Dionysius I or Dionysius the Elder (c.432-367 BC) was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, in Sicily. He conquered several cities in Sicily and southern Italy, opposed Carthage's influence in Sicily and made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies. He was regarded by the ancients as an example of the worst kind of despot—cruel, suspicious and vindictive.
The Greeks or Hellenes are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.
A tyrant, in the modern English-language usage of the word, is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law, or one who has usurped legitimate sovereignty. Often portrayed as cruel, tyrants may defend their position by oppressive means. The original Greek term, however, merely meant an authoritarian sovereign without reference to character, bearing no pejorative connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods. However, Plato, the Greek philosopher, clearly saw tyrannos as a negative word, and on account of the decisive influence of philosophy on politics, its negative connotations only increased, continuing into the Hellenistic period.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.
Dionysius began his working life as a clerk in a public office.Because of his achievements in the war against Carthage that began in 409 BC, he was elected supreme military commander in 406 BC. In the following year he seized total power and became tyrant. He was married to Aristomache, and had a daughter by her, Arete. He was married at the same time to Doris of Locris, who bore him his son, Dionysius II of Syracuse.
Aristomache was the daughter of Hipparinus of Syracuse, and the sister of the Sicilian tyrant Dion of Syracuse.
Arete（Ancient Greek: Ἀρετή) was the daughter of the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse with Aristomache.
Doris of Locris was the daughter of Xenetus, wife of the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse, and mother of Dionysius II of Syracuse.
Dionysius' rise to tyranny began when he was granted 600 mercenaries to guard his person after he staged a false attack on his own life. He managed to increase this guard to one thousand, and after gradually consolidating his power, he established himself as a tyrant. He employed a group of ancient mercenaries that most likely were Sileraioi. He imposed his mercenaries on all parts of the polis community. This act made it clear that democracy had ended in Syracuse. His rule was "unconstitutional and illegitimate and could not fail to provoke rebellions among the partisans of democratic government".Dionysius' position at home was threatened as early as 403 by those philosophically opposed to tyranny. Sparta, which had in the past deposed tyrants from Corinth to Athens, did not damn Dionysius and his autocracy. In fact, according to the historian Diodorus Siculus, relations between the two were very positive:
The Sileraioi were a group of ancient mercenaries of the Sila, most likely employed by the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse, though it is unknown at what time during Dionysus' reign and to what capacity the Sileraioi were employed. They began to issue coinage between the years 357 and 336 BC, and this coinage provides the bulk of evidence we have of their existence. However, much can be inferred about the ruthless character of the Sileraioi based on what ancient authors wrote about Dionysus' mercenaries in general.
Polis, plural poleis literally means city in Greek. It can also mean a body of citizens. In modern historiography, polis is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, and thus is often translated as "city-state". These cities consisted of a fortified city centre (asty) built on an acropolis or harbor and controlled surrounding territories of land (khôra).
Corinth was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern city of Corinth is located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of the ancient ruins. Since 1896, systematic archaeological investigations of the Corinth Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have revealed large parts of the ancient city, and recent excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture have brought to light important new facets of antiquity.
When the Lacedaemonians [Spartans] had settled the affairs of Greece to their own taste, they dispatched Aristus, one of their distinguished men, to Syracuse, ostensibly pretending that they would overthrow the government, but in truth with intent to increase the power of the tyranny; for they hoped that by helping to establish the rule of Dionysius they would obtain his ready service because of their benefactions to him.
Dionysius even received the privilege of conscripting mercenaries from lands under Spartan authority. The demise of such a prominent democratic polis and the subsequent actions of Dionysius represented a recurring norm in fourth-century Greek states, thanks to the prevalence of mercenaries. The mercenary and the tyrant went hand in hand; for example, Polybius noted that "the security of despots rests entirely on the loyalty and power of mercenaries".Aristotle wrote that some form of "guard" (i.e., a personal army) is needed for absolute kingship, and for an elected tyrant an optimum number of professional soldiers should be employed. Too few would undermine the tyrant's power, while too many would threaten the polis itself. The philosopher also notes that the people of Syracuse were warned not to let Dionysius conscript too many "guards" during his regime.
Polybius was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail. The work describes the rise of the Roman Republic to the status of dominance in the ancient Mediterranean world and includes his eyewitness account of the Sack of Carthage and Corinth in 146 BC, and the Roman annexation of the mainland Greece after the Achaean War.
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he has been called the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.
He fought a war with Carthage from 397 BC to 392 BC with mixed success;his attempts to drive the Carthaginians entirely out of the island of Sicily failed, and at his death they were masters of at least a third of it. He also carried on an expedition against Rhegium, capturing it and attacking its allied cities in Magna Graecia. In one campaign, in which he was joined by the Lucanians, he devastated the territories of Thurii and Croton in an attempt to defend Locri.
