Pyrrhus (319 to 272 BCE), king of the Greek city-state Epirus, was a second cousin of Alexander the Great. He earned a reputation as a successful general in the political chaos of the successor kingdoms that arose from the ruins of his famous cousin’s empire. A hundred years after Pyrrhus’s death, Hannibal, famous for crossing the Alps with elephants and one of history’s great military commanders, considered Pyrrhus the second greatest general of all time. (Hannibal modestly placed himself at number three.) Pyrrhus’ Memoirs and his books on the art of war were quoted by many authors of the ancient world.
From the perspective of the soldier on the field, Pyrrhus’ reputation was hard earned. He won his battles against Macedonia and Rome at the cost of high casualties. In fact, he is reported to have said “One more such victory against the Romans and we are undone.”
Pyyrhic victory: a victory won at such cost that it might as well be a defeat