Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Dion
Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White
Dion of Syracuse (408-354 B.C.)
These notes, and the accompanying text, are prepared for the use of individual students and small groups following a twelve-week term.
The text is a free mixture of Thomas North's 1579 translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans and John Dryden's 1683 translation. (Dryden for clarity, North for character.) Omissions have been made for length and suitability for the intended age group.
Those using audio versions or other translations may want to preview those editions for similar "necessary omissions."
Who was Dion?
This story is set in the mid-fourth century B.C., in the city-state of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It's the story of two father-and-son tyrant rulers who called themselves kings, both named Dionysius (pronounced Die-oh-nee-see-us). But the main character is Dion (pronounced Dion as in Lion), who was a relative, mentor, and finally mortal enemy to the second Dionysius. It has been pointed out that Dion and his siblings Megacles and Aristomache, as the children of Hipparinus, a wealthy and powerful man, had a social status that the upstart Dionysius I lacked, which suggests that envy might have been partially to blame for the increasing conflict between the families. However, Dionysius was clever enough to make use of Dion's good connections in his dealings with other rulers, where he himself, perhaps, might not have been shown as much respect.
What was Syracuse?
The city-state of Syracuse was located in the southeastern corner of the island of Sicily. We now associate Sicily with Italy rather than Greece, but Syracuse was a Greek city, founded by the city of Corinth and also allied with Sparta. It was divided into "quarters," or neighbourhoods, including Acradina, Ortygia (also spelled Ortigia), and Epipoli (Epipolae).
Trivia Question #1: What famous mathematician and engineer was born in Syracuse? (Answers to trivia questions are below.)
What is a tyrant?
The idea of a "tyrant king" in Ancient Greece was somewhat different from the way we use the word "tyrant" today. It meant an absolute ruler and it wasn't a judgment about whether he was good or evil. (Compare this with the Roman idea of a dictator from the same era, as in the Life of Camillus.)
However, the tyranny of Dionysius I and his son caused resentment in Syracuse, because he was a military hero who had been elected to a top government position but had then taken full control and, essentially, made himself king. Plutarch calls both father and son "the tyrant" or "the Usurper," meaning one who takes power illegally or by force. He almost never refers to either of them as king.
Dion himself is also referred to as "Tyrant of Syracuse," although he held that position for only a short time.
Trivia Question #2: What person in the Bible stayed at Syracuse?
What was Carthage?
In Mary Renault's novel about Dion (see the note that follows), a visitor to Syracuse was surprised at the numerous fortifications that Dionysius had put in place. Someone else explained, "Nothing here makes sense, without the Carthaginians."
Carthage, like Syracuse, was both a city and a state, located just across the sea from Sicily, in present-day Tunisia. By the era of Dionysius I and Dion, it was a major power in the western Mediterranean. The Syracusans' fear of the Carthaginians was, apparently, what kept them from rebelling against the tyrant Dionysius, and also what motivated them to pay high taxes and spend their own time working to build the walls and war machinery.
Trivia Question #3: What saint, whose feast day is December 13, was born in Syracuse?
What was the castle?
Ortygia, an island just across from the rest of the city, was a natural fortress, and had been the original site of Syracuse. (Mary Renault called it "not a fort, but a hidden city.")
Another "castle" was the Euryalus Fortress, which was built on a hill called Epipolae, to protect Syracuse from Carthaginian attack.
It would seem that most of the military events in the story, such as the siege, took place around Ortygia. However, there are references to the Epipolae as well, and as it was also close to the sea, it is not impossible that, for example, Dion's abduction took place there rather than at Ortygia.
Some students may wonder how the Syracusans accessed an island fortress: did they need boats? The answer is that in about 550 B.C., the colonists built a causeway, or raised road, to the island.
The role of Greek philosophy in this story
As described in Lesson One, Dion's heart was "set aflame" when he began to study philosophy with Plato. Among other things, Plato emphasized the need for virtue in one's life. Virtue was defined as moral excellence, but it also included valour (bravery) and physical strength. He named four cardinal, or key, virtues: prudence, fortitude, temperance (moderation and self-control), and justice.
Another point about philosophy is that, in the ancient world, it was not limited to topics such as beauty and evil, but covered many kinds of knowledge, including astronomy, medicine, and physics.
- "It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?" (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
A note about historical fiction
Adults and older high school students may be interested in reading The Mask of Apollo, by Mary Renault (Cox & Wyman Ltd., 1966), from which I have drawn one or two points. However, it is not recommended for younger readers because of its adult themes.
Answer to trivia questions: Archimedes; Paul (Acts 28:12); St. Lucy (Santa Lucia).
Top Vocabulary Terms in the Life of Dion
If you know these words, you're well on the way to mastering the vocabulary for this study. They will not be repeated in the lessons.
1. divers: different, separate; several
2. familiars: close friends
3. fetch: trick
4. galley: a ship powered both by sails and by banks of oars
5. hard by: near to
6. mercenary: Mercenary soldiers are those hired to fight for pay, who do not have a personal interest in the outcome. "Soldiers who were strangers" also refers to mercenaries.
7. mutiny: to rebel against one's leader
8. practice, practise: plan, plot, scheme. British/Canadian spelling differentiates between the noun and the verb; Americans use practice for both. However, the word is also used with its more common meaning: for instance, in Lesson Nine, the sailors were "men practised to fight by sea."
9. strait: tight, narrow. To manage things straitly means to use strictness, not allowing any leeway. To be in "dire straits" means to be in a dangerous situation. A strait is also a channel or waterway, for instance the Strait of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy.
10. tarry: wait
Bonus term: Victuals (pronounced "vittles") are food supplies, also called provisions.
