to join with the battle of the footmen, by reason whereof there was a great number of men hurt and slain on both sides. [After many were wounded and killed, night put an end to the engagement.]
But the next morning, Pyrrhus [caused a detachment to possess themselves of those incommodious grounds, and, mixing slingers and archers among the elephants, with full strength and courage, he advanced in a close and well-ordered body.] The Romans, missing the other day's turnings and places of retire, were now compelled to fight all on a front in the plain field: and striving to break into the battle of Pyrrhus' footmen before the elephants came, they desperately pressed in upon their enemies' pikes with their swords, not caring for their own persons what became of them, but only looked to kill and destroy their enemies. [After a long and obstinate fight, the first giving ground is reported to have been where Pyrrhus himself engaged with extraordinary courage; but the Romans were carried away by the overwhelming force of the elephants, not being able to make use of their valour, but overthrown as it were by the eruption of a sea or an earthquake], rather than tarry to be trodden under feet, and overthrown by them, whom they were not able to hurt again, but be by them most grievously martyred, and their troubles thereby yet nothing eased.
The chase was not long, because they fled but into their camp: and Hieronymus the historiographer writeth, that there died six thousand men of the Romans, and of Pyrrhus' part about three thousand five hundred and five, as the king's own chronicles do witness. Nevertheless, Dionysius makes no mention of two battles given near unto the city of Asculum, nor that the Romans were certainly overthrown: howbeit he confirmeth that there was one battle only that continued until sunset, and that they scarcely severed also when night was come on, Pyrrhus being hurt on the arm with a spear, and his carriage robbed and spoiled by the Samnites besides. And further, that there died in this battle, above fifteen thousand men, as well of Pyrrhus' side, as of the Romans' part: and that at the last, both the one and the other did retire. And some say that it was at that time Pyrrhus answered one, who rejoiced with him for the victory they had won: "If we win another of the price," quoth he, "we are utterly undone."
For indeed then had he lost the most part of his army he brought with him out of his realm, and all his friends and captains, [and there were no others there to make recruits], and [he] perceived also that the confederates he had in Italy, began to wax cold. Where[as] the Romans to the contrary, did easily renew their army with fresh soldiers, which they caused to come from Rome as need required, (much like unto a lively spring, the head whereof they had at home in their country), and they fainted not at all for any losses they received, but rather were they so much the more hotly bent, stoutly determining to abide out the wars, whatever betide.
And thus whilst Pyrrhus was troubled in this sort, new hopes, and new enterprises were offered unto him, that made him doubtful what to do. For even at a clap came ambassadors to him out of Sicilia, offering to put into his hands the cities of Syracuse, of Agrigentum, and of the Leontines, and beseeching him to aid them to drive the Carthaginians out of the isle, thereby to deliver them from all the tyrants. And on the other side also, news was brought him from Greece, how Ptolemy surnamed the lightning, was slain, and all his army overthrown in battle against the Gauls, and that now he should come in good hour for the Macedonians, who lacked but a king. Then he cursed his hard fortune that presented him all at once, such sundry occasions to do great things: and as if both enterprises had been already in his hand, he made his account that of necessity he must lose one of them. So, long debating the matter with himself, which of the two ways he should conclude upon: in the end he resolved, that by the wars of Sicilia, there was good mean[s] to attain to the greater matters, considering that Africa was not far from them. Wherefore, disposing himself that way, he sent Cineas thither immediately to make his way, and to speak to the towns and cities of the country as he was wont to do: and in the meantime left a strong garrison in the city of Tarentum, to keep it at his devotion, wherewith the Tarentines were very angry. For they made request unto him, either to remain in their country to maintain wars with them against the Romans (which was their meaning why they sent for him), or else if he would needs go, at the least wise to leave their city in as good state as he found it. But he answered them again very roughly, that they should not choose but tarry his occasion.
And with this answer [he] took ship, and sailed towards Sicilia: where so soon as he was arrived, he found all that he hoped for, for the cities did willingly put themselves into his hands. And where necessity of battle was offered him to employ his army, nothing at the beginning could stand before him. For, with thirty thousand footmen, two thousand five hundred horsemen, and two hundred sail which he brought with him, he drave the Carthaginians before him, and conquered all the country under their obedience.
[Omitted for length: Pyrrhus also captured the city of Eryx.]
