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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

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The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





Dionysius And Sicily








We have already seen how the Athenian fleet was destroyed at the siege of
Syracuse, where Nicias and Demosthenes were so lamentably defeated, which
defeat resulted in the humiliation of Athens and the loss of her power as
the leading State of Greece.

The destruction of this great Athenian armament in September, B.C. 413,
created an intoxication of triumph in the Sicilian cities. Nearly all of
them had joined Syracuse, except Naxos and Catana, which sided with
Athens. Agrigentum was neutral.

The Syracusans were too much exhausted by the contest to push their
victory to the loss of the independence of these cities, but they assisted
their allies, the Lacedaemonians, with twenty triremes against Athens,
under Hermocrates, while Rhodes furnished a still further re-enforcement,
under Dorieus. But the Peloponnesian war was not finished as soon as the
Syracusans anticipated. Even the combined Peloponnesian and Syracusan
fleets sustained two defeats in the Hellespont. The battle of Cyxicus was
even still more calamitous, since the Spartan admiral Mindarus was slain,
and the whole of his fleet was captured and destroyed. The Syracusans
suffered much by this latter defeat, and all their triremes were burned to
prevent them falling into the hands of their enemies, and the seamen were
left destitute on the Propontis, in the satrapy of Pharnabazus. These
adverse events led to the disgrace of Hermocrates, who stimulated the
movement and promised what he could not perform. But his conduct had been
good, and his treatment was unjust and harsh. War recognizes only success,
whatever may be the virtues and talents of the commanders; and this is one
of the worst phases of war, when accident and circumstances contribute
more to military rewards than genius itself.

The banishment of Hermocrates was followed by the triumph of the
democratical party, and Diocles, an influential citizen, was named, with a
commission of ten, to revise the constitution and the laws. The laws of
Diocles did not remain in force long, and were exceeding severe in their
penalties. But they were afterward revived, and copied by other Sicilian
cities, and remained in force to the Grecian conquest of the island.

The Syracusans then prosecuted war with vigor against Naxos, which
sided with Athens, until it was brought to a sudden close by an invasion
of the Carthaginians, the ancient foes of Greece. As far back as the year
480 B.C.--that year which witnessed the invasion of Greece by Xerxes--the
Carthaginians had invaded Sicily, with a mercenary army under Hamilcar,
for the purpose of reinstating the tyrant of Himera, expelled by Theron of
Agrigentum. The Carthaginian army was routed, and Hamilcar was slain by
Gelon, the tyrant of Syracuse. This defeat was so signal, that it was
seventy years before the Carthaginians again invaded Sicily, shortly after
the destruction of Athenian power at Syracuse. No sooner was the
protecting naval power of Athens withdrawn from Greece, than the Persians
and the Carthaginians pressed upon the Hellenic world.

It is singular that so little is known of the early history of
Carthage, which became the great rival of Rome. It was founded by the
Phoenicians, and became a considerable commercial city before Athens had
reached the naval supremacy of Greece. Her possessions were extensive on
the coast of Africa, both east and west, comprehending Sardinia and the
Balearic isles. At the maximum of her power, before the first Punic war,
the population was nearly a million of people. It was built on a fortified
peninsula of about twenty miles in circumference, with the isthmus. Upon
this isthmus was the citadel Byrsa, surrounded with a triple wall, and
crowned at its summit by a magnificent temple of AEsculapius. It possessed
three hundred tributary cities in Libya, which was but a small part of the
great empire which belonged to it in the fourth century before Christ. All
the towns on the coast, even those founded by the Phoenicians, like Hippo
and Utica, were tributary, with the exception of Utica. Although the
Carthaginians were averse to land service, yet no less than forty thousand
hoplites, with one thousand cavalry and two thousand war chariots, marched
out from the gates to resist an enemy. But the Carthaginian armies were
mostly composed of mercenaries--Gauls, Iberians, and Libyans, and forming a
discordant host in language and custom.

The political constitution of Carthage was oligarchal. Two kings
were elected annually, and presided over the Senate, of three hundred
persons, made up from the principal families. The great families divided
between them, as in Rome, the offices and influence of the State, and
maintained an insolent distinction from the people. It was an aristocracy,
based on wealth, and created by commerce, as in Venice, in the Middle
Ages. There was a demos, or people, at Carthage, who were consulted on
particular occasions; but, whether numerous or not, they were kept in
dependence to the rich families by banquets and lucrative employments. The
government was stable and well conducted, both for internal tranquillity
and commercial aggrandizement.

