Ancient States & Regions

Epirus

Epirus: Geography and Populations

Epirus was the name of an ancient region in the lands corresponding to current southern Albania and northwestern Greece. The name of Epirus seems to originate from the ancient Greek word “Epeiros” which means “land” or “continent”. It is clear that this term came from an islanders’ perspective, namely the Greek islanders settling in the many islands off Epirus’ coast.

Initially, Epirus had no more than a geographical meaning. Ancient authors used it to refer generally to the lands stretching from the Acroceraunian/Ceraunian Mountains (modern Llogara Mountains) into the Gulf of Ambracia (modern Gulf of Arta). Towards the east, the mountain range of Pindus marked a natural border with Macedon and Thessaly.

Before the arrival of the Indo-European population in the Balkans, Epirus was inhabited by the semi-mythical population called Pelasgians. Then, after the coming of the Indo-European population of Greeks and Illyrians, the Pelasgians had either fled or had been enslaved and/or assimilated by the newcomers. Some Pelasgian enclaves may have continued to dwell in the highlands of Pindus even after the Indo-Europeans first took over. However, by the V century B.C.E. Pellasgians are no more present in Epirus.

 In antiquity, Epirus was famous for the oracle of Dodona. Herodotus claims that before the Greeks, Dodona was a sanctuary of the Pelasgians. Even the region around it was apparently called Pelasgia. When the Greek were migrating south into what was to become their homeland, they encountered the site of Dodona in the process. They seem to have converted it into their own oracle and even borrowed native myths for their own Parthenon. Thus, it should be no wonder when Herodotus tells that Dodona was older than all other Greek oracles, including Delphi.   

Dodona’s amphitheatre.

Epirus was for many times irrelevant to the Greek citizen or historian. The region was regarded as being on the fringe of the known world, beyond which lied mystical northern areas of the Giants (Hyperboreans). Others thought of the Acheron River, flowing in Epirus, as flowing into the underworld. These views can mainly be attributed to the “barbarian” character of the region. Based on this, many scholars accept the view that the inland populations of Epirus spoke a language different from the Greek language and more similar to the Illyrian and/or Macedonian language. 

 Herodotus is the first attested author to imply on Epirus’ barbarous character. When treating the Battle of Salamis that was fought in 480 B.C.E. between the Greek alliance and the Persians, the famous historian considers the tribes that came from the vicinities of Ambracia (Epirus southernmost area) as coming from the borders of Hellenic world. It follows that the populations that lived north of the Ambracian “border” were not really Greeks. They did not support either of the sides that fought in Salamis.

Thucydides follows the tradition of Herodotus in treating Epirus as a region not really part of the Greek realm. In his account on the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides states that “barbarians” (non-Greeks) were also involved in that war, referring here to the Epirot tribes but also parts of population of Amphilocia.

Yet, Greek presence increased in the region via establishment of Greek colonies. In the VIII century, Corcyra was colonized by colons from Corinth. Sometime later, the Corinthians colonised the area around the Gulf of Arta where they established the city of Ambracia. Also, the Greeks maintained close ties with Dodona although “barbarians” inhabited the surrounding area. 

Regarding the region, here is what Skylax writes:

After the Illyrians come the Chaonians. Chaonia has good coves; The Chaonians live in villages. The sail along Chaonia lasts half a day.  After Chaonia comes the Thesprotian tribe; they also live in villages; this place has good coves too; here stands the cove named Elaea. In this cove the river Acheron flows into and the lake Acherusia from which the river Acheron derives is here. The sail along Thesprotia lasts half a day. After Cassope comes the Molossian tribe; they also live in villages; a small part of their land stretches all the way into the sea while the largest part stands in the internal parts of the region. The sail along the Molossian Sea continues for 40 stadia. After Molossia comes Ambracia, Helenian city, 80 stadia away from the sea. Along the shore there is a wall and a good harbor. From here starts Hellada, without interuptions, until the river Phenea all the way into Homolium, a city in Magnesia located near the river. The sail along Ambracia continues for 120 stadia”.

