Ancient History & Civilisation


Introduction to Dion

[c. 408–354 BC]

In Dion and Timoleon Plutarch turns to the history of the Greek cities of Sicily, specifically Syracuse. Syracuse, the largest of the Sicilian cities, was a democracy at the end of the fifth century and had endured a long siege by Athens (415 to 413 BC). But in 405, in the face of invasion by Carthage, power was seized by the young Dionysius I, who made himself tyrant and ruled Syracuse until his death in 367. By that time he had brought much of Sicily and parts of southern Italy under his control, and had access to vast wealth and resources, including the service of a mercenary army.

Dion, the subject of Plutarch’s Life, was closely related to the family of Dionysius I, and was a trusted adviser. He was also at some level a Platonist, having met Plato when the latter visited Syracuse in 388. When the young Dionysius II, son of the former tyrant, came to power in 367, Dion tried to influence him towards Platonic philosophy and had Plato again invited to court. The results, however, were rather disappointing and Plato, by now in fear for his life, was in the end expelled (365). In the meantime, Dion had been accused of entering into private negotiations with Carthage, and was himself banished (366). After nine years in exile in Greece, and now convinced that he would not be recalled, Dion gathered a force of mercenaries and landed in Sicily with the aim of overthrowing the tyranny (357). He was greeted as a liberator and succeeded first in cooping up Dionysius and his family in Ortygia, the fortified headland of Syracuse, and ultimately in expelling his forces entirely. But politically he was less successful. His political instincts were oligarchic and he had no intention of restoring democracy. He was thus forced to rely on his mercenary troops in an increasingly violent struggle with the democratic forces in Syracuse, which culminated in the murder of the democratic leader, Heracleides. In 354 Dion was himself assassinated, after which Syracuse endured a series of short-lived rulers before Dionysius II returned to power in 346.

Plutarch’s Life of Dion is idealized and politically one-sided. There is little sympathy for the Syracusan democratic leaders. Heracleides is presented as self-serving, ungrateful and a demagogue, flattering the common people and stirring them up against Dion. Dion is by contrast presented as reasonable and moderate, refusing to bow to popular demands such as the redistribution of land. Plutarch hurries over the murder of Heracleides, emphasizing Heracleides’ destabilizing effect on Syracuse and the fine funeral Dion gave him, while implying that Dion himself did not give the orders but merely failed to restrain the assassins (ch. 53). All of this could have been presented very differently, with Dion seen as a would-be tyrant, relying on the support of his mercenaries, and Heracleides as a champion of popular freedom. Plutarch’s own anti-democratic biases, as much as those of his sources, are probably at work here.

Plutarch’s main narrative sources for Dion are lost. He several times cites the work of Timonides, a member of the Platonic Academy who accompanied Dion on his expedition, and the Sicilian historian Timaeus (c. 350–260 BC), whose long work on the history of Sicily was highly regarded in antiquity. Both are lost, but quotations of Timaeus in later writers show that he was almost certainly unfavourable to the tyrants. Plato’s Letters were also an important source in this Life, especially his Seventh Letter, which purports to have been written shortly after Dion’s death and is addressed to Dion’s friends and associates. In it Plato (if the letter is genuinely by him) defends and justifies his own involvement in Sicily, and discusses Dion’s actions at length. Plutarch refers to and paraphrases this letter frequently, and in general plays up the influence of Plato on Dion; in particular, he presents Dion’s political programme, especially his concern to reorganize the Syracusan constitution after the fall of the tyranny, as an attempt to put Plato’s ideas into practice. In his Republic and Laws Plato had described a utopian state in which philosophers would rule as kings. Plutarch presents Dion’s constitutional aims for Syracuse as modelled on this idealized city-state (see esp. ch. 53). He also has Dion refer in discussions with his friends to his time spent studying with Plato and has him holding forth to them on the nature of virtue (ch. 47). This almost certainly exaggerates the influence of Plato on Dion. But Plutarch, himself a committed Platonist, found in the story of Dion an opportunity to explore what it would be like to apply Plato’s doctrines to a real city. The theme was also topical: Greek intellectuals of Plutarch’s period were fascinated by the idea that a single wise man might be able to influence a man of power, be he a tyrant, a governor or a Roman emperor, and Plutarch himself wrote a treatise on this subject called Philosophers and men in power.

For all the idealization of Dion and his political programme in this Life, however, Dion does not emerge as wholly admirable. Despite his personal virtues, Dion is unable to impose either by force or by persuasion his political vision. His liberation of Syracuse plunges the city into chaos and civil war; and although he is able to expel the tyrant, he is unable to handle the masses. Indeed, it is this inability which forms the one point of criticism which Plutarch makes. Plutarch comments early in the Life on Dion’s haughty and severe demeanour (chs. 8, 17), and remarks towards the end that Dion continued his aloofness in dealing with the common people, ‘even though the times called for a more gracious demeanour’ (ch. 52). His murder, when it comes, has a certain inevitability to it.

For Plutarch, then, Dion was virtuous and guided by right principles, but he lacked that quality of flexibility and the ability to get on with people essential to success in politics. The same can be said for Brutus, whose Life is paired with that of Dion. Brutus too is presented as a man of philosophic principles, with a strong commitment to liberty and hatred of tyranny. It is these virtues which motivate him to overthrow the regime of Julius Caesar, which Plutarch presents in Brutus as parallel to the tyranny of the Dionysii. But Brutus, too, is unable to win popular support for his ideals; he dies, along with the Republic he attempted to restore, on the field of Philippi. These two Lives together, then, both idealize the notion of the philosopher in politics, but also suggest that correct philosophical principles and a virtuous character are not enough to succeed.

Two other extant writers deal with Dion. One is the first-century BC historian Diodorus, also of Sicily, who covers this period in his Book 16. The contrast with Plutarch’s picture of Dion is striking: Diodorus is uninterested in Dion’s philosophical commitments, and much more favourable to Heracleides, the democratic leader ultimately assassinated by Dion. His work, probably based on the fourth-century historian Ephorus, gives us a glimpse into another tradition which was much less biased in Dion’s favour. There is also the brief biography of Dion by the first-century BC Roman writer Cornelius Nepos, which, while it presents Dion in glowing terms at the start, shows him to be an autocrat by the end. Both of these accounts are important counterweights to Plutarch’s Life, showing how idealized, how politically biased and how imbued with Platonic conceptions it is.

Prologue to the Lives of Dion and Brutus

1. The poet Simonides tells us, Sosius Senecio,1 that Troy bears no grudge against the men of Corinth for having fought against her on the side of the Greeks, since Glaucus, one of the very staunchest of her allies, was also, as it happened, a Corinthian.2 In the same way, it is unlikely that either the Romans or the Greeks will find fault with the Academy, since in this book, which presents the Lives of Dion and of Brutus, each nation receives equal treatment. Dion was a disciple of Plato who knew the philosopher personally, while Brutus was nurtured on his doctrines, so that both men were trained in the same wrestling school, one might say, to take part in the greatest struggles. There is a remarkable similarity in many of their actions, and so we should not be surprised that they confirm the conviction of their teacher in virtue, namely that wisdom and justice must be accompanied by power and good fortune if a man’s political actions are to possess both nobility and substance.3 For Hippomachus the trainer used to say that he could always pick out his pupils from afar, even if they were only taking home meat from the market-place, and in the same way it is natural that where men have been trained in a similar way, reason should likewise guide their conduct and confer a certain grace, harmony and propriety upon all their actions.

2. These two men’s lives resemble each other in their fortunes, that is in those events which were the result of chance rather than of deliberate choice. Both of them were cut off in the prime of life and so failed to accomplish the purposes to which they had devoted such long and arduous efforts. But the strangest thing of all is that both of them were warned by the gods of their approaching death in the form of a malevolent and threatening spectre which appeared to each of them alike. Those who utterly deny the existence of such phenomena maintain that no man in his right senses has ever set eyes on a ghost or apparition sent by the gods. They insist that it is only little children or women or people under the stress of sickness through some bodily disorder or mental aberration who have indulged in such imaginings, because they have within themselves the evil spirit of superstition.4 But Dion and Brutus were men of solid understanding and philosophical training, whose judgement was not easily deceived nor their composure shaken, and yet each of them was so affected by an apparition that they actually described what they had seen to others. So in the light of their experience we may be compelled to give credit to the strangest theory of ancient times, namely that there exist certain mean and malevolent spirits who envy good men. They strive to frustrate their actions, to confuse and terrify them, shaking and tripping up their virtue: all this is done to hinder them from continuing their upright and blameless progress along the path of honour, which would enable them to win a happier lot after death than the envious spirits themselves.5 However, this subject must be left for discussion elsewhere, and in this, the twelfth book6 of my Parallel Lives, let us bring on to the stage first the life of the older man.

Life of Dion

3. Dionysius the elder, as soon as he had made himself master of Syracuse,7 married the daughter of Hermocrates the Syracusan. But before the tyranny had been securely established, the people of Syracuse rose in revolt and violated her in such a cruel and barbarous fashion that she took her own life. Dionysius then recovered control, and once he had asserted his supremacy he married two wives. One of these was a woman of Locri named Doris; the other, Aristomache, was the daughter of Hipparinus, one of the most prominent citizens of Syracuse, who had been a colleague of Dionysius when he had been appointed commander-in-chief of the army, with unlimited powers to carry on the war against Carthage. It is said that he married both these women on the same day, and that nobody ever knew with which one he first consummated the marriage, but that afterwards for the rest of his life he spent an equal share of his time with each: it was his custom to dine with both of them together, and at night they shared his bed in turn. The Syracusans, however, were anxious that their own countrywoman should take precedence over the foreigner, but it was Doris’ good fortune to be the first to become a mother, and thus by presenting Dionysius with his eldest son8 she was able to offset her foreign birth. Aristomache, on the other hand, remained barren for a long time, although Dionysius passionately desired that she should bear him children, and he even went so far as to accuse the mother of his Locrian wife of giving her drugs to prevent conception, and had her put to death.

4. Dion was Aristomache’s brother, and at first he was treated with honour because of his sister’s position; but after a while he was able to give proof of his ability and earned the tyrant’s regard on his own account. Besides the other privileges which Dion enjoyed, Dionysius instructed his treasurers to give the young man anything he asked for, but to inform him of the amounts on the same day. Now, from the very beginning Dion had shown a high-principled, generous and manly character, and these qualities became even more strongly developed in him when, by a providential accident, Plato arrived in Sicily.9 This event was certainly not the work of any human agency, but it seems that some supernatural power was already preparing, far in advance of the time, the means to liberate the Syracusans and overthrow the tyranny, and to this end brought Plato to Syracuse and introduced him to Dion. Dion was then a young man of twenty, but of all Plato’s followers he was by far the quickest to learn and the most ready to respond to the call of the virtuous life. Plato himself has written of him in these terms and events bear out his judgement.10 Although Dion had been brought up to accept the habit of submission to tyrannical rule and had been steeped in an atmosphere of servility and intimidation on the one hand, and of ostentatious adulation and tasteless luxury on the other – a way of life which has no higher aspirations than pleasure and the love of gain – yet at the first taste of philosophic reason and of a doctrine which requires obedience to virtue, his spirit was instantly fired with enthusiasm. Then, because he himself was so quickly won over by these ideals, he assumed with all the innocence of youth that Dionysius would respond just as readily to the same arguments, and so he set to work and finally persuaded the tyrant that when he was at leisure he should meet Plato and listen to his ideas.

