Ancient History & Civilisation

TIMOLEON

Introduction to Timoleon

[died c. 336 BC]

The Life of Timoleon picks up almost exactly where the Life of Dion leaves off, and mutual cross-references suggest the two were composed at around the same time (Dion 58; Timoleon 13 and 33). Dion was murdered in 354 BC, and Syracuse endured a period of instability until in 346 Dionysius II established himself as tyrant once again. Some of those in Syracuse opposed to the tyranny appealed to Corinth, the city whose colonists had originally founded Syracuse, and in early 344 the Corinthians dispatched a small force under the leadership of Timoleon to assist the Syracusans against the tyrant. Timoleon quickly succeeded in persuading Dionysius to leave Syracuse, and in the following years ended the tyrannies in several other Sicilian cities. He also campaigned against the Carthaginians who controlled the west of Sicily and won a decisive victory against superior numbers at the River Crimisus in c. 340. After the battle of Crimisus, Timoleon concluded a treaty with the Carthaginians which restricted Carthaginian influence to the western part of the island. During this time, Timoleon seems to have been granted exceptional powers; that he did not make himself tyrant but stepped down from office contributed to the adulation with which he seems to have been regarded. He died around 336.

This is one of Plutarch’s most idealized Lives. It is perhaps for this reason that Timoleon does not emerge very clearly as an individual. There is almost no criticism, and very few anecdotes or sayings to individuate him or give a sense of his character. Indeed, the Life begins not with Timoleon himself, but with an account of the state of Sicily in the years following Dion’s death (chs. 1–2). In fact, Plutarch tells us almost nothing about Timoleon until he is selected at an advanced age for the expedition to liberate Sicily. The one detail Plutarch does give us is that he was devoted to his brother, Timophanes, and saved his life in battle, but later killed him when he tried to make himself tyrant of Corinth (chs. 3–4). This story sets out at the start of the Life the two most important features of Plutarch’s Timoleon: his valour and his hatred of tyranny.

Two factors contribute to the extremely positive presentation of Timoleon. The first is that Timoleon managed to settle the internal dissension that had plagued Syracuse since the Athenian invasion. The Life of Timoleon therefore provides for Plutarch an example of the ideal relationship of people and leader: the people respect Timoleon and do not listen to demagogues, and he guides them wisely; furthermore, he is not corrupted by power and does not try to extend his term in office. Secondly, Timoleon’s military victories were chiefly against non-Greeks (that is, Carthaginians) or tyrants. Elsewhere in his work, Plutarch laments the fact that Greek history was mainly a tale of Greeks fighting Greeks (e.g., Flamininus 11); Timoleon’s liberation of Sicily is presented in comparison as a glorious, patriotic event. Plutarch begins the Life with a picture of Sicily as a land overrun by barbarians. And after his great victory at the Crimisus, Plutarch comments: ‘His ambition was that in Corinth … men should see the most conspicuous temples adorned not with the spoils taken from Greek states … but decked with ornaments won from the barbarians and bearing honourable inscriptions which testified to the justice as well as the courage of the victors’ (ch. 29).

The Life of Timoleon is paired with that of the Roman L. Aemilius Paullus, who was famous for his victory over the Macedonians at the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Unusually in this pair it is the Roman Life which comes first; Plutarch’s readers would therefore have approached Timoleon only after reading Aemilius. In the prologue, which precedes both Lives, Plutarch dwells on the moral benefit to be obtained from studying biography, and concludes by presenting Aemilius and Timoleon as the ‘finest of examples’, that is, as models of good conduct (Aemilius 1).

In both Lives fortune plays a prominent role. But in Aemilius, while fortune providentially favours Rome, it often seems to work against Aemilius personally (e.g., chs. 3, 22, 26–7), most spectacularly at the end of his life, where his two sons die prematurely (chs. 34–6). In Timoleon, on the other hand, fortune is always on Timoleon’s side. Timoleon’s taking of Dionysius’ stronghold, Ortygia in Syracuse, is attributed to good fortune (ch. 13); so are the safe arrival of reinforcements from Corinth (ch. 19), his survival of a plot against his life (ch. 16; cf. ch. 37) and his overwhelming victories against Hicetas and against the Carthaginians (ch. 30). Fortune in this Life is not merely luck, nor the fickle deity of Aemilius; it is a providential power, the outworking of the divine will. The idea of a providential care for Sicily was already present in Dion (chs. 4, 50), but it is particularly prominent in Timoleon and is confirmed by numerous omens and divine signs.

Such a stress on the favour of providence, in contrast to the fickle fortune with which Aemilius had to deal, might have suggested that Timoleon’s own personal qualities were less important, that he was merely the tool by which providence freed Sicily. Indeed, Plutarch himself, at the end of the prologue, raises the question of ‘whether the greatest of their achievements were due to their wisdom or their good fortune’ (Aemilius 1). In fact, the issue of the relative roles played by fortune and by virtue in a great success was one of profound interest in the ancient world. Plutarch himself wrote a work examining the issue in relation to Alexander the Great (his On the fortune or virtue of Alexander). There, Plutarch played down the good luck that Alexander enjoyed, arguing instead that fortune was really against Alexander, in order to demonstrate that all Alexander’s successes were the result of his own virtue. In Timoleon Plutarch takes a different approach: Timoleon’s successes were due to what he calls ‘virtue reinforced by fortune’ (ch. 36), that is, to Timoleon’s own courage assisted by fortune. Providence played a role in directing events, but Timoleon’s own personal virtue was indispensable. It goes without saying that in emphasizing Timoleon’s personal virtue and the blessings of providence, Plutarch ignores other factors in his success, whether military or financial, and does not address the Carthaginian perspective at all.

Plutarch plainly found positive accounts of Timoleon in his main source, the Sicilian historian Timaeus. His work is now lost, but Timaeus’ father was a supporter of Timoleon (see ch. 10), and Timaeus’ account of Timoleon seems also to have influenced Diodorus’ Book 16 and Nepos’ brief Life of Timoleon. Both of these writers also give favourable pictures of Timoleon, though neither places such emphasis on the role of fortune.

Life of Timoleon1

1. The situation in Syracuse before Timoleon’s expedition arrived in Sicily was as follows. Soon after Dion had driven out the tyrant Dionysius, he was treacherously murdered,2 and the men who had joined him to free the Syracusans were divided among themselves. The city had passed through a period during which it repeatedly exchanged one tyrant for another,3 and as a result of all the misfortunes it had suffered, was in an almost derelict condition. As for the rest of Sicily, some districts had been ravaged and their cities completely depopulated as a result of the wars. Most cities were in the hands of barbarians of various races and of disbanded soldiers, who because they had no regular pay were ready to accept any change of ruler. At last Dionysius, after spending ten years in exile, recruited a force of mercenaries, drove out Nisaeus who was at that time the ruler of Syracuse, recovered control of affairs and re-established himself as tyrant. He had unexpectedly been dislodged by a very small force4 from the most powerful tyranny that ever existed and now, more unexpectedly still, he had raised himself from the condition of a lowly exile to become the master of those who had banished him. Those of the Syracusans who remained in the city found themselves the slaves of a tyrant who had always been oppressive and had now become even more inhuman as a result of the misfortunes he had suffered. But the most prominent and influential of the citizens turned to Hicetas, the ruler of Leontini, placed themselves under his protection and elected him their general for the war. This man was no better than any other of the acknowledged tyrants, but the citizens had no other refuge and they were prepared to trust a man who belonged to a Syracusan family and commanded a force which could match that of Dionysius.

2. Meanwhile, the Carthaginians appeared with a powerful fleet and hovered off the coast of Sicily, awaiting their opportunity to intervene. Their approach struck terror into the Sicilians and they resolved to send a delegation to Greece and appeal for help to Corinth. This was not only on account of their kinship with the Corinthians5 and of the many services they had received from them in the past, but because they knew that Corinth had always upheld the cause of freedom, that she detested tyranny and that she had fought most of her wars – and the greatest ones at that – not to acquire an empire or make herself more powerful, but to defend the liberty of Greece.6 Hicetas, on the other hand, when he accepted the command had no intention of freeing the Syracusans but, rather, of bringing them under his own tyranny, and he had already entered into secret negotiations with the Carthaginians. But in public he praised the Syracusan plan and supported the decision to send a delegation to the Peloponnese. He was not at all anxious to see an allied army arrive from that quarter. He hoped that if, as seemed likely, the Corinthians refused to send help, on account of the troubled state of Greece and of their own commitments at home,7 he could more easily sway the course of events so as to favour the Carthaginians: he planned to use them as allies and auxiliaries, either against the Syracusans or against Dionysius. These intentions were exposed not long afterwards.

3. When the delegation from Syracuse arrived, the Corinthians eagerly voted in favour of sending help. They were always concerned for the interests of their colonies overseas and especially for those of Syracuse, and by a happy chance there were no distractions to divert their attention either in Greece or within their own frontiers, where they were enjoying peace and leisure. Then, when the question arose of choosing a commander for the expedition, and while the magistrates were writing down the names of those citizens who wished to be considered for this honour and nominating them for election, a man from the crowd rose to his feet and proposed Timoleon, the son of Timodemus. Timoleon was not at this time active in politics and had no intention of standing for the command or expectation that he would be appointed to it. But some god, it would seem, inspired the proposer to put forward his name, because fortune immediately revealed herself to be on his side; this became evident not only by the ease with which he was elected, but also in a peculiar grace which attended all his subsequent actions and enhanced his personal virtues.