The Sicilian Wars, or Greco-Punic Wars, were a series of conflicts fought between Ancient Carthage and the Greek city-states led by Syracuse, Sicily, over control of Sicily and the western Mediterranean between 580–265 BC.
Magna Graecia was the name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy in the present-day regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers, particularly the Achaean settlements of Croton, and Sybaris, and to the north, the settlements of Cumae and Neapolis. The settlers who began arriving in the 8th century BC brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint on Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Most notably the Roman poet Ovid referred to the south of Italy as Magna Graecia in his poem Fasti.
Thurii, called also by some Latin writers Thurium, for a time also Copia and Copiae, was a city of Magna Graecia, situated on the Tarentine gulf, within a short distance of the site of Sybaris, whose place it may be considered as having taken. The ruins of the city can be found in the Sybaris archaeological park near Sibari in the Province of Cosenza, Calabria, Italy.
After a protracted siege, he took Rhegium in 386 and sold the inhabitants as slaves. He also pillaged the temple of Caere (then allied with Rome) on the Etruscan coast.In the Adriatic, to facilitate trade, Dionysius founded Ancona, Adria and Issa. After him, the Adriatic became a sea of Syracuse. In the Corinthian War, he joined the side of the Spartans and assisted them with mercenaries and ships (which contributed in blocking the Athenians' supplies from the Black Sea forcing them to peace) .
In 385 BC, Alcetas of Epirus was a refugee in Dionysius' court. Dionysius wanted a friendly monarch in Epirus, so he sent 2,000 Greek hoplites and 500 suits of Greek armour to help the Illyrians under Bardyllis in attacking the Molossians of Epirus. They ravaged the region and killed 15,000 Molossians, and Alcetas regained his throne.He joined the Illyrians in an attempt to plunder the temple of Delphi. Sparta intervened under Agesilaus, however, and with aid from Thessaly, Macedonia, and the Molossians themselves, the Spartans expelled the Illyrians.
According to some sources, after gaining a prize for one of his tragedies, “The Ransom of Hector” (see Intellectual tastes below), at a competition at the Lenaia festival at Athens,he was so elated that he drank himself to death.According to others, he was poisoned by his physicians at the instigation of his son, Dionysius the Younger, who succeeded him as ruler of Syracuse.
Others report that he died of natural causes shortly after learning of his play's victory in 367 BC. The third theory suggests that the company, of which he was a member, had taken revenge on his earlier purges and taxation imposed upon them, in an attempt to raise money for the war with Carthage.[ citation needed ]
His life was written by Philistus, but the work is not extant.
Like Pisistratus, tyrant of Athens, Dionysius was fond of having literary men about him, such as the historian Philistus, the poet Philoxenus, and the philosopher Plato, but treated them in a most arbitrary manner.Diodorus Siculus relates in his Bibliotheca historica that Dionysius once had Philoxenus arrested and sent to the quarries for voicing a bad opinion about his poetry. The next day, he released Philoxenus because of his friends' requests, and brought the poet before him for another poetry reading. Dionysius read his own work and the audience applauded. When he asked Philoxenus how he liked it, the poet turned to the guards and said "take me back to the quarries." Plutarch relates a version of this story in his On the Fortune of Alexander.
He also posed as an author and patron of literature; his poems, severely criticized by Philoxenus, were hissed at, at the Olympic games, but having gained a prize for a tragedy on the Ransom of Hector at the Lenaea at Athens, he was so elated that he engaged in a debauch which, according to some sources, proved fatal. [ citation needed ]His name is also known for the legend of Damon and Pythias, and he features indirectly (via his son) in the legend of the Sword of Damocles. The Ear of Dionysius in Syracuse is an artificial limestone cave named after Dionysius.
Dionysius was one of the major figures in Greek and European history. He was a champion of the struggle between Europe and Carthage for Sicily, and was the first to bring the war into the enemy's territory. He transformed Syracuse into the most powerful city in the Greek world, and made it the seat of an empire stretching from Sicily across to Italy. Although this empire was technically a constitutional republic, in fact it was the first Greek empire which was in effect a monarchy; in this, Dionysius foreshadowed the accomplishments of Alexander the Great and beyond him of Augustus. He also foreshadowed these later rulers in being one of the first Greek rulers to be given divine honors during his lifetime, and he made innovations in military technique, such as siege engines, which became a standard feature of warfare under Alexander the Great and later generals.
It has been theorized that Brennus was working in concert with Dionysius, who sought to control all of Sicily. Rome had strong allegiances with Messana, a small city state in north east Sicily, which Dionysius wanted to control. Rome's army being pinned down by Brennus' efforts would assist Dionysius's campaign.
