What is a Pyrrhic victory?

A ruinous victory or a success gained at too great a cost is known as a Pyrrhic victory in allusion to a remark ascribed to King Pyrrhus of Epirus in Greece after he had defeated the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum in Italy. In 281 B.C. the Lucanians, who inhabited the region around the Gulf of Tarentum, appealed to Pyrrhus to cross over to Italy to assist them in their war against Rome. Pyrrhus complied with the request and in 280 B.C. with a force of 25,000 met the Romans at Heraclea near the coast of the Gulf of Tarentum. Never before had the Greeks and Romans engaged each other in battle on a large scale. Due to the advantages gained by his cavalry and elephants, Pyrrhus was able to inflict a severe defeat on the Romans under the consul Laevinius, but not until both [385] sides had suffered fearful losses. Rome refused to make peace with the 1 victor and the following year Pyrrhus again defeated them at Asculum in Apulia in two engagements in which he lost the flower of his army. “When they had all quitted the field,” wrote Plutarch, “and Pyrrhus was congratulated on the victory, he observed, ‘Such another victory and we are undone.’ ” That was the original Pyrrhic victory. After fighting battle after battle Pyrrhus was finally killed by a tile that fell from a roof at Argos. Plutarch said that Pyrrhus “had not a regular set of teeth, but in place of them one continuous bone.”