Timoleon’s parents, Timodemus and Demariste, both belonged to noble families, and he himself was an ardent patriot and a man of gentle disposition, except only for his hatred of tyrants and of base behaviour in any form. As a soldier his abilities were so finely and evenly balanced that he proved himself exceptionally astute in the exploits of his youth and no less daring in those of his old age. He had a brother named Timophanes who was older but possessed a completely different temperament. Timophanes was headstrong and was dominated by a fatal passion for absolute power, which was encouraged by a circle of worthless friends and foreign military adventurers with whom he spent all his time. He enjoyed the reputation of being a furious fighter in war and of having a positive craving for danger: for this reason many of the Corinthians thought highly of him as a soldier and man of action and he was appointed to senior commands. Timoleon helped him to obtain these and did his best to cover up or extenuate his faults, while at the same time he praised and made the most of those virtues which nature had given him.

4. In the battle which the Corinthians fought against the Argives and the people of Cleonae,8 Timoleon happened to be serving with the hoplites, but Timophanes, who was in command of the cavalry, suddenly found himself in great danger. His horse was wounded and threw him while he was surrounded by the enemy. Some of his companions scattered and fled in panic, and the few who stood fast were fighting against greatly superior numbers and could scarcely hold their ground. When Timoleon saw what was happening, he ran to the rescue and covered Timophanes with his shield as he lay on the ground. He received a hail of blows to his body and armour both from the javelins that were hurled at him and in the hand-to-hand fighting, but he succeeded at last in driving back the enemy and in saving his brother.

When the Corinthians became alarmed that their city might once more be captured because of the treachery of their allies,9 they passed a decree to maintain a force of four hundred mercenaries and placed Timophanes in command of it.10 The immediate result was that Timophanes put aside all considerations of justice and honour, took steps to seize power, executed a large number of the leading citizens without trial and proclaimed himself tyrant. Timoleon was outraged by these actions, but since he regarded his brother’s crimes as his own misfortune, he tried to reason with him, and begged him to abandon his insane and ill-starred ambition and make amends for the wrong he had done to his fellow-citizens. Timophanes contemptuously rejected all his appeals, whereupon Timoleon called together his kinsman Aeschylus, who was Timophanes’ brother-in-law, and his friend the diviner Satyrus: at least this was his name according to Theopompus, but Ephorus and Timaeus refer to him as Orthagoras. Timoleon waited a few days and then went up again to see his brother. Here the three men surrounded Timophanes and made a final appeal, urging him even now to listen to reason and change his mind. Timophanes at first laughed at them, but then flew into a violent rage. At this Timoleon stepped a little way aside, covered his face and wept, while the other two drew their swords and straightaway killed him.

5. When the news became known, the leading Corinthians praised Timoleon for his hatred of wrongdoing and his greatness of soul. They saw that although he was a kindly man who loved his family, he had nevertheless placed his country before his own flesh and blood, and the cause of honour and justice before expediency. When his brother was fighting valiantly for his country, Timoleon had saved his life, but after he had plotted against her and enslaved her, Timoleon had killed him. On the other hand, those who could not bear to live in a democracy, and were accustomed to pay court to whoever was in power, pretended to rejoice at Timophanes’ death but nevertheless reviled Timoleon for having committed an impious and detestable action, and their abuse reduced him to a state of deep dejection. When he heard that his mother’s grief had turned to hatred and that she had uttered the most terrible denunciations and curses against his name, he went to try to console her; but she could not bear to see his face and shut him out of her house. Then his grief overcame him completely, he became distracted and determined to starve himself to death. His friends, however, would not stand by and allow this, and brought every kind of pressure and entreaty to bear on him, until finally he resolved to live by himself, apart from the world. He withdrew completely from public life and for the first years of his retirement did not even return to the city, but spent his time wandering in great agony of mind in the most deserted parts of the country.

6. So true is it that men’s judgements are unstable and may easily be swayed and carried away by casual praise or blame and forced from their own rational thoughts, unless they acquire strength and steadiness of purpose from philosophy and reason. It is not enough, it seems, that our actions should be noble and just: the conviction from which they spring must be permanent and unchangeable, if we are to approve our own conduct. Otherwise we may find ourselves becoming prey to despondency, or to sheer weakness, when the vision of the ideal which inspired us fades away, just as a glutton who devours cloying delicacies with too keen a pleasure soon loses his appetite and becomes disgusted with them. Remorse may cast a sense of shame over even the noblest of actions, but the determination which is founded upon reason and understanding is not shaken even if the outcome is unsuccessful. The case of Phocion the Athenian is a good example. Phocion had opposed the course of action taken by Leosthenes, and when Leosthenes’ policy seemed to have triumphed, and the Athenians were seen to be sacrificing and exulting over their victory, Phocion remarked that he could have wished the success had been his, but that he was glad to have given the advice that he did.11 And Aristides the Locrian, who was one of Plato’s companions, put the matter even more forcefully when he was asked by Dionysius the elder for the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. He said that he would rather see the girl dead than the wife of a tyrant; but when a little while later, Dionysius put Aristides’ sons to death, and then asked him scornfully whether he had changed his opinion about giving his daughters in marriage, Aristides replied that he was grieved at what Dionysius had done, but did not repent of what he had said. Such sayings as these are perhaps the mark of a greater, a more perfect, virtue than is found in ordinary men.

7. In the case of Timoleon his grief, whether it arose out of pity for his dead brother or the reverence which he bore his mother, so crushed and overwhelmed his spirit that it was almost twenty years before he could again engage in any important public enterprise.12So when he had been named as the commander of the expedition and the people had gladly accepted him and given him their votes, Telecleides, who was at that time the most distinguished and influential man in Corinth, rose and appealed to Timoleon to show all his valour in the enterprise he was undertaking. ‘If you fight bravely,’ he said, ‘we shall think of you as the man who destroyed a tyrant, but otherwise as the man who killed his brother.’

While Timoleon was making ready for his voyage and collecting his troops, letters from Hicetas were brought to the Corinthians which clearly revealed that he had changed sides and betrayed them. For as soon as he had sent off his ambassadors to Corinth, he openly attached himself to the Carthaginians and joined forces with them so as to expel Dionysius from Syracuse and make himself tyrant instead. And in fear that he might miss his opportunity if a general and an army were to arrive from Corinth too soon, he sent a letter to the Corinthians pointing out that there was no need for them to incur the trouble, the expense and the danger of sending a force to Sicily. Because of their delay, he had been obliged to make an alliance with the Carthaginians against the tyrant, and his new allies forbade the Corinthians to send an expedition and were on the watch to intercept it with a large fleet. These letters were read out in public, and if any of the Corinthians had previously been lukewarm about the operation, they were now roused to fury against Hicetas and eagerly contributed to support the expedition and help Timoleon prepare for his voyage.

8. After the fleet had been made ready and the soldiers completely equipped, the priestesses of Persephone dreamed that they saw the goddess and her mother preparing for a journey and heard them say that they intended to sail with Timoleon to Sicily. Therefore the Corinthians fitted out a sacred trireme and named it after the two goddesses. Moreover Timoleon himself travelled to Delphi and offered sacrifice to Apollo there. As he descended into the chamber where the oracular responses were delivered, he was the witness of a portent. Among the votive offerings which were hung up there, a wreath, which had crowns and figures of victory embroidered on it, slipped down and fell directly on his head, and thus gave the impression that he was being sent forth upon his enterprise crowned with success by the god.

So Timoleon set sail13 with seven ships from Corinth, two from Corcyra and a tenth supplied by the people of Leucas. That night when he had reached the open sea and was sailing with a fair wind, suddenly the heavens seemed to burst open above his ship and pour down a flood of brilliant fire. Out of this fire a torch, like one of those which are carried in the procession of the Mysteries, rose up before them, and, moving in the same direction as his vessel, descended upon exactly that part of Italy towards which the pilots were shaping their course. The diviners declared that this apparition confirmed the dreams of the priestesses, and that the goddesses were displaying this light from heaven to show that they were taking part in the expedition, for Sicily, they said, was sacred to Persephone: it was the scene of her mythical rape by Hades, and the island was presented to her as a wedding gift.