In 402 BC Dionysius I began building the Circuit Walls of Syracuse, which included an impressive citadel, the Euryalus fortress, protecting the plateau to the northwest of Syracuse, the remains of which are still visible today. The walls were completed in 397 BC and had the following characteristics:
Building so big a fortress would have involved installing well over 300 tons of stone every day for 5 years.
Dionysius I is mentioned in Dante's Inferno (of the Divine Comedy ) (1308–21) as a tyrant who indulged in blood and rapine and suffers in a river of boiling blood. A fictional version of Dionysius is a character in Mary Renault's historical novel The Mask of Apollo (1966). He also features prominently in L. Sprague de Camp's historical novel The Arrows of Hercules (1965) as a patron of inventors on the island of Ortygia near Syracuse. He is the main character in Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novel Tyrant (2003). He is also featured in the 1962 film Damon and Pythias. He also features in Friedrich Schiller's "Die Bürgschaft", as well as Osamu Dazai's reworked version "Run, Melos!".
position previously held
by Thrasybulus in 465 BC
| Tyrant of Syracuse |
405 BC –367 BC
Dionysius the Younger
Amyntas III was king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon in 393 BC, and again from 392 to 370 BC. He was the son of Arrhidaeus and grandson of Amyntas, one of the sons of Alexander I. His most famous son is Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. He is historically considered the founder of the unified Macedonian state.
This article concerns the period 369 BC – 360 BC
This article concerns the period 309 BC – 300 BC.
Bardylis was a king of the Dardanian Kingdom and probably its founder.
The Battle of Himera, supposedly fought on the same day as the more famous Battle of Salamis, or at the same time as the Battle of Thermopylae, saw the Greek forces of Gelon, King of Syracuse, and Theron, tyrant of Agrigentum, defeat the Carthaginian force of Hamilcar the Magonid, ending a Carthaginian bid to restore the deposed tyrant of Himera. The alleged coincidence of this battle with the naval battle of Salamis and the resultant derailing of a Punic-Persian conspiracy aimed at destroying the Greek civilization is rejected by modern scholars. Scholars also agree that the battle led to the crippling of Carthage's power in Sicily for many decades. It was one of the most important battles of the Sicilian Wars.
The Battle of the Crimissus was fought in 339 BC between a large Carthaginian army commanded by Asdrubal and Hamilcar and an army from Syracuse led by Timoleon. Timoleon attacked the Carthaginian army by surprise near the Crimissus river in western Sicily and won a great victory. When he defeated another much smaller force of Carthaginians shortly afterwards, Carthage sued for peace. The peace allowed the Greek cities on Sicily to recover and began a period of stability. However, another war between Syracuse and Carthage erupted after Timoleon's death, not long after Agathocles seized power in 317 BC.
The Molossians were an ancient Greek tribe and kingdom that inhabited the region of Epirus since the Mycenaean era. On their north frontier, they had the Chaonians and on their southern frontier the kingdom of the Thesprotians. The Molossians were part of the League of Epirus until they sided against Rome in the Third Macedonian War. The result was disastrous, and the vengeful Romans enslaved 150,000 of its inhabitants and annexed the region into the Roman Republic.
Arybbas was a king of the Molossians.
The Siege of Syracuse in 397 BC was the first of four unsuccessful sieges Carthaginian forces would undertake against Syracuse from 397 to 278 BC. In retaliation to the Siege of Motya by Dionysius of Syracuse, Himilco of the Magonid family of Carthage led a substantial force to Sicily. After retaking Motya and founding Lilybaeum, Himilco sacked Messana, then laid siege of Syracuse in the autumn of 397 BC after the Greek navy was crushed at Catana.
Near the site of the first battle and great Carthaginian defeat of 480 BC, the Second Battle of Himera was fought near the city of Himera in Sicily in 409 between the Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Mago and the Ionian Greeks of Himera aided by an army and a fleet from Syracuse. Hannibal, acting under the instructions of the Carthaginian senate, had previously sacked and destroyed the city of Selinus after the Battle of Selinus in 409. Hannibal then destroyed Himera which was never rebuilt.
The Battle of Gela took place in the summer of 405 BC in Sicily. The Carthaginian army under Himilco, which had spent the winter and spring in the captured city of Akragas, marched to confront the Greeks at Gela. The Syracuse government had deposed Daphnaeus, the unsuccessful general of the Greek army at Akragas, with Dionysius, another officer who had been a follower of Hermocrates. Dionysius schemed and gained full dictatorial powers. When the Carthaginians advanced on Gela and put the town under siege, Dionysius marched from Syracuse to confront the threat. He planned to use a complex three-pronged attack plan against the Carthaginians, which failed due to lack of proper coordination. Dionysius chose to evacuate Gela, as the defeat caused discontent in Syracuse and he did not wish to lose his power. Himilco sacked the abandoned city after the Greeks had fled to Camarina.
