Epeiros, "the Mainland", the home of "wintry Dodone", the famed Molossian hounds, and of course, Pyrrhos. The regional tribes were formed into a strong state in the fourth century, led by their Molossian king. Conquests in Italy and an alliance with Rome were of little help when their great king Alexandros was killed in 330. Now another king has unified Epeiros and had great successes pacifying the Illyrians, and in battle in Italy and Sicily. Pyrrhos held much of Southern Italy and then took control of the island of Sicily except for two strongholds at the north and west. But he abandoned his hopes of conquering the island, his mother's homeland, and after a defeat at the hands of a Roman consular army he has taken his main force back to Hellas and pushed the Macedonians all the way to the coasts of the Aegean.
Pyrrhos' military forces are modeled on the Successor armies of Makedon. Heavy phalanx infantry are the core with a strong reliance upon mercenary troops which include Gallic warbands, Kretan archers, Italiote hoplites, Tarentine cavalry, and many others. Heavy Successor cavalry units as well light javelin cavalry are available, and of course, heavily armored Indian elephants, one of the most recognizable features of the army of Pyrrhos, are at your disposal, as are mechanai of Hellenic siege craft.
While your army is strong, and your position is sound, one misstep could bring your empire crashing to the ground. The kingdom of Epeiros is at a crossroads. Do you double your efforts and attempt to push the Makedonians into the Aegean from their coastal possessions at Pella and Demetrias? You are already at war and have claimed the title of "King of Makedonia" and need only drive them from the north. Their possessions in southern Hellas are more problematic though. The memory of Sicily is but a fleeting dream, and it will take much effort if you are to resume your great plan to seize the entire island. Your control in southern Italy even is in danger of succumbing to the further aggression of Rome, with whom you are at war, unless you act strategically to solidify your position or give up your last stronghold there. The Illyrian tribes to your north are strong and wild, but more effort in bringing them under your control could do much to strengthen your kingdom for further campaigns elsewhere and their help has brought great benefits to you in the past. Finally you have just been invited by a deposed king of Sparta to help him take control of the Peloponnese, though you are not openly hostile towards them. Seizing Thermon to the south and the wealth and prestige the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi grants should be an early goal, but do you dare to lead your army past the Makedonians in Korinthos and take on Makedon and the Spartans there as well? The choice is yours. But a word to the wise: "Stay away from Argos!"
The region of Hellas known as Epeiros was first settled by Hellenic colonists in the 6th Century BC. They set up a dynasty known as the Molossians. The Molossians believed that they were descended from Neoptolemos, the son of the famed classical hero Achilleus. Neoptolemos was a savage and ruthless warrior who had fought at Troia after the death of his father. According to the Molossian legend, following the war he and his followers emigrated to the shores of Epeiros.
Epeiros was important to Hellenic religion and practice, because it was the home of the sacred shrine at Dodone. Here there was an ancient and massive oak tree that was alleged to contain Zeus’ spirit which would communicate to the oracles through the rustling of the leaves. The oracle at Dodone was the second most important in Hellenic mythology, behind only the oracle at Delphoi.
A second Neoptolemos entered Epeirote history sometime in the 4th Century BC, and unlike the Neoptolemos of the 12th Century BC, this one was real and not a product of legend. Neoptolemos bore two children of great renown in the ancient world. His daughter, Olympias, was married off to Philippos II of Makedonia, and was the mother of the ruler of the known world: Alexandros. His son was another Alexandros, known as Alexandros Molossss, who was outshone by his cousin in Makedonia of the same name. Nevertheless, when Alexandros Molossos attained the throne in 343 BC, he had plans for expansion.
In 333 BC, the city of Taras (Tarentum) in southern Italia, a traditional Hellenic bastion in that region of the Mediterranean, asked for assistance in a war against the Samnitai, Leukanoi, and Brettioi. In the same year that Alexandros set off to conquer the Persian Empire, an Epeirote Alexandros set off to invade Italia and the western Mediterranean. Ironically, it was under very similar circumstances that faced Pyrrhos five decades later. Alexandros Molossos was initially successful in Italia, and even entered into a pact with the Romaioi against the Samnitai. Unfortunately for him, his benefactors, the Tarantinoi, double-crossed him and he lost his favorable position. In 330 he was defeated by an allied army at Pandosia and was killed in the battle. Thus ended the first Epeirote foray into Italia.
