Among the initiatives of the publishing house "DISTAPTUR", active Albania between the 1940 and the 1943, there is also a series of books called "BIBLIOTEKA E KULTURËS POPULLORE"
We do not have much information about what was published, given the difficulties in finding the files in Italian and Albanian libraries.
Recently - in the antiquarian market - we found the second volume of the series, which bears the 1943 date: it is the Albanian translation of a chapter of the "Parallel Lives" by Plutarch: PIROJA.
It is a booklet of 60 pages and represents the first Albanian edition of Pirro's life in Plutarch's work in the translation of Sotir Papahristo.
We report - for information of our readers - the cover and the introduction of the book.
WE ALSO GIVE A BRIEF SUMMARY OF PIRRO'S LIFE, AS SHOWN IN THE ANCIENT HISTORY:
The history of Pyrrhus has its roots in mythology: Pyrrhus or Neoptolemus was in fact a Greek hero, son of Achilles, who penetrated into Troy killed Priam and had Andromache as a prey to war. At the end of the war he settled in Epirus, whose rulers began to boast of being his descendants through such Molossus, his son and of Andromache. Hence Epirus was also called the land of the Molossi.
The founding father of the Pyrrhus, our hero, a certain Eacida, he also invented himself a royal descent from the lineage of Achilles, in order to create an ancient and heroic ancestry that was politically useful to him.
Pirro, King of Epirus, son of Eacida and Ftia, seems to have been born in 318 a.
C. and having finished his life cycle at Argo in the 272. He therefore belonged to the eacid dynasty, boasted of descending from Achilles, and of having the protection of Demetrio Poliorcete.
There were also other sources that spoke of this king, whose name probably denoted a fawn aspect (Pirro), but which were lost such as Prosseno (Epeirotika), Hieronymus of Cadia, Duride of Samo and others.
The sources are silent on the figure of Pirro's mother, so on Ftia, the only news we have should derive from either the "Memoirs" written by Pirro himself, or above all from Plutarch, the only source we have received from Pirro's life. In order to focus the character well, we should bear in mind the influence of Ftia, to whom he was very attached.
He had the kingdom already very young inherited from his father Eacida (307-306 BC). However, he lost his reign four years later (302), and followed the fate of Demetrio Poliorcete, his brother-in-law, until the disastrous battle of Ipso of 301, albeit distinguishing himself considerably in the military.
Having become hostage to Egypt, sent to Alexandria in the 298, with the help of Ptolemy I, whose stepdaughter Antigone he married, he returned home, first sharing the kingdom with Neoptolemus, then eliminating him, reigning alone (295). Later he entered into competition with the diadochi with the aim of forming a great kingdom of his own. Towards 285 BC, it had great success, keeping Epirus completely free from Macedonia and dominating half of it, over a large part of Thessaly and over several neighboring regions such as Paravea, Tinfea, Ambracia, Anfilochia, Acarnania and the island of Corcira, who had been brought as a dowry by the new wife Lanassa, daughter of Agathocles. When he died, he also looked to Sicily, on which he claimed rights in the name of his son.
Pirro was a brilliant general, but his political qualities were not as valid as the military ones and his whole career was divided between the temptation to have an Empire in the East and that of a conquest towards the West, in Italian lands.
His plans of greatness were however cut off by Lysimachus who deprived him of all the possessions he had conquered. This happened in the 284 a. C.
Here then Pirro then turned his gaze to the West, with the aim of gathering under him the Greek colonies of southern Italy and Sicily. This attempted to remove them from the dominion of the Romans and the Carthaginians.
The opportunity came soon, but we must make a premise.
Rome, once the Samnites, the Etruscans, the Sabines, the Peligni and the Galli Senones were defeated, in 290 it could be considered mistress of central-northern Italy and, with the foundation of the colony of Venosa in Lucania, it did not hide the intention to nurture aims. expansionist also towards the South and Magna Graecia.