There dwelt a barbarous people at that time about Messina, called the Mamertines, who did much hurt to the Grecians thereabouts, making many of them pay tax and tribute: for they were a great number of them, and all men of war and good soldiers, and had their name also of Mars, because they were martial men, and given to arms. Pyrrhus led his army against them, and overthrew them in battle: and put their collectors to death, that did levy and exact the tax, and razed many of their fortresses. And when the Carthaginians required peace and his friendship, offering him ships and money, pretending greater matters: he made them a short answer, that there was but one way to make peace and love between them, to forsake Sicilia altogether, and to be contented to make Mare Libycum the border betwixt Greece and them. For his good fortune, and the force he had in his hands, did set him aloft, and further allured him to follow the hope that brought him into Sicilia, aspiring first of all unto the conquest of Libya.
Now, to pass him over thither, he had ships enough, but he lacked rowers and mariners: wherefore when he would press them, then he began to deal roughly with the cities of Sicilia, and in anger compelled, and severely punished, them that would not obey his commandment. This he did not [do] at his first coming, but contrarily had won all their good wills, speaking more courteously to them than any other did, and shewing that he trusted them altogether, and troubled them in nothing. But suddenly being altered from a popular prince, unto a violent tyrant, he was not only thought cruel and rigorous, but that worst of all is, unfaithful and ungrateful: nevertheless, though they received great hurt by him, yet they suffered it, and granted him any needful thing he did demand.
Reading for Lesson Nine
Then all things fell out against Pyrrhus, not one after another, nor by little and little, but all together at one instant, and all the cities generally hated him to the death, and did again some of them confederate with the Carthaginians, and others with the Mamertines, to set upon him. But when all Sicilia was thus bent against him, he received letters from the Samnites and Tarentines, by which they advertised him, how they had much ado to defend themselves within their cities and strongholds, and that they were wholly driven out of the field: wherefore they earnestly besought him speedily to come to their aid. This news came happily to him, to cloak his flying, that he might say it was not for despair of good success in Sicilia that he went his way: but true it was indeed, that when he saw he could no longer keep it, than a ship could stand still among the waves, he sought some honest shadow to colour his departing. And that surely was the cause why he returned again into Italy.
Nevertheless, at his departure out of Sicily, they say that looking back upon the isle, he said to those that were about him: "O what a goodly field for a battle, my friends, do we leave to the Romans and Carthaginians, to fight the one with the other?" And verily so it fell out shortly after, as he had spoken.
But the barbarous people conspiring together against Pyrrhus, the Carthaginians on the one side, watching his passage, gave him battle on the sea, in the very strait itself of Messina, where he lost many of his ships, and fled with the rest, and took the coast of Italy. And there the Mamertines on the other side, being gone thither before, to the number of eighteen thousand fighting men: durst not present him battle in open field, but tarried for him in certain straits of the mountains, and in very hard places, and so set upon his rearward, and disordered all his army. They slew two of his elephants, and cut off a great number of his rearward, so he was compelled himself in person to come from his vanguard, to help them. [Omitted for length: Pyrrhus fought with all his might against the "barbarous people."] After that, they let him go, and troubled him no more.
Pyrrhus holding on his journey, arrived at length in the city of Tarentum [see Lessons Five and Six], with twenty thousand footmen, and three thousand horse. And with these (joining thereto the choicest picked men of the Tarentines) he went incontinently into the field to seek out the Romans, who had their camp within the territories of the Samnites, which were then in very hard state.
For their hearts were killed, because that in many battles and encounters with the Romans, they were ever overthrown. They were very angry besides with Pyrrhus, for that he had forsaken them, to go his voyage unto Sicilia, by reason whereof there came no great number of soldiers into his camp. But notwithstanding, he divided all his strength into two parts, whereof he sent the one part into Lucania, to occupy one of the Roman consuls that was there, to the end he should not come to aid his companion; and with the other part he went himself against Manius Curius, who lay in a very strong place of advantage near to the city of Benevento, attending the aid that should come to him out of Lucania, besides also that the soothsayers (by the signs and tokens of the birds and sacrifices) did counsel him not to stir from thence.
Pyrrhus, to the contrary, desiring to fight with Manius before his aid came unto him, which he [Manius] looked for out of Lucania, took with him the best soldiers he had in all his army, and the warlikest elephants, and marched away in the night, supposing to steal upon Manius on the sudden, and give an assault unto his camp.