Back in Epeiros, Aiakides assumed the empty throne. After the death of Megas Alexandros in 323 BC, he played politics in the tumultuous neighboring kingdom of Makedonia, siding with Olympias in her struggle against one of Alexandros' successors, Kassandros. Aiakides shared Olympias’ fate, and when she was put to death in 313, he was dethroned simultaneously. His son, soon to be a great general of the ancient age, was then only two years old, and the family had to fly from Epeiros to Illyria. Epeiros was a Makedonian client state until 306, when Pyrrhos of Epeiros, only 12 years old at the time, was put back on the Epeirote throne. His early reign was filled with intrigue and interruption as he was dethroned in 301 BC while attending a wedding outside the country. At the age of 17, Pyrrhos was brought on campaign with his brother-in-law, Demetrios, a prince of Makedonia, in the Fourth War of the Diadochoi. At this point, Demetrios was fighting alongside his father, Antigonus, the then ruler of most of the former empire of Alexandros. Arrayed against him were forces under the other Diadochoi: Ptolemaios, Seleukos, and Lysimachos. The climactic battle of that war was fought at Ipsos in that same year (301), and Pyrrhos’ side was defeated. Antigonus was killed, Demetrios fled back to Hellas, and Pyrrhos himself, though he had fought well, was made a hostage of Ptolemaios I Soter in a treaty between he and Demetrios.
Once in Aigyptos, Pyrrhos charmed the stepdaughter of Ptolemaios and made a good impression on the aging king. In 297 Ptolemaios re-established Pyrrhos as king of Epeiros. Pyrrhos then allied himself with the Lysimachid kingdom in Thraikia, and he and Lysimachos invaded Makedonia in 287, successfully deposing Demetrios and jointly ruling the kingdom. The peace between Lysimachos and Pyrrhos did not last long, however, and by 284 Pyrrhos was sent packing from Makedonia back to Epeiros. He soon began looking for another avenue of expansion and was not forced to wait long.
His attention was turned westward in 282, just as Alexandros Molossos’ had some 51 years earlier. Once again, the Tarantinoi were having troubles with their neighbors. This time their neighbors happened to be the Romans. After sinking a Roman flotilla and declaring war in 282, the Tarantinoi called upon support from Pyrrhos. Pyrrhos, through no love of the Tarantinoi but rather a desire to become the next Alexandros, accepted the invitation. The Tarantinoi promised him many thousands of allied troops, and after a harrowing crossing from Epeiros, he arrived in Taras with an army of 26,000 men, including 20 war elephants.
The Romaioi advanced a consular army to the vicinity of Taras much faster than Pyrrhos had anticipated. This was well before he could receive any significant reinforcement. Worrying that morale might sink if he did not confront the Romaioi, he set out to find and fight them in 280. The two armies met at Heraklea where the pitched battle was indecisive for many hours until Pyrrhos’ elephants turned the tide in favor of the Epeirotes. Having beaten a Roman army, Pyrrhos felt confident enough to march on Rome, which he did to no effect in early 279. The Romaioi instead kept two consular armies on the move throughout Italia to harass and annoy him. Unable to ignore these threats, Pyrrhos marched south and confronted the Romans again at Asklon (Asculum). The battle progressed in a fashion similar to that at Heraklea, where the infantry of both sides remained deadlocked for a day before Pyrrhos sent in his elephants and defeated the Romaioi once more. Even still, the Romaioi did not sue for peace, and Pyrrhos grew weary of this conflict.
In the year 278, Pyrrhos faced three choices. He could either stay and fight things out with the pesky and persistent Romaioi, he could withdraw to Makedonia, where at that time a horde of Celtic invaders were wreaking havoc throughout the countryside, or he could move south and invade Sikilia at the behest of the Mamertinoi, who were currently facing a Karchedon onslaught. He chose the latter. In 277, he arrived on the shores of Sicily where he swiftly and brilliantly pushed the Karchedonioi back to the westernmost part of the island. He sacked their stronghold at Eryx, and left the remnants bottled up in Lilybaion. Unfortunately at this point he had a falling out with the Syrakousai and Mamertinoi due to his aggressive method of conscripting Sikilioi as soldiers. He also received a treaty from the Karchedonioi, but imposed harsh terms upon them, so harsh in fact that they refused to accept them. Due to popular opinion being against him and a renewed Karchedon resistance, he was forced to withdraw from Sikilia in 276.
Back in Italia, he renewed the war he had abandoned against the Romaioi. Marching north, he fought one more great battle with them at Beneventum. This battle, as at Heraklea and Askalon, was evenly fought overall, except this time the Romaioi managed to frighten Pyrrhos’ elephants and force him to retreat. With that, Pyrrhos decided to end his Italian adventure once and for all, and withdrew to Epeiros in 275, largely broke and weary from years of campaigning, but leaving a garrison in Taras for the time being with one of his sons in control there.
Despite this, Pyrrhos once again embarked on war in Makedonia. This time victory proved easy and he deposed the sitting king, Antigonos Gonatas, without much trouble. In 272 he was approached by the Spartan Kleonymos who beseeched him to invade Sparte and place Kleonymos on the throne. Pyrrhos agreed, but blanched when he found Sparte well, if sparsely, defended. He took up an offer to intervene in a civic dispute in Argos, but when his army arrived there under cover of night, a confusing street battle erupted. Pyrrhos was killed in the fighting. He was hit on the head by a roof tile, allegedly thrown by an old woman, which allowed him to be swiftly dispatched by an Argive soldier.