In 280 the Greek city of Turi was threatened by the Italic Lucanian populations. The simplest solution would have been to turn to Taranto, the most flourishing of the cities close to her, but the hostile relations with its inhabitants forced Turi to put himself under the protection of the Romans who, obviously, gladly welcomed the request for help as this would have allowed them to become part of the political division of southern Italy.
Rome therefore sent a garrison to Turi, but 10 warships, violating the navigation treaty with Taranto, which obliged them not to cross the Lacinio promontory (Crotone), presented themselves before the port of the city, were attacked and four were also sunk and a fifth captured, slaughtering the crew. The others fled. The Roman Senate immediately demanded satisfaction of the event, but the ambassadors were insulted and this episode decreed the state of war between the two cities.
The Tarantines, powerful in the economic field, but very weak on the military level, required the intervention of Pirro, and these did not miss the opportunity to enter into the affairs of the Greeks of Italy with the hope of enlarging his kingdom and become the protector of the whole Magna Graecia, from Puglia to Sicily.
Pirro prepared a consistent expedition that included 20 combat elephants, 3.000 knight knights, the best of Hellas, 20.000 infantrymen, 2.000 archers and 500 slingers, and embarked on the ships made available by the Tarantini.
A furious spring storm however dispersed the impressive fleet, which should not have been inferior to the 400 ships. Few boats, however, sank and most of the expeditionary could be saved, although it was scattered almost everywhere. The forces of the king were also joined by 3.000 men led by Cinea who was already in Puglia.
Pirro, in a Taranto that he had brutally submitted to his authority, was also intent on integrating the local contingents with those of Epirus, likewise awaiting the Lucan and Samnite reinforcements that the city of Taranto had assured him.
On learning that the consul Publius Valerius Levinus descended towards the south with an army, Pyrrhus placed the camp between the cities of Pandosia and Eraclea, near the southern shores of the Siri river, today Sinni, while the Romans camped on the opposite bank of Eraclea .
Eraclea was founded in 433 after a victory over Turi, and therefore was a trusted city and a secure supply base for the Epirotes. The forces of the king were joined by small contingents of little war value provided by Taranto. Other aid, made available by the Lucanians at war with Turi and Rome and by the Samnites, eternal rivals of the Romans, would soon be set in motion.
The king knew nothing of the Romans and certainly, with the innate pride of all the Greeks to belong to a superior people, he had to judge them as a rough and uncivilized nation. It is said, however, that, looking at the orderly aspect of the Roman camp, he turned to his friend Megacle, honestly recognizing that: "... the disposition of these barbarians is not barbarous at all".
Pirro had no intention of attacking the battle immediately, awaiting the arrival of the Lucanians and the Samnites. He therefore simply sent some principals to control the banks of the Siri; but when the Romans began to cross it in several places and in a dribble, he was forced to accept the fight and to deploy the cavalry on the south bank of the river.
It is commonly said that in Eraclea the Romans were shocked by the elephants they saw for the first time: the use of the Indian elephant as a breakthrough weapon, learned from Alexander and subsequently adopted by all the Hellenistic rulers and the Carthaginians, who imported those beasts already trained directly from India, was absolutely unknown in Italy.
What is usually overlooked is that in 280 the Romans came into contact with the phalanx for the first time, the unbeatable Macedonian line made famous by Philip II in the battle of Cheronea in 334. The phalanx included six taxis of 1.500 men each, totaling approximately 9.000 phalangites. There is no reason to suppose that Pirro had a different number of soldiers, and therefore the king had with him two phalanges (about 18.000 men).
For the first time in history I compared two different tactical arrangements: the Greek closed order and the Roman mobile array; the first is massive and monolithic, bristling with thousands of spear points, the latter is dynamic and agile.