Brought up under the rule of a tyrant "king" (see the introductory notes for this study), Dion might have been headed for a life of bitterness and unhappiness. However, Dion became a valued member of the royal court, first because his sister was married to the king, but also on his own merits. Along the way, he ran into the philosopher Plato, who happened to be visiting Sicily. Dion was already known for his "lofty character, noble mind, and daring courage"; but Plutarch says that, on being introduced to the philosophy of virtue over material success, his heart was "set aflame."
established himself in his government: a nice way of saying that Dionysius had seized power in Syracuse
to compensate her . . . : to make up for her not being Syracusan
an honourable reception: a welcome at the royal court
worth and parts: character and abilities (see the introductory notes)
virtue: see introductory notes
servility: wanting excessively to please others. In this context it may refer to the "servile" people surrounding the tyrant.
intimidation: rule by threat of punishment
obtained the favour of him . . . : got Dionysius to agree, when he had some free time
fortitude: bravery, courage
valiant: brave, showing valour
lost your labour: wasted your time
alluding to his name: Gelon means "to laugh"
Dionysius I or "The Elder": see introductory notes
Doris and Aristomache: the two wives of Dionysius I
Gelon: the founder of Syracuse, known for his generous nature
432 B.C.: Birth of Dionysius I
428/427 or 424/423 B.C.: Birth of Plato
409 B.C.: War against Carthage (see introductory notes), in which Dionysius I distinguished himself as a military leader
408 B.C.: Birth of Dion
406 B.C.: Dionysius I elected to a high government position in Syracuse
405 B.C.: Dionysius I seized full control of Syracuse
402-397 B.C.: Construction of the Euryalus Castle
c. 397 B.C.: Birth of Dionysius II
397-392 B.C.: Further wars with Carthage; it is likely that Dion began his military career towards the end of this time
387 B.C.: Possible date of Plato's first visit to Syracuse
On the Map
On a map (preferably one showing this era), locate the Mediterranean Sea, the Ionian Sea, Italy, Sicily, Syracuse, Carthage, Greece, Corinth, and Sparta (Lacedaemon).
Aegina (Aeginetes): a Greek island near Athens
[Some introductory paragraphs are omitted for length.]
Dionysius the Elder first married the daughter of Hermocrates, a citizen of Syracuse.
[omission for content: his first wife died under sad circumstances]
But after he had established himself in his government, he married again two other wives together: the one a stranger of the city of Locres, called Doris; and the other a native of Sicily, called Aristomache, the daughter of Hipparinus, the chiefest man of all Syracuse, who had been companion with Dionysius the first time he was chosen general. It was said that Dionysius married them both in one day, and that he made as much of the one as he did of the other; though the Syracusans would have their own countrywoman preferred before the stranger. Howbeit Doris, to compensate her for her foreign extraction, had the good fortune to be the mother of the son and heir of the family; while Aristomache continued for a long time without issue, though Dionysius was very desirous to have children by her: so much so that he put her own mother to death, accusing her that she had with sorceries and witchcraft kept Aristomache from being with child.
Dion, Aristomache's brother, at first found an honourable reception for his sister's sake; but his own worth and parts soon procured him a nearer place in his brother-in-law's affection, who, among other favours, gave special command to his treasurers to furnish Dion with whatever money he demanded, only telling him on the same day what they had delivered out.
Now though Dion was before reputed a person of lofty character, of a noble mind, and daring courage, yet these excellent qualifications all received a great development when Plato by good fortune arrived in Sicily, and became acquainted with Dion. Dion was but a young man at that time, but yet had an apter wit to learn, and readier goodwill to follow virtue, than any young man else that followed Plato: as Plato himself writeth, and his own doings also do witness.
For Dion having from a child been brought up with humble conditions under a tyrant, accustomed to a life on the one hand of servility and intimidation, and yet on the other of vulgar display and luxury, the mistaken happiness of people that knew no better thing than pleasure and self-indulgence, yet, at the first taste of reason and a philosophy that demands obedience to virtue, his soul was set aflame; and in the simple innocence of youth, concluding, from his own disposition, that the same reason would work the same effects upon Dionysius, he made it his business, and at length obtained the favour of him, at a leisure hour, to hear Plato.
When Plato came to Dionysius, all their talk in manner was of virtue, and they chiefly reasoned what "fortitude" was: wherein Plato proved that tyrants were no valiant men. From thence, passing further into "justice," he asserted the happy estate of the just, and the miserable condition of the unjust. These arguments Dionysius would not hear out; but, feeling himself, as it were, convicted by Plato's words, and much displeased to see the rest of the bystanders full of admiration for the speaker and having such delight to hear him speak, at last, exceedingly exasperated, he asked the philosopher in a rage what business he had in Sicily. To which Plato answered, "I came to seek a virtuous man."
"It seems then," replied Dionysius, "you have lost your labour."
Now Dion thought that Dionysius' anger would proceed no further, and therefore at Plato's earnest request, he sent him away in a galley with three banks of oars, which was conveying Pollis, a Lacedaemonian captain, back into Greece. Howbeit, Dionysius secretly requested Pollis to kill Plato by the way, as ever he would do him pleasure: if not, yet that he would sell him for a slave, howsoever he did. "For," said he, "he shall be nothing the worse for that: because if he be a just man, he shall be as happy to be a slave, as a free man." Thus, as it is reported, this Pollis carried Plato into the isle of Aegina, and there sold him. For the Aeginetes, having war at that time with the Athenians, made a decree that all the Athenians that were taken in their isle should be sold.
This notwithstanding, Dion was not in less favour and credit with Dionysius than formerly; but was entrusted with matters of great weight, and sent on important embassies to Carthage, in the management of which he gained very great reputation. Besides, the Usurper (Dionysius) bore with the liberty he (Dion) took to speak his mind freely, he being the only man who, upon any occasion, dared boldly say what he thought: as, for example, in the rebuke he gave him (Dionysius) about Gelon. Dionysius was ridiculing Gelon's government, and, alluding to his name, said he had been the laughing stock of Sicily. While others seemed to admire and applaud the quibble, Dion very warmly replied, "Nevertheless, it is certain that you are sole governor here because you were trusted for Gelon's sake; but for your sake no man will ever hereafter be trusted again." For, indeed, Gelon had made a monarchy appear the best, whereas Dionysius had convinced men that it was the worst of governments.
Narration and Discussion
Tell what you know about Dion's early life.
Why do you think the relationship between Plato and Dionysius didn't work out well? What does it say about Dion's character and reputation that Dionysius still respected and trusted him after the Plato incident?
