E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Desperation which terminates in victory. In the days of Philip, King of Macedon, the men of Phocis had to defend themselves single-handed against the united forces of all their neighbours, because they presumed to plough a sacred field belonging to Delphi. The Phocensians suggested that they should make a huge pile, and that all the women and children should join the men in one vast human sacrifice. The pile was made, and everything was ready, but the men of Phocis, before mounting the pile, rushed in desperation on the foe, and obtained a signal victory.