The Roman Empire was the greatest empire the ancient world had ever seen. At its height it covered 2.2 million square miles and claimed dominion over more than 60 million people.
It was an empire forged through blood, conquest, and almost constant warfare. The Romans admired and celebrated their own great military commanders, but they grudgingly respected those who dared to stand against them. These are 10 of the most resourceful and formidable enemies of Rome.
10. King Pyrrhus
In 282 BC Rome was still little more than an ambitious city state. As Rome sought to expand its borders, it soon clashed with other powers in the Mediterranean region, most notably the Greekswho still possessed several cities in Sicily and the Italian mainland.
With these cities threatened by the growing power of Rome, a Greek general by the name of King Pyrrhus led an army of infantry, cavalry, and war elephants into Italy. His intention was to put the upstart Romans back in their place, and quite possibly to carve out a corner of the empire for himself.
The Roman legions were not yet the deadly weapon of war they would become, and they had no experience whatsoever of fighting against war elephants. Pyrrhus twice defeated the Romans in major battles, but they stubbornly refused to surrender. These victories had come at considerable cost. As Pyrrhus contemplated the battered state of his army, he reportedly lamented that one more such victory would be his ruin. This is the origin of the phrase “pyrrhic victory.”
Having been one of the first to witness the relentless nature of the Roman war machine, Pyrrhus led what remained of his army across the Mediterranean and into North Africa, where he hoped to find easier pickings. The Romans had defeated their first major rival, but many more would follow.