5. At this encounter the general theme of the conversation was human virtue, and most of the discussion centred upon the topic of courage. Here, Plato took the line that of all mankind the tyrant possesses the smallest share of this quality, and then turning to the subject of justice, he maintained that the life of the just is happy, while the life of the unjust is full of misery.11 Dionysius would not hear out this argument, since it implied a direct reproach to himself, and he grew exasperated with the audience when he saw how much they admired the speaker and were charmed by his doctrines. At last he lost his temper and angrily demanded of Plato why he had come to Sicily. Plato replied that he had come in search of a man of virtue, whereupon Dionysius retorted, ‘Indeed! Then, by the gods, you do not seem to have found one yet!’

Dion and his friends supposed that this was the end of the tyrant’s anger and that nothing more would come of it. Accordingly, as Plato was by then anxious to leave Sicily, they arranged passage for him on a trireme which was taking Pollis the Spartan envoy back to Greece. But Dionysius secretly approached Pollis and asked him to have Plato killed on the voyage if this could be arranged, or, if not, at least to sell him into slavery. This, he argued, would not do Plato any harm, since according to his own doctrines he would, as a just man, be equally happy even if he became a slave.12 Pollis, therefore, took Plato to Aegina, so we are told, and sold him into slavery, for the people of Aegina were at war with Athens13 and had passed a decree that any Athenian who was caught on the island should be sold as a slave.

In spite of this, Dion enjoyed the same honour and confidence in the eyes of the tyrant as before, and he was entrusted with the most important diplomatic missions: in particular he was sent to Carthage, where his achievements won great admiration. Dionysius even tolerated his habit of frank speech, and indeed, Dion was almost the only man who was left free to express his opinions, as, for example, when he reproved Dionysius for what he had said about Gelon.14 The tyrant was sneering at Gelon’s government, and when he said that Gelon had become the laughing-stock15 of Sicily, the other courtiers pretended to admire the joke, but Dion was indignant and retorted, ‘You might remember that the reason why you are our tyrant today is that people trusted you because of the example that Gelon set. After what you have said, nobody will be trusted because of your example.’ The truth is that Gelon seems to have succeeded in making the spectacle of a city under absolute rule appear admirable, whereas Dionysius could only make it appear detestable.

6. Dionysius had three children by his Locrian wife, Doris, and four by Aristomache: two of the latter were girls, Sophrosyne and Arete. Sophrosyne married her half-brother, Dionysius the younger, and Arete the tyrant’s brother Thearides. Then, after Thearides died, Arete married Dion, who was her uncle. When the elder Dionysius fell sick and it was considered certain that he would die, Dion tried to speak to him on behalf of Aristomache’s children, but the physicians, who were anxious to ingratiate themselves with the heir to the throne, refused to allow this. Indeed, according to Timaeus,16 when Dionysius asked for a sleeping-draught, they gave him a drug which made him completely insensible, so that he died without ever regaining consciousness.17

At the first council which the young Dionysius held with his friends, Dion summed up the political situation and the immediate needs of the state with such authority that the rest of the company gave the impression of being mere children, while his frankness of speech made them appear by comparison the merest slaves of the tyranny, who could only offer in the most timorous and servile fashion the kind of advice which was calculated to please the young man. But what impressed the council most of all – since they were greatly disturbed by the danger from Carthage18 which threatened the empire – was Dion’s undertaking that if Dionysius wanted peace, he would sail at once to Africa and put an end to the war on the best terms he could obtain; but that if he was set on war, Dion would supply fifty fast triremes and maintain them at his own expense.

7. Dionysius was greatly astonished at his magnanimity and delighted at his public spirit. But the other members of the council felt that this display of generosity reflected on them and that they were humiliated by Dion’s power, and so they at once began a campaign in which they seized every opportunity to turn the young ruler against Dion. They accused him of trying to manoeuvre himself into the position of tyrant through the authority which he exercised over the fleet, and of using the ships to place the control of the state in the hands of Aristomache’s children, who were his own nephews and nieces. However, the strongest and most obvious reasons for their hatred of him lay in the difference between his way of life and their own, and in his refusal to mingle with others. From the very beginning they made it their business to cultivate the friendship of the young and ill-educated tyrant and to become intimate with him by devising all kinds of flatteries and pandering to his amusements. They continually drew him into love-affairs, crowded his leisure with entertainments, complete with wine and women, and contrived many other dissipations for him. In this way, the tyranny was gradually softened like iron in the fire. To its subjects it may have seemed to have become more benevolent and its inhumanity to have abated, but if the edge of cruelty had been blunted, this was really due to the tyrant’s indolence rather than to any genuine clemency. Thus little by little, the laxity of the young ruler increased, until those ‘adamantine chains’,19 by which the elder Dionysius had claimed to have left the monarchy secured, were dissolved and destroyed. The story goes that the young man once kept a drinking party going for ninety days in succession, and that during the whole of this time no person of consequence was admitted or business discussed, while the court was given over to carousing, scurrilous humour, singing, dancing and every kind of buffoonery.

8. It was therefore only natural that Dion should seem offensive, since he never indulged in any pleasure or youthful folly,20 and so they tried to destroy his reputation. In particular, they excelled at finding plausible ways of misrepresenting his virtues as vices; for example, they described his dignity as arrogance and his frankness of speech as presumption. When he gave good advice, they made out that he was denouncing them, and when he refused to join in their misdemeanours, that he was looking down on them. And indeed, it was true that there was a certain haughtiness in his character together with an austerity which made him difficult to approach and unsociable in conversation. In fact it was not only a young man like Dionysius whose ears had been corrupted by flattery who found him a disagreeable and tiresome companion: many of his closest friends who loved the simplicity and nobility of his disposition still blamed him for his manner, because he behaved with unnecessary harshness or discourtesy towards those who sought his help in public life. Later on Plato also wrote to him on this subject, with a foresight that was to prove prophetic, and warned him to guard against stubbornness, the companion of solitude.21 And yet even at this time, although through force of circumstances he was regarded as the most important man in the state and the only, or at least the principal, bulwark of the storm-tossed tyranny, he knew very well that his prominence owed nothing to the tyrant’s goodwill, but was actually contrary to his wishes and rested simply on the fact that he was indispensable.

9. Dion believed that this situation resulted from the tyrant’s lack of education, and so he tried to interest him in liberal studies and to give him a taste of literature and science, in the hope of forming his character, delivering him from the fear of virtue, and accustoming him to take pleasure in high ideals. Dionysius did not belong by nature to the worst class of tyrants. He had suffered from his father’s fear that if he acquired a judgement of his own and associated with men of good sense, he would plot against him and deprive him of his power. In consequence, he had been kept closely shut up at home, and there, because of the lack of company and his ignorance of affairs, he had spent his time making little wagons and lamp-stands and wooden chairs and tables. Indeed, the elder Dionysius had been so obsessed by his fears and so distrustful and suspicious of all and sundry that he would not even allow his hair to be cut with a barber’s instruments, but arranged for one of his workmen to come and singe his hair with a live coal. Neither his brother nor his son was admitted to his apartment in the dress they happened to be wearing, but everyone was obliged to strip, to be inspected naked by the guard and to put on other clothes before entering.

On one occasion, when his brother Leptines was describing to him the nature of some place, he took a spear from one of the guards and drew a sketch on the floor; Dionysius immediately flew into a rage against his brother and had the man who had given him the spear put to death. He used to say that he was on his guard against all those of his friends who were intelligent, because he felt sure that they would rather be tyrants themselves than a tyrant’s subjects. He also executed a Sicilian named Marsyas whom he had himself promoted to a position of authority, because the man had had a dream in which he saw himself killing the tyrant. He could only have experienced the dream, Dionysius argued, because he had conceived and planned the action in his waking hours. So much had he become the prey of his own fears and the victim of all the miseries brought on by cowardice, and yet it was he who had been angry with Plato because Plato did not consider him to be the bravest man alive.22

10. Dion, as was said earlier, recognized that the son’s character had been warped and stunted by lack of education, and so he urged him to apply himself to study and to use every means to persuade Plato, the most eminent of living philosophers, to visit Sicily. With Plato in Syracuse, Dionysius should submit himself to his teaching, and so aided, his character might accept the discipline imposed by virtue and form itself upon the fairest and most divine of models, in obedience to whose direction the universe moves from chaos towards order. In this way, he would not only win great happiness for himself, but would also ensure it for his people. He would find that the spirit of indifference in which they now obeyed him under compulsion would change to one of goodwill in response to his own justice and moderation, once these qualities were expressed in a benevolent and fatherly mode of government.23 In short, he would become a king instead of a tyrant.24 The celebrated adamantine chains which secured the state were not, as his father used to say, forged out of fear and force, a great fleet and a host of barbarian bodyguards, but rather out of the goodwill, the loyalty and the gratitude which are engendered by the exercise of virtue and justice. These forces, although they are more pliant than the stiff, harsh bonds of absolute rule, are the ties which prove the strongest in enabling the leadership of one man to endure. And apart from these considerations, so Dion argued, it showed a mean and ignoble spirit in a ruler to clothe his body magnificently and decorate his home with fine and luxurious furniture but to achieve no greater dignity in his conversation and in his dealings with others than any ordinary man, and to neglect to adorn the royal palace of his soul in a manner worthy of a king.

11. Dion repeatedly pressed this advice on the young man and skilfully introduced some of Plato’s own ideas into his arguments, until Dionysius became impatient, indeed almost obsessed with the desire to acquaint himself with Plato’s teachings and to enjoy his company. Before long he was writing letter after letter to Athens, while at the same time Plato received further advice from Dion, as well as from a number of Pythagorean philosophers in Italy. All of these last urged him to make the journey, establish his influence over this youthful soul, which was now being tossed and buffeted about as if it were on the seas of great power and absolute rule, and steady it with his balanced reasonings. So Plato yielded to these requests, though he did so rather out of a sense of shame, as he has written,25 so as to dispel the impression that he was only interested in theory and was unwilling to put it to the test of action.26 At the same time, he hoped that if he could purify the mind of this ruler, who seemed to dominate all the Sicilians, he might be able to cure the disorders of the whole island.

Dion’s enemies, however, became alarmed at this transformation in Dionysius, and they persuaded him to recall Philistus27 from exile. This man was well versed in literature and possessed long experience of the ways of tyrants, and by this move the courtiers hoped to offset the influence of Plato and his philosophy. Philistus had played a most active part in establishing the tyranny from the beginning, and for a long time he had commanded the garrison which guarded the acropolis. There was also a story that he had been the lover of the mother of the elder Dionysius and that the tyrant had not been entirely ignorant of this. But when Leptines, who had two daughters by a woman whom he had seduced while she was living with another man, gave one of his daughters in marriage to Philistus, Dionysius, who had not been told of the matter, became angry, and had Leptines’ wife28 put in chains, imprisoned Philistus and later banished him. He took refuge with some friends on the Adriatic and there, it seems, wrote the greater part of his history during his enforced leisure. He remained in exile for the rest of the tyrant’s lifetime, but after the latter’s death, as I have explained, the envy which the other courtiers felt towards Dion prompted them to arrange his recall, since they saw in Philistus a man whom they could count on to serve their purposes and to be a staunch supporter of autocratic rule.

