GREECE-SPARTAN AND THEBAN ASCENDENCIES.
oligarchic chief was endeavoring to regain possession of Syracuse he was
slain; but his cause was immediately taken up by the young Dionysius, a
man of great abilities and audacity, who soon obtained a vote of the
assembly by which he was raised first to authority and then to despotism.
He first made successful war upon several of the Sicilian cities, and
then began a conflict with Carthage. But this undertaking proved beyond
his capacity to manage. The island was invaded by an immense force of
Carthaginians, and Syracuse was only saved from capture, and perhaps
destruction, by the ravages of a pestilence which broke out in the camp
of the besiegers. Imilcon, the Carthaginian general, then purchased from
Dionysius the privilege of a safe retreat from the island.
Under the direction of the tyrant, Syracuse soon became the foremost city
in the west. And, indeed, in all continental Greece, Sparta only could
rival the power and grandeur of the Sicilian capital. Dionysius himself
set the example in artistic and literary culture. He courted the Muses.
He had his poems publicly recited, not only in his own city, but also in
Athens. He contended for prizes at the Lenaean festival and at the
Olympic games. Several second and third prizes were awarded to him, and
finally the first prize in tragedy, given for his play entitled the
Ransom of Hector. For thirty-eight years he wielded the destinies of the
city, and died without an overthrow.
After him his son, known as Dionysius the Younger, became master of
Syracuse, and for a while, under the influence of Plato, who was invited
to his court, showed some signs of mitigating the rigorous rule
established by his father; but the influence of courtiers prevailed
against these tendencies, and Plato himself, falling into disrepute, was
for a season in danger of his life. At length, however, the philosopher
escaped and returned to Greece.
Soon afterwards, in B. C. 357, Dion, the leader of the opposing party in
politics, headed an insurrection against the tyrant, and the latter was
overthrown, to the great joy of the people. Dion then became ruler of the
city, and was expected to make an effort at reform. He had been the
friend of Plato, and had imbibed that great thinker's profound but
somewhat impracticable views of government, and the people looked for a
millennium; but in this they were so grievously disappointed that Dion
was soon assassinated by one Callippus, who held the city for about a
year, when he was in turn driven out by a nephew of Dion. Several
revolutions followed in quick succession, until finally an appeal was
sent to Sparta for the restoration of order. The Lacedaemonian
authorities thereupon dispatched the celebrated Timoleon (1) to quiet the
disturbances in Sicily, and especially to restore the ascendancy of
Spartan influence in Syracuse.
The squadron given to Timoleon numbered only ten vessels, but with this
small armament he made his way into Sicily. Having arrived at Adranum he
encountered Hicetas, the then leader of the democratic party in the
island, who came out with a large force to drive back the Spartans.
Timoleon, however, gained a decisive victory, and then marched into
Syracuse without further opposition. Dionysius (the third of that name),
who now headed the oligarchy, surrendered to him, and he thus became
master of the city. He at once proceeded to the demolition of the
fortifications of Orytigia and the destruction of the other relics of the
reign of the Elder Dionysius, including his splendid mausoleum; and when
this work was accomplished the new governor erected courts of justice on
the sites of the overthrow. Those who had been banished were invited to
return, and of these-together with companies of citizens who joined them-
there came from Corinth ten thousand in a single colony. The constitution
was revised, and most of the statutes of Diocles again made operative in
the government of the city ______________________________ 1 The story of
Timoleon's previous life is a tragedy. Once in battle he saved the life
of his elder brother Timophenes, but afterwards, when the latter was
overtaken in a piece of treachery to his country, he consented to his
death. Then remorse seized him, and, loaded with the imprecations of his
mother, he slunk out of sight and tried to starve himself to death. After
a long seclusion he was, by one of those strange caprices for which the
Greek mind was so peculiarly noted, called to take charge of the
expedition just organized in aid of the Syracusans.