9. These divine portents greatly encouraged the expedition; the fleet made its best speed across the open sea and sailed down the coast of Italy. However, the news which they then received from Sicily perplexed Timoleon and disheartened his men. Hicetas, they learnt, had defeated Dionysius in battle, and captured most of the outlying districts of Syracuse; he had then driven the tyrant into the acropolis, known as ‘the island’,14 and was blockading him there. At the same time he had ordered the Carthaginians to prevent Timoleon from landing in Sicily. The Corinthian expedition was to be driven off, so that Hicetas and the Carthaginians could then divide the island between them at their leisure. Accordingly, the Carthaginians dispatched twenty triremes to Rhegium carrying envoys from Hicetas to Timoleon. The proposals they brought with them were as deceitful as the rest of his actions: they consisted of specious overtures and declarations which concealed treacherous designs. The envoys requested that Timoleon should, if he wished, join Hicetas, who would treat him as his adviser and partner in all his successes, but that he should send his ships and his soldiers back to Corinth. They claimed that the campaign against Dionysius was virtually finished, and that the Carthaginians were prepared to oppose his passage and fight him if he attempted to force the issue. So when the Corinthians arrived at Rhegium, they met the ambassadors and saw the Carthaginian fleet riding at anchor close by. They were filled with indignation at the insult they had suffered,15with rage against Hicetas and with fear for the people of Sicily, since it was evident that they were being handed over to Hicetas as a prize for his treachery and to the Carthaginians for their help in making him tyrant. It seemed to the Corinthians quite impossible that they could overcome both the barbarians, who faced them with a fleet twice the size of their own, and Hicetas’ army in Syracuse, of which they had expected to take command.

10. However, after Timoleon had met the envoys and the Carthaginian commanders, he calmly informed them that he would comply with their demands – for what would he achieve by refusing? He added that he wished to have their proposals and his answer discussed before they parted in the presence of the people of the city of Rhegium, since this was a city which was friendly to both parties. This arrangement, he pointed out, would help to justify his action before his own countrymen, while for their part the envoys and commanders would be the more bound to carry out their promises concerning the Syracusans if the people of Rhegium were made the witnesses to the agreement. This proposal was in fact a trick to enable him to cross the straits, and the people of Rhegium gave him their help because they were anxious that the Sicilian Greeks should come under the protection of Corinth and were afraid of having the barbarians as neighbours. They therefore summoned an assembly of the people and closed the gates to ensure that the citizens should not engage in any other business. Then they came forward and addressed the populace with lengthy speeches, one man handing on the same topic to his successor; they took care not to reach any conclusion but spun out the time, apparently to no purpose, until the Corinthian triremes had put to sea. In this way the Carthaginians were kept in the assembly: they suspected nothing because Timoleon was present and gave the impression that he was on the point of rising to address the people. Then somebody unobtrusively brought him word that the rest of the Corinthian triremes were under way and that his ship alone remained behind and was waiting for him. The Rhegians who were standing around the platform helped to screen him so that he could slip through the crowd unnoticed, and he hurried down to the sea and sailed away at full speed.

The squadron put in at Tauromenium in Sicily. They had been invited some while before and were now warmly received by Andromachus, the ruler of the city. This man was the father of Timaeus the historian. He had made himself by far the most powerful of the rulers of Sicily of that time, and he not only observed the principles of law and justice in governing his people, but made no secret of the fact that he was constantly and implacably hostile to tyrants.16 For this reason he allowed Timoleon to make Tauromenium his base of operations, and prevailed upon the citizens to join the Corinthians in their campaign to liberate Sicily.

11. When the assembly at Rhegium was dissolved and Timoleon’s escape was discovered, the Carthaginians were beside themselves with rage, though the people of Rhegium were greatly amused, not only to have defeated them in this battle of wits, but also to hear them complaining bitterly of deceit, despite their being Phoenicians.17 So the Carthaginians sent a trireme to Tauromenium with an envoy on board. This man held a long conversation with Andromachus, in which he threatened the Greek in insulting and barbaric fashion if he did not immediately send the Corinthians away. Finally, he stretched out his hand with the palm upwards, and then, turning it downwards, declared that he would overturn the city in the same way. Andromachus merely laughed and made no reply, except to hold out his hand and repeat the gesture, showing his palm first upwards and then downwards. Then he ordered the envoy to sail off at once, if he did not want to see his ship capsized in the same fashion.

As soon as Hicetas heard that Timoleon had made the crossing, he became alarmed and sent for a strong fleet of Carthaginian triremes, but for their part the Syracusans were in despair that they could ever be rescued. They saw their harbour controlled by the Carthaginians, their city in the hands of Hicetas and their acropolis occupied by Dionysius. Timoleon, on the other hand, seemed to have no more than a foothold on the edge of Sicily, in the little city of Tauromenium, with little hope of success and only a slender force to support him. Apart from his thousand soldiers, for whom he had barely enough supplies, he possessed no resources whatever. The cities of Sicily showed little confidence in him, for they were beset with troubles of their own, and were particularly exasperated against all those who claimed to lead armies to liberate them. These feelings were the result of the treachery of Callippus18 and of Pharax,19 the first an Athenian and the second a Spartan. Both of these men had declared that they had come to fight for the freedom of Sicily and overthrow her despots, but in fact they had caused the rule of the tyrants to appear like a golden age compared to their own, and led the people to believe that those who had died in slavery were happier than those who had survived to witness her so-called independence.

12. The cities therefore did not expect that the Corinthian liberator would turn out to be any better than his predecessors. They feared that the same enticements and sophistries would be held out, and that they would be offered fair hopes and generous promises to make them docile enough to accept a new master. In consequence, all the cities were suspicious of the overtures made by the Corinthians and rejected them, with the exception of the people of Adranum.20 They lived in a small city dedicated to Adranus, a god who is held in the highest honour throughout Sicily. At this time they were divided against each other: one party had called in Hicetas and the Carthaginians, while another had sent an invitation to Timoleon. As fortune would have it, both generals hurried to answer the summons and arrived at the same moment, with the difference that while Hicetas came with 5,000 soldiers, Timoleon’s force numbered no more than twelve hundred. He started with these from Tauromenium, which is 38 miles from Adranum, and on the first day covered only a short distance before pitching camp for the night. On the second, he quickened his march and after passing through difficult country, received news late in the day that Hicetas had just reached the little town and was pitching his camp.

Timoleon’s officers halted the vanguard in order to rest and feed the men and make them ready and eager for battle. But when Timoleon arrived, he begged them not to wait but to press on as fast as they could so as to fall upon the enemy while they were in disorder, as they were likely to be when they had just finished their march and were engaged in pitching their tents and preparing a meal. With these words he snatched up his shield, put himself at the head of the column and marched on as if he were leading his troops to certain victory. Inspired by his example, the men followed him and quickly covered the three and a half miles which separated them from Hicetas. Their attack achieved complete surprise and the enemy fled as soon as they saw the Corinthians advancing upon them. For this reason no more than three hundred of them were killed, but twice as many were taken prisoner and their camp was captured. Thereupon, the people of Adranum opened their gates to Timoleon and gave him their allegiance. They also told him with awe and wonder that at the very beginning of the battle the sacred doors of the temple had flown open of their own accord, the spear of the god was seen to quiver at its point and drops of sweat ran down the face of his image.

13. These portents, it seems, foretold not only Timoleon’s immediate victory, but also his future exploits to which this battle was an auspicious prelude. Other cities immediately sent envoys to Timoleon and began to attach themselves to his cause, and in particular Mamercus, the tyrant of Catana, a warlike and wealthy ruler, came forward as an ally. But most important was the fact that Dionysius himself had by now lost all hope of success and was almost at the end of his resistance. He despised Hicetas for his shameful defeat, but was full of admiration for Timoleon, and sent messengers with an offer to surrender both himself and the acropolis to Timoleon and the Corinthians.

Timoleon welcomed this unexpected stroke of good fortune and sent a detachment of four hundred soldiers to the acropolis under two Corinthian officers, Eucleides and Telemachus. He could not send them openly nor all together, since the Carthaginian fleet was blockading the harbour, but infiltrated them in small groups. These soldiers took possession of the acropolis and of the tyrant’s palace, together with all its equipment and military stores, for the place contained many horses, all kinds of artillery and siege-weapons, great quantities of missiles and arms and armour for 70,000 men, all of which had been kept there for many years. Dionysius also had with him 2,000 soldiers, whom he handed over to Timoleon with the stores. Then gathering together a few friends and his treasure, he put to sea and passed through Hicetas’ lines unnoticed. After this he was brought to Timoleon’s camp, where he was seen for the first time in the humble dress of a private citizen, and as such he was sent with a single ship and a small allowance of money to Corinth. Dionysius had been born and bred under a tyranny which was the greatest and most celebrated of all tyrannies. He had wielded this power for ten years, but then for the next twelve, ever since the time of Dion’s expedition against him, he had been continually harassed by wars and political struggles, during which his personal sufferings had far outweighed all his acts of tyranny.21 He had lived to see his sons die in their early manhood, his daughters violated, and his wife, who was also his sister, subjected to the brutal lusts of his enemies and finally murdered with her children and thrown into the sea. These episodes have been fully described in my Life of Dion.22

14. When Dionysius arrived in Corinth there was hardly a man in Greece who did not feel the desire to see and speak to him. Some, who rejoiced in his misfortunes, came for the pleasure of trampling on a man who had been cast down by fate; others, who were more interested in the change in his situation and who sympathized with him, saw in his destiny a convincing proof of the potency with which divine and invisible causes operate in the midst of human and visible circumstances. Certainly, that age produced no example either in nature or in art which was so striking as this change of fortune – namely, the sight of the man who had not long before been tyrant of Sicily whiling away his time at Corinth in the food-market, sitting in a perfumer’s shop, drinking diluted wine in the taverns, bandying jokes in public with prostitutes, correcting music-girls in their singing or earnestly arguing with them about songs for the theatre or the melodies of hymns. Some people thought that Dionysius indulged in these undignified pastimes out of sheer idleness, or because he was naturally easy-going and fond of pleasure, but others considered that he acted deliberately so that the Corinthians should despise him rather than fear him: they believed that he wished to dispel any suspicion that he was oppressed by the change in his way of living or that he still hankered after power, and that by making a parade of these trivial amusements he was acting out a part that was foreign to his nature.