12. Accordingly, as soon as Philistus returned, he began to work closely with the supporters of the tyranny. At the same time, others began to lodge accusations and slanders against Dion, and in particular they charged him with having plotted with Theodotus and Heracleides to overthrow the government. It seems he had hopes that with the help of Plato’s presence the autocratic and arbitrary nature of the tyranny could gradually be relaxed and Dionysius transformed into a moderate and constitutional ruler. On the other hand, he had made up his mind that if Dionysius resisted his efforts and refused to be softened, he would depose him and restore power to the hands of the Syracusan people. This was not because he was in favour of democracy in itself, but because he considered it in every way preferable to a tyranny in the absence of a stable aristocracy.

13. This was the state of affairs when Plato arrived in Sicily,29 and at first he was received with wonderful demonstrations of kindness and respect. One of the royal chariots, magnificently decked out, was waiting to receive him as he stepped ashore, and the tyrant offered up a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the great blessing which had been granted to his government. The sobriety of the royal banquets, the decorous tone of the court and the tolerance displayed by Dionysius himself in his dealings with the public, all combined to inspire the citizens with wondrous hopes of change. The study of letters and philosophy became all the fashion, and it is said that so many people began to study geometry that the very palace was filled with dust.30 There is a story that a few days later, one of the customary sacrifices was held in the grounds of the palace and that the herald, according to the usual formula, intoned a prayer that the tyranny might remain unshaken for many years, whereupon Dionysius cried out, ‘Stop cursing us!’ This greatly disturbed Philistus and his party, who concluded that if Plato had already brought about such a change in the young man’s ideas, even after this brief association, his influence would become irresistible if he were allowed the time to get to know Dionysius intimately.

14. And so the courtiers no longer abused Dion singly and in secrecy, but attacked him all together and quite openly. They declared that he had caused the tyrant to be charmed and bewitched by Plato’s doctrines, and that his motives for doing so were now transparent: his plan was to persuade Dionysius to give up his authority of his own accord, after which Dion would assume power and hand it over to Aristomache’s children, whose uncle he was. Some of them pretended to be deeply indignant at the idea that the Athenians, who had once invaded Sicily with a great military and naval expedition and had perished utterly before they could take Syracuse,31 should now succeed in overthrowing the tyranny of Dionysius32 through the efforts of a single sophist. Plato would persuade the young man to shun his 10,000 bodyguards, give up his fleet of 400 triremes and his 10,000 cavalry and many times more hoplites, and all this in order to pursue the ineffable good33 in the Academy, to make geometry his guide to happiness and to hand over the blessings of power, of wealth and of luxury so that they could be enjoyed by Dion’s nephews and nieces. The result of these tactics was that Dionysius at first became suspicious and then began to show his displeasure and anger more openly. At this point a letter was secretly brought to him which Dion had written to the representatives of Carthage. In it he advised them that whenever they opened their negotiations for peace with Dionysius, they should not hold their conference without his being present: he assured them that with his help there would be no possibility of mishap in obtaining a settlement. According to Timaeus, Dionysius read this letter over to Philistus, and after taking his advice deceived Dion by pretending to be reconciled with him. He made out that he harboured no extreme feelings and that their differences were at an end, and then, after he had led Dion alone down to the sea below the acropolis, he showed him the letter and accused him of plotting with the Carthaginians against him. When Dion tried to defend himself, the tyrant refused to listen, but immediately forced him to board a small boat just as he was, and ordered the sailors to put him ashore on the Italian coast.34

15. When this became known, Dionysius was considered to have acted very harshly, and the women of his household went into mourning. But the spirits of the rest of the Syracusans rose and they began to look forward to a revolution and a speedy change of government, partly because the treatment of Dion had caused such a stir, and partly because others would now feel distrustful of the tyrant. Dionysius took fright at this and tried to pacify Dion’s friends and the women by making out that he had not banished him, but merely sent him out of harm’s way, for fear that he himself might be provoked by the man’s stubbornness into doing him some mischief if Dion remained at home. He also put two ships at the disposal of Dion’s family and told his kinsmen to embark any servants or possessions of his that they might choose, and have them sent to the Peloponnese. Now Dion was very rich, and his house and style of living were kept up on an almost royal scale, and so his friends collected his valuables and sent them to him. Besides his own property, the women of the court and his supporters also sent him many gifts: in this way, so far as wealth and possessions were concerned, he cut a brilliant figure among the Greeks, and the riches he displayed, even as an exile, gave some hint of the power and resources of the tyrant.

16. Dionysius at once transferred Plato to the acropolis, and here under the pretext of hospitality he arranged to give him a guard of honour: the object of this was to prevent him from sailing away to join Dion and revealing to the world how badly Dion had been treated. But as time passed and their association continued, Dionysius learnt to tolerate Plato’s company and conversation, much as a wild animal becomes accustomed to the presence of a human being, and he developed a passion for him which was characteristic of a tyrant: he demanded that Plato should respond to his love alone and admire him above all others, and he even offered to hand over the tyranny to him on condition that Plato would not prefer Dion’s friendship to his. This passion of Dionysius was a great misfortune for Plato, since, like most lovers, the tyrant was violently jealous, would often fly into a rage and then soon afterwards beg to be forgiven. He was also extravagantly eager to listen to Plato’s theories and take part in his philosophical discussions, but he felt ashamed of them when he was in the company of those who wanted him to break off his studies on the grounds that they would corrupt him.35

Meanwhile a war had broken out, and Dionysius sent Plato away, promising that he would recall Dion in the following summer.36 He promptly broke his promise, but he continued to send Dion the revenues from his property and asked Plato to excuse his change of plan concerning Dion’s return, which was occasioned by the war. As soon as peace was concluded, he would send for Dion; Dionysius asked Dion to stay quiet and to refrain from making any revolutionary attempts or speaking ill of him among the Greeks.

17. Plato tried to carry out these requests. He turned Dion’s attention to philosophy and kept him with him in the Academy. Dion was living in Athens at the house of Callippus, one of his friends, but he also bought a house in the country for pleasure, and later when he sailed for Sicily he gave it to Speusippus,37 who was Dion’s closest friend and most frequent companion in Athens. Plato was anxious that Dion’s austere disposition should be mellowed and sweetened by the company of men who possessed some social charm and whose wit was good-natured and well timed. Speusippus was a man of this kind: he is referred to in Timon’s Lampoons38 as being good at making jokes. Besides this, when Plato himself was called upon to provide a chorus of boys for a public festival, Dion undertook both the training and the expense. Plato encouraged him to earn this distinction in the eyes of the Athenians, because he was more concerned to create goodwill for Dion than fame for himself.

Dion also travelled to a number of other cities in Greece, where he visited their nobility and political leaders and took part in their recreations and festivities. During these visits he never showed himself in any way boorish, arrogant or effeminate: his behaviour was always conspicuous for its moderation, virtue, courage and a becoming devotion to literature and philosophy. By this means he earned the goodwill and admiration of all he met, and many cities decreed him public honours. The Lacedaemonians even made him a citizen of Sparta and disregarded any offence which this might cause to Dionysius, who was at that time their staunch ally against the Thebans.39 On another occasion, it is said that Dion was invited to visit Ptoedorus the Megarian and went to his house. This man, it appears, was one of the most wealthy and influential citizens of Megara, and so when Dion saw that there was a crowd of people at his door and that the number of visitors made it difficult to approach him, he turned to his friends who seemed indignant at this hindrance, and asked them, ‘Why should we blame this man? We ourselves used to do exactly the same thing in Syracuse.’

18. As time went on Dionysius began to grow jealous of Dion, and to fear the popularity which he was creating for himself among the Greeks. He stopped remitting the revenues from his property and handed over Dion’s estates to his own officials. However, he was anxious to efface the bad reputation he had earned among the philosophers because of his treatment of Plato, and he therefore gathered at his court a number of men with some pretensions to learning. But as he was ambitious to outshine them all in discussion, he was obliged to make use, often incorrectly, of ideas he had picked up from Plato but had only half digested. So he began once more to long for Plato’s company and reproached himself for not having made the best use of him when he was in Sicily or paid more attention to his admirable lessons. And since, like so many tyrants, he was erratic in his impulses and impatient to obtain whatever he desired, he at once set his heart on bringing Plato back. He was ready to try anything to get his way, and so he persuaded Archytas40 and his fellow Pythagoreans to send the invitation to Plato and to guarantee his offer, for it was through Plato that he had first entered into friendly dealings with these philosophers. They sent Archedemus to Plato, and Dionysius also dispatched a trireme and several of his friends to beg Plato to return. The tyrant also wrote to Plato in clear and explicit terms, telling him that there would be no concessions or favours for Dion unless the philosopher agreed to come to Sicily, but that much could be expected if he did.41Dion was also pressed by his wife and sister to urge Plato to let the tyrant have his way and not provide any excuse for treating him still more harshly. It was in this way that Plato ventured for the third time, as he describes it, into the straits of Scylla and ‘shaped his course yet again within reach of the deadly Charybdis’.42

19. Plato’s coming filled Dionysius with great joy and filled Sicily with high hopes. The Sicilians all earnestly prayed that Plato should prevail over Philistus and philosophy prove stronger than tyranny. The women too, especially Aristomache and Arete, gave Plato their support, and Dionysius bestowed on him a special mark of confidence which nobody else enjoyed – the privilege of coming into his presence without being searched. The tyrant also pressed gifts of money on him, repeatedly offering him large sums, but Plato would accept none of them. At this, Aristippus of Cyrene,43 who was present on one of these occasions, remarked that Dionysius’ generosity was of the safest kind: he offered small sums to men such as himself who wanted more, and large ones to Plato, who refused everything.

After the first formal courtesies had been exchanged, Plato raised the subject of Dion. Dionysius first put off the discussion, and later there were reproaches and quarrels. Nobody else knew of these, since Dionysius was careful to conceal them, and by paying honours and assiduous attention to Plato he tried to draw him away from his friendship for Dion. Plato at first kept silent about the tyrant’s treachery and double-dealing, endured it as best he could, and played the part that was required of him. Then, while they were on these terms and imagined that nobody else knew of this situation, Helicon of Cyzicus, one of Plato’s close friends, predicted an eclipse of the sun.44 This duly took place, as he had forecast, whereupon the tyrant expressed his admiration and presented him with a talent of silver. At this Aristippus put on a bantering tone towards the other philosophers and declared that he, too, had a remarkable event to predict. When they pressed him to tell them what it was, he replied, ‘Well then, I predict that in a short while Dionysius will fall out with Plato.’

Finally, Dionysius sold Dion’s property and kept the money for himself. He then removed Plato from his quarters in the gardens of the palace and lodged him among his mercenaries. The soldiers hated him and wanted to kill him because they believed that he was trying to persuade Dionysius to give up the tyranny and live without a bodyguard.