For further thought: We often grow up assuming that our own experience is the "norm"; but then something or someone causes us to view it with new eyes. How might this have been true of Dion?
Creative narration: Choose a scene from this passage, such as the Dion trying to convince Dionysius to arrange a meeting with Plato, or the "philosophy lesson"; and either expand it in writing or act it out.
In the first reading, we met Dionysius I, the tyrant ruler of Syracuse. When he died, he left his son Dionysius II as his successor; but, as the younger Dionysius had no training in matters of state, and had been brought up only to please himself, Syracuse became even more unsettled than it had been under his father.
Dion continued to apply his philosophical principles to his influential position as an advisor to the new king. His extremely serious attitude, however, did not please everyone.
Dion married her, being his niece: Dion's sister was married to the king, so Dionysius I was his brother-in-law; but he later married his niece Arete, the daughter of that same sister and the king, making Dionysius I also his father-in-law, and Dionysius II his brother-in-law (doubly so because Dionysius II married the sister of Arete).
ingratiate themselves: put themselves in favour
insensibility: state of unconsciousness
followed by his death: Plutarch implies that he was given an overdose of medicine; other accounts say that a play he wrote won a prize and that he became ill after too much celebration. Possibly both are true.
advance his interest: make him successful
evil-brought-up: the unfortunate early training of Dionysius II will be described in Lesson Three
drunken debauch: wild party
many days: translations vary in the number of days given
buffoonery: crazy behaviour
construed into reprimand: taken as criticism
censured: scolded, criticized
misdemeanours: sins, crimes
austere: plain to the point of being harsh
obstinacy: stubbornness, refusal to move
in tickle state: a situation that might turn disastrous if not handled carefully
Arete: daughter of Aristomache. Dion, her uncle, became her second husband.
367 B.C.: Death of Dionysius I
Dionysius the Elder had by his Locrian wife, Doris, three children; and by Aristomache four, of the which two were daughters, the one called Sophrosyne, and the other Arete. Of them, Dionysius' eldest son married Sophrosyne, and Arete was married unto his brother Thearides, after whose death Dion married her, being his niece.
Now, when Dionysius was sick and likely to die, Dion endeavoured to speak with him on behalf of the children he (Dionysius) had by Aristomache; but he was prevented by the physicians, who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the next successor; who also, as Timaeus reports, gave him a sleeping potion which he asked for, which produced an insensibility only followed by his death.
Nevertheless, at the first council which the young Dionysius held with his friends, Dion discoursed so well of the present state of affairs that he made all the rest appear in their politics but children, and in their votes rather slaves than counsellors, who, in a beastly and cowardly manner, advised what would please the young man, rather than what would advance his interest. But that which startled them most was the proposal he made to avert the imminent danger they feared of a war with the Carthaginians, undertaking, if Dionysius wanted peace, to sail immediately over into Africa, and conclude it there upon honourable terms; but, if he rather preferred war, then he would fit out and maintain, at his own cost and charges, fifty galleys ready to row.
Dionysius wondered much at his greatness of mind, and received his offer with satisfaction. But the other courtiers, thinking his generosity reflected upon them, and jealous of being lessened by his greatness, from hence took all occasions to accuse him, not sparing any reproachful words against him, to move Dionysius to be offended with him. For they complained of him, and said that he cunningly practised to possess the tyranny, making himself strong by sea, going about by his galleys to make the tyranny fall into the hands of the children of Aristomache his sister.
But the chiefest cause of all why they did malice and hate him was his strange manner of life: that he neither would keep company with them, nor live after their manner. For they that from the beginning were crept in favour and friendship with this young evil-brought-up tyrant (Dionysius II), by flattering of him, and feeding him with vain pleasures, studied for no other thing but to entertain him in love matters and other vain exercises, such as to riot and banquet, and all such other vile vicious pastimes and recreations [omission for length and content]. It is reported of him that, having begun a drunken debauch, he continued it many days without intermission; in all which time no person on business was allowed to appear, nor was any serious conversation heard at court, but drinking, singing, dancing, and buffoonery reigned there without control.
It is likely then they had little kindness for Dion, who never indulged himself in any youthful pleasure or diversion: whereupon they accused him, and misnamed his virtues vices, being somewhat to be resembled unto them. They called his gravity, "pride"; his plainness and boldness in his oration, "obstinacy"; the good advice he gave was all construed into reprimand; and he was censured for neglecting and scorning those in whose misdemeanours he declined to participate. For to say truly, his manners by nature had a certain haughtiness of mind and severity, and he was a sour man to be acquainted with: whereby his company was not only troublesome, but also unpleasant to this younger Dionysius, whose ears were so fine that they could not stand to hear anything but flattery.
And furthermore, divers of his very friends and familiars, that did like and commend his plain manner of speech and noble mind, they did yet reprove his sternness, and austere conversation with men. For it seemed unto them that he spoke too roughly and dealt overhardly with them that had to do with him, and more than became a civil or courteous man. And for proof hereof, Plato himself sometime wrote unto him (as if he had prophesied what should happen) that he should beware of obstinacy, the companion of solitariness, that bringeth a man in the end to be forsaken of everyone.
This notwithstanding, they did more reverence him at that time than any man else, because of the state and government, and for that they thought him the only man that could best provide for the safety and quietness of the tyranny, the which stood then in tickle state.
Narration and Discussion
Dion criticized the men of the assembly because they, "in a beastly and cowardly manner, advised what would please the young man, rather than what would advance his interest." Why would that make them beastly and cowardly? What kind of counsel and advice did Dion prefer to give? Which way shows more true loyalty? (See Prov. 24:24-25)
Creative narration: Write a conversation between two Syracusans, one who thinks Dion is a valuable asset to the government and a good person to have around, and another who wishes they could rid themselves of him.
For further thought: Those who disliked or envied Dion "called his gravity, 'pride'; his plainness and boldness in his oration, 'obstinacy'" and so on. Think of someone who has some characteristic you don't like or can't relate to, and see if you can find a positive side to them.