15. For all that, some of his sayings have come down to us, from which it appears that there was nothing ignoble about the way in which he adapted himself to his changed situation. When he arrived at Leucas, which, like Syracuse, had originally been colonized by the Corinthians, he said that he had the same feelings as young men who have managed to disgrace themselves. They pass their time gaily with their brothers, but are ashamed to meet their fathers, and in the same way he would gladly settle in Leucas, but felt ashamed to live in her mother-city, Corinth. Again, when in Corinth some stranger made a cheap joke about the conversations with philosophers in which he used to take pleasure during the days of his power, and finally asked him what good was Plato’s wisdom to him now, he replied, ‘Do you really think that I gained nothing from Plato, when I can bear as I do the changes of fortune that I have suffered?’ On another occasion, when Aristoxenus the musician and others asked him what fault he had found with Plato and for what reason, Dionysius replied that there were many evils inherent in absolute power but by far the greatest was the fact that of all a tyrant’s so-called friends not one will speak his mind, and that it was through such people that he had lost Plato’s goodwill. Another man, who thought himself witty, tried to make fun of Dionysius by shaking out his cloak when he came into his presence, as is the custom before a tyrant: Dionysius turned the joke against him by asking him to do the same thing before leaving, to make sure that he had not taken anything from the house away with him. And when Philip of Macedon at a banquet began to sneer at the lyrics and tragedies which Dionysius the elder had left behind him, and expressed surprise as to how a ruler could find so much time for writing, Dionysius smartly retorted, ‘He can do it in the hours which you and I and all those whom we call happy fritter away over the wine-bowl.’23

Plato had already died by the time that Dionysius arrived in Corinth.24 But when Diogenes of Sinope25 met Dionysius for the first time, he remarked, ‘How little you deserve to live in this way, Dionysius.’ The former tyrant stopped and answered, ‘It is kind of you, Diogenes, to sympathize with me in my misfortunes.’ ‘What do you mean?’ retorted Diogenes. ‘You surely do not suppose that I am sympathizing with you. I am only angry that a slave such as you, a man who deserved to have grown old and died surrounded by tyranny, as your father did, should now be sharing the luxury and the wit of our society.’ When I compare these sayings of Dionysius with the lamentations which Philistus poured out about the daughters of Leptines, and how they had fallen from the splendours of tyrannical power to a humble station in life,26 they sound to me like the complaints of a woman who pines for her alabaster caskets, purple dresses and golden trinkets. At any rate, these details are relavant, it seems to me, to the writing of my Lives, and may be useful to readers who are not in too much haste or absorbed in other concerns.

16. If Dionysius’ misfortunes appeared extraordinary, Timoleon’s good fortune had something almost miraculous about it. Fewer than fifty days had passed since his first landing in Sicily before he had accepted the surrender of the acropolis of Syracuse and had dispatched Dionysius to the Peloponnese. The Corinthians were so encouraged by this success that they sent him a reinforcement of 2,000 hoplites and 200 cavalry. This expedition reached Thurii, but found it impossible to cross into Sicily, as the straits were patrolled by a strong Carthaginian fleet. They were therefore obliged to remain there quietly and await their opportunity, but they took advantage of this enforced idleness to perform a most noble action. For when the Thurians left their country on an expedition against the neighbouring people of Bruttium, the Corinthians took charge of their city and guarded it as faithfully and scrupulously as if it had been their own.

Meanwhile, Hicetas was blockading the acropolis of Syracuse and preventing any food from reaching the Corinthians by sea. He also engaged two foreigners to assassinate Timoleon and sent them to Adranum. Timoleon had never kept a bodyguard about him, and at this time in particular he felt so much confidence in the protection of the god Adranus that he spent his time there in a carefree fashion, without fear for his security. The two agents learnt by chance that he was about to offer a sacrifice, and so they made their way into the sacred precinct with daggers concealed under their cloaks, mingled with the crowd that stood around the altar and gradually edged nearer to Timoleon. Then, at the very moment that they were about to give the signal to attack, a man struck one of them on the head with his sword and cut him down. Neither the assailant nor the surviving assassin stood his ground. The first fled to a lofty rock and sprang onto it still clutching his sword, while the other laid hold of the altar and begged for Timoleon’s pardon on condition that he revealed the plot. When he had been promised his safety, he confessed that he and his dead accomplice had been sent to assassinate Timoleon. In the meantime, others dragged down the man who had climbed the rock, who kept crying out that he had done no wrong, but had taken a just revenge for the death of his father, whom the other had murdered some while before at Leontini. Several of the bystanders confirmed the truth of his story, and they marvelled at the ingenious workings of fortune, how she makes one thing the cause of another, brings the most incongruous elements into conjunction, interweaves events which appear to have no relation or connection with one another and so makes use of their respective beginnings and endings to serve her purpose.

The Corinthians gave this man a reward of 10 minas because he had put his just resentment at the service of the deity who was guarding Timoleon. Besides this, he had not, on an immediate impulse, expended the wrath which had long burned within him, but for personal reasons had bided his time and put off the desire to avenge his injury until fortune availed herself of it to preserve the general’s life. This stroke of fortune had consequences which stretched beyond the present, since it raised the Corinthians’ hopes as they looked to the future, encouraging them to revere and protect Timoleon and regard him as a minister of the gods who had come with a divinely appointed mission to avenge the wrongs of Sicily.27

17. When Hicetas had failed in this attempt on Timoleon’s life and saw that more and more Sicilians were going over to him, he began to blame himself for not having taken full advantage of the strong Carthaginian forces which were at hand. Hitherto, he had only used them secretly and in small detachments, introducing the troops of his allies by stealth, as though he were ashamed of their presence, but now he appealed to the Carthaginian commander Mago to join him with all the forces at his disposal. So Mago, with a formidable fleet of a hundred and fifty ships, sailed in and took possession of the harbour. At the same time he landed 60,000 of his infantry and quartered them in the city, so that it seemed to everyone that the subjugation of Sicily by the barbarians, which had so long been talked of and expected, had finally come to pass. For never before in all their many campaigns in Sicily had the Carthaginians actually captured Syracuse, but now Hicetas had opened the gates and handed over the city, and men could see that it had been transformed into a barbarian camp. In the meantime, the Corinthian troops who were holding out in the acropolis were in a position of great difficulty and danger: their food was running short because the harbours were blockaded, and they were constantly obliged to divide their forces to beat off skirmishes and assaults upon the walls and to counter every ploy and every sort of siege strategy employed by the attacking army.

18. However, Timoleon came to their rescue by sending them grain from Catana, which was carried in small fishing boats and other light craft. These vessels could run the gauntlet of the Carthaginian fleet, especially in heavy weather, by stealing in between the barbarian triremes, which could not keep together because of the roughness of the sea. Mago and Hicetas soon became aware of these operations and determined to capture the Corinthians’ source of supply at Catana, and so they sailed out of Syracuse with the best of their troops. But Neon, the Corinthian officer in command of the garrison, noticed from the acropolis that the enemy’s forces left behind had relaxed their attention and were off their guard. He launched a sudden attack, caught them dispersed, killed a number of them, routed others and then stormed and occupied the district known as Achradina. This was the strongest and most impregnable part of Syracuse, which is a city consisting of several townships joined together. Neon was now in possession of large supplies of grain and of money. Accordingly, he did not withdraw or go back to the acropolis but fortified the perimeter of Achradina, and, by linking it to the defences of the acropolis, succeeded in holding both areas at once. Meanwhile, Mago and Hicetas had almost arrived at Catana when a courier from Syracuse overtook them and reported the capture of Achradina. They were alarmed at the news and returned at full speed, so that in the end they not only failed to capture the objective for which they had set out, but lost the position they had originally held.