20. As soon as Archytas and his friends learnt that Plato was in such danger, they immediately sent a galley with messengers to demand that Dionysius should send him back, and they reminded the tyrant that they had guaranteed Plato’s safety when he had agreed to sail to Syracuse. Dionysius did his best to disguise his hostility towards Plato by giving banquets in his honour and doing him various kindnesses before his departure, but he could not resist letting fall a remark to this effect: ‘I dare say, Plato, that you will have many things to say against me to your fellow philosophers,’ to which Plato answered with a smile, ‘God forbid that we should have so little to talk about in the Academy that we need mention your name at all.’ It was on these terms, so it is said, that they parted, but Plato’s own version does not entirely agree with this account.45

21. Dion had already been angered by these events, but it was the treatment of his wife that soon afterwards turned him into an open enemy of Dionysius. Plato also referred enigmatically to this subject in a letter to Dionysius.46 What had happened was the following. After Dion’s banishment and at the time when Dionysius was sending Plato back to Athens for the first time, he asked Plato to sound Dion as to whether he would object to his wife being married to another man. There had been rumours, which may have been true or may have been fabricated by Dion’s enemies, that his marriage had not been happy and that he did not live harmoniously with his wife. After Plato had returned to Athens and had discussed the subject at length with Dion, he sent a letter to Dionysius. Part of this concerned other matters and was phrased in a manner which would be clear to everybody, but on this particular topic he used allusive language, which only Dionysius could understand: he mentioned that he had spoken about the affair with Dion, who, it was clear, would be furious if Dionysius carried out any such plan. For a time, then, as there were still hopes that a reconciliation was possible, Dionysius did nothing to change his sister’s situation, but allowed her to continue to live with Dion’s young son. But when it became clear that the breach between the two men was irreparable and Plato, who had come to Sicily again, had incurred the tyrant’s displeasure and been sent away, then Dionysius compelled Arete against her will to marry one of his friends named Timocrates.

In this action, at least, Dionysius fell short of the tolerance shown by his father. For the elder Dionysius had, so it seems, made an enemy of Polyxenus, the husband of his sister Theste. Polyxenus feared for his life, escaped from Sicily and fled into exile, whereupon Dionysius sent for his sister and reproached her because she had known of her husband’s plan to escape but had told her brother nothing about it. Theste was quite undismayed and answered him confidently, ‘Do you think, Dionysius, that I am such a mean and cowardly wife that if I had known beforehand that my husband was planning to escape I would not have sailed away with him and shared his fortunes? The truth is that I knew nothing of it. If I had, it would have been more honourable for me to have been called the wife of Polyxenus the exile than the sister of Dionysius the tyrant.’ It is said that Dionysius admired her for speaking out so boldly, and the Syracusans also greatly respected her for her courage, so much so that even after the tyranny had been overthrown, they continued to treat her with the honour and deference that they paid to royalty, and when she died, the citizens by public consent walked in procession at her funeral. This is a digression, but the story is relevant to my subject.

22. From this point onwards Dion began to prepare for war.47 Plato himself refused to take any part in such an attempt, partly out of respect for the bond of hospitality between Dionysius and himself and partly because of his age.48 However, Speusippus and Dion’s other friends rallied to his support and urged him to liberate Sicily, which they said beckoned to him and was ready to receive him with open arms. It seems that during Plato’s stay in Syracuse, Speusippus and his friends had circulated among the people and made it their business to discover their feelings. At first the Syracusans had been alarmed by the frankness of Speusippus’ talk and suspected that this was a trap set by the tyrant to test their loyalty, but after a time they came to trust him. On every side Speusippus heard the same story: they all begged and entreated Dion to come, not to bring ships or cavalry or hoplites, but simply to step into an open boat and lend the Syracusans his name and his person in their struggle against Dionysius. Dion was heartened by this news from Speusippus, and through the agency of others he began secretly to recruit mercenaries, taking care to conceal his plans. Many statesmen and philosophers gave him their help, including Timonides of Leucas and Eudemus of Cyprus, concerning whom after his death Aristotle wrote his dialogue On the Soul.49 They also engaged Miltas of Thessaly, a soothsayer who had studied in the Academy. Yet of all the Syracusans who had been exiled by the tyrant – and there were no less than a thousand of them – only twenty-five joined the expedition: the remainder played the coward and shrank from it.50 The starting-point was the island of Zacynthus, and here the soldiers assembled.51 Their total strength was less than eight hundred, but these were all men of some note who had gained a reputation from their service in many great campaigns. They were in superb physical condition, for experience and daring they had no equals in the world, and they were fully capable of rousing and inspiring to action the thousands whom Dion expected to rally to him in Sicily.

23. When these men learnt that the expedition was directed against Dionysius and Sicily, they were at first dismayed and condemned the whole enterprise. They could only suppose either that Dion was being driven on like a madman in some wild fit of rage, or else that he had lost all rational hopes of success. There seemed to be no other reason to throw himself into such a desperate undertaking, and they were furious with their commanders and recruiting-officers for not having warned them of the object of the war at the very beginning. But then Dion addressed them, explained in detail the weakness and rottenness of Dionysius’ regime and announced that he was taking them not merely as fighting troops but as leaders of the Syracusans and the rest of the Sicilians who had long been ripe for rebellion. He was followed by Alcimenes, one of the most influential and distinguished of the Achaeans serving with the expedition, who spoke to the same effect, and finally the men were convinced and their doubts set at rest.

It was now midsummer,52 the Etesian winds53 were blowing steadily at sea and the moon was at the full. Dion prepared a magnificent sacrifice to Apollo and marched in solemn procession to the temple with his troops, who paraded in full armour. After the ceremony he entertained them to a banquet at the stadium of the Zacynthians. Here, as they reclined on their couches, they marvelled at the splendour of the gold and silver drinking-vessels and of the tables which far exceeded the means of a private citizen, and they reflected that a man who possessed such wealth and was by then past middle life, as in Dion’s case,54 would never attempt such a risky undertaking unless he had solid hopes of success and could count upon friends on the spot who could offer him unlimited resources.

24. No sooner had the libations and the customary prayers been offered than there followed an eclipse of the moon. Dion and his friends found nothing surprising in this, since they knew that eclipses recurred at regular intervals, and also that the shadow which is projected upon the moon is produced by the interposition of the earth between it and the sun.55 But as the soldiers were dismayed at the portent and needed to be reassured, Miltas the diviner rose to his feet in the midst of the company and urged them to take heart. He assured them that the expedition would succeed, since through this portent the gods were foretelling that something which was then at the height of its splendour would be eclipsed. There was no regime whose splendour exceeded that of Dionysius’ tyranny, and it was its light that they would extinguish as soon as they arrived in Sicily. Miltas made public his interpretation of the eclipse to all and sundry. But as for the phenomenon of the bees, which were seen to be settling in swarms on the sterns of the ships, he told Dion and his friends privately he feared this might signify that their expedition would prosper at the start, but that after flourishing for a short while, it would wither away. It is said that Dionysius also witnessed a number of prodigies at this time. An eagle snatched a spear from one of his guards, flew up into the air with it and then let it fall into the sea. Besides this, the sea-water which washes against the base of the acropolis of Syracuse became sweet and drinkable for a whole day, as all those who tasted it could perceive. Also, a number of pigs were born within his realm, which were perfectly formed in other respects but possessed no ears. This was interpreted by the diviners as a sign of rebellion, since it indicated that the people would no longer obey the tyrant’s commands. The sweetness of the sea-water, so they said, heralded a change from harsh and oppressive times to more agreeable circumstances. As for the eagle, this bird, they said, is a servant of Zeus, while the spear is the symbol of power and sovereignty, and hence the portent indicated that the greatest of the gods intended to remove and annihilate the tyranny. This at any rate is the account which we have from Theopompus.56

25. It required no more than two merchant vessels to accommodate Dion’s troops, and they were accompanied by a third small transport and two thirty-oared galleys. Besides the arms which the soldiers carried, Dion took with him 2,000 shields, great quantities of spears and other missiles and ample stocks of provisions, so that there should be no risk of running short during the voyage, since they were putting themselves at the mercy of wind and waves and sailing across the open sea: they were afraid to hug the coast, because they had learnt that Philistus was lying in wait for them with a fleet off Iapygia.57 For twelve days they sailed with a light and gentle breeze and on the thirteenth they were off Pachynus, a headland of Sicily. Here Protus their pilot urged them to disembark without any delay, since if they were once driven off shore and did not take advantage of this landfall they would be tossed about in the open sea for many days and nights while they waited for a southerly wind in the summer season. Dion was afraid to disembark so near the enemy and wished to land further along the coast, and so he sailed past Pachynus. Soon afterwards a violent northerly gale swept down on them, whipped up the sea and drove the squadron away from Sicily: at the same time the sky was filled with flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and sheets of torrential rain, the storm coinciding with the rising of Arcturus.58 The sailors were dismayed and had quite lost their reckoning, until they discovered that their ships were being driven by the waves upon the island of Cercina59 off the coast of Africa, at a point where the cliffs present a craggy, precipitous face that falls sheer to the water. After they had narrowly escaped being driven ashore and dashed to pieces against the rocks, they heaved and thrust their way along with great difficulty, using their punting-poles until the storm gradually abated, when they learnt from a vessel they hailed that they had arrived at what were known as the ‘heads’ of the Great Syrtis.60 They were by now disheartened to find themselves becalmed and were drifting helplessly up and down the coast when a gentle breeze sprang up from the south, which was so little expected that they could scarcely believe in the change. Gradually the wind freshened and gathered strength, and so they set all the sail they could, offered up prayers to the gods, and skimmed across the open sea from Africa towards Sicily. For five days, they ran on at full speed and finally dropped anchor at Minoa, a small coastal town in the western part of Sicily, which was controlled by the Carthaginians.

It so happened that Synalus, the Carthaginian commander of the region, was a guest-friend61 of Dion’s, but as he knew nothing of the expedition nor of Dion’s presence there, he tried to prevent the troops from landing. The Greeks charged ashore fully armed, and although in obedience to Dion’s orders they did not kill a single man, they routed their opponents, entered the town on their heels and seized possession of it. But as soon as the two commanders had met and greeted one another, Dion handed back the town to the Carthaginian without any damage having been done, while for his part Synalus treated the soldiers hospitably and supplied Dion with all the stores he needed.

26. What gave them the greatest encouragement of all was the lucky accident of Dionysius’ absence from Syracuse at that moment, for it so happened that he had just set off for Italy with a fleet of eighty ships. So although Dion urged his men to rest and recover after the hardships of their long voyage, they would have none of it but were eager to seize the opportunity and clamoured for him to lead them on to Syracuse. He therefore stored his surplus arms and baggage at Minoa, asked Synalus to send them on to him when opportunity offered and set out for Syracuse. As he marched, he was joined first by two hundred horsemen from Acragas who lived near Ecnomum, and then by a contingent from Gela.

The news of his movements was quickly brought to Syracuse. There Timocrates, who had married Dion’s wife, the sister of Dionysius, and was the most prominent of Dionysius’ friends who had remained in Syracuse, at once sent off a messenger with letters reporting Dion’s arrival. At the same time he took measures to forestall any disturbances or uprisings in the city. All the Syracusans were excited at the news of the invasion, but they remained quiet because they were as yet uncertain what to believe and were afraid of the outcome. But an extraordinary mischance befell the bearer of the letters. After crossing the straits to Italy, he passed through the territory of Rhegium, and as he was hurrying on to Dionysius at Caulonia, he fell in with an acquaintance who was carrying a sacrificial victim which had just been slaughtered. His friend gave him a piece of the meat and he continued his journey with all speed. Then after he had walked for part of the night, he was obliged by sheer exhaustion to take a little sleep and lay down just as he was in a wood by the roadside. As he slept, a prowling wolf, attracted by the scent, came up, seized the meat which had been fastened to the wallet containing the letters and made off with both. When the man awoke and saw what had happened, he spent a long time wandering about and searching in vain for the lost wallet, but as he could not find it, he decided not to go to the tyrant without the letters, but to run off and stay out of harm’s way.

