A Pyrrhic victory ( // (
Pyrrhic victory is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC and the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC, during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:
Pyrrhus was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house, and later he became king of Epirus. He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. His battles, though victories, caused him unacceptably heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives.
Epirus was an ancient Greek state, located in the geographical region of Epirus in the western Balkans. The homeland of the ancient Epirotes was bordered by the Aetolian League to the south, Thessaly and Macedonia to the east, and Illyrian tribes to the north. For a brief period, the Epirote king Pyrrhus managed to make Epirus the most powerful state in the Greek world, and his armies marched against Rome during an unsuccessful campaign in Italy.
The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other 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.— Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus
In both Epirote victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties but they had a much larger pool of replacements, so the casualties had less impact on the Roman war effort than the losses of King Pyrrhus.
The report is often quoted as
Ne ego si iterum eodem modo uicero, sine ullo milite Epirum reuertar.
Another such victory and I come back to Epirus alone.— Orosius
If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.
Ironically enough, it can never fairly be said that Pyrrhus of Epirus ever incurred such a "victory", having handily defeated the Romans in each of their engagements by a large margin, all the while suffering substantially fewer casualties (see, for example, the Battle of Heraclea). The term entered the English vernacular due to popular misconceptions of the magnitude of Pyrrhus's losses: beginning before the 1800s, Latin history teaching books said that Pyrrhus suffered losses in the tens of thousands.
The Battle of Heraclea took place in 280 BC between the Romans under the command of consul Publius Valerius Laevinus, and the combined forces of Greeks from Epirus, Tarentum, Thurii, Metapontum, and Heraclea under the command of Pyrrhus king of Epirus.
This list comprises examples of battles that ended in a Pyrrhic victory. It is not intended to be complete but to illustrate the concept.
The Battle of Asculum took place in 279 BC between the Roman Republic under the command of the consuls Publius Decius Mus and Publius Sulpicius Saverrio and the forces of king Pyrrhus of Epirus. The battle took place during the Pyrrhic War, after the Battle of Heraclea of 280 BC, which was the first battle of the war. There exist accounts of this battle by three ancient historians: Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch and Cassius Dio. Asculum was in Lucanian territory, In southern Italy.
The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. It had a government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was then divided between a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople, and it was ruled by multiple emperors.
The Battle of Avarayr was fought on 2 June 451 on the Avarayr Plain in Vaspurakan between the Armenian Army under Vardan Mamikonian and Sassanid Persia. It is considered one of the first battles in defense of the Christian faith in history. Although the Persians were victorious on the battlefield, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for Armenians, as Avarayr paved the way to the Nvarsak Treaty of 484 AD, which affirmed Armenia's right to practise Christianity freely.
The term is used as an analogy in business, politics and sport to describe struggles that end up ruining the victor. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr commented on the necessity of coercion in preserving the course of justice by warning,
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another, or a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, analogy is an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, in which at least one of the premises, or the conclusion, is general rather than particular in nature. The term analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) was an American Reformed theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Niebuhr was one of America's leading public intellectuals for several decades of the 20th century and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. A public theologian, he wrote and spoke frequently about the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy, with his most influential books including Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man. The latter is ranked number 18 of the top 100 non-fiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library. Andrew Bacevich labelled Niebuhr's book The Irony of American History "the most important book ever written on U.S. foreign policy." The historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described Niebuhr as "the most influential American theologian of the 20th century" and Time posthumously called Niebuhr "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards."
Justice, in its broadest context, includes both the attainment of that which is just and the philosophical discussion of that which is just. The concept of justice is based on numerous fields, and many differing viewpoints and perspectives including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. Often, the general discussion of justice is divided into the realm of social justice as found in philosophy, theology and religion, and, procedural justice as found in the study and application of the law.
Moral reason must learn how to make coercion its ally without running the risk of a Pyrrhic victory in which the ally exploits and negates the triumph.
In Beauharnais v. Illinois , a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a charge proscribing group libel, Associate Justice Black alluded to Pyrrhus in his dissent,
Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250 (1952), was a case that came before the United States Supreme Court in 1952. It upheld an Illinois law making it illegal to publish or exhibit any writing or picture portraying the "depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens of any race, color, creed or religion". It is most known for giving a legal basis to some degree that forms of hate speech which may be deemed to breach U.S. libel law are not protected by the First Amendment.
Defamation, calumny, vilification, or traducement is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of, depending on the law of the country, an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.
Hugo Lafayette Black was an American politician and jurist who served in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. A member of the Democratic Party and a devoted New Dealer, Black endorsed Franklin D. Roosevelt in both the 1932 and 1936 presidential elections. Having gained a reputation in the Senate as a reformer, Black was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Roosevelt and confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 63 to 16. He was the first of nine Roosevelt nominees to the Court, and he outlasted all except for William O. Douglas.
