King Pyrrhus is one of my favorite historic figures. An orphan of sorts who lost his father and uncle to failed wars, Pyrrhus was raised outside the Greek city-state of Epirus where he was supposed to inherit rule. He became an amazing warrior and was eventually put back into power by Ptolemy with whom he became friends after being sent to his service in Egypt. His ambitions knew no bounds, and soon he was conquering other city-states on his way to briefly become king of Macedon.
His adventures and work on behalf of Greek city-states took him to Italy where he was to stop the ambitions of the fledging Roman Empire. This resulted in three wars known as the Pyrrhic Wars in which he saw amazing victories and dazzling defeats. In his first encounter, his use of skilled warriors and trained elephants caught his opponents off guard so badly that Romans lost 15,000 of their 50,000 men. King Pyrrhus marched to within four miles of Rome but decided to turn back in the face of an oncoming winter and several Roman armies.
Having rested and trained more soldiers King Pyrrhus once again headed to meet the Romans. Once again he won after several tactical maneuvers allowed him to exploit the skill set of his forces. This victory, however, wasn't without major consequences. Immediately after the conclusion, in response to a sycophant lavishing praise, King Pyrrhus replied:
"One more such victory will undo me!"
Licking his wounds in victory, Pyrrhus was summoned to Sicily where Carthage fighters had made major inroads toward conquest. Lured by the promise of being king, Pyrrhus ran the North African invaders out of most of the island, but his rule was short-lived. The Greek inhabitants of the island grew tired of his tough rule and soon he was on his way-to fight the Romans, again. By now his force was only a shell of its former self, yet he picked up recruits along the way and seemed confident at the task at hand, mainly because he still had fifteen elephants at his command.
By now the Romans came up with a way to defend against the pigs. After earlier efforts, including a would-be anti-elephant chariot drawn by oxen with wooden shields and iron-tipped rams which were quickly dismantled or subdued, the answer was ... pigs! Yes, the Romans met the 15 drunk and angry elephants with more than 20 pigs. The pigs were greased up in tar, set on fire, and pushed in the direction of the elephants. The blood-curdling squeals and grunts frightened the elephants into disarray, rendering them useless in this battle.
King Pyrrhus lost his last battle ... and limped home with his remaining army to Epirus while Rome went on to rule the world.