Pyrrhic Victory

According to Plutarch, the Greek General Pyrrhus famously said, “If we are victorious in another battle with the Romans, we will be ruined.”  This idea of winning at too high a cost came to be known as a Pyrrhic victory.

One of the reasons Pyrrhus was having trouble was that he used elephants in battle, thinking they would scare the Romans.  Instead, the elephants got scared of the battle, and trampled Pyrrhus’ own troops.  The elephants also were not ideal for narrow Roman streets or the Mediterranean terrain and climate.

Many of you likely remember hearing in your school history classes about the Cathaginian General Hannibal and how he marched elephants over the Alps to surprise the Romans.  What is often lost in the amazing story is that only six elephants survived the march, and all but one died in the snowy winter months that followed.

In other words, elephants aren’t the best warriors.  They would much prefer to live in peace.


(Picture: public domain, Cornelis Cort engraving of Hannibal)










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