Dejected at this well as because none of his hopes were being realized, Pyrrhus purposed to retreat; but fearing the narrowness of the gates he sent to his son Helenus, who had been left outside the city with the greater part of the forces, ordering him to tear down part of the wall and succour those who rushed out through the breach, in case the enemy molested them.
Owing to the haste and tumult, however, the messenger brought no clear orders, but actually made a mistake, and the young prince, taking the rest of the elephants and the best of his soldiers, marched through the gate into the city to help his father. But Pyrrhus was already on the retreat. And as long as the marketplace afforded him room for withdrawing and fighting, he would turn and repel his assailants;
but after he had been driven out of the market-place into the narrow street which led up to the gate, and encountered those who were rushing to his aid from the opposite direction, some of these could not hear him when he called out to them to withdraw, and those who did, even though they were very ready to obey him, were kept from doing so by those who were pouring in behind them from the gate.
For the largest of the elephants had fallen athwart the gateway1
and lay there roaring, in the way of those who would have turned back; and another elephant, one of those which had gone on into the city, Nicon by name, seeking to recover his rider, who had fallen from his back in consequence of wounds, and dashing in the face of those who were trying to get out, crowded friends and foes alike together in a promiscuous throng,
until, having found the body of his master, he took it up with his proboscis, laid it across his two tusks, and turned back as if crazed, overthrowing and killing those who came in his way. Thus crushed and matted together not a man of them could act at all for himself, but the whole multitude, bolted together, as it were, into one body, kept rolling and swaying this way and that.
Little fighting could be done against those of the enemy who were continually being caught up into their ranks or attacking them from the rear, and they wrought most harm to themselves. For when a man had drawn his sword or poised his spear, he could not recover or sheathe his weapon again, but it would pass through those who stood in its way, and so they died from one another's blows.