An Indian Civilizational Perspective

A Pyrrhic victory

Today I used the word “Pyrrhic” in one of my conversations on the net after a long time. I know its meaning and usage but I just wanted a historical context to it. So here is what the wikipedia says.. its an interesting word to use – specially in context of the many dialogs (err.. fights/debates) that one engages on the net!

A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with devastating cost to the victor. The phrase is a reference to King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties when he defeated the Romans during the Pyrrhic War at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC. 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.”

The report is often quoted as “Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone”. While it is most closely associated with a military battle, the term is used by analogy in fields such as business, politics, law, and sport to describe any similar struggle which is ruinous for the victor.

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