The first eminent historical personage was Mago, B.C. 500, who
greatly extended the dominions of Carthage. Of his two sons, Hamilcar was
defeated and slain by Gelon of Syracuse. The other son, Hasdrubal,
perished in Sardinia. His sons remained the most powerful citizens of the
State, carrying on war against the Moors and other African tribes.
Hannibal, grandson of Hamilcar, distinguished himself in an invasion of
Sicily, B.C. 410, and with a large army, of one hundred thousand men,
stormed and took Selinus, and killed one hundred and sixty thousand of the
inhabitants, and carried away captive five thousand more. He then laid
siege to Himera, which he also took, and slaughtered three thousand of the
inhabitants, in expiation of the memory of his grandfather. These were
Grecian cities, and the alarm throughout Greece was profound for this new
enemy. These events look place about the time that Hermocrates was
banished for an unsuccessful maritime war. Hermocrates afterward attempted
to enter Syracuse, but was defeated and slain.

At this period Dionysius appears upon the stage--for the next
generation the most formidable name in the Grecian world. He had none of
the advantages of family or wealth--but was well educated, and espoused the
cause of Hermocrates, and rose to distinction during the intestine
commotions which resulted from the death of Hermocrates and the banishment
of Diocles, the lawgiver.

In 406 B.C., Sicily was again invaded by a large force from
Carthage, estimated by some writers as high as three hundred thousand men,
who were chiefly mercenaries. Hannibal was the leader of these forces. All
the Greek cities now prepared for vigorous war. The Syracusans sent to
Sparta and the Italian Greek cities for aid. Agrigentum was most in
danger, and most alarmed of the Greek Sicilian cities. It was second only
to Syracuse in numbers and wealth, having a population of eight hundred
thousand people, though this is probably an exaggeration. It was rich in
temples and villas and palaces; its citizens were wealthy, luxurious, and
hospitable.

The army of Hannibal advanced against this city, which was strongly
fortified, and re-enforced by a strong body of troops from Syracuse, under
Daphneus. He defeated the Iberian mercenaries, but did not preserve his
victory, so that the Carthaginians were enabled to take and plunder
Agrigentum. There was, of course, bitter complaint against the Syracusan
generals, who might have prevented this calamity. In the discontent which
succeeded, Dionysius was elevated to the command. He procured a vote to
restore the Hermocratean exiles, and procured, also, a body of paid
guards, and established himself as despot of Syracuse; and he arrived at
this power by demagogic arts, allying himself with the ultra democratic
party.

Soon after his elevation, the Carthaginians advanced, under Imoleo,
to attack Gela, which was relieved by Dionysius with a force of fifty
thousand men. Intrenching himself between Gela and the sea, opposite the
Carthaginians, he resolved to attack the invaders, but was defeated and
obliged to retreat, so that Gela fell into the hands of the Carthaginians,
who perpetrated their usual cruelties. This defeat occasioned a mutiny at
Syracuse, and his house was plundered of the silver and gold and valuables
which he had already collected. But he rapidly returned to Syracuse, and
punished the mutineers, and became master of the city, driving away the
rich citizens who had vainly obstructed his elevation. He abolished every
remnant of freedom, and ruled despotically with the aid of his
mercenaries, and the common people who rallied to his standard.

It was fortunate for him that the Carthaginians, although victors
at Gela, made proposals of peace, which were accepted. Dionysius accepted
a peace, the terms of which were favorable to Carthage, in order to secure
his own power. He betrayed the interests of Sicily to an enemy from
selfish and unworthy motives. The whole south of Sicily was consigned to
the Carthaginians, and Syracuse to Dionysius.

Dionysius now concentrated all his efforts to centralize and
maintain his power. He greatly strengthened the fortifications of
Syracuse. He constructed a new wall, with lofty towers and elaborate
defenses, outside the mole which connected the islet Ortygia with Sicily.
He also erected a citadel. He then had an impregnable stronghold, powerful
for attack and defense. The fortress he erected in the islet of Ortygia he
filled with his devoted adherents, consisting mostly of foreigners, to
whom he assigned a permanent support and residence. He distributed anew
the Syracusan territory, reserving the best lands for his friends, who
thus became citizens. By this wholesale confiscation he was enabled to
support ten thousand mercenary troops, devoted to him and his tyranny. The
contributions he extorted were enormous, so that in five years twenty per
cent of the whole property of Syracuse was paid into his hands.