In truth, Epirus was a very mountains region even though it was washed on the west by the waters of the Ionian Sea. The economy was weak and heavily based on livestock. Strong and sizeable dogs were used for hunting and protecting the flocks, the main sources of wealth. It is clear that Epirus had a low population density. It had almost no natural resources. Its society was organised in tribes and maintained archaic traditions. Most of the population lived in villages. Their calendared had seven months: Gamilios, Apelaios, Agrianos, Kraneios, Helotropios, Datyos, and Phoinikaos. Women had a reputable status similar to those in Illyria, Thessaly, or Sparta. 

Theopompus, writing in the fourth century B.C.E., states that there were in total fourteen tribes. The main and most influential tribes were the Chaonians (surface of 2400 squared kilometres), Thesprotians (surface of 2050 squared kilometres), and Molossians (surface of 3500 squared kilometres). It seems that these tribes originated from a different Indo-European branch that the Greeks; they were closer in nature to the Illyrians and the Macedonians. The Chaonians lived in the north, in the region around the Bay of Onchesmos (modern Saranda). The Thesprotians, according to Thucydides, dwelled in the area between the river Thyamis (Θύαμις) (also known as Glykys/Γλυκύς or Kalamas/Καλαμάς) and the mythical river Acheron (Αχέροντας). The Molossians covered the plain of modern Ionnina and southern lands towards the Ambracian Gulf (Gulf of Arta).  

Map of ancient Epirus and neighbouring regions.

Political History 

Epirus is linked with a founding myth that involves both ancient Greeks and Trojans. According to this legend, son of Achilles, Neoptolemus after the fall of Troy did not return back to Thessaly but rather settled in Epirus. He had with him Andromache.  

 In the second half of the IV century, the Molossian community turns into a federative state. Thesprotians and Chaonians each create their own leagues too.  These leagues did not all adopted the same political structure. According to Thucydides, Thesprotians and Chaonians did not have a kingship. At the head of their respective leagues were two magistrates vested with the highest executive powers. They are called in ancient sources as “prostates” and were elected each year among the aristocratic elite of the main tribe. On the other hand, the Molossians established a hereditary monarchy led by a king. Thucydides mentions the Molossian king Admetus, as early as 470 B.C.E. This king offered shelter to the Athenian general Themistocles after he had been punished into exile by the Athenians. According to the same account, Admetus was a aristocratic ruler with ties even into the city of Athens. 

 Up until the fifth century, the region of Epirus traded mostly with the city of Corinth and its colonies along the Ionian Sea. Only in late fifth century we notice that the trade begins to involve the city of Athens as well. Soon, the items produced in Athens and Attica dominate the domestic markets in Epirus. In exchange, Athens imported from Epirus agricultural and especially livestock products such as skin and wood supplies, items much needed in Athens. The coastal ports of Chaonia such as Buthrotum (Butrint), Onchesmos (Sarandë), and Chimaira (Himarë) played a crucial role in the expansion of such sea-based trade

The increase of commerce leads to increase production of items meant for exports. It also made necessary the production and circulation of autonomous coins. The Molossian League is the first to mint its own coins at around 400 B.C.E. These were mainly bronze coins, although in certain periods a limited number of silver coins were also produced.

There are almost no record of event in Epirus from 470-430 B.C.E. However, we can assume that during this time the Chaonian League increased their strength while the Molossian League weakened. Chaonian posts such as Buthrotum (Butrint), Onchesmos (Sarandë), and Chimaira (Himarë) played an important role in the increased prosperity of the Chaeonians. Through these harbours they increased trading links with Corcyra and other Corinthian colonies.

By 429, the Chanonians had replaced the Molossians as suzerains of the Thesprotians. Appartenlty, the Chaonians had achieved some sort of hegemony in Epirus.

