The Pyrrhichios dance ("Pyrrhic dance"; Ancient Greek: πυρρίχιος or πυρρίχη, but often misspelled as πυρρίχειος or πυρήχειος) was the best known war dance of the Greeks. It was probably of Dorian origin and practiced at first solely as a training for war.
Plato (Leges, 815a) describes it as imitating by quick movements the ways in which blows and darts are to be avoided and also the modes in which an enemy is to be attacked. It was dance to the sound of the aulos; it's time was quick and light, as is also shewn by the metric foot called pyrrhic.
It was described by Xenophon in his work the Anabasis. In that work he writes that at a festival was held in Trapezus to celebrate the arrival of his troops in the city. The following is the part in which the pyrrhic dance is mentioned:
"A Mysian who saw that they were amazed, retorted by persuading one of the Arcadians who had acquired a dancing girl to dress her in the finest costume he could, fit her with a light shield and bring her on to give a graceful performance of the "Pyrrhic" dance. Thereupon there was a roar of applause, and the Paphlagonians asked if the Greek women also fought side by side with their men. The Greeks answered that these were the very women who had routed the king from his camp"
Also Homer refers to Pyrrihios and describes how Achilles danced it around the burning funeral of Patroclos. The dance was loved in all of Greece and especially the Spartans considered it a kind of light war training and so they taught the dance to their children while still young.
- From πύρριχος "red", itself from πυρρός "blazing red" (cf. πῦρ "fire") from Proto-Greek *purwo- from Proto-Indo-European *peh2-ur "fire" (see R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 1260 and 1264).
- The Cambridge Series for Schools and Training Colleges: Xenophon, Anabasis VI with vocabulary