Now Pyrrhus having a long way to go, and through a woody country, his lights and torches failed him, by reason whereof many of his soldiers lost their way, and they lost a great deal of time also, before they could again be gathered together: so as in this space the night was spent, and the day once broken, the enemies perceived plainly how he came down the hills. This at the first sight made them [the Romans] muse a while, and put them in a little fear: nevertheless Manius having had the signs of the sacrifices favourable, and seeing that occasion did press him to it, went out into the field, and set upon the voward of his enemies, and made them turn their backs. [This put the whole army into such consternation] that there were slain a great number of them in the field, and certain elephants also taken.
This victory made Manius Curius leave his strength, and come into the plain field, where he set his men in battle [ar]ray, and overthrew his enemies by plain force on the one side: but on the other he was repulsed by violence of the elephants, and compelled to draw back into his own camp, wherein he had left a great number of men to guard it. So when he saw them upon the ramparts of his camp all armed, ready to fight, he called them out, and they coming fresh out of places of advantage to charge upon the elephants, compelled them in a very short time to turn their backs, and flee through their own men, whom they put to great trouble, and disorder: so as in the end, the whole victory fell upon the Romans' side, and consequently by means of that victory, followed the greatness and power of their Empire. For the Romans being grown more courageous by this battle, and having increased their force, and won the reputation of men unconquerable: immediately after, [they] conquered all Italy besides, and soon after that, all Sicilia.
To this end as you see, came King Pyrrhus' vain hope he had to conquer Italy and Sicilia, after he had spent six years continually in wars, during which time his good fortune decayed, and his army consumed. Notwithstanding, his noble courage remained always invincible, what losses soever he had sustained: and moreover whilst he lived, he was ever esteemed the chiefest of all the kings and princes in his time, as well for his experience and sufficiency in wars, as also for the valiantness and hardiness of his person. But what he won by famous deeds, he lost by vain hopes: desiring so earnestly that which he had not, as he forgot to keep that which he had. Wherefore Antigonus compared him unto a dice player that casteth well, but cannot use his luck.
[Pyrrhus and his remaining troops returned to Epirus.]
Now having brought back again with him, into Epirus, eight thousand footmen, and five hundred horsemen, and being without money to pay them, he devised with himself to seek out some new war to entertain those soldiers, and keep them together. [Some of the Gauls joining him], he entered into the realm of Macedon (which Antigonus, Demetrius' son, held at that time) with intent only to make a foray, and to get some spoil in the country. But when he saw that he had taken diverse holds, and moreover, that two thousand men of war of the country came and yielded themselves unto him: he began to hope of better success, than at the first he looked for.
For upon that hope he marched against King Antigonus [him]self, whom he met in a very strait valley, and at his first coming, gave such a lusty charge upon his rearward, that he put all Antigonus' army in great disorder. For Antigonus had placed the Gauls in the rearward of his army to close it in, which were a convenient number, and [they] did valiantly defend the first charge: and the skirmish was so hot, that the most of them were slain.
After them, the leaders of the elephants, perceiving they were environed on every side, yielded themselves and their beasts. Pyrrhus seeing his power to be now increased with such a supply, trusting more to his good fortune, than any good reason might move him, thrust further into the battle of the Macedonians, who were all afraid, and troubled for the overthrow of their rearward, so as they would not once base their pikes, nor fight against him. He for his part holding up his hand, and calling the captains of the bands by their names, straightways made all the footmen of Antigonus turn wholly to his side: who, flying, saved himself with a few horsemen, and kept certain of the cities in his realm upon the sea coast.
But Pyrrhus in all his prosperity, judging nothing more to redound to his honour and glory than the overthrow of the Gauls, laid aside their goodliest and richest spoils, and offered up the same in the temple of Minerva Itonida, with an inscription. Immediately after this battle, all the cities of the realm of Macedon yielded unto him.
Reading for Lesson Ten
But when he had the city of Aeges in his power, he used the inhabitants thereof very hardly, and specially because he left a great garrison of the Gauls there which he had in pay. This nation is extreme[ly] covetous, as then they shewed themselves: for they spared not to break up the tombs wherein the kings of Macedon lay buried there, took away all the gold and silver they could find, and afterwards with great insolency cast out their bones into the open wind.