27. So Dionysius was to learn that war had broken out in Sicily from other sources and only after some time had passed. Meanwhile, as Dion advanced, the people of Camarina came over to him, and large numbers of the peasants in the districts surrounding Syracuse rose in revolt and attached themselves to him. Next, Dion sent a false report to the Leontines and Campanians who were garrisoning the plateau west of Syracuse, which is known as Epipolae; he informed them that he intended to attack their cities first, with the result that they deserted Timocrates and went off to help their compatriots. When the news of their movements was brought to Dion at his camp at Acrae, he roused his troops while it was still dark and advanced to the River Anapus, which flows a little over a mile from the city. There he halted and offered sacrifice to the river, addressing his prayers to the rising sun. Immediately, the diviners announced that the gods would grant him victory. His followers had noticed that Dion was wearing a wreath on his head while he was sacrificing, and straightaway with a single impulse they all crowned their heads with garlands. No fewer than 5,000 men had joined him on the march, and although these were wretchedly equipped and carried only such improvised weapons as they could find, their spirit made up for their lack of arms, so that when Dion ordered the advance, they ran forward with shouts of joy, encouraging one another to regain their freedom.

28. As for the townsfolk of Syracuse, the most prominent and best educated of the citizens put on clean clothes and went to meet the invaders at the gates, while the populace set upon the tyrant’s supporters and seized the informers. These were an abominable race, detested by gods and men alike, who made it their business to circulate among the citizens and report on their opinions and conversations to the tyrant. They were the first to suffer for their misdeeds and were beaten to death by any of the townspeople who found them. Timocrates was unable to join the garrison within the acropolis and so took a horse and galloped out of the city; in his flight he created panic and confusion by spreading exaggerated reports of Dion’s strength, for he was anxious to avoid the suspicion of having surrendered the city to an insignificant force. Meanwhile, Dion was close at hand and presently came into view, marching at the head of his troops, clad in splendid armour and flanked by his brother Megacles on one side and Callippus the Athenian on the other, both of them crowned with garlands. After them came a bodyguard of a hundred mercenaries and next the officers leading the rest of the army in good order. The Syracusans looked on and welcomed the troops as if this were a sacred and religious procession to celebrate the return to the city of liberty and popular government after an absence of forty-eight years.

29. Dion entered the city by the Temenitid gate and here he ordered his trumpets to be sounded so as to quieten the shouting. Then his herald proclaimed that Dion and Megacles had come to overthrow the tyranny and that they declared the Syracusans and the rest of the Sicilians to be free of the rule of Dionysius. Next, as he wished to address the people himself, he marched through the quarter of Achradina, while on each side of the street the Syracusans set out tables, sacrificial victims and bowls of wine, and each group as Dion passed strewed flowers before him and hailed him with prayers and vows as if he were a god. Below the acropolis and the Five Gates, there stood a tall and conspicuous sun-dial, built by Dionysius. Dion sprang up on this, addressed the citizens and urged them to defend their liberty. Then the people in an ecstasy of joy and gratitude appointed Dion and Megacles generals with absolute powers, and besides this, at the two men’s own request, they elected twenty colleagues, half of whom were chosen from the exiles who had returned with Dion. The diviners found it a most happy omen that Dion, while he was addressing the people, should have placed his feet on the tyrant’s pretentious monument; but because it was a sun-dial on which he was standing at the moment when he was elected general, they were afraid that his cause might suffer some swift change of fortune.

After this Dion went on to capture Epipolae and release the citizens who were imprisoned there, and he cut off the acropolis by building a wall.62 Then on the seventh day after Dion’s arrival, Dionysius entered the acropolis by sea, and wagons began reaching Dion with the arms and armour he had left with Synalus. He distributed these as far as possible among the citizens, while the rest armed themselves as best they could and eagerly offered to serve as hoplites under him.

30. At first Dionysius sent emissaries privately to Dion in the hope of making terms with him. Dion’s reply was that any negotiations with the Syracusans must be carried out publicly, because they were a free people. The tyrant’s envoys then returned with a generous offer, in which he promised a reduction of taxes and an easing of the burden of military service, subject to the people’s vote of consent. But the Syracusans only laughed at these proposals, and Dion told the envoys that Dionysius was not to continue negotiations with the people unless he formally renounced his sovereignty: if he agreed to this, Dion would guarantee his personal safety and obtain any other reasonable concession that was in his power, bearing in mind that they were related. Dionysius accepted these conditions and again sent his representatives to invite some of the Syracusans to come to the acropolis: he proposed to discuss with them a general settlement for the common benefit, with concessions to be made by both sides. Dion chose the delegates, who were at once sent to meet the tyrant, and rumours began to reach the Syracusans from the acropolis that Dionysius really intended to abdicate, and would do this to claim the credit for himself, rather than let Dion enjoy it.

All this, however, was nothing but a treacherous pretence on Dionysius’ part, which had been carefully devised to trick the Syracusans. He promptly arrested the delegates who came to him from the city, issued a ration of neat wine to his mercenaries and ordered them to make a sortie at dawn to attack the siege-works which had been erected so as to cut off the acropolis. The manoeuvre achieved complete surprise. The barbarians63 set to work boldly and with loud shouts to demolish the wall; then they attacked the Syracusans so fiercely that no one had the courage to stand his ground, except for a number of Dion’s mercenaries who were the first to hear the commotion and ran to the rescue. Even these troops were at first uncertain as to how they could help, and unable to hear what was being said to them, for the Syracusans were shouting wildly, running back in panic through the midst of the mercenaries and breaking their ranks. In the end Dion, when he saw that he could not make his orders heard, determined to show by his own example what ought to be done, and charged into the midst of the enemy.

A fierce and bloody battle raged around him, since he was as well known to the enemy as he was to his own troops, and both sides converged on him at the same moment, shouting at the top of their voices. He had reached an age at which he was no longer agile enough for this kind of hand-to-hand fighting, but his courage and vigour enabled him to stand his ground and cut down all his attackers, until he was wounded in the hand by a spear. By then, too, his breast-plate had been so battered that it could hardly give protection against the thrusts and missiles which rained upon him; finally, he was wounded by a number of spears and lances which had pierced his shield, and when these were broken off, he fell to the ground. His soldiers carried him away and he ordered Timonides to take command of the front-line, while he himself mounted his horse and rode round the city, rallying the Syracusans who had fled. He ordered up a detachment of his mercenaries who had been posted to guard the quarter of Achradina, and began leading these troops, who were fresh and eager, against the flagging barbarians, who had already begun to despair of victory. Dionysius’ troops had counted on overrunning and capturing the whole city at their first onslaught, but now that they had unexpectedly come up against men who knew how to fight and counterattack, they began to fall back towards the acropolis. As soon as they gave ground, the Greeks pressed them all the harder, and finally they turned tail and took refuge within the walls of the acropolis. They had killed seventy-four of Dion’s men and lost many of their own.

31. This was a brilliant victory for Dion, and the Syracusans presented his mercenaries with a hundred minas,64 while the mercenaries honoured Dion with a crown of gold. Soon after some heralds arrived from Dionysius bringing letters to Dion from the women of his family. One of these was addressed ‘To his father from Hipparinus’, which was the name of Dion’s son, although according to Timaeus he was named Aretaeus after his mother Arete; but for these details I think we should accept the evidence of Timonides, since he was a friend and comrade of Dion. At any rate, the letters from the women, which were full of supplications and entreaties, were read aloud to the Syracusans, but they did not wish the letter which purported to be from Dion’s son to be opened in public. However, Dion overruled them and insisted on reading it aloud. It turned out to be from Dionysius, who was nominally addressing himself to Dion, but in reality was appealing to the Syracusan people. On the face of it, the writer was pleading his case and justifying his actions, but the letter was really intended to bring discredit on Dion. It recalled how devotedly Dion had worked for the tyranny, and at the same time it threatened the persons of those dearest to him, his sister, his child and his wife. It combined importunate demands with lamentations, and, what angered him most of all, with the proposal that far from abolishing the tyranny, Dion should carry it on himself. The writer urged him not to set free a people who hated him and would never forget the wrongs done them, but to wield power himself and so ensure the safety of his friends and his family.

32. When these letters had been read aloud, it did not occur to the Syracusans, as it should have done, to admire Dion’s altruism and magnanimity in upholding the ideals of honour and justice against the claims of his personal loyalties. Instead, they became alarmed that he might come under strong pressure to spare the tyrant, and so they at once began to look around for other leaders, and they were particularly excited at the news that Heracleides was just putting into the harbour. This man was one of those who had been exiled by Dionysius. He possessed some experience as a soldier and had gained a reputation through the commands he had held under the tyrants, but he was a man of erratic and unstable disposition and not at all reliable as a colleague in an enterprise in which power and prestige were at stake. He had already fallen out with Dion in the Peloponnese and had determined to sail against the tyrant with an expedition under his own command.65 But when he arrived in Syracuse with a squadron of seven triremes and three transports, he found Dionysius once more blockaded and the Syracusans elated at their victory. He, therefore, immediately set out to ingratiate himself with the masses. He possessed a natural facility for winning over and swaying the emotions of the populace, which loved to be courted, and he was able to gain his ends and draw the people to his side all the more easily because they were repelled by Dion’s grave and serious manner. They found this too austere and quite out of place in a public man: the power they had suddenly acquired had made them careless and arrogant, and they expected populist measures before they had become a people.

33. Accordingly, they first summoned the assembly on their own initiative and elected Heracleides admiral. At this, Dion came forward and protested that by conferring this appointment upon Heracleides they had abolished the command which they had previously entrusted to him, for it was impossible to regard himself as a commander-in-chief with absolute powers if another officer wielded authority over the fleet. The Syracusans then reluctantly cancelled Heracleides’ appointment. Dion afterwards summoned him to his house and mildly reproved him, pointing out that he was acting neither honourably nor even sensibly in starting a quarrel concerning a matter of prestige at a moment of crisis, when the least false step might ruin their cause. He then summoned a fresh assembly, nominated Heracleides as admiral and prevailed upon the citizens to allow him a bodyguard, such as he possessed himself. Heracleides then professed great respect for Dion, so far as his words and his manner went, acknowledged his indebtedness and obeyed his orders with a great show of humility, but in secret he undermined the loyalty of the populace, stirred up the revolutionaries and, by distracting him with disturbances on every side, manoeuvred him into a most difficult position. If he were to urge the people to let Dionysius leave the acropolis under a truce, he would be accused of sparing and protecting the despot, while if he took care not to give offence in this way and merely continued the siege, he would appear to be deliberately prolonging the war in order to keep himself in command and overawe the citizens.

