Template:RomanMilitary A Pyrrhic victory (Template:Pron-en) is a victory with devastating cost to the victor.


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.[1]

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.

The report is often quoted as "Another such victory and I come back to Epirus alone,"[2] or "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."[3]

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."[4]


See alsoEdit


  1. Plutarch (trans. John Dryden) Pyrrhus, hosted on the The Internet Classics Archive
  2. "Ne ego si iterum eodem modo uicero, sine ullo milite Epirum reuertar": Orosius, Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri, IV, 1.15.
  3. Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 21:8.
  4. 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.

Further readingEdit

bs:Pirova pobjeda bg:Пирова победа ca:Victòria pírrica cs:Pyrrhovo vítězství da:Pyrrhussejr de:Pyrrhussieg el:Πύρρειος νίκη es:Victoria pírrica eo:Venko de Pirho eu:Garaipen pirriko fr:Victoire à la Pyrrhus gl:Vitoria pírrica hr:Pirova pobjeda ia:Victoria pyrrhic is:Pyrrhosarsigur it:Vittoria di Pirro he:ניצחון פירוס ka:პიროსის გამარჯვება lt:Pyro pergalė mk:Пирова победа nl:Pyrrusoverwinning ja:ピュロスの勝利 no:Pyrrhosseier nn:Pyrrhossiger pl:Pyrrusowe zwycięstwo pt:Vitória pírrica ro:Victorie à la Pirus ru:Пиррова победа simple:Pyrrhic victory sk:Pyrrhovo víťazstvo sl:Pirova zmaga sr:Пирова победа sv:Pyrrhusseger uk:Піррова перемога zh:皮洛士的胜利

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