Pyrrhus was told of it, but he lightly passed it over, and made no reckoning of it: either because he deferred it till another time, by reason of the wars he had then in hand: or else for that he durst not meddle with punishing of these barbarous people at that time. But whatsoever the matter was, the Macedonians were very angry with Pyrrhus, and blamed him greatly for it. Furthermore, having not yet made all things sure in Macedon, nor being fully possessed of the same: [new hopes and projects] came into his head, and mocking Antigonus, [Pyrrhus] said he was a mad man to go apparelled in purple like a king, when a poor cloak might become him like a private man.
Now, Cleonymus, King of Sparta, being come to procure him to bring his army into the country of Lacedaemon, Pyrrhus was very willing to it. [Omitted for length: details about Cleonymus, who badly wanted revenge against the current rulers of Sparta.]
Hereupon he [Cleonymus] brought him [Pyrrhus] into Lacedaemonia forthwith, with five and twenty thousand footmen, two thousand horse, and four and twenty elephants: by which preparation, though by nothing else, the world might plainly see, that Pyrrhus came with a mind not to restore Cleonymus again unto Sparta, but of intent to conquer for himself (if he could) all the country of Peloponnesus. For in words he denied it to the Lacedaemonians themselves, who sent ambassadors unto him when he was in the city of Megalipolis, where he told them that he was come into Peloponnesus, to set the towns and cities at liberty which Antigonus kept in bondage: and that his true intent and meaning was to send his young sons into Sparta (so they [the Spartans] would be contented) to the end they might be trained after the Laconian manner, and from their youth have this advantage above all other kings, to have been well brought up.
But feigning these things, and abusing those that came to meet him on his way, they took no heed of him, till he came within the coast of Laconia, into the which he was no sooner entered, but he began to spoil and waste the whole country. And when the ambassadors of Sparta reproved and found fault with him, for that he made wars upon them in such sort, before he had openly proclaimed it: he made them answer: "No more have you yourselves used to proclaim that, which you purposed to do to others." Then one of the ambassadors, called Mandricidas, replied again unto him in the Laconian tongue: "If thou be a god, thou wilt do us no hurt, because we have not offended thee: and if thou be a man, thou shalt meet with another that shall be better than thyself."
Then he marched directly to Sparta, where Cleonymus gave him counsel, even at the first, to assault it. But he would not so do, fearing (as they said) that if he did it by night, his soldiers would sack the city: and said it should be time enough to assault it the next day at broad daylight, because there were but few men within the town, and beside[s], they were very ill provided. And furthermore, King Areus himself was not there, but [had] gone into Creta [Crete] to aid the Gortynians, who had wars in their own country. And doubtless, that only was the saving of Sparta from taking, that they made no reckoning to assault it hotly: because they thought it was not able to make resistance.
For Pyrrhus camped before the town, thoroughly persuaded with himself, that he should find none to fight with him: and Cleonymus' friends and servants also did prepare his lodging there, as if Pyrrhus should have come to supper to him, and lodged with him.
When night was come, the Lacedaemonians counselled together, and secretly determined to send away their wives and little children into Creta. But the women themselves were against it, and there was one among them called Archidamia, who went into the Senate house with a sword in her hand, to speak unto them in the name of all the rest, and said that they did their wives great wrong, if they thought them so fainthearted as to live after Sparta were destroyed. Afterwards it was agreed in council, that they should cast a trench before the enemies' camp, and that at both the ends of the same they should bury carts in the ground unto the midst of the wheels, to the end that being fast set in the ground, they should stay the elephants, and keep them from passing further.
And when they began to go in hand withal, there came wives and maids unto them, some of them their clothes girt up round about them, and others all in their smocks, to work at this trench with the old men, advising the young men that should fight the next morning, to rest themselves in the meanwhile. So the women took the third part of the trench to task, which was six cubits broad, four cubits deep, and eight hundred foot long, as Philarchus sayeth: or little less as Hieronymus writeth.
Then when the break of day appeared, and the enemies removed to come to the assault: the women themselves fetched the weapons which they put into the young men's hands, and delivered them the task of the trench ready made, which they before had undertaken, praying them valiantly to keep and defend it, telling them withal, how great a pleasure it is to overcome the enemies, fighting in view and sight of their native country, and what great felicity and honour it is to die in the arms of his mother and wife, after he hath fought valiantly like an honest man, and worthy of the magnanimity of Sparta.
Now Pyrrhus marched in person with his battle of footmen, against the front of the Spartans, who being a great number also, did tarry his coming on the other side of the trench: the which, besides that it was very ill to pass over, did let the soldiers also to fight steadily in order of battle, because the earth being newly cast up, did yield under their feet.