If you were bringing up a prince, how would you teach him to be a good and wise ruler? Dionysius I apparently did few or none of these things. He brought up his son to be self-centered, fearful, and useless; to have no love for learning, and to care only for entertainment. (It was a good way of making sure that he stayed in the background.)
Seeing this, Dion pushed young Dionysius to bring Plato back to Syracuse, and hoped that this attempt to plant seeds of wisdom would be more successful than the attempt previously made with his father.
the liberal sciences: the study of philosophy, natural science, mathematics etc. such as Dion had studied with Plato
artificer: a skilled craftsperson or artisan
allow: admit (to something)
marred: spoiled, ruined
cast away: destroyed
refer himself wholly . . . : put himself completely under his direction
God: Dryden translates this section "living after the likeness of the divine and glorious model of Being, out of obedience to whose control the general confusion is changed into the beautiful order of the universe . . . "
rehearsing these exhortations: preaching these sermons
vehement: strong, forceful
pliant: able to be shaped; impressionable
counterpoise: a factor that balances or neutralizes another
calumnies: lies, rumours
subvert: undermine, damage
over-licentious and imperious: also translated "dissolute and licentious"; unrestrained, high-handed, and (by implication) immoral
democratic: a form of government where a large number of people vote on decisions
aristocracy: in this context, the same as oligarchy, a form of government where a few elite rulers make the decisions
castle: see introductory notes for this study
decorum: good manners
concourse: crowd, gathering
Philistus (432-356 B.C.): (also spelled Philistos) a Syracusan historian. The Roman orator Cicero (much later) complimented him by calling him "the miniature Thucydides." It was partly through his wealth and influence that Dionysius I had been able to rise to power in Syracuse. He had been exiled during one of Dionysius' bouts of over-suspicion, but used that time to write the history of Sicily. He became extremely influential in the court of Dionysius II, and led much of the opposition to Dion.
Theodotes: a Syracusan general
Heracleides: (or Heraclides) Another Syracusan general. You might not notice him much here, but he will reappear in Lesson Nine.
366 B.C.: Dionysius II asserted his control over Syracuse
Now Dion well understood that he owed not his high position unto any goodwill or kindness, but to the mere necessities of the Usurper.
And, supposing that ignorance and want of education in Dionysius was the cause, he devised to put him into some honest trade or exercise, and teach him the liberal sciences, and to give him some knowledge of moral truths and reasonings, hoping he might thus lose his fear of virtuous living, and learn to take pleasure and delight in honest things. For Dionysius, of his own nature, was none of the worst sort of tyrant; but his father, fearing that if he came once to understand himself better, and converse with wise and reasonable men, he might enter into some design against him, and dispossess him of his power: he ever kept him locked up in a chamber, and would suffer no man to speak with him. Then the younger Dionysius having nothing else to do, gave himself to make little chariots, candlesticks, chairs, stools, and tables of wood.
For the elder Dionysius was so diffident and suspicious, and so continually on his guard against all men, that he would not so much as let his hair be trimmed with any barber's or hair-cutter's instruments, but made one of his artificers singe him with a live coal. Neither were his brother or his son allowed to come into his apartment in the dress they wore, but they, as all others, were stripped to their skins by some of the guard [omission], and then put on other clothes before they were admitted into his presence.
[omission for length and content]
So timorous was he, and so miserable a slave to his fears; yet he had been very angry with Plato, because he would not allow him to be the valiantest man alive.
Dion, as we said before, seeing the son clean marred, and in manner cast away for lack of good education, persuaded him the best he could to give himself unto study, and by the greatest entreaty he could possibly make, to pray Plato, the prince of all philosophers, to come into Sicily. And then when through his entreaty he were come, that he would refer himself wholly unto him, to the end that reforming his life by virtue and learning, and knowing God thereby (the best example that can be possible, and by whom all the whole world is ruled and governed, which otherwise were out of all order and confused), he should first obtain great happiness to himself, and consequently unto all his citizens also, who ever after through the temperance and justice of a father, would with goodwill do those things which they presently unwillingly did for the fear of a lord, and in doing this, from a tyrant he should come to be a king.
Dion oftentimes rehearsing these exhortations unto Dionysius, and otherwhile repeating some of the philosopher's sayings, he awoke in him a wonderful, and, as it were, a vehement desire to have Plato in his company, and to learn of him. So sundry letters came from Dionysius unto Athens, divers requests from Dion, and great entreaty made by certain philosophers, that prayed and persuaded Plato to come and obtain a hold upon this pliant, youthful soul, which his solid and weighty reasonings might steady, as it were, upon the seas of absolute power and authority. Plato, as he tells us himself, out of shame more than any other feeling, lest it should seem that he was all mere theory, and that of his own goodwill he would never venture into action, hoping withal, that if he could work a cure upon one man, the head and guide of the rest, he might remedy the distempers of the whole island of Sicily, yielded to their requests.
But Dion's enemies fearing the change and alteration of Dionysius, they persuaded him to call Philistus the historian home again from banishment, who was a learned man, and at the same time of great experience in the ways of tyrants, and who might serve as a counterpoise to Plato and his philosophy.
[omission for length and content]
Philistus no sooner returned, but he stoutly began to defend the tyranny; and at the same time various calumnies and accusations against Dion were by others brought to the king, saying that he had held correspondence with Theodotes and Heracleides to subvert the government; as, doubtless, it is likely enough, that Dion had entertained hopes, by the coming of Plato, to bridle and lessen a little the over-licentious and imperious tyranny of Dionysius, and thereby to frame Dionysius a wise and righteous governor. But on the other side, if he saw he would not follow his counsel, and that he yielded not to his wise instructions, he then determined to depose him, and to bring the government of the commonwealth into the hands of the Syracusans: not that he approved a democratic government, but thought it altogether preferable to a tyranny, when a sound and good aristocracy could not be procured.
This was the state of affairs when Plato came into Sicily, where he was marvellously received and honoured by Dionysius. For when he landed on the shore, leaving his galley that brought him: there was ready for him one of the king's rich and sumptuous chariots to convey him to the castle: and the tyrant made sacrifice to give the gods thanks for his coming, for the great happiness which had befallen his government. The citizens, also, began to entertain marvellous hopes of a speedy reformation, when they observed the modesty which now ruled in the banquets, and the general decorum which prevailed in all the court, their tyrant himself also behaving with gentleness and humanity in all their matters of business that came before him. There was a general passion for learning and philosophy, insomuch that the very palace, it is reported, was filled with sand and dust by the concourse of the students in mathematics who were working their problems there.