19. In these successes, foresight and courage might very well claim to have played as important a part as fortune, but the success which followed must be entirely credited to good fortune. The Corinthian reinforcements had all this time been waiting at Thurii, partly for fear of the Carthaginian triremes which were lying in wait for them under the command of Hanno, and partly because of a storm which had lasted for many days and had made the sea too rough for them to attempt the crossing; they now set out to travel over land through Bruttium. They used a combination of force and persuasion to make their way through this barbarian territory, and began descending to Rhegium, where a violent storm was still raging at sea. But the Carthaginian admiral had formed the conclusion that the Corinthians would never venture out and that there was thus no object in his continuing to keep watch for them. So he devised, as he imagined, a masterly ruse. He ordered his sailors to crown themselves with garlands, decked out his triremes with scarlet battle-flags and Greek shields, and sailed off towards Syracuse. As he sailed past the acropolis at full speed, his crews clapped their hands and laughed, and he shouted out that he had just defeated and captured the Corinthian reinforcements as they were attempting to cross the straits, imagining that in this way he would make the besieged garrison despair of relief. But while he was engaged in this foolish attempt at deception, the Corinthians, after passing through Bruttium, had already arrived in Rhegium. There they found nobody to bar their passage, and as the gale had unexpectedly died down and left the sea completely calm and smooth, they quickly embarked in the ferry boats and fishing craft which they found at hand and crossed to Sicily; indeed, there was such a dead calm that they were able to make their horses swim alongside and tow them by their reins.

20. As soon as they had all crossed, Timoleon came to meet them and immediately took possession of Messana. There the reinforcements were united with his other troops and the whole army marched on Syracuse. In taking the offensive in this way, he was relying more on the good fortune and success he had so far enjoyed than on the strength of his army, for his entire force numbered no more than four thousand. However, when Mago learnt of his approach he became alarmed and perplexed, and his suspicions were increased by the following circumstance. In the marshes around the city, which receive much fresh water from springs and rivers flowing to the sea, there lived great numbers of eels which could always be caught by anybody who cared to fish for them, and whenever there was a pause in the fighting, the mercenary soldiers of both sides used to fish there together. As they were all Greeks and had no reason to hate each other personally, these men would bravely risk their lives in battle, but at times of truce they would meet and converse in the friendliest fashion. So on this occasion, as they fished, they spoke enthusiastically of how rich the sea was in fish and of the character of the city and the neighbourhood. Then one of the Corinthian garrison said, ‘You are Greeks like us. Can it be that you really want to hand over a great city such as this with all its riches and amenities to the barbarians? Do you really want to plant the Carthaginians, who are the cruellest and wickedest people on earth, so much nearer to our country? You ought to pray that there were many more Sicilies to stand between them and Greece. Or do you imagine that these men have gathered an army from the Pillars of Heracles28 and the Atlantic to risk their lives for the sake of Hicetas and his family? If Hicetas possessed the judgement of a real ruler, he would not be trying to drive out the founders of his city, or leading his country’s enemies against her, when he could be enjoying the honour and authority which would be his by right if he allied himself to Timoleon and the Corinthians.’ The news of these talks quickly spread through the mercenaries’ camp and implanted in Mago’s mind the suspicion that a plot was being hatched against him; he was all the more ready to believe this because he had long been searching for a pretext to leave the island. So although Hicetas begged him to remain and tried to convince him how far superior his forces were to the enemy’s, Mago preferred to believe that Timoleon’s courage and good fortune more than compensated for his weakness in numbers. And so he weighed anchor at once and sailed for Africa, thus allowing Sicily to slip out of his hands to his own discredit and against all human logic.

21. On the day after Mago’s departure, Timoleon drew up his troops to attack. But when the Corinthians learnt of Mago’s flight and saw the docks completely empty of ships, they could not help laughing at his cowardice, and sent a crier round the city to offer a reward for anyone who could tell them to where the Carthaginian fleet had slunk off. In spite of this, Hicetas still put on a bold front and showed no sign of relaxing his grip on the city; instead, he held on tenaciously to those quarters which were well fortified and difficult to attack. Accordingly, Timoleon divided his forces. He himself led the assault along the River Anapus, where the fighting was likely to be fiercest, and ordered another force under Isias the Corinthian to advance on the city from Achradina. A third assault was directed against Epipolae by Deinarchus and Demaretus, the officers who had brought the reinforcements from Corinth. The attack was launched from all three quarters at once, and Hicetas’ troops were soon overwhelmed and routed. To have captured the city by storm and gained control of it so quickly once the enemy had been driven out was undoubtedly due to the valour of the soldiers and the skill of their general, but the fact that not a single Corinthian was killed or even wounded can only be ascribed to Timoleon’s luck: this good fortune of his seemed to rival his own personal courage, so as to make those who learn of his story marvel even more at the providence which smiled on all his undertakings than at his own achievements. His fame now spread not only over Sicily and Italy, but within a few days the news of his success was echoing through every state in Greece; and in Corinth, where the people were still in doubt as to whether the second expedition had reached Sicily, the news of its safe crossing and of its victory arrived at the same moment. The triumph of his campaign was complete and fortune added a special lustre to his achievements because of the extraordinary speed with which they were accomplished.

22. When Timoleon had captured the acropolis, he did not repeat Dion’s mistake of sparing the place because of the beauty of its architecture or the money it had cost to build.29 He was determined not to arouse the suspicions which had brought first discredit and finally disaster upon his predecessor, and so he had it proclaimed that any Syracusan who wished could come with a crowbar and help to cast down the bulwarks of tyranny. Thereupon, the whole population went up to the fortress, and taking that day and its proclamation to mark a truly secure foundation for their freedom, they overthrew and demolished not only the acropolis but also the palaces and tombs of the tyrants. Timoleon immediately had the site levelled and built the courts of justice over it, thus delighting the Syracusans by displaying the supremacy of democracy over tyranny.

But once he had captured the city, Timoleon found it empty of citizens. Many of the Syracusans had perished in the various wars and uprisings, while others had escaped from the rule of the tyrants into exile. The population had declined so rapidly that the market-place of Syracuse had become thickly overgrown, and horses were pastured in the midst of it, while their grooms stretched out beside them on the grass. In the other cities, almost without exception, deer and wild boar roamed at large, and those who had leisure could hunt them in the streets and around the walls. Those citizens who had established themselves in castles and strongholds were unwilling to obey any summons or venture down to the city, and they had come to regard the market-place, political activity and public speaking with fear and horror, because they had so often proved the breeding-ground for their tyrants. Accordingly, Timoleon and the Syracusans decided to write to the Corinthians and urge them to send settlers from Greece. One reason for this was thatthe land would otherwise be doomed to lie uncultivated, and another was that they expected a great invasion from Africa. They had learnt that Mago had committed suicide, that the Carthaginians in their rage at his mishandling of the expedition had impaled his dead body and that they were gathering a great force with the intention of crossing into Sicily in the following summer.

23. When these letters from Timoleon were delivered at Corinth, they were accompanied by delegates from Syracuse, who begged the Corinthians to take the city under their protection and become its founders once again. For their part, the Corinthians would not take any advantage of this opportunity to enrich themselves, nor did they appropriate the city for themselves. Instead, in the first place they visited the sacred games in Greece and the principal religious festivals, and had it publicly proclaimed that they had overthrown the tyranny in Syracuse and driven out the tyrant; they now invited former citizens of Syracuse and any other Sicilian Greeks who wished to settle in the city to go and live there as free and independent men and divided the land among them on just and equal terms. Secondly, they dispatched messages to Asia Minor and to the islands, where they had learnt that most of the scattered groups of exiles were living. These men they invited to come to Corinth, and they promised that the Corinthians would at their own expense provide them with leaders, ships and a safe passage to Syracuse. Through these proclamations, the city of Corinth won for herself the most well-deserved praise and the noblest fame for her actions in liberating the country from its tyrants, rescuing it from the barbarians and restoring it to its legitimate citizens.

However, even when all the exiles had assembled at Corinth their numbers were still too few, and so they begged to be allowed to invite colonists from Corinth and from the rest of Greece. Then, after they had raised their numbers to as many as 10,000, they sailed for Syracuse.30 But in the meantime multitudes of people from Italy and Sicily had now also flocked to Timoleon, and when he found that the total number of immigrants had risen to 60,000, according to Athanis,31 he sold the houses in the city for 1,000 talents. This measure secured for the original owners the right to buy back their houses, and at the same time raised a large sum of money for the benefit of the community. Before this the public funds had sunk so low, not only for any civil requirements but also for the financing of the war, that the community had been obliged to put up the public statues for auction. A meeting of the assembly had been held and a vote taken on the case of each statue, as if they had been officials submitting their accounts. It was on this occasion, so the story goes, that the Syracusans voted to save the statue of Gelon, their former tyrant – although they condemned all the rest to be sold – because they admired and honoured him for the victory he had won over the Carthaginians at Himera.32

24. Now that the city was beginning to revive and its population to be replenished as citizens poured in from every quarter, Timoleon resolved to set the other Sicilian cities free and to root out every tyrant on the island. He therefore invaded the territory of these rulers,33 and compelled Hicetas to abandon his alliance with the Carthaginians and to agree to pull down his fortresses and live as a private citizen in Leontini. And when Leptines,34 the tyrant who ruled Apollonia and a number of other small towns, saw that he was in danger of being captured and he surrendered voluntarily, Timoleon spared his life and sent him to Corinth. He considered that it would be an admirable lesson for the Sicilian tyrants to live in the mother-city which had colonized Sicily and where the Greeks could see them leading the humble life of exiles. Besides this, he was anxious that his own mercenaries should not remain idle but should have the opportunity to enrich themselves by plundering enemy territory. He then returned to Syracuse in order to supervise the remodelling of the constitution and to help Cephalus and Dionysius, the lawgivers who had come from Corinth, to embody its most important provisions in the most satisfactory form. But at the same time he sent out an expedition under Deinarchus and Demaretus into the western districts of Sicily, which were controlled by the Carthaginians. Here they persuaded many cities to revolt against the barbarians, and not only secured great quantities of plunder for themselves, but succeeded in raising money from the spoils to finance the war.