Wherefore, Ptolemy, King Pyrrhus' son, passing all alongst the trench side with two thousand Gauls, and all the choice men of the Chaonians, essayed if he could get over to the other side at one of the ends of the trench where the carts were: which being set very deep into the ground, and one joined unto another, they did not only hinder the assailants, but the defendants also. Howbeit in the end, the Gauls began to pluck off the wheels off these carts, and to draw them into the river.
But Acrotatus, King Areus' son, a young man, seeing the danger, ran through the city with a troop of three hundred lusty youths besides, and went to enclose Ptolemy behind before he espied him, for that he passed a secret hollow way till he came even to give the charge upon them: whereby they were enforced to turn their faces towards him, one running in another's neck, and so in great disorder were thrust into the trenches, and under the carts: insomuch as at the last, with much ado, and great bloodshed, Acrotatus and his company drave them back, and repulsed them.
In the end, the battle having continued all the day long, the night did separate them.
Reading for Lesson Eleven
At the break of day, Pyrrhus led his army unto the assault. On the other side also, the Lacedaemonians with a marvellous courage and magnanimity, far greater then their force, bestirred themselves wonderfully to make resistance, having their wives by them that gave them their weapons wherewith they fought, and were ready at hand to give meat and drink to them that needed, and did also withdraw those that were hurt to cure them. The Macedonians likewise for their part, endeavoured themselves with all their might to fill up the trench with wood and other things, which they cast upon the dead bodies and armours, lying in the bottom of the ditch: and the Lacedaemonians again, laboured all that they could possible to let them.
But in this great broil, one perceived Pyrrhus a-horseback to have leapt the trench, passed over the strength of the carts, and made force to enter into the city. Wherefore those that were appointed to defend that part of the trench, cried out straight: and the women fell a-shrieking, and running, as if all had been lost.
And as Pyrrhus passed further, striking down with his own hands all that stood before him, a Cretan shot at him, and struck Pyrrhus in his horse through both sides: who leaping out of the press for pain of his wound, dying, carried Pyrrhus away, and threw him upon the hanging of a steep hill, where he was in great danger to fall from the top. This put all his servants and friends about him in a marvellous fear, and therewithal the Lacedaemonians seeing them in this fear and trouble ran immediately unto that place, and with force of shot drave them all out of the trench.
After this retire, Pyrrhus caused all assault to cease, hoping the Lacedaemonians in the end would yield, considering there were many of them slain in the two days past, and all the rest in manner hurt. Howbeit, the good fortune of the city (whether it were to prove the valiantness of the inhabitants themselves, or at the least to shew what power they were of even in their greatest need and distress, when the Lacedaemonians had small hope left) brought one Aminias Phocian from Corinth, one of King Antigonus' captains with a great band of men, and put them into the city to aid them: and straight after him, as soon as he had entered, King Areus arrived also on the other side from Creta, and two thousand soldiers with him.
So the women went home to their houses, making their reckoning that they should not need any more to trouble themselves with wars. They gave the old men liberty also to go and rest themselves, who being past all age to fight, for necessity's sake yet were driven to arm themselves, and take weapon[s] in hand: and in order of battle placed the new-come soldiers in their rooms.
Pyrrhus, understanding that new supplies were come, grew to greater stomach than before, and enforced all that he could, to win the town by assault. But in the end, when to his cost he found that he won nothing but blows, he gave over the siege, and went to spoil all the country about, determining to lie there in garrison all the winter.
He could not for all this avoid his destiny. For there rose a sedition in the city of Argos between two of the chiefest citizens, Aristeas and Aristippus: and because Aristeas thought that King Antigonus did favour his enemy Aristippus, he made haste to send first unto Pyrrhus, whose nature and disposition was such, that he did continually heap hope upon hope, ever taking the present prosperity, for an occasion to hope after greater to come. And if it fell out he was a loser, then he sought to recover himself, and to restore his loss, by some other new attempts. So that neither for being conqueror, nor overcome, he would ever be quiet, but always troubled some[one], and himself also: by reason whereof, he suddenly departed towards Argos.
But King Areus, having laid ambushes for him in diverse places, and occupied also the straitest and hardest passages, by the which he was to pass; he [Areus] gave a charge upon the Gauls and Molossians, which were in the tail of his [Pyrrhus'] army.
