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


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


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


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


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


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


Asia Minor And Phoenicia Egypt And The Pharaohs facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail