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 A PRINCE named Pyrrhus lived in the state of Epirus not far
from the home of the great Achilles. At twelve years of age
he became king, but the government was carried on for him by
About that time he read the story of Alexander the Great,
and determined to be like him, a great conqueror. While he
was dreaming of victories in foreign lands war came to him
in his own country, and he was driven from Epirus. Ptolemy
of Egypt helped him to defeat his enemies and regain his
throne. Then he resolved anew to conquer as Alexander had
conquered, and he began with Alexander's own Macedonia.
After a war that lasted several years he got possession of
one-half the country. One of Alexander's generals took the
other half. However, the people in Pyrrhus' half preferred
the old general as a ruler, and in seven months Pyrrhus had
to give up his Macedonian kingdom.
He reigned quietly in Epirus for a few years.
 Then a chance came to try and conquer the Romans who lived
just across the Adriatic Sea. Pyrrhus was delighted.
Ruling Epirus was a dull business. In the south of Italy a
great many Greeks had settled. Greek was the language of
the people who lived there and the region was called "Great
Rome wished to rule all Italy, but those Greeks were not
willing to be under Roman rule; so they sent word to Pyrrhus
that they were in trouble and would like him to help them.
Preparations for war were at once made and as soon as
possible Pyrrhus landed on the shores of Italy with an army
of about 30,000 men and twenty elephants.
A great battle was fought, and Pyrrhus won the victory, but
the loss of life was dreadful. As he walked among the dead
after the battle he said, "Another such victory and I shall
have to go home alone." Half his men were slain.
However, the Greeks of South Italy furnished him with fresh
soldiers and he gained a second victory.
The war came to an end in a very curious way. One of the
servants of Pyrrhus deserted to the Romans and offered to
poison his master for the consuls. The consuls sent back
the deserter to
 Pyrrhus under guard and with a message that
they scorned to gain a victory through treason.
Pyrrhus, to show his gratitude, then sent back to Rome all
the prisoners whom he held, without asking any ransom. This
made the enemies friends, and a truce was concluded. It was
one of the terms of the truce that Pyrrhus should leave
A large number of Greeks lived in Sicily. They had built
Syracuse and other large cities and towns. At that time
Carthage in Africa was a powerful city and the Carthaginians
were trying to conquer the Sicilian Greeks. Pyrrhus crossed
to Sicily to help his countrymen.
But his Italian friends got into trouble with the Romans
again and begged him once more to help them. Accordingly he
left Sicily and went back to Italy. Now, however, his good
fortune forsook him. He was totally defeated by the Romans
under Curius Dentatus and forced to leave Italy.
He now returned to Epirus, but as he was no lover of peace
he soon went to war a second time with Macedonia. Again he
conquered the land of Alexander, but again the king of
Macedonia regained the kingdom.
Not content to rule Epirus, Pyrrhus next went into the
Peloponnesus and fought against the Spartans, but they drove
him from their territory.
 Finally he went to Argos and took part in a civil war which
was going on in that state.
A fight took place in one of the streets of Argos, and
during it a woman threw a tile from the roof of her house.
It struck Pyrrhus upon the head and stunned him, and some of
the soldiers of the party against whom he was fighting ran
up and killed him. (287 B.C.)
SICILY, about whose struggle with the Carthaginians you have
just read, was the home of a famous mathematician named
Archimedes. He was born at Syracuse in 287 B.C., and was
only a boy when Pyrrhus was in Sicily helping the
Carthaginians fight the Sicilians. Many years later
Syracuse was besieged by another enemy, the Romans.
Archimedes, then an old man, proved of great help to his
countrymen. He invented engines for throwing stones at the
enemy. By using these engines the Sicilians kept the Romans
at bay for a long time.
THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES
It is said that Archimedes set fire to the Roman ships with
powerful burning-glasses. At last, however, Syracuse fell,
and Archimedes was put to death by a Roman soldier, contrary
to the order of the Roman commander.