At that same year, an important event had various Epirot tribes involved in the affairs of the Peloponessian War. Induced by Ambraciotes, the Epirotes joined them and their allies Sparta in a campaign against Acarnania that sided with Athens. The Epirot tribes included the Molossians and their suzerains Atintanes, the Parauaeans accompanied by a contingent of Orestians. The Chaonians, as hegemons of Epirus and as the tribe with the strongest force, were the leaders of this Epirot expedition. The Chaonians themselves were led by their two prostates of that year, Photyus and Nicanor.

Plundering their way through Limnaea, the joint force of Spartans, Ambraciotes, and Epirotes made an effort to conquer Stratus, the main settlement in Acarnania. Under the walls of Stratus, the Chaonians led a charge without much coordination with their Hellenic allies. The Chaonian effort was repelled by a determined Acarnanian garrison. The other Epirot tribes followed the Chaonians into retreat. The defeat at Stratus would mark the fall of the Chaonian hegemony in Epirus.

Protecting Themistocles and Chaonian hegemony

First attested king in Epirus is Admetus. He did not rule over the entire Epirus but was actually only king of the Molossians. He is known for hosting in 470 B.C.E. Themistocles in his palace after the Athenian was exiled from Athens and Corcyra. Both Phtia the queen, and Admietus welcomed Themistocles even though Admetus had previously opposed the Athenian. The royal family ignored the claims of the Spartans and Athenians against Themistocles and helped him travelled safely into Pydna from where he could easily arrive into the Persian court.

Themistocles find refuge with king Admetus-Franz Caucig-1801

In Admetus’ time, the Molossian community turned into a federative state otherwise know as a league or “koinon”. The Molossians established a hereditary monarchy that was led by a king.

The two other powerful tribes of the Chaonians and Thesprotians established their own leagues too, but in contrast with Molossians, they were not a kingship. Instead, at the e head of their respective leagues were two magistrates vested with the executive powers. heir respective leagues were two magistrates vested with the highest executive powers. They are called in ancient sources as “prostates” and were elected each year among the aristocratic elite of the main tribe.

There are almost no record of event in Epirus from 470-430 B.C.E. However, we can assume that during this time the Chaonian League increased their strength while the Molossian League weakened. Chaonian posts such as Buthrotum (Butrint), Onchesmos (Sarandë), and Chimaira (Himarë) played an important role in the increased prosperity of the Chaeonians. Through these harbours they increased trading links with Corcyra and other Corinthian colonies.

By 429, the Chanonians had replaced the Molossians as suzerains of the Thesprotians. Appartenlty, the Chaonians had achieved some sort of hegemony in Epirus.

At that same year, an important event had various Epirot tribes involved in the affairs of the Peloponessian War. Induced by Ambraciotes, the Epirotes joined them and their allies Sparta in a campaign against Acarnania that sided with Athens. The Epirot tribes included the Molossians and their suzerains Atintanes, the Parauaeans accompanied by a contingent of Orestians. The Chaonians, as hegemons of Epirus and as the tribe with the strongest force, were the leaders of this Epirot expedition. The Chaonians themselves were led by their two prostates of that year, Photyus and Nicanor.

Plundering their way through Limnaea, the joint force of Spartans, Ambraciotes, and Epirotes made an effort to conquer Stratus, the main settlement in Acarnania. Under the walls of Stratus, the Chaonians led a charge without much coordination with their Hellenic allies. The Chaonian effort was repelled by a determined Acarnanian garrison. The other Epirot tribes followed the Chaonians into retreat. The defeat at Stratus would mark the fall of the Chaonian hegemony in Epirus.

Tharypas and his Hellenisation Policy

The defeat of the Chaonians was followed by the victory of the Athenian admiral Phormion in the Corinthian Gulf and the successful campaign of Demosthenes in western Greece. Observing these events, the Molossians realised that they could regain their dominance in Epirus at the expense of the Chaonians by allying with Athens. 

