The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.
In both of Pyrrhus's victories, the Romans lost more men than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, so their losses did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus's losses did to his.
Although it is most closely associated with a military battle, the term is used by analogy in fields such as business, politics, law, literature, and sports to describe any similar struggle which is ruinous for the victor. For example, the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr writing of the need for coercion in the cause of justice warned that: "Moral reason must learn how to make a coercion its ally without running the risk of a Pyrrhic victory in which the ally exploits and negates the triumph."
- Battle of Asculum (279 BC) - Pyrrhus of Epirus + Italian allies against the Romans
- Battle of Malplaquet (1709) - War of the Spanish Succession
- Battle of Bunker Hill (1775) - American Revolutionary War
- Battle of Guilford Court House (1781) - American Revolutionary War
- Battle of Crete (1941) - World War II
- Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (1942) - World War II, Solomon Islands Campaign
- Unternehmen Bodenplatte (1945) - World War Two, Battle of the Bulge
- Battle of the Imjin River (1951) - Korean War
- Battle of Vukovar (1991) - Croatian War of Independence
- Battle of Grozny (1994–1995) - First Chechen war
- Gary Oldman shoots leon and leon triggers the grenades (1994) - The Professional
- Cadmean victory
- Heroic failure
- Mexican standoff
- No-win situation
- Poison pill
- Spite house
- Winner's curse
- ↑ Plutarch (trans. John Dryden) Pyrrhus, hosted on the The Internet Classics Archive
- ↑ "Ne ego si iterum eodem modo uicero, sine ullo milite Epirum reuertar": Orosius, Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri, IV, 1.15.
- ↑ Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 21:8.
- ↑ Niebuhr, Reinhold Moral man and Immoral Society, published by Scribner, 1932 and 1960, reprinted by Westminster John Knox Press, 2002, ISBN 0664224741, ISBN 9780664224745 p. 238.
- Denson, John, The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories. Transaction Publishers (1997). ISBN 1-560-00319-7.be-x-old:Пірава перамога
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