Having thus strengthened his power in Syracuse, he marched against
the Sikels, in the interior of the island. But his absence was taken
advantage of by the discontented citizens, who attempted to regain their
freedom. He returned at once to Syracuse, and intrenched himself in his
fortress, where he was besieged by the insurgents. The tyrant was now
driven to desperation, and nothing saved him but the impregnable
fortifications which he had erected. But his situation was so desperate
that his adherents melted away, and he began to abandon all hope of
retaining his position. As a last resource, he purchased the aid of a body
of Campanian cavalry, in the Carthaginian service, which was stationed at
Gela, while he amused the Syracusans, to gain time, by a pretended
submission. They agreed to allow him to depart with five triremes, and
relaxed the siege, supposing him already subdued. Meanwhile the
Carthaginian mercenaries arrived and defeated the Syracusans, already
dispersed and divided. Dionysius, finding himself rescued and
re-established in his dominions, strengthened the fortifications of
Ortygia, and employed his forces, now that Syracuse was subdued, in
conquering the Grecian cities of Naxos, Catana, and Leontini. Strengthened
at home and in the interior, Dionysius then prepared to attack the
Carthaginians, but previously took measures to insure the defensibility of
Syracuse. Six thousand persons were employed on a wall three and a half
miles in length, from the fort of Trogilus to Euryalus, the summit of the
slope of Epipolae, a high cliff, which commanded the roads to the city. Six
thousand teams of oxen were employed in drawing the stones from the
quarries. This wall was not like Ortygia, a guard-house against the people
of Syracuse, but a defense against external enemies. As it was a great
public work of defense, the citizens worked with cheerfulness and vigor,
and so enthusiastically did they labor, that the work was completed in
twenty days. The city being now impregnable, he commenced preparations for
offensive war, and changed his course toward the citizens, pursuing a
mild, and conciliatory policy. He made peace with Messene and Rhegium, and
married a lady from Locri. He collected all the best engineers, mechanics,
and artisans from Sicily and Italy, constructed immense machines, provided
arms from every nation around the Mediterranean, so that he collected or
fabricated one hundred and forty thousand shields and fourteen thousand
breastplates, destined for his body-guard and officers, together with a
vast number of helmets, spears, and daggers. All these were accumulated in
his impregnable fortress of Ortygia. His naval preparations were equally
stupendous. The docks of Syracuse were filled with workmen, and two
hundred triremes were added to the one hundred and ten which already were
housed in the docks. The trireme was the largest ship of war which for
three hundred years had sailed in the Grecian or Mediterranean waters. But
Dionysius constructed triremes with five banks of oars, and had a navy
vastly superior to what Athens ever possessed. He now hired soldiers from
every quarter, enlisting Syracusans and the inhabitants of the cities
depending upon her. He sent envoys to Italy and the Peloponnesus for
recruits, offering the most liberal pay.

When all his preparations were completed, he married, on the same
day, two wives--the Locrian (Doris), and the Syracusan (Aristomache), and
both of these women lived with him at the same table in equal dignity. He
had three children by Doris, the oldest of whom was Dionysius the Younger,
and four by Aristomache. When his nuptials had been celebrated with
extraordinary magnificence, and banquets, and fetes, in which the whole
population shared, he convoked a public assembly, and exhorted the
citizens to war against Carthage, as the common enemy of Greece, B.C. 397.
He then granted permission to plunder the Carthaginian ships in the
harbor, and shortly after marched out from Syracuse with an army against
the Carthaginians in Sicily, consisting of eighty thousand men, while a
fleet of two hundred triremes and five hundred transports accompanied his
march along the coast--the largest military force hitherto assembled under
Grecian command.

The first place he attacked was Motya, north of Cape Lilybaeum, in
the western extremity of the island, all the Grecian cities under
Carthaginian leadership having revolted. This city was both populous and
wealthy, built on an islet, which was separated from Sicily by a narrow
strait two-thirds of a mile in width, bridged over by a narrow mole. The
Motyans, seeing the approach of so formidable an army, broke up their
mole, and insulated themselves from Sicily. The Carthaginians sent a large
fleet to assist Motya, under Imilco, but being inferior to that of
Dionysius, it could not venture on a pitched battle. Motya made a
desperate defense, but a road across the strait being built by the
besiegers, the new engines of war carried over it were irresistible, the
town was at length carried and plundered, and the inhabitants slaughtered
or sold as slaves.

The siege occupied the summer, and Dionysius, triumphant, returned
to Syracuse. But Imilco being elevated to the chief magistracy of
Carthage, brought over to Sicily an overwhelming force, collected from all
Africa and Iberia, amounting to one hundred thousand men, afterward
re-enforced by thirty thousand more, at the lowest estimate, with four
hundred ships and six hundred transports. This army disembarked at
Panormus, on the northwestern side of the island (Palermo) retook Motya,
regained Eryx, then marched east and captured Messene, at the extreme
eastern part of the island near Italy, which prevented Dionysius from
getting aid from Italy. The Sikels also rebelled, and Dionysius, greatly
disquieted by the loss of all his conquests, and by approaching dangers,
strengthened the fortifications of Syracuse, to which he had retired, and
made preparations to resist the enemy. He had still a force of thirty
thousand foot and three thousand horse, and one hundred and eighty ships
of war. He sent also to Sparta for aid. He then advanced to Catana. A
naval battle took place off this city, gained by the Carthaginians, from
superior numbers. One hundred of the Syracusan ships were destroyed, with
twenty thousand men, B.C. 395.

After this defeat, Dionysius retreated to Syracuse with his land
forces, amid great discontent, and invoked the aid of Sparta and Corinth.
Imilco advanced also to Syracuse, while his victorious fleet occupied the
great harbor--a much more imposing armament than that the Athenians had at
the close of the Persian war. The total number of vessels was two
thousand. Imilco established his head-quarters at the temple of Zeus
Olympius, one mile and a half from the city, and allowed his troops thirty
days for plunder over the Syracusan territory; then he established
fortified posts, and encircled his camp with a wall, and set down in
earnest to reduce the city to famine. But as he was not master of Epipolae,
as Nicias was, Syracuse was able to communicate with the country around,
both west and north, and also found means to secure supplies by sea.