Thus, the Molossians broke their ties with Ambracia and as a consequence, with Sparta, and directed themselves towards Athens. They sent their young king, Tharypas, into the city of Athens to receive an Athenian education and more importantly, to seal the friendship with Athens. Tharypas had been a legitimate ruler of the Molossian League at the time of the anti-Athenian intervention in Acarnania. However, he could be easily justified as at the time he was a minor and the royal affairs had been conducted by his guardian, a certain Sabylinthus.    

The alliance with the Molossians was important for Athens as well. Through the Molossian state, the Athenians could check upon the unstable Macedonians on their back. Also, with the support of Epirus, they could keep increasing their influence in Thessaly, a region they had befriended since 433 B.C.E.   

Thus, the Athenians welcomed Tharypas with respect and took care of his education. In Athens, young Tharypas must have been impressed by the Greek culture, science, and political structure. He soon befriended the Athenian elite and used its connection for its own propaganda.

It was about this time when Euripides, the famous Greek playwright, published “Andromache”. The tragedy told the story of Hectors’ widow after the fall of Troy and her new husband, Neoptolemus. It seems that initially the plot did not mention any connection between Neoptolemus as Achilles son and the Molossians. Being in Athens, Tharypas and his Athenian friend had the ability to influence a small but meaningful addition to the story. Notably, at the conclusion of the play, Thetis proclaims how the child of Andromache and Neoptolemus would establish a line of kings that would reign over the Molossians “on and on in continuous prosperity”. 

The edited “Andromache” allowed Tharypas to claim an origin from the Achilles himself and prove his Greekness. Later, the Epirot was granted an Athenian citizenship, fully accepting him in the exclusive “Greek club”. The ties with the mainland Greek must have secured Tharypas position as a ruler in Epirus. 

Back in Epirus, Tharypas initiated for the first time state-backed process of Hellenisation   across the country. He introduced Greek letters and language into the aristocratic circles and in the state administration. The ruler also financed construction projects that improved the urbanisation level at various spots in Epirus. Urban centres were developed in Greek fashion and based on Greek layout and architecture. Investments were especially focused in Passaron, the royal seat of the Molossian ruler.

Tharypas made sure to promote his heroic and royal ancestry to his subjects. At his royal palace at Passaron, he invited Euripides to put into stage his “Andromache”. The event seem to have been part of constant promotions of Hellenic arts and culture throughout Tharypas’ domain. 

In about 400 B.C.E., the Molossian League becomes the first state to mint its own coins in Epirus. Following the pro-Athenian policy of Tharyppas, the coins were issued at a weight equalling those of Attica. This not only stimulated the internal economy but also eased the commercial exchanges with Athens.

Athens had now replaced Corinth and Corinthian colonies across the Ionian Sea, as the main trade partner of Epirus in general, and the Molossians specifically. Soon, the items produced in Athens and Attica dominated the domestic markets in Epirus. In exchange, Athens imported from Epirus agricultural and especially livestock products such as skin and wood supplies, items much needed in Athens.

Alcetas and his sons

Tharyppas ruled up until 389 or 385. His successor and son, Alcetas had problems securing his rule. He, as is father was a pro-Athenian and that was the source of his problems. In 289/288, the Spartans led by their king Agesilaus II achieved victories across Acarnania and reestablished Spartan influence there and in Epirus. This was followed by a rise of pro-Spartan parties across Epirus that apparently forced Alcetas into exile.

The king found refuge on the other side of the sea, in Syracuse at the court of its tyrant  , Dionysus. The later was especially interested in the trade routes that linked Magna Graecia and Sicily with eastern Adriatic and Epirus. Thus, the tyrant provided Alcetas with a considerable force to regain his throne. Accordingly, in 385 with the help of a combined force of Illyrians and Syracusans, Alcetas was reinstated in his throne. About 15,000 pro-Spartan Molossians were slaughtered in the process.

After returning into the Molossian throne, Alcetas reinitiated the pro-Athenian policy followed by his father. In 277 Alcetas support Athens’ Second Delian League by easing Athenian manoeuvres against Sparta in the Ioanian Sea. In 272, he also helped a contingent of 600 peltasts in service of Athens travel safely into Molossian territory and then cross into Corcyra.