Narration and Discussion
Plutarch says that Dionysius I was powerful, but that he was a slave to his fears. How did this affect the upbringing of his son?
Why did certain people fear the alteration in Dionysius when he came under Plato's influence? Do you think the change will stick?
For older students and further thought: "From a tyrant he should come to be a king." What does this mean; wasn't Dionysius a king already? For a discussion of true kingship, look up Proverbs 31:3-9. Those who have read The Once and Future King (T.H. White) or The Prydain Chronicles (Lloyd Alexander) may find thoughts there as well.
Creative narration: Write, illustrate, or act out a scene between people in the royal court, discussing the strange change that has come over Dionysius, and how much they are now enjoying geometry; or write a letter from one character to another discussing the same thing.
The positive changes that had begun in Dionysius II caused him to wonder (out loud) if his rule over Syracuse was the best thing for the city. However, there were certain people who liked the government just the way it was; who felt threatened (as his father had) any time Dionysius began to think for himself; and who wanted very much to bring Dion's behind-the-scenes power to an end. Dion suddenly found himself accused of conspiring with Carthage, and banished to Greece, which actually turned out to be a great opportunity for him.
Plato was also sent home, but was then cajoled into returning. Dionysius could never seem to make up his mind about exactly what it was he wanted; but when he did demand something, there was no crossing him.
conjectured: formed an opinion
converse: conversation, interaction
eloquence: power of speech
they were all lost and cast away: they had failed utterly
hard usage: bad treatment
some act which he should be sorry for: "Dion's stubbornness might force me to do something to him that I will regret later."
adherents: friends, supporters
In the meantime fell out war: Carthage, seeing that Syracuse was no longer protected by a strong ruler, and discovering that Dion had been exiled, took advantage of the situation and attacked the city.
revenues: income from properties, business ventures, etc.
seat: country house; estate
infamy: reputation for evil
Callippus: (also spelled Kallippos) a philosopher who will return to the story later
Speusippus: (or Speusippos) an Athenian philosopher who also happened to be the nephew of Plato. After Plato's death, Speusippus directed the Academy in Athens for several years.
366 B.C.: Dion banished from Syracuse
On the Map
Peloponnesus: the southern part of Greece, which included Sparta
Some few days after, it was the time of one of the Syracusan sacrifices; and when the priest, as he was wont, prayed for the long and safe continuance of the tyranny, Dionysius, it is said, as he stood by, cried out, "Leave off praying for evil upon us." This vexed Philistus and his party, who conjectured that if Plato, upon such brief acquaintance, had so far transformed and altered the young man's mind, longer converse and greater intimacy would give him such influence and authority that it would be impossible to withstand him.
And therefore they now began, not one by one, nor in hugger-mugger, but all of them with open mouth together, to accuse Dion: and said that it was easy to be seen how he charmed and enchanted Dionysius through Plato's eloquence, to make him willing to resign his government, because he (Dion) would transfer it to the hands of the children of his sister Aristomache. Others seemed to be offended because the Athenians, having previously come before into Sicily with a great army, both by sea and land, they were all lost and cast away, and could not win the city of Syracuse; and because now by one only sophister, they (the Athenians) utterly destroyed and overthrew the empire of Dionysius; persuading him to discharge the ten thousand soldiers he had about him for his guard, to forsake the four hundred galleys, the ten thousand horsemen, and as many more footmen, to go seek in the schools an unknown and imaginary bliss, and learn by mathematics how to be happy; while, in the meantime, the substantial enjoyments of absolute power, riches, and pleasure would be handed over to Dion and his sister's children.
By suchlike accusations and wicked tongues, Dionysius began first to mistrust Dion, and afterwards to be openly offended with him, and to frown upon him. In the meantime they brought letters Dion wrote secretly unto the governors of the city of Carthage, willing them that, when they would make peace with Dionysius, they should not talk with him unless he (Dion) stood by: assuring them that he would help them to set things in quietness, and that all should be well again.
When Dionysius had read these letters with Philistus, and had taken his advice and counsel what he should do, as Timaeus said, he deceived Dion under pretense of reconciliation, making as though he meant him no hurt, and saying that he would become friends again with him. So he brought Dion one day to the seaside under his castle, and showed him these letters, burdening him to have practised with the Carthaginians against him. And as Dion went about to make him answer, to clear himself, Dionysius would not hear him, but caused him to be taken up as he was, and put into a boat, and commanded the mariners to set him ashore upon the coast of Italy.
When this was publicly known, and was thought very hard usage, there was much lamentation in the tyrant's own household on the part of the women; but the citizens of Syracuse encouraged themselves, expecting that for his sake some disturbance would ensue; which, together with the mistrust others would now feel, might occasion a general change and revolution in the state. Dionysius, seeing this, took alarm, and endeavoured to pacify the women and others of Dion's kindred and friends, assuring them that he had not banished him, but only sent him out of the way for a time, for fear of his own passion, which might be provoked someday by Dion's self-will into some act which he should be sorry for. He gave also two ships to his relations, with liberty to send into Peloponnesus for him whatever of his property or servants they thought fit. Dion was very rich, and had his house furnished with little less than royal splendour and magnificence. These valuables his friends packed up and conveyed to him, besides many rich presents which were sent him by the women and his adherents. So that, as far as wealth and riches went, he made a noble appearance among the Greeks, and they might judge, by the affluence of the exile, what was the power of the tyrant.