25. Meanwhile,35 the Carthaginians landed at Lilybaeum36 with an army of 70,000 men, 200 triremes and 1,000 transports. These ships carried siege-engines, four-horse chariots, abundant supplies of food and other military stores. The Carthaginians had had enough of the minor operations of earlier campaigns and were determined to drive the Greeks out of Sicily in a single offensive, and indeed their force was quite enough to overwhelm all the Sicilian Greeks, even if the latter had not been disunited and weakened by their own internal quarrels. When the Carthaginians learnt that the territory they controlled was being ravaged by the Corinthians, they were enraged and immediately sent an expedition against them under the command of Hasdrubal and Hamilcar. The news quickly reached Syracuse and the people were so alarmed by the reports of the size of the enemy’s forces that Timoleon could only with difficulty prevail upon 3,000 men out of the many tens of thousands of able-bodied Syracusans to take up arms and march out with him. His force of mercenaries was only four thousand strong, and of these about a thousand lost heart as they neared the Carthaginians and slunk back to Syracuse. They protested that Timoleon must be out of his wits and that the judgement one should expect of a general of his years had obviously deserted him. Not only was he advancing with 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry against an enemy force of 70,000, but he was leading his troops on a march of eight days away from Syracuse. This would make it impossible for any fugitives from the battle to escape, and those who fell on the battlefield could expect no burial. For his part, Timoleon thought it an advantage that these men had revealed their cowardice before the fighting began. As for the rest, he encouraged them and led them by forced marches to the banks of the River Crimisus,37 where he had heard that the Carthaginians were concentrating their forces.

26. Timoleon was climbing a hill, from the crest of which they expected to gain a view of the enemy’s troops and their camp, when quite by chance he met a convoy of mules laden with parsley. The soldiers thought that this was an unlucky omen, because it is our custom to place wreaths of this herb upon tombs – hence the saying concerning anyone who is dangerously ill, that he ‘needs his parsley’. Timoleon was anxious to get rid of their superstitious fears and raise their spirits, and so he ordered a halt and made a short speech to meet the occasion. He made a point of telling them that the crown of victory had of its own accord fallen into their hands before the battle. He was referring to the fact that it is this very herb which the Corinthians use to crown their victors at the Isthmian Games, since they regard parsley as the sacred wreath of their country. For at that date parsley was still used at the Isthmian as it is now at the Nemean Games,38 for it is only quite recently that the pine was introduced at Corinth. So when Timoleon had finished speaking, he took some parsley and crowned himself with it, whereupon the officers and soldiers around him all followed his example. Besides this, the diviners noticed two eagles flying towards them, one of which was clutching a snake in its talons, while the other uttered a loud and inspiring cry as it flew.39 The diviners pointed these out to the soldiers, and the whole army with one accord began to pray and call upon the gods.

27. The time of year was the early summer; the month of Thargelion was nearing its end and the summer solstice was approaching. A thick mist hung over the river, which at first completely enveloped the plain, so that nothing could be seen of the enemy: a confused and indistinguishable noise which echoed up to the brow of the hill was the only indication that their huge army was on the move. When the Corinthians had reached the summit, they halted, laid down their shields and rested. Meanwhile, the sun was climbing towards the meridian and drawing the mist into the upper air. The thick haze began to gather together and drift towards the heights, so that it hung in clouds over the mountain crests, while the lower parts of the valley became clear and open; the River Crimisus came into view and the enemy could be seen crossing it. First came the four-horse chariots formidably arrayed for battle, and next a body of 10,000 hoplites with white shields. These the Corinthians supposed to be Carthaginians, judging by the brilliance of their armour and the slow pace and strict discipline of their advance. After them the troops of other nationalities were surging forward, making the crossing in a confused and disorderly fashion. Timoleon grasped the fact that it was the river which controlled the speed of the enemy’s advance and gave the Greeks the opportunity of cutting off and engaging whatever numbers of the enemy they chose. He pointed out to his men how the enemy’s phalanx had been divided by the river: some had already crossed, while others were still awaiting their turn. So he ordered Demaretus to take the cavalry and charge the Carthaginians, so as to throw their ranks into confusion before they could take up their battle formation. He then marched down into the plain and drew up his own order of battle, for which he placed the Sicilian Greeks on the wings, distributed a few of his mercenaries among them and massed the Syracusans and the best of his mercenary troops in the centre. Then he waited a little to watch the effect of the cavalry charge. He saw that the horsemen could not get to close quarters with the Carthaginians, because the chariots drove up and down and protected their front. The horsemen were compelled to wheel about continually, in order to prevent their own formation from being broken up, and to charge in short rushes whenever the opportunity offered. So Timoleon snatched up his shield and called upon the infantry to take heart and follow him. His voice seemed to them to have taken on a superhuman strength and volume, whether it was from emotion that he raised it so high because of the intensity of the fighting and the enthusiasm which it inspired, or whether, as most of his men felt at the time, some god were speaking through his lips. His troops instantly responded with encouraging shouts, and urged him to lead them on and not wait a moment longer. Thereupon, he ordered the cavalry to ride round the line of chariots and attack the enemy from the flank; at the same time he made his own front ranks close up and lock their shields, and then with the trumpet sounding the charge he bore down upon the Carthaginians.

28. The enemy resisted his first attack courageously, and thanks to the protection of their iron breast-plates and helmets and the great shields which they held in front of them, they were able to ward off the spear-thrusts of the Greeks. But when they closed for sword-fighting and the struggle became a matter of skill no less than of strength, suddenly a tremendous storm burst upon them from the hills, with deafening peals of thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning. The dark clouds which until then had hovered over the mountain peaks descended upon the battlefield, mingled with sudden gusts of wind, rain and hail. The tempest enveloped the Greeks from behind and beat upon their backs, but it struck the barbarians in the face, while the lightning dazzled their eyes as the storm swept violently along with torrents of rain and continual flashes darting out from the clouds. These were terrible disadvantages, especially to inexperienced troops, and above all, it seems, the roar of the thunder and the beating of the rain and hail upon the men’s armour prevented them from hearing their officers’ commands. Besides this, the mud also proved a great hindrance to the Carthaginians who were not lightly equipped, but clad in full armour, as has been said – and so did the water which filled the folds of their tunics and made them heavy and unwieldy in combat. It was easy for the Greeks to fell them, and once on the ground it was impossible for them to rise again from the mud because they were encumbered by their armour. For in fact the Crimisus, which had already been swollen to a torrent by the rain, overflowed its banks because the great numbers who were crossing it impeded its course. At the same time, the surrounding plain, into which many ravines and hollows ran down from the hills, was flooded with rivulets which poured over the ground unconfined to any channels, and among these the Carthaginians floundered and could move only with great difficulty.

At last, as the storm still beat upon them and the Greeks had broken their front line of four hundred men, the main body turned and fled. Many were overtaken in the plain and cut down as they ran, many were caught by the river and swept away as they became entangled with those who were trying to cross, but most of the slaughter was done by the Greek light-armed troops who intercepted the fugitives and dispatched them as they made for the hills. At any rate, it is said that of the 10,000 who fell on the battlefield 3,000 were Carthaginians, a fearful loss to the city, for these men had no superiors in birth, in wealth or in military prowess. Nor is there any record of so many Carthaginians ever having fallen in a single engagement before; this was because they generally employed Libyans, Iberians and Numidians to fight their battles, so that when they were defeated the loss was borne by other nations.

29. The Greeks discovered the exalted rank of those who had fallen through the richness of the spoils. They crossed the river and seized the Carthaginian camp, and those who stripped the bodies paid little attention to bronze or iron, so great was the abundance of silver and gold. A great many prisoners were secreted away by the soldiers,40 but even so 5,000 were delivered into the public stock and 200 of the four-horsed chariots were also captured. But the most glorious and magnificent spectacle of all was Timoleon’s tent, which was surrounded by piles of booty of every kind, among them being 1,000 breast-plates of particularly fine workmanship and 10,000 shields. There was only a small number of men to strip so many bodies, and the quantities of plunder which they found were so immense that it was not until the third day after the battle that they erected a trophy.41

Timoleon sent home to Corinth the handsomest pieces of the captured armour, together with the dispatch announcing his success, for he wished his native city to be the envy of the whole world. His ambition was that in Corinth, alone of Greek cities, men should see the most conspicuous temples adorned not with the spoils taken from Greek states, melancholy offerings obtained by the slaughter of men of their own race and blood, but decked with ornaments won from the barbarians and bearing honourable inscriptions which testified to the justice as well as the courage of the victors: in this instance, the memorial proclaimed that the Corinthians and their general Timoleon freed the Greeks living in Sicily from the yoke of Carthage and thus dedicated these thank-offerings to the gods.42

30. After the battle, Timoleon left his mercenaries to plunder the Carthaginian dominions in the west of the island and returned to Syracuse. There he expelled from Sicily the thousand mercenaries who had deserted him before the battle, and compelled them to leave Syracuse before sunset. These men crossed into Italy and there they were treacherously massacred by the Bruttians: such was the vengeance that the gods took upon them for their betrayal of Timoleon.

