The King and the Philosopher

The King and the Philosopher

Cineas was an ancient Greek politician and a friend of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, considered one of the greatest generals in antiquity. After spending decades securing his own possessions, it was inevitable that the king would turn his attention toward the new powers of Rome and Carthage, to the west of Greece.

The story goes that Cineas tried to dissuade Pyrrhus from sailing to Italy and urged him to be satisfied with the possessions he already had. “Should the gods permit us to overcome them,” Cineas asked, “how will we profit from our victory?”

“After we have conquered the Romans, no city in all of Italy will be able to resist us.”

“And once we have Italy, what next?”

“Sicily is a wealthy island and should be easy to take,” said Pyrrhus.

“Will that put an end to the war?”

“Of course not. Carthage would then be within reach,” said Pyrrhus. “After we have taken both Rome and Carthage, who in the world would dare oppose us?”

“And then what shall we do?”

“Then, my dear Cineas, we will relax, eat and drink, and have pleasant conversation.”

Cineas delivered the point he was leading to: “What is to stop us from doing that right now, without causing further hardship to others or to ourselves?”

Pyrrhus and Cineas ended up sailing to Italy, and unfortunately for them, despite several successes—which gave rise to the term “Pyrrhic victory,” for a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat and damages long-term progress—they never did gain that final peace the king referred to.

It’s easy to miss the chance to appreciate and enjoy our current blessings and to instead get so busy pursuing earthly goals that we lose sight of the kingdom of God1 and the things that will truly bring peace and contentment. May the story of King Pyrrhus serve as a life lesson to us all about investing in the things that truly matter.

1. See Romans 14:17.

Ronan Keane

Ronan Keane is the executive editor of the Activated magazine. 

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