At first Pirro thought he could stop the apparently disordered crossing of Siri by infantry with only cavalry, and by emulating Alexander, he began to fight between the front rows, showing a certain contempt for the enemy's military ability: but as regards the single value of the Roman fighter, the King immediately experienced it when the lance of a frentano knight named Oplaco shot down his horse and he was saved only by the intervention of his officers. Making himself more prudent, Pirro then exchanged the robe and the rich arms with those of his friend Megacle, who in fact was almost immediately killed by such a Dessio who mistook him for the king. When he saw that with only the knights he could not stop the continuous flow of the enemies, also because Levino had made his cavalry intervene in support of the legionaries, he gave orders to the phalanxes to advance.
The clash remained for a long time uncertain both among the infantry and between the opposing cavalry: only later did Pirro advance the elephants, which therefore for some reason had to be placed behind, and not on the forehead of the phalanges, as would have been expected.
Plutarch in fact refers: "..
In the end, since above all the elephants pressed on the Romans, and the horses, even from a distance, could not bear the sight and carried away the knights, Pirro threw the Thessalian cavalry against the enemies in disorder, put them to flight and made a great massacre ".
The consul Levino did not know how to reorganize the surviving forces: he abandoned the camp to the enemy and allowed Pirro to advance to Preneste, about thirty kilometers from Rome. However, the Senate would not remove the command from the defeated consul.
Pirro was very proud to have tamed the enemy with only his forces and the Tarantines, without the intervention of the Samnites and the Lucanians. This is confirmed by the registration of one of his ex-votos offered to the sanctuary of Dodona after the battle of Eraclea. From the hardness of the sustained clash and from the value shown by the adversary, however, he gained a sincere respect and a chivalrous admiration towards the enemy, a feeling very rare in the ancients, and almost unknown among the Greeks.
According to the sources quoted by Plutarch, the battle of Eraclea entailed very high costs for both sides: for Dionisio of Halicarnassus there would have been 15.000 fallen in the Roman and 13.000 ranks fallen in those of Pirro (which would mean substantially half of the epirote army) , while for Hieronymus of Cardia (who lived at the time of this conflict) the consul Levino would have lost 7.000 men and Pirro about 4.000, that is more than a fifth of the Epirus staff. But, in any case, the losses suffered by Pyrrhus were much more serious than it might have seemed, due to the fact that his army was operating in a theater of war far from the motherland, while the Romans were in a position to quickly reorganize themselves with new contingents available in the Italic world.
It is said that Pirro's comment on the victory of Eraclea was: "another victory like this and I will return to Epirus alone ...".
The victory achieved by Pirro over the Romans obviously aroused an enormous impression and immediately produced remarkable effects: while the Samnites, the Bruzii and the Lucanians abandoned all remora and openly entered the Epiroth-Tarentine army, the Magno-Greek cities of Locri and of Crotone got rid of the Roman garrisons there attested (not even Rhegium, where the mercenary garrison called "Legio Campana" seized the city fiercely, so he received an exemplary and warning punishment from Rome, albeit after the war ended: 271 BC).
Pyrrhus, increased in strength and fame, moved towards Campania and then, having devastated the Liri valley and the city of Fregellae, along the Via Latina he succeeded in bringing himself almost to 300 stadiums from Rome: in this regard Appiano, substantially confirmed by Plutarch , he specifically mentions the city of Anagni, while in Floro and in other Compendi Liviani it is even indicated the much closer Preneste. However, this extremely daring undertaking, contrary to the expectations of the Epirota, did not arouse rebellions in Rome nor did it reach the ultimate goal of inducing it to negotiate, mainly because in the Campanian-Lazio world it had already matured, unlike in Magna Grecia, a solid integration with the Rome itself.