Meanwhile the Syracusans defeated a portion of the Carthaginian
fleet, and a terrific pestilence overtook the army before the city. The
military strength of the Carthaginians was prostrated by the terrible
malady, which swept away one hundred and fifty thousand persons in the
camp. When thus weakened and demoralized, the Carthaginians were attacked
by the Syracusans, and were completely routed. The fleet was also defeated
and set on fire, and the conflagration reached the camp, which was thus
attacked by pestilence, fire, and sword. The disaster was fatal to the
Carthaginians, and retreat was necessary. Imilco dispatched a secret envoy
to Dionysius, offering three hundred talents if the fleet was allowed to
sail away unmolested to Africa. This could not be permitted, but Imilco
and the native Carthaginians were allowed to retire. The remaining part of
the army, deprived of their head, was destroyed, with the exception of the
Sikels, who knew the roads, and made good their escape.

This immense disaster, greater than that the Athenians had suffered
under Nicias, produced universal mourning and distress at Carthage, while
the miserable Imilco vainly endeavoring to disarm the wrath of his
countrymen, shut himself up in his house, and starved himself to death.
This misfortune led also to a revolt of the African allies, which was
subdued with difficulty, while the power of Carthage in Sicily was reduced
to the lowest ebb. Dionysius was now left to push his conquests in other
directions, and Syracuse was rescued from impending ruin.

Dionysius had now reigned eleven years, with absolute power. The
pestilence, and the treachery of Imilco, had freed him of the
Carthaginians. But a difficulty arose as to the payment of his
mercenaries, which he compromised by giving them the rich territory of
Leontini, so that ten thousand quitted Syracuse, and took up their
residence in the town. The cost of maintaining a large standing army was
exceeding burdensome, and we only wonder how the tyrant found means to pay
it, and prosecute at the same time such great improvements.

He now directed his attention to the Sikels, in the interior of the
island, and took several of their towns, but from one of them he met with
desperate resistance, find came near losing his life from a wound by a
spear which penetrated his cuirass. This repulse caused the Carthaginians
to rally in the west of the island, under Magon, with an army of eighty
thousand. But he was repulsed by Dionysius, and concluded a truce with
him, which gave the latter leisure to make himself master of Messene and
Taurominium--the two most important maritime posts on the Italian side of
Sicily, and thus prepare for the invasion of the Greek cities in the south
of Italy, B.C. 391.

Dionysius departed from Syracuse, B.C. 389, with a powerful force,
to subdue the Italiot Greeks, and laid siege to Caulonia. He defeated
their army, and slew their general. The victor treated the defeated Greeks
with lenity, and then laid siege to Rhegium, to which he granted peace on
severe terms. Caulonia and Hipponeum, two cities whose territory occupied
the breadth of the Calabrian peninsula, fell into his hands. Rhegium
surrendered after a desperate defense, and Phyton, who commanded the town,
was treated with brutal inhumanity. The town was dismantled, and all the
territory of Southern Calabria was united to Locri. It was at this time
that the peace of Antalcidas took place, which put an end to the Spartan
wars in Asia Minor. The ascendant powers of Greece were now Sparta and
Syracuse, each fortified by alliance with the other.

Croton, the largest city in Magna Grecia, was now conquered by
Dionysius, who plundered the temple of Ilere, near Cape Lacinium, and
among its treasure was a splendid robe, decorated in the most costly
manner, which the conqueror sold to the Carthaginians, which long remained
one of the ornaments of their city. The value and beauty of the robe may
be estimated at the price paid for it--one hundred and twenty talents, more
than one hundred thousand dollars.

He now undertook a maritime expedition along the coast of Latium
and Etruria, and pillaged the rich temple at Agylla, stripping it of gold
and ornaments to the value of one thousand talents. So great was the
celebrity he acquired, that the Gauls of Northern Italy, who had recently
sacked Rome, proffered their alliance and aid. Master of Sicily and
Southern Italy, he inspired, by his unscrupulous plundering of temples,
the greatest terror and dislike throughout Central Greece. He then entered
as competitor at the festivals of Greece for the prize of tragic poetry.
But so contemptible were his poems, they were disgracefully hissed and
ridiculed. Especially those poems which were recited at Olympeia--where he
sent legations decked in the richest garments, furnished with gold and
silver, and provided with splendid tents--were received with a storm of
hisses, which plunged him in an agony of shame and grief, and drove him
nearly mad, and made him conscious of the deep hatred which everywhere
existed toward him. All his rich displays, which surpassed every thing
that had ever before been seen in that holy plain, were worse than a
failure--because they came from him. Not all his grandeur in Syracuse could
save him from the disgrace and insults which he had received in Olympeia.