The glory days of Epeiros died with Pyrrhos in Argos. The kingdom remained alive and the Molossian dynasty ruled until the 2nd century BC, during which they blundered into war with the Romaioi once more. This time the Romaioi were the invaders and the Epeirotes formed an alliance with other Hellenes to fight them off. The Epeirotes and many other Hellenes lost their independence when the Romaioi won the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. In 146 the former Kingdom of Epeiros was officially made a Roman province, and would be ruled by the Romaioi for the next 500 years.
Although considered to be different from their Makedonian neighbours to the east & southern Greeks to the south, the Epeirotes are heavily influenced by their military traditions, so much in fact, there is hardly any difference between a Makedonian & Epeirote army. Phalanxes & cavalry dominate Epeirote armies in addition to Illyrian troops of various capability.
Eperios is a fun and exciting campaign. The unique starting position coupled with access to elephants and other unique Epirote units really make this campaign worth playing. This guide will detail the first few turns and what it takes to conquer Greece and get your economy rolling.
The first few things you want to do in an Epeiros game is to get a idea of what your finances look like. First of all, you're losing quite a bit of money every turn. This is due to your large navy and your elephants. There are a few options here. You can disband your ships and elephants right away and be pretty well off. You could also take your units from Taras and ship them to Greece to help, or go the other way and send your main armies to Italy and take on Rome right away. What I personally do is disband the ships right away. I build some general improvements in my two Greek cities, I think both need roads at the beginning, then I take my northern army, led by Pyrrhus and attack Pella. The garrison is small and your elephants let you go right to the siege battle. The battle is pretty easy; you should easily overpower the garrison and take Pella. Don't end the turn yet as you still have some movement points left in your northern army. Individually move each unit to attack Demetrius. Leave a skirmisher in Pella for public order purposes. Then move your southern army to attack Demetrius, too. Now both of your armies should be besieging Demetrius. Hopefully you have some elephants left, because now you can take Demetrius, too. The garrison is bigger here, but it still shouldn't be that hard of a fight. Make good use of your elephants and pikemen and you should have no trouble. After Demetrius is taken, repair the walls in Pella and Demetrius and build the provisional government. Turn one would also be a good time to send your diplomat towards Anatolia. You should get a ceasefire with the Seleukids as soon as possible. As for Taras, I usually just leave everything as is. You could build up your barracks and start pumping out a good garrison. That will usually deter the Romans, but it's usually not worth it. I almost always just let it fall. You should send your spy down to Korinthos and Athenai to get a good idea of what's going on. Now you can end the turn.
Are you making money yet? You might just break even. It usually depends on how much of your army (especially elephants) you have left. At this point, it would be a good idea to send your diplomat closer to the nearest AS city. You could also send a few units back for retraining. Build a type 1 government in Pella or Demetrius, look around Greece with your spy, etc. This turn isn't as important as the first turn. Whenever you're done building whatever you decided to build, go ahead and end the turn.
Hopefully you made some money. If not, that's fine. Your diplomat can probably reach the AS now. Ask for a ceasefire and for a large amount of money in return. Ten thousand mnai works on M/M (Medium/Medium difficulty), but probably not on harder difficulties, and that's cheap anyway. Just ask for 2000 or so. They should accept. Use whatever money you get to build a pike unit or two in Ambrakia. Continue watching the south. Makedonia and the KH are probably still duking it out. The KH occasionally sends a few units to Thermon, but they almost never attack.
After a few more turns of building whatever you can and trying to get your economy going, take your army and besiege Athenai. The reason you wait is because the AI factions tend to kill each other. Most other places in the game, you'd want to attack before the AI built up, but in this case, you'll find it easier to wait. It might even be easier to wait out the siege. A good amount of the time, the KH will have a wandering army that will attack you, causing the garrison to reinforce them. Just use common sense when fighting their hoplite-based armies. Have your pikemen hold them in place while you flank with infantry and cavalry. If you still have your elephants, this battle should be very easy. When you win, if there's still a garrison, it should be very small now. Go ahead and take Athenai and get it under control for a turn or two.
Now that you have Athenai, money shouldn't be a problem. If Chalkis has a small garrison, go there next; if not, head for Korinthos. Use a similar strategy as you did against Athenai, since both cities have stone walls. Hopefully they will sally or have a wandering army attack you. Sometimes it works out that all their family members are in Korinthos so you end up wiping out the faction when you take the city, but if not, don't worry. Makedonia make a good buffer state against the AS in Anatolia later on.
Whenever you get Korinthos or Chalkis, check to make sure that no armies are approaching Athenai or working their way up Greece towards Demetrius. If you took Korinthos first, head towards Sparte. If you took Chalkis first, then go for Korinthos. Either way, it should be clear what to do after that. Take any remaining cities on mainland Greece and start building your economy. Build mines everywhere, high level ports, roads, etc. and you should have no trouble with money ever again. If you still have Taras, maybe start building up a military presence in Italy. If the Romans already took Taras, go get revenge. The options are endless.