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Battle of Pandosia

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Title: Battle of Pandosia  
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Subject: Pandosia (Epirus), Pandosia (Bruttium), Terina (ancient city), Alexander I of Epirus, Italiotes
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Battle of Pandosia

Battle of Pandosia

Samnite soldiers from a tomb fresco from Nola, 4th century BC
Date 331 BC
Location Near Pandosia, present-day Italy
Result Decisive Italic victory
Epirus Italic tribes (Oscans):
Commanders and leaders
Alexander I of Epirus  Lucanian general 
Casualties and losses

The Battle of Pandosia was fought in 331 BC between a Greek force led by Alexander I of Epirus against the Lucanians and Bruttians, two Southern Italic mountain tribes. The Italic peoples soundly defeated the invading Greeks and killed Alexander during the battle.


  • Background 1
  • Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6


Alexander had arrived in [3]

He won a war with the Bruttians and the Lucanians in Southern Italy and captured several cities. Justin mentions he made alliances with Metapontum, the Pediculans and Rome.[4] Livy writes the alliance with Rome was made after Alexander had driven the Samnites into Lucania, marched into Lucania from Paestum and defeated the Samnites and Lucanians in a pitched battle.[5] The campaign against the Bruttians and Lucanians was followed by two separate campaigns against Brundisium and the Apulians (known to the Greeks as the Daunians).[6]


Metapontum must have been one of the cities he captured from the Messapians, for otherwise an alliance with the city would not have been possible. Michael P. Fronda argues the mention of an alliance with Metapontum is curious and implies conquest rather than liberation from the Messapians. Tarentum probably would have welcomed the seizure of Metapontum and Heraclea initially because it gave them an opportunity to extend their dominion over those two cities. Later on the relations between Tarentum and Alexander clearly became strained however. Strabo writes that Alexander tried to transfer a panhellenic festival from Heraclea to Thurii out of enmity with Tarentum. Furthermore he claims the defeat of Alexander at Pandosia was blamed on Tarentum.[7] Ian Spence thinks he probably no longer received support from Tarentum when he was at Pandosia.[8]


In 331 BC[B] Alexander positioned himself near Pandosia, which was located on the border of Lucania and Bruttium. This position was advantageous because it allowed him a multitude of routes to invade the territory of Bruttians and Lucanians.[9] Strabo describes the location of Pandosia as "above" Cosentia, but still in Bruttium.[10]

Alexander had encamped his army on three hills which stood a small distance apart from each other. He was accompanied by two hundred Lucanian exiles. After continuous rainfall the fields were flooded and the three hills became isolated. The three parts of the army were now unable to reinforce each other. At this time the Lucanians and Bruttians attacked, surprised and destroyed the two parts of the army which were separated from the king. They proceeded by blockading the remaining hill were Alexander encamped.[11]

The Lucanian exiles sent messengers to their countrymen and promised that they would turn over Alexander, dead or alive, on the condition that they would be restored to their property. Alexander managed to break out of the siege with a small group, killing the Lucanian general in the process. He rallied his forces and intended to escape through a river ford. When he heard the river was called the Acheron (possibly a small tributary of the Neaethus) he remembered the warning of the oracle. He had failed to realize there was a city and river of the same name in Italy. He hesitated to cross, but when he saw the Lucanians approaching in pursuit, he directed his horse through the stream. A Lucanian exile caught up to him and threw a javelin which impaled the king.[12]


According to Justin the city of [3] Livy gives a different account and describes that his body was mutilated and cut in half by the victors. They sent one half to Cosentia and pelted the other half with javelins and stones. An anonymous woman persuaded them to stop because she hoped to exchange the body of the king for the return of her husband and children, who were sent to Epirus as hostages. She had the remains of the corpse cremated at Cosentia and sent back the bones to the Epirote garrison at Metapontum. From there they were sent back to Epirus, to Alexander's wife Cleopatra and his sister Olympias.[13]

The Battle of Pandosia's significance is threefold. First, it marks the beginning of the end for Greek colonization in Southern Italy. After the battle, Greek colonization of Italy ceased, and existing Greek city states found themselves under pressure from the Oscan tribes.

Second, the battle marked the first time in over a hundred years that the massively successful Greco-Macedonian phalanx battle formation saw defeat. The Italians defeated the phalanx by forcing the Greek forces to do battle on uneven, hilly territory. The Italian fighters, armed only with short swords and small shields, fought in small companies (later called "maniples" in Latin), that featured maximum speed and maneauverability. They easily outflanked the less maneauverable Greek fighters in phalanx formation. Until the end of the Roman Empire, gladiator shows featured a style of fighter bearing the distinctive Southern Italian battle gear. The Romans called this style, unsurprisingly, the Samnite.

Lastly, the battle is generally credited as the one which showed the Romans how to defeat Greek armies. The Romans later employed modified Samnite tactics with great success as they subdued the Mediterranean.


  • ^ Justin mentions the Bruttians, but Strabo mentions the Messapians and Lucanians instead.[14]
  • ^ Some sources date the battle to 326 BC, but Jona Lendering argues that this must be a confusion with the year when the news of Alexander the Great's death reached Rome. Livy mentions that the battle took place in the same year that Alexandria was founded, which can be reliably dated to 331 BC.[15]


  1. ^ a b Livy 1926, 8.24.4–5.
  2. ^ Justin 1997, p. 192.
  3. ^ a b c Justin 1853, 12.2.
  4. ^ Justin 1853.
  5. ^ Livy 1927, 8.17.9–10.
  6. ^ Justin 1997.
  7. ^ Fronda 2010, pp. 195–196.
  8. ^ Spence 2002, p. 37.
  9. ^ Livy 1926, 8.24.5.
  10. ^ Strabo 1924, 6.1.5.
  11. ^ Livy 1926, 8.24.5–7; Plutarch 1936, 4.23.13.
  12. ^ Livy 1926, 8.24.8–14.
  13. ^ Livy 1926, 8.24.14–17.
  14. ^ Strabo 1924, 6.3.4.
  15. ^ Lendering 2008.


Primary sources
Secondary sources
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