It was at this time, B.C. 387, that Plato visited Sicily on a
voyage of inquiry and curiosity, chiefly to see Mount AEtna, and was
introduced to Dion, then a young man in Syracuse, and brother-in-law to
Dionysius. Dion was so impressed with the conversation of Plato, that he
invited the tyrant to talk with him also. Plato discoursed on virtue and
justice, showing that happiness belonged only to the virtuous, and that
despots could not lay claim even to the merit of true courage--most
unpalatable doctrine to the tyrant, who became bitterly hostile to the
philosopher. He even caused Plato to be exposed in the market as a slave,
and sold for twenty minae, which his friends paid and released him. On his
voyage home, through the influence of the tyrant, he was again sold at
Egina, and again repurchased, and set at liberty. So bitter are tyrants of
the virtues which contrast with their misdeeds; and so vindictive
especially was the despot who reigned at Syracuse.

Dionysius was now occupied, by the new defenses and fortifications
of his capital, so that the whole slope of Epipolae was bordered and
protected by massive walls and towers, and five divisions of the city had
each its separate fortifications, so that it was the largest fortified
city in all Greece--larger than Athens herself.

The plunder the tyrant had accumulated enabled him to make new
preparations for a war with Carthage. But he was defeated in a great
battle at Cronium, with terrible loss, by the youthful son of Magon, which
compelled him to make peace, and cede to Carthage all the territory of
Sicily west of the river Halycus, and pay a tribute of one thousand
talents.

Very little is recorded of Dionysius after this peace, B.C. 382,
for thirteen years, during which the Spartans had made themselves master
of Thebes, and placed a garrison in Cadmea. In the year 368 he made war
again with Carthage, but was defeated near Lilybaeum, and forced to return
to Syracuse. In the year 367 it would seem that he was at last successful
with his poems, for he gained the prize of tragedy at the Lenaean festival
at Athens, which so intoxicated him with joy, that he invited his friends
to a splendid banquet, and died from the effects of excess and wine, after
a reign of thirty-eight years. He was a man of restless energy and
unscrupulous ambition. His personal bravery was great, and he was vigilant
and long sighted--a man of great abilities, sullied by cruelty and
jealousy. In his spare time he composed tragedies to compete for prizes.
No other Greek had ever arrived at so great power from a humble position,
or achieved so striking exploits abroad, or preserved his grandeur so
unimpaired at his death. But he was greatly favored by fortune, especially
when the pestilence destroyed the hosts of Imilco. He maintained his power
by intimidation of his subjects, careful organization, and liberal pay to
his mercenaries. He cared nothing for money excepting as a means to secure
dominion. His exactions were exorbitant, and his rapacity boundless. He
trusted no one, and his suspicion was extended even to his wives. He
allowed no one to shave him, and searched his most intimate friends for
concealed weapons before they were allowed in his presence. He made
Syracuse a great fortress, to the injury of Sicily and Italy, and fancied
that he left his dominions fastened by chains of adamant. He could point
to Ortygia with its impregnable fortifications, to a large army of
mercenaries--to four hundred ships of war, and to vast magazines of arms
and military stores.

He left no successor competent to rivet the chains he had forged.
His son Dionysius succeeded to his throne at the age of twenty-five. His
brother-in-law Dion was the next prominent member of his family, and
possessed a fortune of one hundred talents--a man of great capacity,
ambitious, luxurious, but fond of literature and philosophy. He was,
however, so much influenced by Plato, whose Socratic talk and democratic
principles enchained and fascinated him, that his character became
essentially modified, and he learned to hate the despotism under which he
grew up, and formed large schemes for political reform. He aspired to
cleanse Syracuse of slavery, and clothe her in the dignity of freedom, by
establishing an improved constitutional polity, with laws which secured
individual rights. He exchanged his luxurious habits for the simple fare
of a philosopher. Never before had Plato met with a pupil who so
profoundly and earnestly profited from his instructions. The harsh
treatment which Plato received from the tyrant was a salutary warning to
Dion. He saw that patience was imperatively necessary, and he so conducted
as to maintain the favor of Dionysius.