If minority groups hail this holding as their victory, they might consider the possible relevancy of this ancient remark: "Another such victory and I am undone".
A related expression is "winning a battle but losing the war". This describes a poor strategy that wins a lesser objective but overlooks and loses the larger objective.
A "hollow victory" or "empty victory" is one in which the victor gains little or nothing.Examples include:
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This article concerns the period 279 BC – 270 BC.
Year 279 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Publius Sulpicius Saverrio and Publius Decius Mus. The denomination 279 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for many years.
Demetrius I, called Poliorcetes, son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Stratonice, was a Macedonian Greek nobleman, military leader, and finally king of Macedon. He belonged to the Antigonid dynasty and was its first member to rule Macedonia. In 295/4 after Athens' capitulation, Demetrius formed a new government which espoused a major dislocation of traditional democratic forms, which anti Macedonian democrats would have called oligarchy. The cyclical rotation of the secretaries of the Council and the election of archons by allotment, were both abolished. In 293/3 - 293/2 B.C., two of the most prominent men in Athens were designated by the Macedonian king, Olympiordoros and Phillipides of Paiania. The royal appointing is implied by Plutarch who says that " he established the archons which were most acceptable to the Demos. The practice was later adopted by his son, Antigonos Gonatas which democrats like Stratokles could also take part."
Publius Valerius Laevinus was commander of the Roman forces at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, in which he was defeated by Pyrrhus of Epirus. In his Life of Pyrrhus, Plutarch wrote that Gaius Fabricius Luscinus said of this battle that it was not the Epirots who had beaten the Romans, but only Pyrrhus who had beaten Laevinus.
Cineas was a man from Thessaly and an important adviser of King Pyrrhus. He had a reputation for great wisdom and was a pupil of Demosthenes the orator and was the only man who could be compared in skill with Demosthenes. Pyrrhus held him in high regard. Plutarch wrote that Pyrrhus sent Cineas to many cities in Greece as an ambassador and "used to say that more cities had been won for him by the eloquence of Cineas than by his own arms; and he continued to hold Cineas in especial honour and to demand his services."
The Battle of Carrhae[ˈkar.rae̯] was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the town of Carrhae,. The Parthian general Surena decisively defeated a numerically superior Roman invasion force under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It is commonly seen as one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian empires and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history.
The Pyrrhic War was a war fought by Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus. Pyrrhus was asked by the people of the Greek city of Tarentum in southern Italy to help them in their war with the Roman Republic.
The Battle of Beneventum was the last battle of the Pyrrhic War. It was fought between the forces of Pyrrhus the king of Epirus, in Greece, and the Romans, led by consul Manius Curius Dentatus. It was fought near Beneventum, in southern Italy. At the time of the battle this city still had its original name: Maleventum. Six years later the Romans sought to further secure the city and its area by establishing a Roman colony there. The name was changed from Maleventum, a name which the Romans associated with bad omens, as it means ill-come in Latin, to Beneventum, a name, meaning welcome in Latin, which to them had more fortunate connotations.
The Battle of Tigranocerta was fought on 6 October 69 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic and the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great. The Roman force was led by Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and Tigranes was defeated. As a result, Tigranes' capital city of Tigranocerta was captured by Rome.
Asculum, also known as Ausculum, was the ancient name of two Italian cities.
Publius Decius Mus was a Roman politician and general of the plebeian gens Decia. He was the son of Publius Decius Mus, who was consul in 312 BC. As consul in 279 BC, he and his fellow consul, Publius Sulpicius Saverrio, combined their armies against Pyrrhus of Epirus at the Battle of Asculum. Pyrrhus was victorious, but at such a high cost that the security of Asculum was guaranteed. This is the origin of the term "Pyrrhic victory". According to one tradition, Decius died in the field; according to another, he survived.
Churs is a village in Churs Rural District, in the Central District of Chaypareh County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 2,367, in 636 families.
The Siege of Sparta took place in 272 BC and was a battle fought between Epirus, led by King Pyrrhus, and an alliance consisting of Sparta, under the command of King Areus I and his heir Acrotatus, and Macedon. The battle was fought at Sparta and ended in a Spartan-Macedonian victory.
Pyrrhus' invasion of the Peloponnese in 272 BC was an invasion of south Greece by Pyrrhus, King of Epirus. He was opposed by Macedon and a coalition of Greek city-states (poleis), most notably Sparta. The war ended in a joint victory by Macedonia and Sparta.
Due to the Roman focus on infantry and its discipline, war elephants were rarely used. While the Romans did eventually adopt them, and used them occasionally after the Punic wars, especially during the conquest of Greece, they fell out of use by the time of Claudius, after which they were generally used for the purpose of demoralizing enemies instead of being used for tactical purposes. The Romans occasionally used them for transport.
