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11 Examples of a Pyrrhic Victory

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A pyrrhic victory is a win that causes such heavy losses that it soon results in a greater failure. The following are illustrative examples.


Pyrrhic victories in war are battles that are won only to lead to a loss of the war due to the damages incurred in the battle. For example, the French invasion of Russia in 1812 saw the French take Moscow. This was essentially a trap on the part of the Russians as they knew that the French could not hold a supply line this far when winter arrived. The French army ended up retreating in winter suffering from starvation and hypothermia while facing attacks from well supplied Russians troops who were well adapted to the winter conditions. This resulted in extremely heavy losses. The French invasion of Russia damaged moral, the resources of the French and Napoleon's reputation leading to a shift in European power with several countries breaking their alliance to France.


A win that results in injuries and/or disqualifications that greatly reduce a team's chance to win subsequent matches.


A society that defends freedom by heavily suppressing freedom.

Spite House

A neighbor constructs a house or structure simply to annoy a neighbor out of spite. For example, an unreasonably tall wall that blocks sunlight to the neighbor's property. This may succeed in annoying the neighbor but is likely to reduce the value of both properties making it a lose-lose strategy.


A firm that launches an IT project on budget and on schedule only to find that it damages the business as opposed to having any value.

Curse of First

The curse of first is the idea that an early head start can be a disadvantage later. For example, an unusually prosperous country that ends up with a large elite that are expensive to maintain leading to some sort of collapse or revolution. This is one of the many theories that is used to explain the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.


A buyer who wins an bidding war for a house only to find themselves in financial distress as they paid more than the value of the asset.


A gambler who wins $100,000 but has lost $400,000 over the years.


A legal victory of $5000 that consumed $20,000 in legal fees.


A successful firm that quickly expands into dozens of industries only to find that its business is overly complex and poorly structured with a counter-productive organizational culture.

Work-Life Balance

An individual who receives a prestigious promotion or large reward at greater expense to their health or personal life.
Overview: Pyrrhic Victory
Definition (1)
A victory that inflicts heavy losses.
Definition (2)
A victory that damages the victor such that greater losses are soon to result.
An analogy to the Pyrrhic War whereby king Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans in the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC and the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC. These victories caused extensive losses such that king Pyrrhus reported said that one more victory would "utterly undo him."
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