With the help of strong allies of Athens, Syracusans, and Illyrians, Alcetas was able to expand the territories of his kingdom. During his reign, the Molossians regained their suzerainty over the Thesprotians and even annexed territories with sea access at the area of Kestria (modern Ciflik, north of river Thyamis. At the east, Molossian state as far as  wester Hestiodia while towards the west the state annexed the lands of the upper Acheron. Towards northeast, the Molossian rule reached the borders of Parauaea. The expansion of the Molossians into these territories is supported by an epigraphic evidence of 370-368 where  are listed the areas inherited by son and successor of Alcetas, Neoptolemus I.

Neoptolemus I had another brother called Arybbas. They ruled together in Epirus until 360 B.C.E. when Arybbas became the sole ruler. Arybbas married Troas, his own niece (daughter of Neoptolemus I). This marriage helped him smoothly inherit Neoptolemus’ part of Epirot possessions. 

In his accession year, Arybbas had to deal with a serious assault from the Illyrians of king Bardylis. He evacuated most of non-combatant population into Aetolia and let the Illyrians loot freely. The Illyrians gave so much into looting that their forces spread out turning into weak targets. This had been the stratagem of Arybbas who launched his Molossians into assaults against divided Illyrian continents. The Molossians were able to kill many enemies until all Illyrians retreated from Epirus. Arybass had caused Bardylis one of his rare defeats.   

In 358, Epirus secured an alliance with Philip II of Macedon. This alliances served initially both rulers. At the time, Philip II was struggling to gain control of his borders so the alliance with Arybbas helped him secure his western frontier. This alliance was sealed by a marriage between Olympias, young niece of Arybbas and Philip.   

Arybbas, as his predecessors, was a pro-Athenian and a phill-hellene. He competed in Olympic and Pythian (Delphic) games. He even won the chariot race (tethrippon) in the Delphic games.

The pro-Athenian policy caused Arybbas problems with Philip II. The later was following an expansion policy at the expense of Athens and that meant the Arybbas was siding with his enemy. Thus, in 350 B.C.E. Philip made a campaign against Epirus in order to reassure Macedonian influence there and remind Arybbas of his actions. As a guarantee for Arybbas’ “good behavior”, Philip took as hostage young Molossian prince Alexander, brother of his wife Olympias. The Macedonian king could use Alexander to interfere in Epirot affairs if he deemed it appropriate. 

At the court of Pella, young Alexander I the Molossian was provided a Greek education. Doing his teenage years the young prince would learn the art of war and governance from the best generals of Philip such as Coenus, Parmenion, and Cleitus. The victories of Philip and his military reforms inspired young Alexander to follow into his footsteps. 

Alexander I the Molossian

The truce between Arybbas and Philip II did not last long. The fightings between ambitious Philip and Arybbas would soon resume. In 343 B.C.E. Philip II defeated in battle Arybbas and banished him from his kingdom. The later escaped into Athens where he found shelter. Philip II installed Alexander I the Molossian into the throne of Epirus. The Macedonian king was determined to secure his western border and awarded Alexander with the control of three important coastal cities: Bucheta, Pandosia, and Elatria. Alexander had now inherited the largest kingdom in Epirot history. The annexation of coastal cities gave the Molossian kingdom for the first time access to the sea and thus the potential to harness economic profits from the sea based commerce. 

The expansion into coastal cities proved strategic as well. It introduced Molossia to other entities overseas including the Hellenic colonies of Italy.

Though strong leadership, Alexander initiated the process of uniting Epirus into a single state. This meant joining the Molossian kingdom with the Chaonian and Thesprotians League. It seems that at Passaron an alliance was reached that gave rise to a new united state called the Epirot Alliance (symmachy). The Alliance would be ruled by a king followed by an elected prostate. The unification of Epirus into a single political entity allowed Alexander to embark on ambitious military ventures. 