Considering the strength of the Romans, Pirro attempted to send to Rome one of his most valid mediators, Cinea. The able speaker had almost succeeded in convincing the Romans to abandon the war and to accept Pirro's conditions when he found the opposition of a Senator, Appius Claudius, called the Blind. He was not a patrician like any other, he was a man of great authority, builder of the first Roman aqueduct, of the Appian Way, as well as of numerous palaces, theaters and basilicas. He was also twice a censor, and a well-known poet, among other things for this famous saying: "Faber est suae quisque fortunae" (Everyone is the author of his own destiny). Appius Claudius harshly addressed the senators who wanted to come to terms with the enemy, said them cowardly and forget the past glories of Rome and his great men. We imagine him, from the bottom of the Senate, white-haired, raising his blank look into the void, while his harsh words bring the senators back to the values of the ancient Republic.
The speech of Appius Claudius deserves to be reported for his eloquence: "Where did that speech, in fact, that you always repeated to all, according to which, if the great Alexander had come to Italy and had clashed with us, that we were young, and with our fathers, then in the prime of life, now would it not be celebrated as invincible, but would his flight or death in our land make Rome more famous? "
Having finally emerged from indecision, the Senate rejected the proposals of the King Epirot dismissing the external Cinea.
Despite the contrary opinion of his ambassador, Pirro continued the war.
Arriving near Rome, its ranks of elephants were routed thanks to the same tricks that the roosters had used against the Romans: the legions built chariots equipped with fiery lances and mobile palisades, so that the pachyderms were ruinously put to flight by overwhelming the same epirotes .
Another very serious clash took place at Asculum in the 278, where Pirro won the measure. The king of Epirus obtained other modest victories, but always at the price of serious losses and he himself was wounded.
The skirmishes with Pirro were enriched with highly educational episodes, suited to Roman propaganda. Cicero, for example, tells us of a deserter who secretly came to the Roman camp, proposing to poison Pirro in exchange for money. The consul on duty, Gaius Fabrizio Luscino, clearly rejected the proposal and had the traitor return to the epirot camp. "It would have been a great dishonor for us and a great fault to have won, not with value, but with crime, an adversary with whom we fought for glory" (Cicero De officis, book III). Always Fabrizio was the protagonist of this skirmish with Pirro: having reached the camp to negotiate, the Epirot King coaxed him with great honors and a sumptuous banquet. Finally, having reached a personal interview, Pirro tried to corrupt him with very large sums if he could convince the Roman Senate to accept peace. Scandalized Fabrizio stated: "Offer your gold to slaves, who have no love for their country."
The next day Pirro, annoyed by the Roman's refusal, tried to intimidate him with a torture: he let a barred elephant enter the tent where the interview took place. Fabrizio did not flinch in front of the dramatized one, although he had never seen an elephant, and said: "You see me today as I was yesterday; and like yesterday the power of your gold does not overcome me so today I am not terrified by the threatening presence of your beast. "
So Pirro, failing for the moment to bend the Romans despite victories on the battlefield, passed into Sicily. It forced the Carthaginians to reduce themselves to the possession of only Lilybaum (278-276). But when he was about to have a complete victory, due to opposition from the Sicilian states, he was forced to leave the island.
The presence of Pyrrhus in Italy threatened all the powers of the Mediterranean: Carthage even allied itself with the Romans to fight against the Epirota King. Pyrrhus also conquered Sicily in the 277, but was hated by the people for its enormous demand for taxation.
Sosistrato, tyrant of Agrigento, he was in opposition with a certain opinion of Syracuse. Both had a contingent of 10.000 soldiers, so with equal strength. Neither of them could prevail over the other. Carthage judged that the time had come to invade Syracuse, an everlasting enemy, with 50.000 men and 199 ships. The Syracusans then asked for help from Pirro. He accepted thinking, perhaps rightly that if Syracuse fell into the hands of the Punics, he would find himself between two fires, the Carthaginian and the Roman.
But that's not all: this way he was offered the chance to become the King of all Sicily.
Meanwhile the Romans, after the defeat suffered in Ascoli, had entered into an alliance with the Carthaginians to face Pirro; but at the base of this alliance there was considerable mutual distrust.
