Plutarch and the Death of Pyrrhus
Disambiguating the Conflicting Accounts

Published in: Scholia 20 (2011)

Pages: 112-131.

Editor: W. J. Dominik

Publisher: Department of Classics, University
of Otago (New Zealand)

ISSN: 1018-9017


Plutarch's portrayal of Pyrrhus' death cannot be uncritically accepted as accurate. By assessing without prejudgement of merit what the so-called 'unreliable' counter-tradition records of Pyrrhus' actions at Sparta and then Argos, a more consistent and plausible account of Pyrrhus' death - one more favourable to Pyrrhus' generalship - can be reconstructed than the version that may be gleaned solely from a reading of Plutarch. A must for anyone who's ever tried to glean useful information from an online discussion group.


Not unusually for the academic world (at least where history is concerned), this piece spent quite some time in an accepted-but-not-yet-published limbo; so long, in fact, that I started to entertain paranoid thoughts of the editor dying in the meantime and the whole thing being called off. A Chicken Little scenario, of sorts, only with a Gálapagos tortoise and the UQ pitch drop experiment. Just because the shops are putting decorations up at the start of September, I reasoned, doesn't imply that Christmas is coming. Yet, the sleigh bells have rung and Plutarch and the Death of Pyrrhus has been presented to the world, slightly sooty but ready to assume its rightful place as a 'but see:' footnote in whichever forthcoming edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary is even now scampering ponderously after the tortoise.


  - random selection from the unpublished memoire, Freefall