• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

King Pyrrhus of Macedon


Well-known member
Published by SLP
To answer the question “what if Alexander, but with ADHD?”, history gives us Pyrrhus of Epirus, famous for “winning” against Rome and being to his neighbors what Zeus was to any woman in the eastern Mediterranean. Now, in addition to his rule over Epirus, Sicily and, technically, sometimes, southern Italy, Pyrrhus had three shots at the Macedonian throne:

-In the 290s, when he and Diadochus Lysimachus overthrew Demetrius, son of Antigonus Monophthalmos, and shared for a while before the young Epirot was sent home packing.

-In 278 BC, after his famous Roman campaigns, when he was offered the throne in exchange of fighting off the Gauls, but instead he chose to fight against Carthage in Sicily and nearly conquered the island.

-In 274 BC, when he actually invaded and nearly got rid of the Antigonids once and for all, but instead chose to bugger off to Sparta, where he failed and buggered off to Argos, where he died in 272 BC.

So, what if the great warrior/half-measure king/half-way conqueror had made different choices and actually supplanted the Antigonids as King of Macedon? He’d be placed rather center stage in the Successor struggles of the Eastern Mediterranean, dealing with Greeks, Seleucians, Ptolemy’s Egypt, marauding raiders from beyond the Danube...just endless possibilities for a never-satisfied, ever-on-the-move warrior king...

Last edited:
If Pyrrhus had managed to see off Lysimachus and keep Macedon in the mid-280s, or even kill him in battle (probably in an ambush given that L had a larger kingdom and probably large numbers of Thracian mercenaries), he would have been left to face Seleucus and his Asian armies in 281. Having taken over the main part of Alexander's Asian domains from eastern Anatolia as far E as the Hindu Kush and probably acquired elephants from Chandragupta in India in their treaty of c. 305, Seleucus had a much larger army than Pyrrhus though he was a less imaginative campaigner; Pyrrhus would have had to pull back from Lysimachus' lands in W Anatolia and Ionia (presumably taken over by him when he overthrew L) into Europe to avoid annihilation and rely on naval forces to keep Seleucus back at the Dardanelles. Given the lack of an Epirot navy, unless Pyrrhus had destroyed Antigonus Gonatas and taken over A's father Demetrius' navy and Aegean bases Pyrrhus, married to a daughter of Ptolemy I, would have had to call on Egypt for help - and his brother-in-law Ptolemy II (acceded 285/3) would not have wanted Seleucus to control Macedon so he would probably have helped him. If Seleucus has his navy defeated and cannot cross to Europe, he would most likely have had to give up or would have still been fighting Pyrrhus when he died as he was aged around 80 in 281; the Macedonian and Thracian military elites would have preferred a local ruler to being plundered by Seleucus' army so they would stay loyal apart from a few ambitious men and S would have had to rely on Pyrrhus' enemies such as Ptolemy I's refugee son Ptolemy Ceraunus (half-bro of Ptolemy II) for local help. Most likely S's retreat or death would have left his less dynamic son Antiochus I concentrating on keeping the empire together and leaving Europe alone in the 270s, so Pyrrhus keeps his realm and may re-annex Ionia and W Anatolia.

Assuming Pyrrhus is too busy fending off Seleucus around 280-79 he has no time or troops to spare to go West and help the Italian Greeks, and then he has to fend off the OTL 279 inland Celtic tribal attack on macedon and central Greece - which logically Seleucus or Antiochus could stir up with bribes in order to undermine Pyrrhus. That way, either the Western Greeks fall to Rome sooner or some other Greek warlord - logically the land-hunting mercenary exile Ptolemy Ceraunus or the equally landless Antigonus Gonatas - comes to help them. AG is a much more cautious fighter than Pyrrhus, PC is equally a gambler with flair; assuming that Rome wins easier than with Pyrrhus and his large army of veteran fighters to tackle, perhaps either PC or Antigonus takes over Sicily and thereafter is busy building up a kingdom based on Syracuse like Hiero did in OTL. Antigonus is less likely to get killed in a gamble too far (fighting Carthage?) than Ptolemy Ceraunus; his dynasty could hold onto Sicily to the Second Carthaginian war, possibly holding Rome back and not becoming its vassal as they have larger resources than Hiero did (ie Demetrius Poliorcetes' fleet, relocated to Sicily by AG around 280-75) . So in 218 we end up with Philip V, our OTl king of Macedon and foe of Rome, as a potential ally for Hannibal as he invades Italy, and able to send his ships to deliver men and supplies to Hannibal as he arrives in Campania in 216 and defeats Rome at Cannae. Does Hannibal win and so detach southern Italy from Rome, or do he and Philip fall out over the spoils enabling a Roman comeback?

Assuming Pyrrhus and then his son Alexander hold onto Macedon , Thrace and all Greece in the 270s and hold the Celts back, we have a three-way fight for dominance of the Levant between the Epirot rulers of Greece (and probably most of Anatolia), the Seleucids, and the Ptolemies in the 270s to 240s - even messier than in reality and given Pyrrhus' flair and restlessness he could launch a new 'Anabasis' to march East across Anatolia into Syria and confront Antiochus there. In OTl first Eumenes in 316-15 and then Demetrius in 286-4 were defeated by the larger resources of the Seleucids; this outcome is likelier than an Epirot victory as the Epirots were fighting with extended supply-lines and the Ptolemies will probably turn against them too and aid Antiochus. Pyrrhus could end up dead in a messy multi-army battle or long retreat in eastern Anatolia or Syria, leaving a denuded Macedonian/ Epirot army to try to hold onto Greece and the super-rich Ptolemies bribing their vassals to defect - the empire would probably collapse. But if Macedon is exhausted and up for grabs, and Antigonus Gonatas is in Sicily and Ceraunus is dead, that would leave a power-vacuum in Greece and the arrival of the Parthians in N Iran would keep the mid-C3rd BC Seleucids too busy to intervene. Does Macedon collapse or end up as a Ptolemaic vassal-state or the prey of some refugee princeling from Eastern civil wars - possibly a Seleucid monarch's son or brother , eg Antiochus Hierax? And that way, a weak Macedon is an easier victim for Rome after 200 or else gets swallowed up in the mid-190s by Antiochus III. Either way the Greco-Roman wars of the 190s to 160s have a different trajectory, but the Seleucid land-empire is probably too extended and under-resourced to fight off Rome successfully for long.