Alexander would also transform the Epirot armies from ill-disciplined into an organised force. As a student of Philip II, Alexander had witnessed first-hand the effectiveness of Philip’s phalanx in battle. Thus, he introduced the same style of warfare in Epirus, arranging his troops into phalanx formations and arming the core of his infantry with the twenty foot long sarisas. Alexander also improved the cavalry, turning them into a tool for disrupting enemy lines and protecting phalanx flanks.

The rising power of Alexander attracted the attention of Tarentum, the Greek colony opposite Epirus. The city who had a policy of relying on foreign aid was suffering from an Italic alliance of Lucanians and Bruttians. To counteract the Italic pressure, in 335, Tarentum requested the assistance of Alexander the Molossian.

Molossians of Alexander in Italy.

Alexander, eager to turn his kingdom into the Western version of the other Alexander in the east, set sail with a large army. The campaign started with significant success. Alexander relying mainly on his Epirot forces, took possession of the area from Sipontum in Northern Apulia into Terina in southern Bruttium. Many Greek cities were liberated while Italic settlements were plundered. The expedition culminated with a splendid victory over the Italic Alliance in Paestum in 332 B.C.E. The victory attracted Rome’s interest who promptly established an alliance with Alexander.

Yet, Tarentum, noticing Alexander’s intentions to remain in Italy and establish a long-term Epirot authority there, turned against him. They soon abandoned his cause, re-called the Tarentine troops supporting him, and requested the king to leave Italy.

In the meantime, the Italian forces had gathered a new force and were determined to fight again against Alexander, especially now that he had lost the support of Tarentum. The two sides met at Pandosia in 331 B.C.E. A heavy rain that flooded the battlefield devalued prior battle plans of Alexander and allowed the Italians to gain the edge in the fightings. Alexander himself was killed in combat and most of his forces were wiped out.

Epirus in times of Succession Wars

After the demise of Alexander, Epirus went through a troubled period. Disruption was caused by conflicts between different parties of different noble families. The country endured disturbances in foreign policy too, breaking its ties previous friendly ties with Macedon.   

Olympias, sister of Alexander I the Molossian (and mother of Alexander the Great of Macedon) retuned into Epirus to escape the aggression of Antipater who had received control of Macedon by lot. Upon retuning in Epirus, Olympias overthrew from the regency position Cleopatra (ruled 330-328) and took that office for herself, on behalf of her nephew Neoptolemus II. For some time, Olympias co-ruled with her cousin Aeacides, son of Arybbas and father of the famous Pyrrhus.  

Olympias remains fairly neutral until 319 B.C.E. when general Polyperchon, one of the commanders of Alexander, named new regent on behalf of Alexander IV (Alexander the Great’s son) was forced out of Macedon from Cassander. The general, along with infant prince and his mother Roxanne fled into Epirus. 

Olympias realised that her grandson Alexander would never be allowed to rule over Macedon as long as Cassander was there. Thus, Olympias, supported by king of Epirus Aeacides and Polyperchon launched an invasion of Cassander’s Macedon. Accorndigly, in 318 B.C.E., Aeacides and Polypechon restored Alexander IV on the throne at the guardianship of Olympias.

Upon establishing herself on the rule, Olympias surrounded with her support forces Eurydice in Euia, a town somewhere in Dassaretae. Most of the Macedonians soldiers commanded by Euryice defected to Olympias. This left Eurydice on the wild until she was captured along with Alexander’s half-brother Philip.

In 317 B.C.E., Olympias had Philip, his wife Eurydice and hundreds of selected supporters of Cassander executed. This helped the legitimacy of her guardianship but diminished significantly her popularity among the Macedonians.

When the news on the execution reached Cassader, he was busy besieging Tegea in Peloponessus. Cassander at once came to terms with the besiegers and hastily marched towards Macedon. 