34. Now there was a man named Sosis, who, simply through his audacity and lack of principle, had gained a certain reputation in Syracuse, where people imagined that liberty was inseparable from the kind of licence of speech which he enjoyed. This man, who was secretly plotting against Dion, first of all stood up one day in the assembly and abused the Syracusans for failing to understand the fact that they had merely exchanged an imbecile and drunken tyrant for a vigilant and sober one; then, having thus openly shown himself an enemy of Dion’s, he left the assembly. The next day he was seen running through the city naked, with his head and face covered with blood, as though he were fleeing from some pursuers. He rushed into the market-place in this condition, cried out that he had been attacked by Dion’s mercenaries and showed his wounded head to the spectators. He found many who were ready to share his grievances and take his side, and who declared that Dion was guilty of a monstrous act of tyranny if he was attempting to deprive the citizens of freedom of speech by acts of murder or threats against their lives. A noisy and disorderly meeting of the assembly then gathered, but in spite of their riotous mood Dion came before them and spoke in his own defence. He pointed out that Sosis was a brother of one of Dionysius’ guards and had been persuaded by him to stir up dissensions and disturbances, since Dionysius’ only hope of safety now lay in the chance of making the citizens distrust and quarrel with one another. Meanwhile, some physicians examined Sosis’ wound and discovered that it had been made by a glancing rather than a vertical stroke. A blow dealt by a sword leaves a wound which is deepest in the middle, because of the weight of the blade, but the gash on Sosis’ head was shallow throughout its length; besides this it was not one continuous cut, as it would be had it been inflicted with a single stroke, but there were a number of incisions, as one would expect if he had left off because of the pain and begun again. Apart from this evidence, a number of well-known citizens brought a razor to the assembly and testified that as they were walking along the street Sosis had met them all covered in blood and explained that he was running away from Dion’s mercenaries, who had just wounded him; the witnesses at once ran after the alleged attackers, but could find nobody. What they did find, however, was a razor lying under a hollow stone near the place from which Sosis had been seen coming out.

35. By this time Sosis’ case had been almost completely discredited, and when in addition to all these proofs his servants gave evidence that he had left his house while it was still dark, alone and carrying a razor, Dion’s accusers dropped their charges and the people condemned Sosis to death and were reconciled with Dion.

They continued to be as suspicious as ever of the mercenaries, all the more so since most of the operations against Dionysius were now carried on by sea: this was because of the arrival of Philistus, who had sailed over from Iapygia with a large fleet of triremes to help Dionysius. As the mercenaries were hoplites, the Syracusans concluded that there would be no further need for them in the war: indeed, they actually imagined that these troops depended to some extent upon the citizens for their protection, since the Syracusans themselves were seamen and their power lay in their fleet. Their spirits rose still higher after a successful action at sea: here they defeated Philistus66 and then proceeded to treat him in a most inhuman fashion. Ephorus,67 it is true, says that Philistus killed himself when his ship was captured, but Timonides, who was present with Dion throughout these events, from the very beginning, describes in a letter to Speusippus how Philistus was taken alive when his trireme ran aground. The Syracusans then stripped off his breast-plate and humiliated him in his old age by exposing his naked body. After this they beheaded him and handed over his corpse to the boys of the city, with orders to drag it through the quarter of Achradina and throw it into the stone quarries. Timaeus gives more details of these outrages, and says that when Philistus was dead the boys tied a rope to his lame leg and hauled his body through the streets, while all the Syracusans looked on and jeered. They laughed at the spectacle of this man being dragged about by the leg, since it was he who had once told Dionysius that he must not try to escape from his tyranny with a swift horse, but must wait until he was pulled down from it by the leg. Philistus, however, has said that this advice was given to Dionysius by someone else, not by him.

36. Certainly, Philistus was to blame for the fervour and devotion he showed on behalf of the tyranny, but Timaeus takes advantage of this by fabricating slanders against him. It was perhaps excusable for those who were actually wronged by Philistus in his lifetime to express their hatred of him, even to the point of maltreating his lifeless body. But those who came to write the history of the period many years afterwards, and who suffered nothing from his actions while he lived but have made use of his writings, owe it to his reputation not to attack him with vulgar and insolent abuse for his misfortunes, which fate may inflict upon even the best of men. On the other hand, Ephorus is also at fault in showering praises on Philistus; for although Philistus shows infinite resource in inventing flattering motives for unjust actions and unscrupulous characters, and finding decorous names for both, the fact remains that for all his ingenuity, he cannot escape the charge of having been the most devoted supporter of tyrants alive and, more than any other man, a fervent admirer of the luxury they enjoyed, their power, their wealth and their marriage alliances. At any rate, the man who neither praises Philistus’ conduct, nor exults over his misfortunes, makes the most appropriate judgement.

37. After Philistus’ death, Dionysius approached Dion with an offer to hand over the acropolis, all the weapons it contained and the mercenaries, for whom he provided five months’ full pay. In return he asked that he should be allowed to depart unharmed to Italy, and that while he lived there he should enjoy the revenues of Gyarta,68 a large and fertile area of Syracusan territory which stretched from the sea to the interior of the island. Dion refused these terms, but told him that he must address himself to the Syracusans, and as they hoped to capture Dionysius alive, they dismissed the envoys. At this, the tyrant handed over the acropolis to Apollocrates, his eldest son; meanwhile he embarked all the persons and possessions that he valued most dearly, and, watching his opportunity for a fair wind, managed to elude the blockade of Heracleides the admiral, and make his escape.

The Syracusans angrily blamed Heracleides for this blunder; he thereupon persuaded Hippo, one of the popular leaders, to lay before the people a scheme for the distribution of land, using the argument that equality is the source of freedom, while poverty reduces those who have no possessions to a state of slavery. Heracleides spoke in support of his motion, placed himself at the head of a faction which overruled Dion’s opposition and prevailed upon the Syracusans to pass this measure, and not only this one but others to deprive the mercenaries of their pay, to elect other generals and thus to rid themselves of Dion’s allegedly oppressive authority. After such a long period of tyranny, the Syracusans were in the position of a man who tries at the end of a long illness to stand immediately on his feet, and so in attempting to act the part of a free people before they were ready for it, they stumbled in their efforts. At the same time they resented the attentions of Dion, who, like a good physician, tried to impose a strict and temperate course of treatment.

38. When the Syracusans summoned their assembly to elect new commanders it was midsummer,69 and there occurred a succession of extraordinary thunderstorms and other ominous portents which continued for fifteen days consecutively; these prodigies were enough to disperse the people, and their superstitious fears prevented them from electing any other generals. The popular leaders, however, bided their time, at last found a fine, clear day and proceeded to hold the elections. But on this occasion a draught ox, which was quite tame and accustomed to crowds, for some reason became enraged with its driver, broke away from its yoke and made a dash towards the theatre. The people immediately scattered and took to their heels in a disorderly rout, and the beast then ran on, leaping and throwing everything into confusion, and it traversed just that quarter of the city which the enemy afterwards occupied. However, the Syracusans paid no attention to all this, but elected twenty-five generals, one of whom was Heracleides. They also secretly approached Dion’s mercenaries and tried to persuade them to desert him and transfer their allegiance to the Syracusans, in return for which they offered them equal rights with the rest of the citizens. The mercenaries refused to listen to these proposals. Instead, they showed their courage and their loyalty to Dion by taking up their arms, placing him in their midst and escorting him out of the city. They did no harm to anyone on their march, but reproached the citizens they met for their shameful and ungrateful behaviour. The Syracusans treated them with contempt because they were so few in number and had shown no disposition to attack, and so when a crowd had gathered together which outnumbered the mercenaries, they set upon them, expecting that they would easily be able to overpower them and kill them all before they could escape from the city.

39. Dion thus found himself compelled by fortune to make a most painful choice: either to fight against his fellow-citizens or to die with his mercenaries. He pleaded with the Syracusans, stretched out his hands to them and pointed to the acropolis, crammed as it was with their enemies who were looking down from the battlements to watch the spectacle below. But the mob was in no mood to respond to entreaty, and the city was at the mercy of the demagogues, like a ship buffeted by winds at sea, and so Dion ordered his mercenaries not to charge the crowd but to advance towards them brandishing their weapons. When this was done, not one of the Syracusans stood his ground: they took to their heels and fled through the streets, although nobody followed them in pursuit, for Dion immediately ordered his men to turn about and led them in the direction of Leontini.

This affair made the Syracusan commanders a laughing-stock in the eyes of the women of the city, and so in an effort to wipe out their disgrace they armed the citizens again and set out in pursuit of Dion. They caught up with him just as he was crossing a river and some of their horsemen rode up to his troops in skirmishing order. But the moment they saw that Dion would no longer treat their provocations indulgently and in a paternal fashion, but was angrily ordering his men to turn about and drawing them up in battle-order, they beat a hasty and even more ignominious retreat, and returned to the city with the loss of a few men.

40. The people of Leontini welcomed Dion and accorded him exceptional honours. They engaged his mercenaries on full pay, granted them civil rights and also sent a delegation to the Syracusans demanding that they should do justice to these men, to which the Syracusans replied by sending envoys to denounce Dion. Later, when all the allies70 had assembled at Leontini and discussed the question, it was decided that the Syracusans were in the wrong. For their part the Syracusans repudiated this verdict: they had become arrogant and full of their own importance because they had no one to rule them, and also because they employed generals who acted like slaves and lived in perpetual fear of the people.

41. After this, a squadron of triremes arrived at Syracuse under the command of Nypsius of Naples.71 It had been sent by Dionysius, and brought food and pay for the besieged troops in the acropolis. There followed a naval battle in which the Syracusans gained the day and captured four of the tyrant’s ships. The victory quite turned their heads, so that casting aside all sense of discipline they fell to celebrating their triumph with banquets and carousals. In this mood they became so oblivious to their real interests that at the very moment when they imagined that the acropolis was within their grasp, they lost it and the city besides. Nypsius had taken note that there was no sign of order or control to be found among his opponents, that the masses had abandoned themselves to music-making and drinking from dawn till midnight, and that their generals welcomed these revels and shrank from using force to recall the drunken troops to their duty. He, therefore, seized his opportunity and attacked the siege-wall. Then, having captured and demolished it, he let loose his barbarians into the city, giving them leave to deal as they chose with everyone they met. The Syracusans quickly perceived their plight, but they had been so much taken by surprise that it was only slowly and with difficulty that they could organize any resistance. What was now happening was nothing less than the sack of their city. The men were being slaughtered, the walls torn down, the women and children dragged screaming into the acropolis, while the generals gave up all for lost and were helpless to rally the citizens against the enemy, who by then were everywhere in their midst and inextricably mingled with them.

42. With the city in this plight and the quarter of Achradina in imminent danger of being captured, there remained one man alone upon whom the entire population’s hopes were fixed: Dion’s name was in everyone’s thoughts, but nobody dared to mention it because they were ashamed of the folly and ingratitude with which they had treated him. But sheer necessity left them no choice, and at last some of their allies and their horsemen raised the cry to send for Dion and his Peloponnesians from Leontini. As soon as someone had nerved himself to do this and Dion’s name was again heard, the Syracusans shouted aloud and wept for joy. They prayed for Dion to appear before them and longed for the sight of him, for they remembered the courage and strength which he had shown in time of danger, and how he was not only undaunted in himself, but could make them share his fearless confidence when they engaged their enemies. So they immediately dispatched to his camp a party, consisting of Archonides and Telesides to represent the allies, and Hellanicus with four others from the cavalry. They set off at full gallop and arrived at Leontini just as the sun was setting. Their first action was to leap from their horses and throw themselves at Dion’s feet, and then with tears in their eyes they told him of the disasters the Syracusans had suffered. Presently, some of the Leontines came up and a crowd of the Peloponnesians gathered around Dion, for they had guessed from the speed of the men’s arrival and the imploring tone of their voices that something extraordinary had happened. Dion immediately led the messengers to the place of assembly and the people eagerly gathered there. Then Archonides and Hellanicus briefly described to them the catastrophe which had befallen the city, and begged the mercenaries to forget the wrongs that had been done to them and to come to the rescue of the Syracusans, since those who had committed the injustice had suffered a punishment even harsher than their victims would have expected to inflict on them.