But now concerning Plato: when Dion was exiled, Dionysius caused him (Plato) to be lodged in his castle, and by this means craftily placed, under cloak of friendship, an honourable guard about him, lest he should follow Dion, and declare to the world, on his behalf, how injuriously he had been dealt with. Howbeit Dionysius often frequenting his company (as a wild beast is made tame by company of man), he liked his talk so well, that he began to love the philosopher, but with such an affection as had something of the tyrant in it, requiring of Plato that he should, in return of his kindness, "love him only," and attend to him above all other men; being ready to put the whole realm into his hands, and all his forces, so that he would think better of him than of Dion. This extravagant affection was a great trouble to Plato, for it was accompanied with petulant and jealous humours, like the fond passions of those that are desperately in love. In a moment he would suddenly fall out with him, and straight again become friends, and pray him to pardon him.
In the meantime fell out war, and thereupon he sent Plato again away, promising him that the next spring he would recall Dion home, though in this he broke his word at once. Nevertheless, he sent him (Dion) his revenues, desiring Plato to excuse him as to the time appointed, because of the war; but, as soon as he had settled a peace, he would immediately send for Dion, whom in the meantime he prayed to have patience and not to attempt any stir or alteration against him, nor to speak evil of him among the Grecians.
This Plato sought to bring to pass, and brought Dion to study philosophy, and kept him in the Academy at Athens. Dion sojourned in the Upper Town of Athens, with Callippus, one of his acquaintance; but for his pleasure he bought a seat in the country, which afterwards, when he went into Sicily, he gave to Speusippus, who had been his most frequent companion while he was at Athens: Plato so arranging it, with the hope that Dion's austere temper might be softened by agreeable company, with an occasional mixture of seasonable mirth [omission for length].
Dion went also to see several other cities, visiting the noblest and most statesmanlike persons in Greece, and joining in their recreations and entertainments in their times of festival. In all of this, no sort of vulgar ignorance, or tyrannic assumption, or luxuriousness was remarked in him; but, on the contrary, a great deal of temperance, generosity, and courage, and a well-becoming taste for reasoning and philosophic discourses. By which means he gained the love and admiration of all men, and in many cities had public honours decreed him; the Lacedaemonians making him a citizen of Sparta, without regard to the displeasure of Dionysius, though at that time he was aiding them in their wars against the Thebans [omission for length].
After some little time, Dionysius, envying Dion, and jealous of the favour and interest he had among the Grecians, put a stop upon his incomes, and no longer sent him his revenues, the which he gave to his receivers to keep. Furthermore, because he would clear himself of the infamy he had got amongst the philosophers for Plato's sake, he collected in his court many reputed learned men; and ambitiously desiring to surpass them in their debates, he was forced to make use, often incorrectly, of arguments he had picked up from Plato. And now he wished for his (Plato's) company again, repenting he had not made better use of it when he had it, and had given no greater heed to his admirable lessons. Like a tyrant, therefore, inconsiderate in his desires, headstrong and violent in whatever he took a will to, a sudden vehement desire took him in the head to have Plato again.
[Omission for length: Dionysius persuaded Plato to come back to Sicily.]
Narration and Discussion
Discuss what makes up a healthy friendship, and compare it to the Dionysius-Plato relationship. Why did Dionysius send Plato away? Why did he then want him back again?
How did Dion's manners change in Greece? What do you think his friendship with the Greeks could mean for him in the future?
For older students and further thought: In Mary Renault's novel The Mask of Apollo, Dion quotes something he has learned from Plato: "Philosophy is not a tool which can be passed about like a mason's rule; it is a fire struck from the glow of minds in search of truth." How well do you think Dionysius understood that concept?
Creative narration: Write or act out a scene in which Dion learns that his money has been cut off. How might he react?
Plato reluctantly accepted the invitation to return to Syracuse, but it didn't seem clear exactly what was expected of him. Dionysius welcomed him as a friend, offered him money, and even exempted him from the routine searches and palace metal detectors (so to speak). But when Plato wouldn't stop asking questions about Dion's absence, Dionysius (like his father) showed his vengeful side.
move him again of Dion: persuade him again to bring Dion back
talent of silver: A silver talent weighed 57 lb. (25.8 kg), and was the equivalent of several years' wages for a skilled worker.
prognosticate: predict, foretell
he stood engaged for his safety . . . : Dionysius had guaranteed Plato's safety to Archytas, and therefore Archytas could formally request his return on the grounds that he was in danger.
dissuade him from it: persuade him not to do it
Dion was of great years: Dion would have been about fifty.
Aristippus: a philosopher from Cyrene, who had lived in Athens and studied with Socrates, but later lived much of his life in Syracuse
Helicon: a disciple of Plato, from the town of Cyzicus in Asia Minor
Archytas: a philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, and statesman, who lived in the city of Tarentum, in Italy
Timocrates: A Syracusan military leader who was sent to aid Sparta in 366 B.C. (at about the time that Dionysius II began his rule).
Eudemus the Cyprian: a philosopher and friend of Aristotle
Miltas the Thessalian: a member of the Platonic Academy
Now Plato being arrived in Sicily, he made Dionysius a great joyful man, and filled all Sicily again with great good hope: for they were all very desirous, and did what they could to make Plato overcome Philistus, and philosophy triumph over tyranny. The women of Dionysius' court did entertain Plato the best they could: but above all, Dionysius seemed to have a marvellous trust and affiance in him, more than in any other of all his friends. For he suffered Plato to come to him without searching of him, and oftentimes offered to give him a great sum of money: but Plato would take none of it. Therefore Aristippus the Cyrenaean being at that time in the tyrant's court in Sicily, said that Dionysius was very safe in his munificence: he gave little to those who were ready to take all they could get, and a great deal to Plato, who would accept of nothing.
After Dionysius had given Plato his welcome, he (Plato) began to move him again of Dion. Dionysius on the other side, at the first did use him with fine delays, but afterwards he showed himself angry indeed: and at length fell out with Plato, but yet so covertly, that others saw it not. For Dionysius endeavoured to conceal them, and, by other civilities and honourable usage, to draw him off from his affection to Dion. And for some time Plato himself was careful not to let anything of this dishonesty and breach of promise appear, but bore with it, and made as though he believed him.
While matters stood thus between them, and as they thought, they were unobserved and undiscovered, Helicon the Cyzicenian, one of Plato's followers, foretold an eclipse of the sun, which happened according to his prediction: for which he was much admired by the tyrant, and rewarded with a talent of silver. Then Aristippus, sporting with other philosophers, said he could tell them of a stranger thing to happen than that. So when they prayed him to tell them what it was: "I do prognosticate," said he, "that Plato and Dionysius will be enemies ere it be long."