Dionysius II. was twenty-five years old when his father died, and
though he possessed generous impulses, was both weak and vain, given to
caprice, and insatiate of praise. He had been kept from business from the
excessive jealousy of his father, and his life had been passed in idleness
and luxury at the palace of Ortygia. His father's taste for poetry had
introduced guests to his table whose conversation opened his mind to
generous sentiments, but the indecision of his character prevented his
profiting from any serious studies. Dion supported this feeble novice on
the throne of his father, and tried to gain influence over him, and
frankly suggested the measures to be adopted, and Dionysius listened at
first to his wise counsels. Dion wished to make Syracuse a free city, with
good laws, to expel the Carthaginians from Sicily, and replant the
semi-barbarian Hellenic cities. He also endeavored to reform the life of
Dionysius as well as Syracuse, and actually wrought a signal change in his
royal pupil, so that he desired to see and converse with the great sage
who had so completely changed the life of Dion, and inspired him with
patriotic enthusiasm. Accordingly, Plato was sent for, who reluctantly
consented to visit Syracuse. He had no great faith in the despot who
sought his wisdom, and he did not wish, at sixty-one, to leave his
favorite grove, with admiring disciples from every part of Greece, where
he reigned as monarch of the mind. He went to Syracuse, not with the hope
so much of converting a weak tyrant, as from unwillingness to desert his
friend, and be taunted with the impotence of his philosophy. He was
received with great distinction at court, and a royal carriage conveyed
him to his lodgings. The banquets of the Acropolis became distinguished
for simplicity, and the royal pupil commenced at once in taking lessons in
geometry. The old courtiers were alarmed, and disgusted. "A single
Athenian sophist," they said, "with no force but his tongue and
reputation, has achieved the conquest of Syracuse." Dionysius seemed to
have abdicated in favor of Plato, and the noble objects for which Dion
labored seemed to be on the way of fulfillment. But Plato acted
injudiciously, and spoiled his influence by unreasonable vigor. It was
absurd to expect that the despot would go to school like a boy, and insist
upon a mental regeneration before he gave him lessons of practical wisdom
in politics. All the necessary reforms were postponed on the ground that
the royal pupil was not yet ripe for them, and every influence was exerted
to show him his own unworthiness--that his whole past life had been
vicious--delicate ground for any teacher to assume, since he irritated
rather than reformed. He was even averse to any political changes until
Dionysius had gone through his schooling. Plato also maintained a proud,
philosophical dignity, showing no respect to persons, and refusing to the
defects of his pupil any more indulgence than he granted to those who
listened to his teachings at home.

Such a mistake was attended soon with difficulties. The old
courtiers recovered their influence. Dion was calumniated and slandered,
as seeking to usurp the sovereign powers, and that Plato was brought to
Syracuse as an agent in the conspiracy. Plato tried to counterwork this
mischief, but in vain. Dionysius lost all inclination to reform, and Dion
was hated, for he was superior to his nephew in dignity and ability, and
was haughty and austere in his manners. He was accordingly banished from
Syracuse, and Plato was retained in the Acropolis, but was otherwise
well treated, and entreated to remain. The tyrant, however, refused to
recall Dion, but consented to the departure of Plato. Another visit to
Syracuse, which he made with the hope of securing the recall of Dion, was
a splendid captivity, and although he was treated with extraordinary
deference, he was not at rest until he obtained permission to depart. He
had failed in his mission of benevolence and friendship. All the vast
possessions of Dion were confiscated, and Plato had the mortification to
hear of this injury in the very palace to which he went as a reformer.

Incensed at the seizure of his property, and hopeless of permission
to return, and of all those reforms which he had projected, Dion now
meditated the overthrow of the power of Dionysius, and his own restoration
at the point of the sword. During his exile he had chiefly resided in
Athens, enjoying the teaching of his friend Plato, and dispensing his vast
wealth in generous charities. Nor did Plato fully approve of his plans for
the overthrow of Dionysius, anticipating little good from such violence,
although he fully admitted his wrongs. But other friends, less judicious
and more interested, warmly seconded his projects. With aid from various
sources, he at last could muster eight hundred veterans, with which he
ventured to attack the most powerful despot in Greece, and in his own
stronghold. And so enthusiastic was Dion, all disparity of forces was a
matter of indifference. Moreover, he accounted it glory and honor to
perish in so just and noble a cause as the liberation of Sicily from a
weak and cruel despot, every way inferior to his father in character,
though as strong in resources.

But the friends of Dion did not dream of throwing away their lives.
They calculated on a rising of the Syracusans to throw off an
insupportable yoke, and they had utter contempt for the tyrant himself,
knowing his drunken habits, and effeminate character, and personal
incompetency. So, after ten years' exile, Dion, with his followers, landed
in Sicily, at Heracleia, also in the absence of Dionysius, who had quitted
Syracuse for Italy, with eighty triremes, so that the city was easy of
access.

This unaccountable mistake of the tyrant in leaving his capital at
such a crisis, was regarded with great joy by the small army of Dion,
which marched out at once from Heracleia, and was joined in the
Agrigentian territory with two hundred horsemen. As he approached
Syracuse, other bands joined him, so that he had five thousand men as he
approached the capital. Timocrates, the husband of Dion's late wife, for
his wife was taken away from him, was left in command at Syracuse with a
large force of mercenaries. But as Dion advanced to the city, there was a
general rising of the citizens, and Timocrates was obliged to return,
leaving the fortresses garrisoned. Dion entered the city by the principal
street, which was decorated as on a day of jubilee, and proclaimed liberty
to all. He was also chosen general, with his brother Megacles, and
approached Ortygia, and challenged the garrison to come out and fight. He
then succeeded in capturing Epipolae and Eurylae, those fortified quarters,
and erected a cross wall from sea to sea to block up Ortygia.