43. As soon as the envoys had finished their appeal, a dead silence fell upon the theatre. As Dion rose to speak, his voice was choked with sobs, but his mercenaries who shared his feelings urged him to take heart. So when he had mastered his emotions somewhat, he said to them, ‘Peloponnesians and allies, I have brought you here to decide how you should now act. For myself I cannot think of my own interests while Syracuse is on the brink of destruction, but if I cannot save her, I shall return to bury myself in her ruins and make the flames that consume her my funeral pyre. As for you, if you can find it in your hearts after all that has passed to come to the rescue of us Syracusans, who are the most ill-advised and ill-fated of mankind, then I beg you to rescue once more this city of ours which was founded by your own fellow-countrymen.72 But if you condemn the Syracusans and decide to abandon them to their fate, I pray that at least the gods will grant you a just reward for the courage and the loyalty you have shown towards me, and that you will remember Dion as a man who did not desert you when you were wronged, nor his own fellow-citizens in their hour of misfortune.’

While Dion was still speaking, the mercenaries leaped to their feet, interrupted him with shouts and clamoured for him to lead them immediately to the rescue. The envoys from Syracuse threw their arms around the soldiers and embraced them with joy, calling upon the gods to bless Dion and his men. Then when the uproar had subsided, Dion dismissed his troops to their quarters and ordered them to make ready to march, take their supper and reassemble with their arms in the same place, for he was determined to march to relieve the city during the night.

44. Back in Syracuse, Dionysius’ generals continued to wreak havoc on the city so long as daylight lasted; then as soon as it was dark, they withdrew to the acropolis, having lost a few of their men. At this point the demagogues again recovered their spirits; their hope was that the enemy would rest content with what they had achieved, and so they once more urged the people to have nothing to do with Dion. If he approached with his mercenaries, they should not let him in; they must not regard his troops as superior to themselves in courage, but should make up their minds to save the city and defend their liberty by their own efforts. In consequence, further emissaries were sent out to Dion, some from the generals forbidding his advance, and others from the cavalry and the more prominent citizens, exhorting him to hasten it, and these contradictory messages caused him to proceed more slowly but with more determination. As the night wore on, Dion’s opponents seized possession of the gates to prevent him from entering the city, but at the same time Nypsius led a sortie from the acropolis. This time, he attacked in greater strength and with still more confidence, with the result that he at once demolished the whole of the siege-wall and overran and pillaged the city. He went on to massacre not only many of the male citizens but also women and children; few prisoners were taken and the Syracusans were slaughtered without discrimination. Dionysius73 had evidently come to despair of his prospects, and as he was consumed with hatred of the Syracusans, he had resolved to bury his falling tyranny in the ruins of the city. His soldiers were determined to forestall Dion’s arrival and so sought out the quickest way to annihilate everything before them, that is by reducing the city to ashes: anything that was close at hand they set alight with the torches and firebrands they carried, and anything further away they shot at with blazing arrows. As the Syracusans fled from the destruction, some of them were overtaken and butchered in the streets, while those who sought refuge in houses were forced out by the flames, for many buildings were now ablaze and collapsed upon the fugitives as they ran past.

45. It was this catastrophe above all which caused the citizens to unite in opening the gates to Dion. When he had first received the news that the enemy had shut themselves into the acropolis, he had slackened the pace of his march. But as the day went on, first some of the cavalrymen met him with the news that the city had been captured a second time; then even some of those who had opposed his coming arrived to beg him to hasten his advance. Next, as the situation grew desperate, Heracleides dispatched his brother and finally Theodotes his uncle to entreat Dion to help them; the report said that resistance was at an end, that Heracleides was wounded and that almost the whole of the city was in ruins or in flames. When this terrible news reached Dion, he was still seven miles from the city gates. He at once explained to his troops the danger in which the city stood, spoke encouragingly to them and then led them forward, no longer marching but at the double, while one messenger after another met him and implored him to hasten. The mercenaries responded with a sudden burst of speed, and advancing with tremendous ardour Dion broke through the gates into the area known as the Hecatompedon. At once he ordered his light-armed troops to charge the enemy, so that the Syracusans might take heart from the sight. Meanwhile, he began drawing up his hoplites in order of battle and included with them those of the citizens who kept running up to join him; he divided these formations into separate commands and grouped them in columns, so as to create greater alarm among the enemy by attacking from several points at once.

46. When he had made these preparations and offered up a prayer to the gods, the sight of him leading his troops through the city to attack the enemy caused the Syracusans to raise a great shout of joy; in the clamour that then arose were mingled battle-cries, prayers and supplications, as the citizens hailed Dion as their saviour and their god74 and his mercenaries as their brothers and fellow-citizens. Certainly at that moment of crisis there was not a man so selfish or so cowardly that he did not value Dion’s life more dearly than his own or those of all the rest, as he marched at their head to meet the danger, forcing his way through blood and fire and the heaps of corpses which littered the streets.

It is true that the enemy presented a terrifying appearance, for the fighting had made them savage and they had posted themselves along the demolished siege-wall in a position which was awkward to approach and hard to force; but the dangers caused by the fire distracted Dion’s troops more and created further obstacles to their advance. They were surrounded on all sides by the glare of the flames as the conflagration spread from house to house. Every step they took was upon burning ruins and whenever they ran forward they risked their lives, as great fragments of buildings came crashing down; they struggled on through clouds of dust and smoke, always striving to keep together and not break their formation. When they came to grips with the enemy, the approach was so narrow and uneven that only a few men could engage at a time, but the Syracusans urged them on with shouts of encouragement, and at last Nypsius and his men were overcome. Most of them managed to save themselves by escaping into the acropolis which was close by, but those who were left outside and scattered in different directions were hunted down and killed by the mercenaries. However, in the city’s desperate situation the Syracusans had no time to relax and enjoy their victory, or to indulge in the rejoicing and congratulations which such an achievement deserved. Instead, they devoted their efforts to saving their houses, and by dint of toiling all night they succeeded in putting out the fires.

47. When daylight came, not one of the popular leaders dared to remain in the city: all of them condemned themselves by taking flight. Heracleides and Theodotes came of their own accord and surrendered themselves to Dion. They openly admitted that they had done wrong and implored him to treat them more justly than they had treated him. But it was only right, they pleaded, that Dion, who surpassed them in every other good quality, should also show that he was more capable of controlling his anger than these ungrateful men who had now come to confess that he excelled them in the very quality in which they had disputed his superiority, that is in virtue. Heracleides and Theodotes pleaded with Dion in this way, but his friends urged him not to spare such unprincipled and envious rascals; instead, he should hand over Heracleides to the soldiers and deliver the state from the habit of pandering to the mob, a disease scarcely less pernicious than tyranny itself.

Dion did his best to appease their anger and pointed out that while other generals devoted most of their training to the handling of weapons and the fighting of battles, he had spent a long time in the Academy studying how to overcome anger, envy and the spirit of rivalry. To show moderation only to one’s friends and benefactors is no proof of having acquired such self-control: the real test is for a man who has been wronged to be able to show compassion and clemency to the evil-doers. Besides, he wished it to be seen that he excelled Heracleides not so much in power or in statesmanship as in virtue and justice, for these are the qualities in which true superiority resides. After all, fortune can always claim some of the credit for successes in war, even when no other man has a share in them. And if Heracleides had been led by envy into base and treacherous conduct, that was no reason for Dion to sully his virtue by giving way to anger, for although taking revenge for a wrong is more justifiable in the eyes of the law than committing the wrong without provocation, yet in the nature of things both actions spring from the same weakness.75 What is more, although baseness is a deplorable thing in a man, yet it is not so savage and intractable a defect that it cannot be overcome by repeated kindness and transformed by a sense of gratitude.

48. On the strength of arguments such as these, Dion released Heracleides and Theodotes. Next he turned his attention to the siege-wall. He ordered every Syracusan citizen to cut a stake and lay it down near the siege-works. Then he set the mercenaries to work all night while the citizens were resting and fenced off the acropolis with a palisade, so that when day dawned both the Syracusans and the enemy were amazed to see how quickly the work had been finished. He also buried the Syracusans who had been killed in the fighting, ransomed those who had been captured – although there were at least two thousand of these – and summoned a meeting of the assembly, at which Heracleides came forward with a motion that Dion should be elected general with absolute powers both on land and sea. The wealthy citizens supported the proposals and urged that the motion should be put to the vote, but the mob of sailors and labourers raised an uproar. They were angry that Heracleides should lose his position as admiral, and even though he was worthless in other respects, they regarded him as more of a friend of the people than Dion. On this issue Dion gave way and reinstated Heracleides in command of the fleet, but when the people pressed for the redistribution of land and houses, he incurred great unpopularity by opposing them and annulling the earlier decrees. Seeing this, Heracleides promptly resumed his intrigues. When he was stationed at Messana, he addressed the soldiers and sailors who had sailed there with him and tried to rouse them against Dion, whom he accused of plotting to make himself tyrant; at the same time he entered into secret negotiations with Dionysius with the help of Pharax the Spartan. The nobility of Syracuse suspected that these moves were in progress and violent dissension broke out in his camp, which led to a severe shortage of provisions and much distress in the city. Dion was at his wits’ end about what to do and was bitterly reproached by his friends for having allowed a man so unprincipled and so corrupted by envy to build up a position of strength against him.

49. Pharax the Spartan was encamped near Neapolis in the territory of Acragas, and Dion, who led out the Syracusan forces against him, did not wish to engage him on this occasion but to bide his opportunity. However, Heracleides and his sailors raised a clamour against these tactics and made out that Dion had no wish to finish the campaign by a battle, but was content to make it last indefinitely so as to keep himself in command. He was, therefore, forced to fight and suffered a defeat. Since this was by no means a serious reverse, but was due to the confusion created by his men’s lack of discipline rather than to the enemy’s efforts, Dion once more prepared to engage, drew up his order of battle and spoke to his men to raise their spirits. But that evening he received a report that Heracleides had weighed anchor and was making for Syracuse with the fleet, intending to seize possession of the city and shut out Dion and his troops. He at once gathered together the most active and devoted of his men, rode all through the night and was at the gates of the city by about nine o’clock the next morning, having covered some 80 miles.

Heracleides, although he had made the best speed he could, arrived too late and stood out to sea again. For a while he was at a loss as to what to do next, and then by chance he fell in with Gaesylus the Spartan, who informed him that he was sailing from Sparta to take command of the Sicilians, just as Gylippus had done before him.76 Heracleides gladly took up with this man; he displayed him to the allies, attached him to himself as it were like a talisman against the influence of Dion and secretly dispatched a herald to Syracuse with orders that the citizens should accept the Spartan as their commander. Dion sent back the answer that the Syracusans had quite enough commanders, and that if the situation demanded the presence of a Spartan, then he himself was the man, since he had been made a citizen of Sparta. When Gaesylus learnt this, he gave up any claim to command, sailed to meet Dion and arranged a reconciliation between him and Heracleides. He made Heracleides swear oaths and give the most solemn pledges, and he himself vowed that he would avenge Dion and punish Heracleides if the latter broke his word.