At length, Dionysius sold all Dion's goods, and kept the money himself; and he removed Plato from an apartment he had in the gardens of the palace to lodgings among the guards he kept in pay, who from the first had hated Plato, and sought opportunity to kill him, supposing he (Plato) advised Dionysius to leave his tyranny and disband his soldiers.
When Archytas understood the danger Plato was in, he immediately sent a galley with messengers to demand him of Dionysius: alleging that he stood engaged for his safety, upon the confidence of which Plato had come to Sicily. Dionysius, to excuse himself, and to show that he was not angry with him at his departure from him, he made him all the great cheer and feasts he could, and so sent him home with great shows of goodwill. One day among the rest, he said unto Plato: "I am afraid, Plato," said he, "that thou wilt speak evil of me, when thou art among thy friends and companions in the Academy." Then Plato smiling, answered him again: "The gods forbid that they should have such scarcity of matter in the Academy, as that they must needs talk of thee." Thus was Plato's return, as it is reported, although that which he himself writeth agrees not much with this report.
These things went to Dion's heart, so that shortly after he showed himself an open enemy unto Dionysius, but especially when he heard how he had handled his wife; on which matter Plato, also, had had some confidential correspondence with Dionysius. Thus it was. After Dion's banishment, Dionysius, when he sent Plato back, had desired him to ask Dion privately if he would be averse to his wife's marrying another man [omission for content]. Soon afterwards, Dionysius forced Dion's wife (and his own sister) Arete, against her will, to marry Timocrates, one of his favourites [omission for content].
Dion from thenceforth disposed himself altogether unto war, against Plato's counsel and advice: who did his best endeavour to dissuade him from it, both for the respect of Dionysius' good entertainment he had given him, as also for that Dion was of great years. Howbeit on the other side, Speusippus and his other friends did provoke him unto it, and did persuade him to deliver Sicily from the slavery and bondage of the tyrant, the which held up her hands unto him, and would receive him with great love and goodwill. For whilst Plato lay at Syracuse, Speusippus keeping the citizens company more than Plato did, he knew their minds better than he. For at the first they were afraid to open themselves unto him (Speusippus), and frankly to speak what they thought, mistrusting he was a spy unto the tyrant, sent amongst them to feel their minds: but within a short time they began to trust him, and were all of one mind, for they prayed and persuaded Dion to come, and not to care otherwise for bringing of ships, soldiers nor horses with him; but only to hire a ship, and to lend the Sicilians his person and name against Dionysius.
This information from Speusippus encouraged Dion, who, concealing his real purpose, employed his friends privately to raise what men they could; and many statesmen and philosophers were assisting him, as, for instance, Eudemus the Cyprian and Miltas the Thessalian. But of all that were banished by Dionysius, who were not fewer than a thousand, five and twenty only joined in the enterprise; the rest were afraid and abandoned it.
Narration and Discussion
Plato returned to Syracuse because Dionysius had promised, in return, to bring Dion out of his banishment. Do you think he expected Dionysius to keep his promise?
Was Dion justified in planning war against Dionysius? What were the reasons for and against it?
For further thought: One of the philosophers predicted a solar eclipse. Another foretold that Dionysius and Plato would become enemies. Both predictions were made by recognizing conditions that would make an event possible or likely to happen, and this interest in "why" was of great interest to Greek philosophers.
As part of the AmblesideOnline curriculum, you may be reading Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley, which examines these questions. The idea of cause and effect is also explored in literature, from great novels down to picture books such as Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema (Dial Books, 1975).
Choose one historical event or natural phenomenon, and explain the chain of events which caused it. Alternatively, try to predict something that will happen, based on your understanding of the conditions necessary for it to occur.
Creative narration: Plato, after his rescue by Archytas, would have returned to Athens as soon as he could. Write or act out a meeting between Plato and his friends at the Academy, or between Plato and Dion (who was living in Athens at that time).
Over the next year or so, Dion prepared for war against Dionysius by hiring as many mercenary soldiers as he could; his plan was to take them to Sicily and raise up a Syracusan army as well. The soldiers were not enthusiastic at first, believing that this was just a private grudge match between Dion and the tyrant. But when Dion promised them that they would be captains over the Syracusans, and they realized that he had the support of wealthy and powerful friends, they seemed to catch the spirit of the thing; especially with the help of some "good omens" like an eclipse.
animate: bring to life, push into action
muster-master: an officer who takes account of troops and their equipment
arbitrary government: This can refer to a government that is set over people without their agreeing to it; but, more specifically, it describes a government without limits, run at the whims of those in power.
Etesian winds: north winds of the Aegean Sea
in all their arms and accoutrements: carrying their weapons and wearing their uniforms
libations: "drink offerings"; religious rituals involving the pouring out of wine to a deity
God: Dryden, "the divine powers"
pinnaces: small boats. Dryden, however, translates this "galleys."
looking out for them: It is important to note (if there is any question!) that Philistus was not attempting to ensure their safe return, but to prevent it.
luff: sailing term: to set the helm in such a way as to bring the head of the vessel into the wind
in the dominion of the Carthaginians: Carthage ruled part of Sicily at that time, and Minoa was within their territory.
Miltas the soothsayer: see previous lesson
357 B.C.: Dion's fleet sailed for Sicily
On the Map
Zacynthe: (in Greek, Zakynthos) an island off the west coast of Greece
Iapygia (Iapygians): also called Apulia (Apulians); the region of Italy which occupies the heel of Italy's "boot"
Pachynus: now called Capo Passero or Cape Passaro, on the southeastern side of Sicily
Libya: a country of northern Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea
Great Syrtis: or the Gulf of Sidra, on the northern coast of Libya
Minoa: Heraclea Minoa, a city on the south coast of Sicily
The place where Dion's forces were appointed to meet was the isle of Zacynthe, where a small force of eight hundred men came together, all of them, however, persons already distinguished in plenty of previous hard service, their bodies well trained and practiced, and their experience and courage amply sufficient to animate and embolden to action the numbers whom Dion expected to join him in Sicily.