Cassander would soon besiege Olympias at Pydna. Aeacides tried to come into the aid of Olympias but when he was on his march, the Molossians revolted and overthrew Aeacides from his thone, killing most of his friends. King’s infant son would be saved by some pro-Aeacides and put under the protection of Illyrian king Glaucias. 

Aecides himself was killed by Philip, Cassander’s brother in a battle at Oiniadai (modern Oiniades, Trikardo).

The situation in Epirus continued to remain unstable during the rule of Aeacides’ son and successor, Alcetas II. The later tried to get rid of Macedonian interventions in Epirus. Yet, he was unsuccessful in his task and was even forced to sign an unfavourable treaty with Macedon. The king had to modify his foreign policy and serve as an all of Macedon. This policy gave rise to a powerful Anti-Macedonian rebellion in Epirus. Fuelled with other arbitrary ruled of the king, the citizens revolted by killing the king and his sons.

In 307, B.C.E., the Illyrian king and adoptive father of Pyrrhus, Glaucias, intervened in Epirus and reinstated his adoptive son Pyrrhus, then twelve years old, on its throne.    

The reign of Pyrrhus

Epirus reached its greatest power under the reign of Pyrrhus (ruled 307-302; 297-272 B.C.E.). Along with military campaigns, Pyrrhus embarked on large construction projects across Epirus which increased the prosperity of his kingdom. Notably, Pyrrhus constructed a large theatre at Dodona that could seat 17,000 thousand people along with a colonnaded precinct there. We even here of a surreal project of Pyrrhus designing the construction of a long bridge across the Ionian strait so that he could invade Italy through land.

Pyrrhus of Epirus by hellenicwarrior

He also founded new cities and, in the fashion of other Hellenistic kings, such as Berenice (modern Kastrosykia), whom he named after his mother in law, and Antigonea (modern Saraqinishtë), named after his first wife. Other constructions included a round wall along his capital Ambracia and the addition of a new also fortified suburb in the capital called the “Pyrrhaeum”, the acropolis at Passaron, and many other sites.

Along with improvements in urbanisation he sought to encourage civic activities by organising the festival of Naia, an athletic competition held every four years.

Pyrrhus famous campaign in Italy and Sicily was not a total fiasco. As long as he was alive, Tarentum was kept firmly under his control. The city would be conquered by the Romans only in 272 B.C.E. 

He apparently planned to returned in Italy and face the Romans with renewed forces. In Sicily, Pyrrhus too maintained friendly ties with the city of Syracuse. Before leaving Sicily he married his daughter Nereis with Gelo, son of Hiero I who became tyrant of Syracuse in 275 B.C.E. 

Decline and Roman invasion

After Pyrrhus, the Epirot Alliance lost its power gradually. The possessions in southern Illyria, Macedon, and southwester Greece detached from Epirus. The successor of Pyrrhus, Alexander had to deal with a challenging way against the Illyrians of Mytilus. He was able to deal with it somewhat successfully, but sacrificed many resources. Meanwhile, Demetrius II of Macedon forced him out of the Macedonian territories once under Pyrrhus’ yoke and even out of his own kingdom for a while.  Alexander was able to get back only with the help of the Aetolians but by now it had become clear the the power of Epirot state was diminishing.

In about 230, the monarchical regime collapsed as there were no eligible successors to the throne and a wee federative state was established. The league would soon lose Ambracia to Aetolia while other regions such as northern Acarnania, Athamania, and Cassopedia declared independence. After the loss of Ambracia, the new capital was moved to Phoinike.

When the Romans moved into the region, the Epirot Republic was swept by internal conflicts. In 205 B.C.E., the Republic was able to negotiate a peace between Rome and Macedon in what came to be known as the Treaty of Phoinike but failed to repeat the same success in 198 B.C.E. By 170 B.C.E. the Molossians had taken the side of Macedon against the Romans while the Chaonians and Thesprotians supported the Romans. Following Roman victory over Macedon in 168/167 B.C.E., Roman armies ravaged the entire Epirus and razed 70 of its cities to the ground.

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