But Mamercus of Catana and Hicetas – either because they were jealous of Timoleon’s successes or because they feared him as an implacable enemy who would never trust a tyrant – once more formed an alliance with the Carthaginians and urged them to send a general and an army if they did not wish to be driven out of Sicily altogether. Accordingly, Gisco sailed across with a fleet of seventy ships. His force also included a contingent of Greek mercenaries: the Carthaginians had never employed Greek soldiers before, but by now they had come to admire them, thinking that no one could withstand their attack and believing them to be the most warlike men anywhere to be found. Mamercus and Hicetas joined forces in the territory of Messana and there killed four hundred of Timoleon’s mercenaries who had been sent to reinforce the local inhabitants; next they laid an ambush near the place named Hierae, which was situated in the part of the island controlled by Carthage, and annihilated the force of mercenaries commanded by Euthymus of Leucas. These apparent reverses, however, made Timoleon’s good fortune especially famous. For this band of mercenaries included some of the men who, under the command of Philomelus the Phocian and Onomarchus, had seized Delphi and taken part in the plundering of the sacred treasures.43 This act of sacrilege caused them to be universally detested and shunned as men who had put themselves under a curse. For some time they roamed about the Peloponnese and there they were recruited by Timoleon, who at that time was unable to enlist any other troops. Since they had come to Sicily they had been victorious in every action they had entered under his command, but after his greatest battles had been fought, he had sent them out to help the other Sicilian peoples and there they had perished to a man, not all at once but in a succession of engagements. Thus justice exacted her penalty, while at the same time Timoleon’s good fortune was sustained through a stroke of retribution44 which ensured that no harm should come to the good through the punishment of the wicked.45 In short, the favour which the gods showed towards Timoleon was a cause for wonder just as much in his apparent reverses as in his successes.

31. However, the people of Syracuse were angry at the insults which the tyrants heaped upon them after these defeats. Mamercus, who had a high opinion of himself as a writer of poems and tragedies, boasted of his victory over the mercenaries, and when he dedicated their shields to the gods, he composed the following insulting inscription:

These gilded shields of purple with amber and ivory inlaid

Proved no match in the field for our cheap little shields.46

Afterwards, while Timoleon was engaged in an expedition to Calauria,47 Hicetas made a raid on Syracusan territory, carried off much plunder and caused a great deal of wanton damage. On his return, he marched past Calauria to show his contempt for Timoleon, who only had a small force with him. Timoleon allowed him to pass, but then pursued him with cavalry and light-armed troops. When Hicetas learnt that he was being followed, he crossed the River Damurias48 and halted on the far side to receive the enemy; he was encouraged to do this by the difficulty of the crossing and the steepness of the river banks. This caused an astonishing outburst of rivalry among the officers of Timoleon’s cavalry, which delayed the attack. Not one of them was willing to follow behind his comrades in crossing the river, but each demanded the honour of leading the charge himself. As it was certain that their crossing would be disorderly if they crowded and tried to push their way past one another, Timoleon decided to settle the order of precedence by lot. He, therefore, took a seal-ring from each of the commanders, dropped them all into his cloak, mixed them up, and held up to them the first one that came out, which, as luck would have it, displayed as its device a trophy of victory. When the young officers saw this, they gave a shout of delight and, without waiting for the other rings to be drawn, all made their way across the river-bed and closed with the enemy. Their charge proved irresistible and Hicetas’ troops fled: they all threw away their arms and left a thousand dead upon the field.

32. A little later, Timoleon invaded the territory of Leontini and captured Hicetas alive, together with his son Eupolemus, and Euthymus the commander of his cavalry. The soldiers bound the three of them and led them into Timoleon’s presence. Hicetas and his young son were put to death as tyrants and traitors, and Euthymus, although he was a man of exceptional courage, who had shown great daring in battle, was likewise executed without mercy, because of an insult which he was accused of having uttered against the Corinthians. It was alleged that when the Corinthians were marching against Leontini, Euthymus had made a speech to the people telling them that they had nothing to fear if ‘Corinthian women have come out from their homes’.49 In the same way, the great majority of mankind are more offended by a contemptuous word than by a hostile action, and find it easier to put up with an injury than an insult. An act of self-defence is tolerated from an enemy as a matter of necessity, while insults are regarded as springing from an excess of hatred or spite.

33. On Timoleon’s return the Syracusans put the wives and daughters of Hicetas on trial before the assembly and executed them. This seems to have been the most unpleasant action in Timoleon’s career, for if he had opposed the sentence it would not have been carried out. But apparently he chose not to interfere, and to abandon the victims to the fury of the citizens and their desire to avenge the wrongs done to Dion, who had driven out Dionysius. For it had been Hicetas who had had Dion’s wife Arete, his son, who was still a boy, and his sister Aristomache thrown into the sea alive – as has been recorded in my Life of Dion.50

34. After this, Timoleon marched to Catana against Mamercus, defeated and routed his army in a pitched battle near the River Abolus, and killed over 2,000 of his troops, many of whom were Carthaginian auxiliaries sent him by Gisco. The result of this victory was that the Carthaginians sued for peace and a treaty was negotiated.51 The terms were that they should keep the territory west of the River Lycus,52 that any of the inhabitants of this region who so wished should be allowed to emigrate to Syracusan territory with their families and property and that they should renounce their alliances with the tyrants. This agreement reduced Mamercus to despair, and he sailed to Italy to try to form an alliance with the Lucanians against Timoleon and the Syracusans. But he was deserted by his followers, who put their triremes about, sailed back to Sicily and handed over Catana to Timoleon, so that Mamercus was obliged to seek refuge with Hippo, the tyrant of Messana. Timoleon followed him and blockaded Messana by land and sea, and Hippo was captured as he tried to escape by ship. The people of Messana brought him to the public theatre and summoned their children from the schools to witness that most exemplary of spectacles, the punishment of a tyrant; they then tortured him and put him to death. As for Mamercus, he surrendered to Timoleon on condition that he should be put on trial before the people of Syracuse and that Timoleon should not be his accuser. He was taken to Syracuse, and when he was brought before the assembly, he tried to deliver a speech which he had prepared a long while before. But he was continually shouted down, and when he saw that the assembly was inexorably hostile to him, he threw away his cloak, rushed across the theatre and dashed his head against one of the stone steps in an effort to kill himself. However, he was not lucky enough to die as a result but was taken away while he was still alive and executed like a common thief.

35. In this way, Timoleon rooted out all the tyrannies in Sicily and put an end to the wars between her rulers. When he had first arrived, he found that the island had been reduced almost to a wilderness by its troubles and had grown hateful to its inhabitants. But he transformed it into a country so civilized and so desirable in the eyes of the rest of the world that foreigners came from across the sea to settle in the places from which the native inhabitants had fled before. Acragas and Gela, for example, two great cities which had been left desolate by the Carthaginians after the war with Athens,53 were now repopulated, the first by Megellus and Pheristus from Elea, and the second by Gorgus who sailed from Ceos and brought back with him a number of the original citizens. To all these colonists, Timoleon offered not only security and tranquillity while they were establishing themselves after many years of war, but also supplied their wants and took especial pleasure in assisting them, so that they cherished him as a founder. These feelings were shared by every other city on the island, so that no peace could be concluded, no laws laid down, no land divided between colonists and no constitutional changes made to the general satisfaction, unless Timoleon took a hand in them: he was, as it were, the master-craftsman54 who, when a building is nearing completion, adds a final touch of his artistry which makes the work pleasing to gods and men.

36. At any rate, although in Timoleon’s lifetime there were many Greeks, such as Timotheus,55 Agesilaus,56 Pelopidas and Epaminondas (Timoleon’s especial model), who rose to positions of great power and accomplished great things, yet there was in these men’s achievements an element of violence and of laborious effort which detracts from their lustre, and which in some instances caused their authors to be blamed or to regret what they had done. But in the whole career of Timoleon – if we set aside his treatment of his brother, which was forced upon him by circumstances – there is not a single action to which we could not fittingly, as Timaeus says, apply the words of Sophocles, ‘O gods, what deity of love, what desire had a part in this?57 For the poetry of Antimachus and the paintings of Dionysius (both of them men of Colophon), for all their strength and energy, leave us with an impression of something strained and forced about them; on the other hand, the paintings of Nicomachus58 and the verses of Homer, in addition to the power and grace which they possess, strike us as having been executed with an extraordinary ease and spontaneity. In the same way, if we contrast the generalship of Epaminondas and of Agesilaus – both of whom faced great difficulties and had to overcome tremendous odds – with that of Timoleon, the glories of his achievements seem to have been accomplished almost without effort, and his success appears, if we consider the matter justly and carefully, to be the product not of fortune but of virtue reinforced by fortune. And yet Timoleon himself put down all his successes to fortune, for in his letters to his friends in Corinth and in his public speeches to the Syracusans he often remarked that he was grateful to the divine power which had evidently determined to save Sicily and had designated him as its liberator. Indeed, he built in his house a shrine to Automatia, the goddess of Chance, and dedicated the whole building to the divine spirit.