The fray was very hot about Ptolemy, Pyrrhus' son, for they were all the chief men of the Lacedaemonians with whom he had to do, led by a valiant captain called Evalcus. But as he fought valiantly against those that stood before him, there was a soldier of Creta called Oraesus, born in the city of Aptera, a man very ready of his hand, and light of foot, who running alongst by him, strake him [Ptolemy] such a blow on his side, that he fell down dead in the place.
Prince Ptolemy being slain, his company began straight to flee: and the Lacedaemonians followed the chase so hotly, that they took no heed of themselves, until they saw they were in the plain field far from their footmen. Wherefore, Pyrrhus unto whom the death of his son was newly reported, being afire with sorrow and passion, turned suddenly upon them, with the men of arms of the Molossians, and being the first that came unto them, made a marvellous slaughter among them. For, notwithstanding that everywhere before that time he was terrible and invincible, having his sword in his hand: yet then he did shew more proof of his valiantness, strength, and courage, then he had ever done before.
[On his riding his horse up to Evalcus], Evalcus turned on the toe side, and gave Pyrrhus such a blow with his sword, that he missed little the cutting off his bridle hand: for he cut indeed all the reins of the bridle asunder. But Pyrrhus straight ran him through the body with his spear, and lighting off from his horse, he put all the troop of the Lacedaemonians to the sword that were about the body of Evalcus, being all chosen men. Thus the ambition of the captains was [the] cause of that loss unto their country for nothing, considering that the wars against them were ended.
But Pyrrhus having now, as it were, made sacrifice of these poor bodies of the Lacedaemonians for the soul of his dead son, and fought thus wonderfully also to honour his funerals, converting a great part of his sorrow for his death into anger and wrath against the enemies: he afterwards held on his way directly towards Argos.
And understanding that King Antigonus had already seized the hills that were over the valley, he lodged near unto the city of Nauplia: and the next morning following sent a herald unto Antigonus, and gave him defiance, calling him wicked man, and challenged him to come down into the valley to fight with him, to try which of the two should be king. Antigonus made him answer, that he made wars as much with time, as with weapon[s]: and furthermore, that if Pyrrhus were weary of his life, he had ways open enough to put himself to death.
The citizens of Argos also sent ambassadors unto them both, to pray them to depart, since they knew that there was nothing for them to see in the city of Argos, and that they would let it be a neuter, and friend unto them both. King Antigonus agreed unto it, and gave them his son for hostage. Pyrrhus also made them fair promise to do so too, but because he gave no caution nor sufficient pledge to perform it, they mistrusted him the more.
Reading for Lesson Twelve
Pyrrhus then coming hard to the walls of Argos in the night, and finding one of the gates called Diamperes, opened by Aristeas, he put in his Gauls: who possessed the marketplace, before the citizens knew anything of it.
But because the gate was too low to pass the elephants through with their towers upon their backs, they [the Gauls] were driven to take them off, and afterwards when they were within, to put them on in the dark, and in tumult: by reason whereof they lost much time, so that the citizens in the end perceived it, and ran incontinently unto the castle of Aspides, and into other strong places of the city.
And therewithal, they sent with present speed unto Antigonus, to pray him to come and help them, and so he did: and after he was come hard to the walls, he remained without with the scouts, and in the meantime sent his son with his chiefest captains into the town, who brought a great number of good soldiers and men of war with them.
At the same time also arrived Areus, king of Sparta, with a thousand of the Cretans, and most lusty Spartans: all which joining together, came to give a charge upon the Gauls that were in the marketplace, who put them in a marvellous fear and hazard.
[Omitted for length: the Gauls had some trouble finding their way around town in the dark, and decided to wait for daylight before doing anything else. When Pyrrhus entered the marketplace at dawn, the sight of a sculpture that seemed to be a bad omen disturbed him.]
Pyrrhus being half discouraged with the sight of [this], and also because nothing fell out well according to his expectation, thought best to retire; but fearing the straitness of the gates of the city, he sent [a message] unto his son Helenus, whom he had left without the city with the greatest part of his force and army, commanding him to overthrow a piece of the wall that his men might the more readily get out, and that he might receive them, if their enemies by chance did hinder their coming out.