So spirited was the Armenian defense, however, that the Persians suffered enormous losses as well. Their victory was pyrrhic and the king, faced with troubles elsewhere, was forced, at least for the time being, to allow the Armenians to worship as they chose.
The Armenian defeat in the Battle of Avarayr in 451 proved a pyrrhic victory for the Persians. Though the Armenians lost their commander, Vartan Mamikonian, and most of their soldiers, Persian losses were proportionately heavy, and Armenia was allowed to remain Christian.
Marlborough's triumph proved to be a Pyrrhic victory
Malplaquet was what has been termed with the age-old expression a "Pyrrhic victory”...
A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.
Although the British eventually won the battle, it was a Pyrrhic victory that lent considerable encouragement to the revolutionary cause.
In three hours, Cornwallis's army took possession of the field, but it was a Pyrrhic victory... Cornwallis could not afford the casualties his army sustained, and withdrew to Wilmington. By doing so, Cornwallis ceded control of the countryside to the Continentals.
This battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was clearly a Japanese victory; the sole Japanese victory in a carrier battle during the war. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, which the Japanese were in no condition to exploit. The damage to their carriers was serious, and their plane losses very heavy. Moreover, the land-based air force at Rabaul was exhausted; many of its best pilots were dead. In late October, the Japanese air effort fell off steeply. Because of its heavy losses and inadequate pilot training program, the Japanese naval air force had already slipped into a qualitative decline from which it never recovered.
Vice-Admiral Nagumo, who was transferred to shore duty after the battle, reported to the Combined Fleet with greater than usual insight and honesty, "This battle was a tactical win, but a shattering strategic loss for Japan. Considering the great superiority of our enemy's industrial capacity, we must win every battle overwhelmingly to win this war. This last one, although a victory, unfortunately, was not an overwhelming victory." Naval victories are usually counted in ships lost but given the destruction of the cream of the Japanese Navy’s aircrews, it could even be argued that, in the case of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, the Japanese came off worst. Reporting several weeks after the battle, Nimitz too correctly calibrated the result of the battle: "This battle cost us the lives of many gallant men, many planes and two ships that could ill be spared... We nevertheless turned back the Japanese again in their offensive to regain Guadalcanal and shattered their carrier air strength on the eve on the critical days of mid-November. It was indeed a pyrrhic victory."
As at Coral Sea, the contest would go into the books as a tactical victory for the Japanese but a strategic victory for the Americans... The Japanese press reported another triumph, and the rank and file cheered another fantastic victory. But the senior commanders of the navy privately acknowledged that the result had been, at best, a pyrrhic victory.
A hollow victory is where someone wins something in name, but are seen not to have gained anything by winning.
The brother of one of convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof's nine victims calls the 22-year-old's death sentence a "hollow victory". Melvin Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd, said after Roof's sentence was read this afternoon, "Today we had justice for my sister." But he called Roof's sentence a "very hollow victory because my sister's still gone."
Shellie Farnham, 47, was convicted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter and dependent endangerment causing the death of Rodney Lee Moss, 43…. Moss’s mother, Pam Bellanca, said hearing the jury’s verdict was a relief. “It’s always a hollow victory, because we can’t bring Rodney back,” prosecutor Jill Henderson said. “All we can do is seek justice.”
Yet the ensuing court-martial found the captain not guilty - a hollow victory with his son at the bottom of Portsmouth Harbor.
Ex-football star Bruce Grobbelaar today won his appeal, but failed to restore his damaged reputation, when the House of Lords ordered the Sun newspaper to pay him just £1 in libel damages for accusing him of match-fixing... "By recovering the sum of only £1, he has effectively lost his action to clear his name and may face legal costs of over £1m."
Agincourt was a hollow victory because it engendered unrealistic expectations and, in particular, it blinded Henry and his advisers to the strategic impossibility that England could ever subdue its neighbour across the Channel…. The victory at Agincourt gave Henry the initiative, but in the end he became a prisoner of his own ambitions and in the process of trying to realise them he subjected both England and France to one of the most intensive periods of fighting seen in the war.
The impact on Britain of its hollow victory was rather less: it recommenced its military complacency, blithely unaware of what was quietly happening in Prussia (military reform and moderization) while frittering away resources on a futile and distant war.
The United States and other NATO members loudly proclaim that the alliance achieved a great victory in the war against Yugoslavia. According to the conventional wisdom, NATO waged a successful campaign to prevent genocide; enhanced its credibility as an effective institution for preserving peace, stability, and justice in post-Cold War Europe; and intimidated would-be aggressors around the world. Such claims already ring hollow.