The house he lived in had been chosen for him by the Syracusans as a prize for his achievements in the field, and they presented him with the pleasantest and most beautiful estate in their territory; here he spent most of his leisure with his wife and children after he had brought them from Corinth. For he never returned to his native land, nor did he play any part in the troubles of Greece at this time, nor expose himself to political envy, the rock upon which so many generals have been wrecked because of their insatiable pursuit of honours and power.59 Instead, he remained in Sicily, enjoying the blessings which he himself had brought about, the greatest of which was the spectacle of so many cities and tens of thousands of people whose happiness was due to his efforts.

37. However, just as every lark, according to Simonides, grows a crest,60 so every democracy produces, it seems, a false accuser, and even Timoleon found himself attacked by two of the Syracusan demagogues, Laphystius and Demaenetus. When Laphystius tried to make him pay surety to appear at a trial, Timoleon refused to allow the people to shout the man down or prevent his action; he told them that he had willingly endured all the trials and dangers of his campaigns for just this object: that any Syracusan who wished could have recourse to the laws. And when Demaenetus launched an outspoken attack in the assembly on Timoleon’s generalship, he offered him no reply but said that he was grateful to the gods for having granted his prayer that he might live to see the Syracusans in possession of the right of free speech.

Timoleon had indeed accomplished what were universally regarded as the greatest and most glorious achievements of any Greek of his time, and he was the only man who had actually performed those exploits which the orators in their speeches at the great festivals were constantly exhorting his countrymen to attempt.61 His good fortune had removed him from the troubles which befell his native land and saved him from staining his hands with the blood of his compatriots. He had shown courage and resourcefulness against barbarians and tyrants, and justice and moderation towards the Greeks and his friends; he had set up most of his trophies without causing tears to be shed or mourning to be worn by his fellow-citizens of Syracuse or of Corinth, and in less than eight years he had restored Sicily to its inhabitants, delivered from the strife and disorders which had constantly plagued it in the past.

As he was now old, his sight failed him, and then after a little while he became completely blind. He had done nothing himself to bring on this condition, nor was he the victim of any wanton trick of fortune, but this impairment of his vision was hereditary, it seems, and came upon him with advancing years: it is said that several of his kindred lost their sight in the same way after it had been weakened by old age. But Athanis records that, while the war against Hippo and Mamercus was still ongoing, Timoleon’s sight was obscured by glaucoma when he was in camp at Mylae, and he says that it was clear to everybody that Timoleon was going blind; however, he did not abandon the siege for this reason, but persevered until he had taken the tyrants prisoner. Then, as soon as he returned to Syracuse, he laid down his post of commander-in-chief and begged the Syracusans to relieve him of it, since the war had been successfully concluded.

38. It was to be expected that Timoleon would endure his misfortune without complaint, but what was more remarkable was the honour and gratitude which the Syracusans showed him in his affliction. They frequently visited him in person and would often bring to his town or country house any strangers who might be staying in the city, so as to let them set eyes on the benefactor of Syracuse. They were delighted and intensely proud of the fact that he had chosen to spend the rest of his life among them, and had disregarded the brilliant reception which had been prepared for him in Greece in consequence of his successes. And of all the many decrees that were passed and ceremonials enacted in his honour, none is more impressive than the resolution voted by the Syracusans that whenever they engaged in a war against a foreign enemy, they would employ a Corinthian as their commander. They also honoured Timoleon in the procedure which they adopted in the meetings of their assembly, for whereas they would discuss ordinary business among themselves, as soon as any important debate was impending, they would send for Timoleon. On these occasions, he would be driven through the market-place in a carriage drawn by mules to the theatre where their assemblies were held. The carriage would then be ushered in and the people would greet him all in unison and call upon him by name. He would return their greeting and allow a short pause for their salutations and applause, after which he would listen carefully to the subject of the debate and finally give his own opinion. When this had been confirmed by a vote, his attendants would escort his carriage out of the theatre, the citizens would cheer and applaud him on his way and would then proceed at once to dispatch the rest of their business by themselves.

39. Such was the honour and affection with which Timoleon was cherished in his last years. He had come to be regarded as the father of the whole people, and at last a mild illness combined with old age to end his life.62 A period of several days was decreed for the city to prepare his funeral and for the inhabitants of the country districts and foreign visitors to assemble. The ceremony was performed with great splendour and the bier, superbly decorated, was carried by a group of young men, chosen by lot, over the ground where the palace of Dionysius had stood before Timoleon had had it pulled down. The bier was followed by many thousands of men and women, all of them crowned with garlands and dressed in white, so that their appearance suggested a festival rather than a funeral. Their tears and their lamentations, which mingled with their praises of the dead man, clearly showed that this was no merely formal tribute nor a ceremony enacted in obedience to a decree, but a true expression of their sorrow and gratitude. At last, when the bier was placed upon the funeral pyre, a man named Demetrius, who possessed the most powerful voice of any herald of his time, read out the following announcement:

The people of Syracuse have decreed the burial of Timoleon the Corinthian, son of Timodemus, at public cost of two hundred minas. They resolve to honour his memory for all time with annual contests of music, horse-racing and athletics, because he overthrew the tyrants, subdued the barbarians, repopulated the largest of the devastated cities and then restored their laws to the people of Sicily.

They buried him in the market-place,63 and later surrounded the area with a colonnade and built wrestling-schools; they set the site apart as a gymnasium for their young men and named it the Timoleonteum. They continued to apply the laws and the constitution which Timoleon had established, and lived for a long time64 in happiness and prosperity.

Comparison of Aemilius and Timoleon

1(40). After this narrative of the two men’s lives, it is clear that a comparison will not find many differences or dissimilarities between them. Both men fought wars against notable opponents, one against Macedonians, the other against Carthaginians. Both won famous victories, one taking Macedonia and putting an end to the royal line of Antigonus in its seventh generation,65 the other annihilating all the tyrannies in Sicily and liberating the island – unless one wants to argue that, whereas Perseus was in full strength and had inflicted a defeat on the Romans when Aemilius encountered him, Dionysius was altogether worn down and desperate when Timoleon encountered him. On the other hand, one might argue in Timoleon’s favour that he defeated many tyrants and vanquished the formidable might of Carthage with an army hastily got together. Aemilius had at his disposal a force of well-disciplined and experienced soldiers, while Timoleon’s men were ill-disciplined mercenaries who had got into the habit of pleasing themselves on campaign. For when equal success is won from unequal resources, the credit must go to the commander.

2(41). Both men were just and incorruptible in their conduct of affairs. But Aemilius seems to have been prepared for this from the outset by the laws of his country, whereas Timoleon’s integrity was self-generated. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that the Romans of that time were all humbly obedient to their traditions, fearing both the laws and their magistrates, whereas there was no other Greek leader or general, save only Dion, who was not corrupted by contact with Sicily. Yet even Dion some people suspect of craving monarchy and dreaming of a Spartan-style kingship. In addition, Timaeus says that the Syracusans dismissed Gylippus and sent him away in disgrace because they found him guilty of avarice and greed in command.66 And many have written about the laws and treaties which Pharax the Spartan and Callippus the Athenian violated in their hope of ruling Sicily.67 Yet who were they and what were their resources that they entertained such hopes? Pharax paid court to Dionysius after the latter had been banished from Syracuse, and Callippus was one of Dion’s mercenary captains. But Timoleon was sent out as general with full powers at the urgent request of the Syracusans; he did not seek power, but needed only to hold on to that power which they gladly gave him. And yet he ended his own command and stepped down from office as soon as he had dissolved the unlawful power of others.

It is admirable of Aemilius that, though he subdued such a great kingdom, he enriched himself by not a single drachma. He neither looked upon nor touched the treasures he seized, and yet he bestowed large amounts on others.68 I do not say that Timoleon is to be blamed because he accepted a fine house and an estate; accepting in such circumstances is not shameful. But not accepting is better and reveals an abundance of virtue, which shows itself in not wanting what one lawfully might have. A body that can endure either heat or cold is weaker than one which can endure both extremes. In the same way, a soul only possesses complete vigour and strength if it is neither corrupted and enervated by success nor humbled by misfortune. On this reckoning, Aemilius is more perfect, since in the grievous misfortune and great sorrow brought on him by the death of his sons he displayed no less greatness and dignity than he did in the midst of his successes. But Timoleon, though he performed a noble deed in killing his brother, could not use his reason to help him face his sorrow but was cast down with regret and grief and could not endure the sight of the agora or speakers’ platform. One should avoid and shun shameful conduct; but over-sensitivity to every kind of ill-report suggests a character which is kind and delicate but not truly great.69

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!