But the messenger whom he sent, was so hasty and fearful, with the tumult that troubled him in going out, that he did not well understand what Pyrrhus said unto him, but reported his message quite contrary. Whereupon the young Prince Helenus taking the best soldiers he had with him, and the rest of his elephants, entered into the city to help his father, who was now giving back: and so long as he had room to fight at ease, retiring still, he valiantly repulsed those that set upon him, turning his face oft unto them. But when he was driven unto the street that went from the marketplace to the gate of the city, he was kept in with his own men that entered at the same gate to help him. But they could not hear when Pyrrhus cried out, and bade them go back, the noise was so great: and though the first had heard him, and would have gone back, yet they that were behind, and did still thrust forward into the press, did not permit them.
Besides this moreover, the biggest of all the elephants by misfortune fell down overthwart the gate, where he grinding his teeth did hinder those also, that would have come out and given back. Furthermore, another of the elephants that were entered before the city, called Nico ("conquering"), seeking his governor that was stricken down to the ground from his back with terrible blows, ran upon them that came back upon him, overthrowing friends and foes one in another's neck, till at the length having found the body of his master slain, he lift[ed] him up from the ground with his trunk, and carrying him upon his two [tusks], returned back with great fury, treading all under feet he found in his way.
Thus every man being thronged and crowded up together in this sort, there was not one that could help himself: for it seemed to be a mass and heap of a multitude, and one whole body shut together, which sometime[s] thrust forward, and sometime[s] gave back, as the sway went. They fought not so much against their enemies, who set upon them behind: but they did themselves more hurt, than their enemies did. For if any drew out his sword, or based his pike, he could neither scabbard the one again, nor lift up the other, but thrust it full upon his own fellows that came in to help them, and so killed themselves, one thrusting upon another.
Wherefore Pyrrhus seeing his people thus troubled and harried to and fro, took his crown from his head, which he ware upon his helmet, that made him known of his men afar off, and gave it unto one of his familiars that was next unto him: and trusting then to the goodness of his horse, flew upon his enemies that followed him.
It fortuned that one hurt him with a pike, but the wound was neither dangerous nor great: wherefore Pyrrhus set upon him that had hurt him, who was an Argian born, a man of mean condition, and a poor old woman's son, whose mother at that present time was gotten up to the top of the tiles of a house, as all other women of the city were, to see the fight. And she, perceiving that it was her son whom Pyrrhus came upon, was so affrighted to see him in that danger, that she took a tile, and with both her hands cast it upon Pyrrhus.
The tile falling off from his head by reason of his headpiece, lighted full in the nape of his neck, and brake his neckbone asunder: wherewith he was suddenly so benumbed, that he lost his sight with the blow, the reins of his bridle fell out of his hand, and himself fell from his horse to the ground, by Licymmias' tomb, before any man knew what he was, at the least the common people. Until at the last there came one Zopyrus, that was in pay with Antigonus, and two or three other soldiers also that ran straight to the place, and knowing him, dragged his body into a gate, even as he was coming again to himself out of this trance. This Zopyrus drew out a Slavon sword he wore by his side, to strike off his head [and did so with some difficulty].
The matter was straight blown abroad amongst diverse: whereupon Alcyoneus running thither, asked for the head that he might know it again. But when he had it, he ran presently unto his father withal, and found him talking with his familiar friends, and cast Pyrrhus' head before him. Antigonus looking upon it, when he knew it, laid upon his son with his staff, and called him cruel murderer, and unnatural barbarous beast: and so hiding his eyes with his cloak, wept for pity, (remembering the fortune of his grandfather Antigonus, and of his father Demetrius) and then caused Pyrrhus' head and body to be honourably burnt and buried.
Afterwards Alcyoneus meeting Helenus (King Pyrrhus' son) in very poor state, muffled up with a poor short cloak: used him very courteously with gentle words, and brought him to his father. Antigonus seeing his son bringing of him, said unto him: "This part now (my son) is better then the first, and pleaseth me a great deal more. But yet thou hast not done all thou shouldst: for thou shouldst have taken from him his beggarly cloak he weareth, which doth more shame us that are the gainers, than him that is the loser."
After he had spoken these words, Antigonus embraced Helenus, and having apparelled him in good sort, sent him home with honourable convoy into his realm of Epirus. Furthermore, all Pyrrhus' camp and army [having fallen into his hands], he courteously received all his friends and servants.
Copyright © 2002-2013 AmblesideOnline. All rights reserved. Use of this curriculum subject to the terms of our License Agreement.