Meanwhile Pirro, found a good ally in the Tyrant of Tauromenio, a certain Tindarione, who allowed him to land with his ships in the port of Naxos and then reach Syracuse. Here Pirro had enthusiastic welcome. But this was not enough: he wanted to free all of Sicily from Carthaginian hegemony.
Fall Eraclea, Pirro found valid allies in Heraclides, tyrant of Leontini, while Sositrato seized Agrigento. Other allies were both Selinunte and Segesta.
Erice and the Carthaginian Lilibeo seemed impregnable.
Pirro, not accepting advantageous Carthaginian proposals in Sicilian money and territories, worried about the Roman reorganization, thought of attacking the Carthaginians in their home, in Africa, but the local populations, remembering that Pirro was still a foreigner, had hostile feelings towards him . Sosistrato also rebelled against him and Titione had to be killed.
The Siciliots also reached the point of making common cause with the Punics and the Mamertines.
Thus Pirro understood that the game was lost and that his stay in Sicily could have compromised his expedition to Italy. Therefore in 276 he left Sicily.
But on this side of the Strait of Pirro he found 10.000 Mamertini, Italic mercenaries mostly from Campania in the pay of the tyrant Agathocles of Syracuse, who, after his death (289 BC) put a violent and bloody coup at work in Messina, arriving in fact, to take control, strategically very relevant, of the Strait. They were determined to close the way to Italy because Pirro, arriving in Sicily, had invaded the Plain of Milazzo, a Mamertine territory. And these had not forgotten him.
Pirro, as a great military strategist, understood that it was not convenient for him to do battle: he managed to avoid a head-on collision that equally occurred when the king, moving from Locri, decided to go back and face the Mamertines in 276, who were soundly defeated.
Finally he could then head to Taranto and in the 275 he again met the Romans on his way.
The decisive battle took place in Maleventum in the 275 BC
The two consuls of the city were the patrician Lucius Cornelius Lentulus and the plebeian Mario Curio Dentato. The patrician marched towards Lucania, the plebeian towards the Sannio. It was a perfect encirclement move. Dentato once again rejected both enemy soldiers and elephants, thanks to the chariots equipped with flaming rods and torches, while the archers hurled fiery darts.
It was not a clear victory for the Romans. After a great massacre on both sides in the evening the armies returned to their battered camps, without one of the two fronts having given way. The Epirot king had to note, however, that with so few men he could no longer sustain a further battle.
Decimated his strength, Pirro saw himself therefore forced to hastily abandon Italy and retired permanently in his kingdom beyond the sea. Taranto then fell into the hands of the Romans. For the occasion, Maleventum was renamed Beneventum.
The Romans had thus taken control of the entire south-central area. Samnites, Bruzi and Lucani had been definitively reduced to vassals. A new tile had been added in the construction of the Roman Republican mosaic. Pirro, despite his half victories, had been rejected. It was a remarkable maturity test for the nascent Roman power, the victory over Pirro caused a sensation and the name of Rome spread for the first time in the Mediterranean.
For Pirro the Italian campaign was not essential, far greater problems awaited him at home. However he proved to possess the spirit of the true leader, willing to make any sacrifice in order to obtain victories. Unfortunately for him Italy was not just any land of conquest.
It would have drawn the same bitter conclusions from Hannibal seventy years later: despite the amazing victories on the field, the war was lost. The indomitable spirit of the Romans and the loyalty of the people subject to them were elements of greater importance than the strategic ability in battle.
After the battle of Benevento, Pirro had to return to Epirus with the threat-promise to return as soon as possible to Italy. At home he resumed the war for dominance over Greece, opposing Antigonus Gonata for the possession of Macedonia and contending for Sparta with supremacy over the Peloponnese.
After a couple of battles he had to retreat before the combined forces of the enemies, taking refuge in Argos. He succeeded once again in the 274 to subdue all of Macedonia and attempted to restore Cléonime to Sparta in the 272, but he found death during the taking of Argo, killed by a tile that an old woman threw him from the top of a roof.
A death unworthy of a great leader.
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