Greco-American Stories: Pyrrhus, the Troublemaker | opinions, columnists


In the evening, jeopardy is a program that I watch faithfully. One evening the final response was: “What the ancient Greek said: ‘One more victory and I am lost!’ The participants all wrote down their answers while I wondered who had said that. I had never heard this sentence. The time was up! The answer was “Pyrrhus”. (318-272 BC) All three contestants knew the answer – as if it were common knowledge like Colgate or Tums. So, I scanned my books for Pyrrhus. This is what I found: He was King of Epirus. He fought at Ipsus with Demetrius I of Macedon (295 BC). Then Ptolemy I helped him to become a partner of the king of Epirus with Neoptolemus. He decided to get rid of Neoptolemus, took control of the kingdom, and then got rid of Demetrius I as well! (291-286 BC). Pyrrhus occupied half of Macedonia and Thessaly but was repulsed by the Thessalian general Lysimachus who was the bodyguard of Alexander the Great. After that, restless, he went to Sicily, declared war and defeated (280 BC) the Romans in Heraclea, capital of Sicily. Wanting to make peace with them, the Romans refused any peace agreement on his part. They rearmed and attacked the army of Pyrrhus in Asculum. Although the losses were heavy, Pyrrhus won again. That’s when he said, “Another victory like this and I’m lost!” Asculum was a huge victory for Pyrrhus. But at Benevento (275 BC) the Romans rallied and attacked and won. Pyrrhus, who did not like to lose, regained his prestige with a victory (273 BC) over Antigone II in Macedonia. Then Sparta became his new target. Unable to defeat Sparta, he fled to Argos where a mob, who probably thought he was also coming after them, recognized him and killed him. In all these betrayals and battles, he had really gained nothing beyond the ruin of Epirus.

This guy was a real troublemaker. He liked to wage war, to use his soldiers as plastic toys. It was all fascinating research, I have to admit. But, I’d bet the farm you didn’t know about Pyrrhus either. How did three contestants know an obscure guy whose very name means “fire”?

This information made me look in all my books for other “strangers”. I discovered a host of troublemakers; enough to cover the office and hallway of the Police Department’s Mug Shots wall. Demetrius I (from above fame), in order to regain the Macedonian throne, after taking Athens assassinated his competitors, including Cassandra and his sons. Then, he decides to seize Asia Minor but his enemies unite against him. When Lysimachus and Pyrrhus (above fame) invaded Macedonia, he was forced to seek refuge with Seleucus I, who kept him safe (what are his friends for?) Until his death. His son Antigone II became King of Macedonia, but he had problems with his stepmother, Vereniki. He therefore murdered her and her infant son before her brother Ptolemy III arrived from Egypt. Seleucus waged war on his brother Antiochus Hierax for control of Asia Minor. There was a revolt and it took care of Seleucus II. BUT, his son Seleuchus III took over. He sat on the throne for three years until he was killed. Thus, Antiochus III, son of Antiochus II, became king. (It’s keeping everything in the family. But, he was crushed by the Romans at Thermopylae and again at Magnesia (190 BC) and his dreams of reviving Alexander’s empire are dead. So! Next came Antiochus V, a young king who was overthrown by Demetrious I. Do you remember him? The guy Pyrrhus got rid of? Seems like no one can get along with anyone. look out for trouble!

But, looking around, not much has changed in human nature. Generals and other ambitious troublemakers, whether it’s a local politician, a president or a neighbor, always look over the fence on a lot and decide, “I’m the greatest.” jungle tiger! And I will prove it! Is it natural? Or, is the feeling of being powerful so intriguing? I think this is a question that has long been reflected on by philosophers and reasonable people. Troublemakers have always existed. We saw that! Wanting to live well and wanting others to live well too is what it should be. Ah ah! It’s almost Jeopardy time.

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