Pyrrhus and Cineas

Pyrrhus was king of Epirus and cousin to Alexander the Great, and, perhaps for this reason, always sought glory and never found contentment.  As he prepared for his invasion of Italy, his close friend Cineas spoke to him.  “Pyrrhus, the Romans are great fighters, and masters of many other martial nations.  If the gods grant us victory over them, how should we use it?”

Pyrrhus replied, “Your question needs no answer.  Once the Romans are conquered, there is no people, neither barbarian nor Greek, in all Italy who can stand against us.  We shall at once own it undisputed in its entirety, and no one should know the importance of its size and wealth better than yourself.

Cineas continued, asking, “What should we do after conquering Italy, my king?”

Pyrrhus thought, and responded, saying, “Sicily is quite near, abundant in wealth, men, and grain, and easy to capture as well, for the entire island is divided, its cities are in anarchy, and there is no strong ruler now that Agathocles is gone.”

“What you say is true,” spoke Cineas, “but shall we cease after Sicily?”

“If we are granted those conquests, they will be but the stepping stones of even greater ones.  From there, who could ignore Libya and Carthage, so close to Sicily, and a city which Agathocles nearly conquered with but a handful of ships and men?  Once we have conquered them, none of our enemies who now scorn and insult us will offer further resistance; there is no need of saying that.”

“None whatsoever, for it is clear that with so great an empire we shall be able to recover Macedon and rule Greece securely.  But once we have made all subject to our rule, what then shall we do?”

Pyrrhus smiled.  “Then we shall be at ease, and we shall drink and be merry, and enjoy each other’s conversation all day long.”

And here Cineas came to his point.  “If that is what we wish to do, what stops us from drinking and conversing merrily now?  Surely this privilege is already ours, without taking risks, doing harm to others, and suffering much ourselves.”

But Pyrrhus, although he realized that what Cineas said was true, nevertheless could not depart from his path, but only continue saddened, well aware of the happiness he was leaving behind as he left Epirus.

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