A term derived from classical history referencing the battle of Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War.  According to the Roman historian Plutarch, after the battle, King Phyrrus, whose forces won the battle, noting that his casualties were so great that it nearly crippled his state lamented: “another such victory and I am utterly ruined.” Since his opponent was the much larger Roman Empire, a tactical victory that cost him many casualties was a strategic defeat.  This type of outcome has become known as a Phyrric victory, while the term “Phyrric” has come to be applied to tactics or policies which, though they achieve their limited objectives, do so at a very high, perhaps counterproductive cost.

Related Terms