50. After this the Syracusans disbanded their fleet; by then it was of no further use to them, required large outlays to pay the crews and was a constant cause of dissension among the commanders. But at the same time they tightened the blockade of the acropolis and completed the encircling wall that enclosed it. No attempt was made from any quarter to raise the siege, the garrison’s provisions were running out and the mercenaries were on the verge of mutiny; in these circumstances Dionysius’ son gave up all hope and came to terms with Dion. He surrendered the acropolis, together with all the arms and warlike stores it contained, and then, after embarking his mother and sisters, and taking five triremes, he sailed away to his father. Dion allowed him to depart unmolested and the spectacle of his departure was watched by every Syracusan in the city; in fact, they even invoked those of their fellow-countrymen who were absent and pitied them because they could not witness that day and see the sun rise upon a free Syracuse. Even to this day the expulsion of Dionysius is still cited as one of the most spectacular examples of the vicissitudes of fortune, and so we may imagine what joy and pride the Syracusans must then have felt at having overthrown with the most meagre resources the greatest tyranny that had ever been established.

51. After Apollocrates had sailed off and Dion was on his way to the acropolis, the women could no longer bear to wait for him to enter the fortress but ran out to the gates. Aristomache was leading Dion’s son, while Arete came behind her in tears, quite unsure as to how she should greet and address her husband after she had lived with another man. Dion first embraced his sister, and next his young son, and then Aristomache led Arete forward and said, ‘We lived in misery, Dion, all through the years when you were in exile. But now that you have come back to us, your victory has taken away our sorrows – for all of us except Arete, whom I had the misfortune to see forced to take another husband while you were still alive. Now that fate has made you our lord and master, how will you judge what she was compelled to do? How is she to greet you: as her uncle or as her husband?’ These words of Aristomache made Dion weep, and he threw his arms around his wife fondly, put his son’s hand in hers and bade her come to his house; there he continued to live after he had handed over the acropolis to the people of Syracuse.

52. Now that all his plans had been successfully accomplished, Dion did not think it right to enjoy his good fortune before he had first shown his gratitude to his friends, rewarded his allies – especially those with whom he had been associated in Athens – and bestowed some special mark of honour and recognition upon his mercenaries; but here his generosity outran his resources. For his own part, he continued to live in a modest and frugal style, using only his own private means, and this was a matter for wonder to the whole world. His successes had captured the attention not only of Sicily and of Carthage, but of all Greece: all these peoples considered his achievements the greatest of his age and him a commander who combined a degree of courage and good fortune which none could rival, and yet he was so unassuming in the style of his dress, his household and his table that he might have been dining with Plato in the Academy, not sitting down with commanders and mercenaries and hired soldiers, who compensate themselves for the toils and dangers of their profession by keeping up a lavish standard of eating and drinking and other pleasures. Plato, indeed, wrote to remind him that the eyes of the whole world were now fixed upon him,77 but Dion himself, it would seem, kept his eyes fixed upon that one spot in one city, namely the Academy. He believed that those who watched him from there were not so much impressed by feats of arms or courage or battles won, but judged his conduct only according to whether he had used his good fortune with moderation and wisdom, and behaved with due restraint after he had reached the heights of power. Nevertheless, he made a point of maintaining the same gravity in his bearing and the same formality of manner in dealing with the people, even though the times called for a more gracious demeanour; he did this in spite of the fact, as I have mentioned earlier, that Plato wrote and tried to warn him that ‘stubbornness is the companion of solitude’.78 However, Dion possessed the kind of temperament which finds it difficult to unbend, and besides this he thought it important to curb the behaviour of the Syracusans, who were accustomed to too much luxury and too little self-discipline.

53. For Heracleides was opposing him again. First of all, when Dion invited him to become a member of his council he declined to come, declaring that as a private citizen he would only go to the public assembly with his fellow-citizens. Next, he publicly attacked Dion for not having demolished the acropolis, for having prevented the people from breaking open the tomb of Dionysius the elder and casting out his body,79 and for having insulted his fellow-countrymen by sending a request to Corinth to provide a number of advisers and colleagues for the government. It was quite true that he had appealed to the Corinthians, but this was precisely because he hoped that their participation in the government would make it easier to establish the constitution he had planned. Through this plan he intended to put a curb upon unrestrained democracy, which he did not regard as a constitution at all, but rather as a kind of market of constitutions – to use Plato’s phrase80 – and to introduce a blend of democracy and monarchy on the Spartan and Cretan model.81 According to this system, it is an oligarchy which is in control of affairs and decides the most important issues; at any rate, Dion saw that the government of Corinth was inclined towards oligarchy and that very little public business was handled in the popular assembly.

At this point, since he expected that Heracleides would take the lead in opposing these measures, and since the man was unstable and a born trouble-maker and rabble-rouser, Dion at last gave way to those who had long ago wished to kill him but whom he had hitherto restrained, and so they forced their way into Heracleides’ house and murdered him. The Syracusans were deeply indignant at his death, but when Dion gave him a spectacular funeral and escorted his body to the grave with his troops and afterwards made a speech to them, they recognized that the city could never have been at peace so long as Dion and Heracleides were both engaged in political life.

54. One of Dion’s companions was a man named Callippus, an Athenian who, according to Plato,82 had become an intimate friend of Dion, not as a fellow-student of philosophy, but because they were both initiated into the Mysteries83 and were therefore regularly in each other’s company. He had taken part in the expedition from the beginning and had distinguished himself brilliantly in action. Dion accorded him special honours and at their entry into Syracuse had placed him by his side at the head of their companions wearing a wreath on his head. By this time many of the noblest and best of Dion’s friends had died on the battlefield, and since Heracleides was also now dead, Callippus perceived that the Syracusans were without a leader, and that he himself had more influence than anyone else with Dion’s troops. So like the detestable creature that he was, Callippus calculated that he could make Sicily his prize in return for killing his friend, while some writers say that he accepted 20 talents from Dion’s enemies as his reward for the murder. At any rate, he bribed a number of Dion’s mercenaries to form a conspiracy against him and he set his plot working in a peculiarly mean and treacherous manner. He made a practice of reporting to Dion any seditious remarks uttered by the soldiers against him, sometimes using words he had actually heard and sometimes making them up, and in this way he won Dion’s confidence and was authorized to hold clandestine meetings and talk freely with the men against him, in order that none of those who were secretly disaffected should remain undiscovered. As a result, Callippus quickly succeeded in identifying and bringing together all the most unscrupulous and discontented elements; at the same time, if any man refused his overtures and reported them, Dion was not at all disturbed and showed no anger, but simply assumed that Callippus was carrying out his orders.

55. While this conspiracy was being hatched, Dion saw a phantom of gigantic size and terrible appearance. As he was sitting late in the day in the portico of his house, by himself and lost in thought, he suddenly heard a noise at the far end of the colonnade. He looked up and in the twilight he saw a tall woman, whose face and dress were exactly like those of one of the Furies on the stage,84 sweeping the house with a kind of broom. He started violently, and finding himself shaking with terror, he sent for his friends, described to them what he had seen and begged them to stay and spend the night with him, for he was almost beside himself with fear and was afraid that if he were left alone the apparition might return. This did not happen, but a few days later his only son, who was by then almost grown up, flew into a passion on account of some trivial grievance, threw himself headlong from the roof and was killed.

56. While Dion was in this state of distress, Callippus made all the more progress with his conspiracy and spread a rumour among the Syracusans that Dion, now that he was childless, had decided to send for Dionysius’ son Apollocrates – who happened to be at once his wife’s nephew and his sister’s grandson – to make him his successor. By this time, both Dion and his sister had begun to suspect what was afoot, and information about the plot was reaching them from all sides. But it seems that Dion was tormented by the death of Heracleides, and the memory of his murder continually weighed upon and depressed his mind, since he regarded it as a stain upon his own life and actions. He declared that he was ready to die many times over, and that he would let any man cut his throat if the alternative was to be obliged to live in perpetual fear not only of his enemies but even of his friends.

At this point Callippus, who had noticed that the women were becoming very inquisitive to discover what was going on, took fright and came to them in tears; he denied vehemently that there was any plot and offered to give any pledge of his loyalty they wanted. At this, they demanded that he should swear the great oath, which was done in the following manner. The giver of the pledge goes down into the precinct of Demeter and Persephone and there, after certain ceremonies have been performed, he puts on the purple robe of the goddess, takes a lighted torch in his hand and recites the oath. Callippus performed all these ceremonies and repeated the oath, but treated the gods with such contempt that he actually waited for the festival of the goddess by whom he had sworn, and on that day committed the murder.85 But it may be that he paid no attention to the day, for he must have known that he was committing just as outrageous a sacrilege when he, as an initiating priest, shed the blood of an initiate, no matter which day he chose to do it.

57. There were many people in the plot, and as Dion was sitting with his friends in a room furnished with several couches, some of the conspirators surrounded the house outside, while others guarded the doors and the windows. The murderers, who were all from Zacynthus, entered the room in their tunics and without swords. Then, at the same moment, those outside shut the doors and held them fast, while those in the room threw themselves upon Dion and tried to strangle and crush him. When they could not succeed in this, they called for a sword, but nobody dared to open the door. There were many of Dion’s friends in the room, but each of them seemed to imagine that if he left Dion to his fate, he could save his own skin, and so no man had the courage to help him. After a long delay, Lycon the Syracusan handed a dagger through the window and with this they cut his throat, like a victim at a sacrifice: he had for a long while been overpowered and was trembling as he waited for the blow. The conspirators at once took away his wife, whowas pregnant, and threw her into prison. She endured a most wretched confinement and gave birth to a boy in the jail: the women ventured to rear the child and found it easy to obtain the permission of the jailers, because Callippus was already embroiled in troubles of his own.

58. At first after the murder of Dion, Callippus enjoyed great prestige and was in complete control of Syracuse. He even sent letters to the city of Athens, the place for which he should have felt most dread, second only to that which he felt for the gods, since he had brought such a terrible pollution on himself. But it seems to have been truly said of Athens that the good men she breeds are the best of their kind, and the worst the most abominable, just as her soil brings forth the sweetest honey and the deadliest hemlock. At any rate, Callippus did not long survive as a reproach to fortune and the gods – as though they could overlook the impiety of a man who had won position and power by committing such an outrage. Instead, he soon paid the penalty he deserved. For when he made an expedition to capture Catana, he at once lost Syracuse, after which he is said to have remarked that he had lost a city and gained a cheese-grater.86 Next, he attacked Messana, and here many of his soldiers were killed, among them the murderers of Dion. Then, as no city in Sicily would admit him, but all showed how they hated and abhorred him, he seized possession of Rhegium. There he found his resources so much reduced that he could not pay his mercenaries and was murdered by Leptines and Polyperchon, who, by a twist of fate, used the same dagger as the one with which Dion is said to have been killed. It was recognized by its size, which was very short, after the Spartan fashion, and also by the style of its workmanship, for it was finely and elaborately chased.

Such was the retribution which overtook Callippus. As for Aristomache and Arete, when they were released from prison, they were received by Hicetas the Syracusan, who had been a friend of Dion and who had at first seemed to treat them loyally and honourably. But later, at the instigation of some of Dion’s enemies, he provided a ship for them and made out that they were to be sent to the Peloponnese; then, once they were at sea, he ordered the sailors to cut their throats and throw their bodies overboard. According to another version, however, they were thrown into the sea alive and their little boy with them. But Hicetas also suffered a fitting punishment for his crimes. He was captured by Timoleon and put to death, and the Syracusans killed his two daughters in revenge for the murder of Dion. These events I have described at length in my Life of Timoleon.87

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