At the end of seven days, when all these results had been
accomplished, Dionysius returned to Syracuse, but Ortygia was the only
place which remained to him, and that, too, shut up on the land side by a
blockading wall. The rest of the city was in possession of his enemies,
though those enemies were subjects. His abdication was imperatively
demanded by Dion, who refused all conciliation and promises of reform.
Rallying, then, his soldiers, he made a sally to surprise the blockading
wall, and was nearly successful, but Dion, at length, repulsed his forces,
and recovered the wall. Ortygia was again blockaded, but as Dionysius was
still master of the sea, he ravaged the coasts for provisions, and
maintained his position, until the arrival of Heraclides, with a
Peloponnesian fleet, gave the Syracusans a tolerable naval force.
Philistus commanded the fleet of Dionysius, but in a battle with
Heraclides, he lost his life.

Dionysius now lost all hope of recovering his power by force, and
resorted to intrigues, stimulating the rivalry of Heraclides, and exposing
the defeats of Dion, whose arrogance and severity were far from making him
popular. Calumnies now began to assail Dion, and he was mistrusted by the
Syracusans, who feared only an exchange of tyrants. There was also an
unhappy dissension between Dion and Heraclides, which resulted in the
deposition of Dion, and he was forced to retreat from Syracuse, and seek
shelter with the people of Leontini, who stood by him. Dionysius again had
left Ortygia for Italy, leaving his son in command, and succeeded in
sending re-enforcements from Locri, under Nypsius, so that the garrison of
Ortygia was increased to ten thousand men, with ample stores. Nypsius
sallied from the fortress, mastered the blockading wall, and entered
Neapolis and Achradina, fortified quarters of the city. The Syracusans, in
distress, then sent to Leontini to invoke the aid of Dion, who returned as
victor, drove Nypsius into his fortress, and saved Syracuse. He also
magnanimously pardoned Heraclides, and prosecuted the blockade of Ortygia,
and was again named general. Still Heraclides, who was allowed to command
the fleet, continued his intrigues, and frustrated the operations against
Dionysius. At last, Ortygia surrendered to Dion, who entered the fortress,
where he found his wife and sister, from whom he had been separated twelve
years. At first, Arete, his wife, who had consented to marry Timocrates,
was afraid to approach him, but he received her with the tenderest emotion
and affection. His son, however, soon after died, having fallen into the
drunken habits of Dionysius.

Dion was now master of Syracuse, and on the pinnacle of power. His
enterprise had succeeded against all probabilities. But prosperity, which
the Greeks were never able to bear, poisoned all his good qualities and
exaggerated his bad ones. He did not fall into the luxury of his
predecessors. He still wore the habit of a philosopher, and lived with
simplicity, but he made public mistakes. His manners, always haughty,
became repulsive. He despised popularity. He conferred no real liberty. He
retained his dictatorial power. He preserved the fortifications of
Ortygia. He did not meditate a permanent despotism, but meant to make
himself king, with a modified constitution, like that of Sparta. He had no
popular sympathies, and sought to make Syracuse, like Corinth, completely
oligarchial. He took no step to realize any measure of popular freedom,
and, above all, refused to demolish the fortress, behind whose
fortifications the tyrants of Syracuse had intrenched themselves in
danger. He also caused Heraclides to be privately assassinated, so that
the Syracusans began to hate him as cordially as they had hated Dionysius.
This unpopularity made him irritable, and suspicious and disquieted. A
conspiracy, headed by Callippus, put an end to his reign. He was slain by
the daggers of assassins. Thus perished one of the noblest of the Greeks,
but without sufficient virtue to bear success. His great defect was
inexperience in government, and it may be doubted whether Plato himself
could have preserved liberty in so corrupt a city as Syracuse. The
character of Dion also changed greatly by his banishment, since vindictive
sentiments were paramount in his soul. He had a splendid opportunity of
becoming a benefactor to his country, but this was thrown away, and
instead of giving liberty he only ruled by force, and moved from bad to
worse, until he made a martyr of the man whom once he magnanimously
forgave. Had he lived longer, he probably would have proved a remorseless
tyrant like Tiberius. So rare is it for men to be temperate in the use of
power, and so much easier is it to give expression to grand sentiments
than practice the self-restraint which has immortalized the few
Washingtons of the world.

The Athenian Callippus, who overturned Dion, remained master of
Syracuse for more than a year, but its condition was miserable and
deplorable, convulsed by passions and hostile interests. In the midst of
the anarchy which prevailed, Dionysius contrived to recover Ortygia, and
establish himself as despot. The Syracusans endured more evil than before,
for the returned tyrant had animosities to gratify. There was also fresh
danger from Carthage, so that the Syracusans appealed to their mother
city, Corinth, for aid. Timoleon was chosen as the general of the forces
to be sent--an illustrious citizen of Corinth, then fifty years of age,
devoted to the cause of liberty, with hatred of tyrants and wrongs, who
had even slain his brother when he trampled on the liberties of
Corinth--and a brother whom he loved. But he was forced to choose between
him and his country, and he chose his country, securing the gratitude of
Corinth, but the curses of his mother and the agonies of self-reproach, so
that he left for years the haunts of men, and buried himself in the
severest solitude. Twenty years elapsed from the fratricide to his command
of a force to relieve the Syracusans from their tyrant Dionysius.