The Battle of Messene took place in 397 BC in Sicily. Carthage, in retaliation for the attack on Motya by Dionysius, had sent an army under Himilco, to Sicily to regain lost territory. Himilco sailed to Panormus, and from there again sailed and marched along the northern coast of Sicily to Cape Pelorum, 12 miles (19 km) north of Messene. While the Messenian army marched out to offer battle, Himilco sent 200 ships filled with soldiers to the city itself, which was stormed and the citizens were forced to disperse to forts in the countryside. Himilco later sacked and leveled the city, which was again rebuilt after the war.
The Battle of Catana took place in the summer of 397 BC. The Greek fleet under Leptines, the brother of Dionysius I of Syracuse, engaged the Carthaginian fleet under Mago near the city of Catana in Sicily. While the Greek army under Dionysius was present near the city of Catana during the battle, the Carthaginian army under Himilco was away in the interior of Sicily, making a detour around the erupting Mount Etna. The Carthaginian fleet crushed the Greek fleet in the battle, leading to the Carthaginian siege of Syracuse later in 397 BC.
The Battle of Abacaenum took place between the Carthaginian forces under Mago and the Greek army under Dionysius in 393 BC near the Sicilian town on Abacaenum in north-eastern Sicily. Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, had been expanding his influence over Sicels' territories in Sicily. After Dionysius' unsuccessful siege in 394 BC of Tauromenium, a Carthaginian ally, Mago decided to attack Messana. However, the Carthaginian army was defeated by the Greeks near the town of Abacaenum and had to retire to the Carthaginian territories in Western Sicily. Dionysius did not attack the Carthaginians but continued to expand his influence in eastern Sicily.
The Siege of Tauromenium was laid down by Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, in the winter of 394 BC, in the course of the Sicilian Wars against Carthage. After defeating the Carthaginians at the Battle of Syracuse in 397 BC, Dionysius had been expanding his territory and political influence by conquering Sicel lands and planting Greek colonies in northeastern Sicily. Tauromenium was a Sicel city allied to Carthage and in a position to threaten both Syracuse and Messina. Dionysius laid siege to the city in the winter of 394 BC, but had to lift the siege after his night assault was defeated. Carthage responded to this attack on their allies by renewing the war, which was ended by a peace treaty in 392 BC that granted Dionysius overlordship of the Sicels, while Carthage retained all territory west of the Halykos and Himera rivers in Sicily.
Himilco was a member of the Magonids, a Carthaginian family of hereditary generals, and had command over the Carthaginian forces between 406 BC and 397 BC. He is chiefly known for his war in Sicily against Dionysius I of Syracuse.
The Siege of Segesta took place either in the summer of 398 BC or the spring of 397 BC. Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, after securing peace with Carthage in 405 BC, had steadily increased his military power and tightened his grip on Syracuse. He had fortified Syracuse against sieges and had created a large army of mercenaries and a large fleet, in addition to employing catapults and quinqueremes for the first time in history. In 398 BC he attacked and sacked the Phoenician city of Motya despite a Carthaginian relief effort led by Himilco II of Carthage. While Motya was under siege, Dionysius besieged and assaulted Segesta unsuccessfully. Following the sack of Motya, Segesta again came under siege by Greek forces, but the Elymian forces based in Segesta managed to inflict damage on the Greek camp in a daring night assault. When Himilco of Carthage arrived in Sicily with the Carthaginian army in the spring of 397 BC, Dionysius withdrew to Syracuse. The failure of Dionysius to secure a base in western Sicily meant the main events of the Second Sicilian war would be acted out mostly in eastern Sicily, sparing the Elymian and Phoenician cities the ravages of war until 368 BC.
The Sack of Camarina in Sicily took place in 405 BC as part of the Sicilian Wars.
The Siege of Syracuse from 344 to 343/342 BC was part of a war between the Syracusan general Hicetas and the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius II. The conflict became more complex when Carthage and Corinth became involved. The Carthaginians had made an alliance with Hicetas to expand their power in Sicily. Somewhat later the Corinthian general Timoleon arrived in Sicily to restore democracy to Syracuse. With the assistance of several other Sicilian Greek cities, Timoleon emerged victorious and reinstated a democratic regime in Syracuse. The siege is described by the ancient historians Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch, but there are important differences in their accounts.
Invasion of Molossia was a military conflict between Dardanian and Molossian tribes.