Timoleon commenced his preparations of ships and soldiers with
alacrity, but his means were scanty, not equal even to those of Dion when
he embarked on his expedition. He was prevented with his small force from
reaching Sicily by a Carthaginian fleet of superior force, but he effected
his purpose by stratagem, and landed at Taurominium under great
discouragements. He defeated Hicetas, who had invoked the aid of Carthage,
at Adranum, and marched unimpeded to the walls of Syracuse. Dionysius,
blocked up at Ortygia, despaired of his position, and resolved to
surrender the fortress, stipulating for a safe conveyance and shelter at
Corinth. This tyrant, broken by his drunken habits, did not care to fight,
as his father did, for a sceptre so difficult to be maintained, and only
sought his ease and self-indulgence. So he passed into the camp of
Timoleon with what money he could raise, and the fortress was surrendered.
A re-enforcement from Corinth enabled Timoleon to maintain his ground.

The appearance of the fallen tyrant in Corinth produced a great
sensation. Some from curiosity, others from sympathy, and still more from
derision, went to see a man who had enjoyed so long despotic power, now
suing only for a humble domicile. But his conduct, considering his drunken
habits, was marked by more dignity than was to be expected from so weak a
man. He is said to have even opened a school to teach boys to read, and to
have instructed the public singers in reciting poetry. His career, at
least, was an impressive commentary on the mutability of fortune, to which
the Greeks were fully alive.

Timoleon, in possession of Ortygia, with its numerous stores, found
himself able to organize a considerable force to oppose the Carthaginians
who sought to get possession of the fortress. Hicetas, now assisted by a
Carthaginian force under Magon, attacked Ortygia, but was defeated by the
Corinthian Neon, who acquired Achradina, and joined it by a wall to
Ortygia. But Magon now distrusted Hicetas, and suddenly withdrew his army.
Timoleon thus became master of Syracuse, and Hicetas was obliged to retire
to Leontini. Timoleon ascribed his good fortune to the gods, but purchased
a greater hold on men's minds than fortune gave him by his moderation in
the hour of success--a striking contrast to Dion and the elder Dionysius.
He invited the Syracusans to demolish the stronghold of tyranny, where the
despots had so long intrenched themselves. He erected courts of justice on
its site. He recalled the exiles, and invited new colonists to the
impoverished city, so that sixty thousand immigrants arrived. He relieved
the poverty and distress of the people by selling the public lands, and
employed his forces to expel remaining despots from the island.

But Hicetas again invited the Carthaginians to Sicily. They came,
with a vast army of seventy thousand men and twelve hundred ships, under
Hasdrubal and Hamilcar, B.C. 340. Timoleon could only assemble twelve
thousand to meet this overwhelming force, but with these he marched
against the Carthaginians, and gained a great victory, by the aid of a
terrible storm which pelted the Carthaginians in the face. No victory was
ever more complete than this at Crimisus. Ten thousand of the invaders
were slain, and fifteen thousand made prisoners, together with an enormous
spoil.

Timoleon had now to deal with two Grecian enemies--Hicetas and
Mamercus--tyrants of Leontini and Catana. Over these he gained a complete
victory, and put them to death. He then, after having delivered Syracuse,
and defeated his enemies, laid down his power, and became a private
citizen. But his influence remained, as it ought to have been, as great as
ever, for he was a patriot of most exalted virtue, a counselor whom all
could trust--a friend who sacrificed his own interests. And he exerted his
influence for the restoration of Syracuse, for the introduction of
colonists, and the enforcement of wise laws. The city was born anew, and
the gratitude and admiration of the citizens were unbounded. In his latter
years he became blind, but his presence could not then even be spared when
any serious difficulty arose--ruling by the moral power of wisdom and
sanctity--one of the best and loftiest characters of all antiquity. And
nothing was more remarkable than his patience under contradiction, and his
eagerness to insure freedom of speech, even against himself.

Thus, by the virtues and wisdom of this remarkable man, were
freedom and comfort diffused throughout Sicily for twenty-four years,
until the despotism of Agathocles. Timoleon died B.C. 337--a father and
benefactor--and the Syracusans solemnized his funeral with lavish honors,
which was attended by a countless procession, and passed a vote to honor
him for all future time with festive matches, in music and chariot-races,
and such gymnastics as were practiced at the Grecian games. A magnificent
monument was erected to his memory. "The mournful letters written by Plato
after the death of Dion contrasts strikingly with the enviable end of
Timoleon, and with the grateful inscription of the Syracusans on his
tomb."





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