Yet these hired soldiers, the first time that they understood it was to go into Sicily, to make war with Dionysius, they were amazed at the first, and misliked the journey, accusing Dion, that, hurried on like a madman by mere passion and despair, he rashly threw both himself and them into certain ruin. Nor were they less angry with their commanders and muster-masters that they had not in the beginning let them know the design. But after Dion in his address to them had set forth the unsafe and weak condition of arbitrary government, and declared that he carried them rather for commanders than soldiers, the citizens of Syracuse and rest of the Sicilians having been long ready for a revolt; and when, after him also Alcimenes (a companion with him in this war, and the chiefest man of all the Achaians, both for nobility and estimation) did speak unto them in like manner, then they were all contented to go whither they would lead them.
It was now the middle of summer, and the Etesian winds blowing steadily on the seas, the moon was at the full, when Dion prepared a magnificent sacrifice to Apollo; and with great solemnity marched his soldiers to the temple in all their arms and accoutrements. And after the sacrifice was done, he made them a feast in the racecourse of the Zacynthians. There the tables were laid, and the soldiers wondered to see the great state and magnificence of the great number of pots of gold and silver, and such other furniture and preparation exceeding a private man's wealth; then they thought with themselves, that a man being so old, and lord of so great a good, would not attempt things of such danger without good ground, and great assurance of his friends' aid and help.
But just after the libations were made, and the accompanying prayers offered, suddenly the moon eclipsed. This was no wonder to Dion, who understood the revolutions of eclipses, and the way in which the moon is overshadowed and the earth interposed between her and the sun. But because the soldiers that were afraid and astonished withal, stood in need of some comfort and encouragement, Miltas the soothsayer standing up in the midst amongst them, said unto them:
- "My fellow soldiers: be of good cheer, and assure yourselves that we shall prosper: for God doth foreshow us by this sight we see, that some one of the chiefest things now in highest place and dignity shall be eclipsed. And at this present time what thing carrieth greater glory and fame, than the tyranny of Dionysius? Therefore you must think, that so soon as you arrive in Sicily, yourselves shall put out his light and glory."
This interpretation of the eclipse of the moon, did Miltas the soothsayer make, before all the whole company.
But touching the swarm of bees that lighted on the deck of Dion's ship, Miltas told him and his friends privately that he was afraid his acts which should fall out famous and glorious, should last but a while, and flourishing a few days, would straight consume away.
[Omission: strange omens were noticed also by the soothsayers of Dionysius.]
So Dion's soldiers were embarked into two great ships of burden, and another third ship that was not very great; and two pinnaces with thirty oars followed them. For their armour and weapons, beside those the soldiers had, he carried two thousand targets, a great number of bows and arrows, of darts, of pikes; and plenty of victuals: that they should lack nothing all the time they were upon the sea, considering that their journey stood altogether at the courtesy of the winds and sea, and for that they were afraid to land; and Philistus, they had been told, was in Iapygia with a fleet, looking out for them.
So having a pleasant gale of wind, they sailed the space of twelve days together, and the thirteen day they came to the foreland of Sicily, called Pachynus. There the pilot thought it best they should land presently: for if they willingly luffed into the sea, and lost that point, they were sure they should lose also many nights and days in vain in the midst of the sea, it being then summer time; and the wind at the south. But Dion being afraid to land so near his enemies, he was desirous to go further, and so sailed on past Pachynus.
Then the north wind rose so big and great, that with great violence it drove back their ships from the coast of Sicily. Furthermore, lightning and thunder mingled withal (because it was at that time when the star Arcturus rises), it made so terrible a tempest, and poured down such a sore shower of rain upon them, that all the mariners were amazed withal, and knew not whither the wind would drive them: till that suddenly they saw the storm had cast them upon the isle of Cercina (which is on the coast of Libya), just where it is most craggy and dangerous to run upon. Upon the cliffs there they escaped narrowly being forced and staved to pieces; but, labouring hard at their oars, with much difficulty they kept clear until the storm ceased. Then, lighting by chance upon a vessel, they understood they were upon the Heads, as it is called, of the Great Syrtis; and when they were now again marvellous angry that the sea was calm, there rose a little south wind from the land, although they least looked for any such wind at that time, and little thinking it would so have changed: but seeing the wind rise bigger and bigger, they packed on all the sails they had, and making their prayers unto the gods they crossed the sea, and sailed from the coast of Libya directly unto Sicily.
And, running steady before the wind, the fifth day they arrived at Minoa, a little town of Sicily, in the dominion of the Carthaginians, of which Synalus, an acquaintance and friend of Dion's, happened at that time to be governor; who, not knowing it was Dion and his fleet, endeavoured to hinder his men from landing; but they rushed on shore with their swords in their hands, not slaying any of their opponents (for this Dion had forbidden, because of his friendship with the Carthaginians); but forced them to retreat; and, following close, pressed in a body with them into the place, and took it.
When both the captains met, and that they had spoken together, Dion redelivered the town into Synalus' hands again, without any hurt or violence offered him. Synalus on the other side did endeavour himself all he could to make much of the soldiers, and supplied Dion with what he wanted.
Narration and Discussion
Creative narration: Retell some part of this lesson from the viewpoint of one of the soldiers, in any format you choose (conversation at the dinner party, or a news interview after their arrival at Minoa).
Preparation for the next lesson: Lessons Seven to Eleven describe the siege of the Syracusan "castle." But which castle are we talking about? Please read the introductory notes for this study, as there were two sites involved at different times
To help with both readings and narrations, it would be useful to set up a model of the city and the fortress on the island of Ortygia, to show the action and also to keep track of particular characters. The people don't have to be realistic: toothpicks with nametags attached will work. You will also want a few generic figures to represent soldiers on each side. Toy ships or buildings can be put to use, but materials such as construction bricks, natural materials, or household objects are fine too (a box could represent the castle).
Dion and his army, having landed on Sicily, and feeling a little tired and "seabeaten," heard news that instantly re-energized them: Dionysius had suddenly found it necessary to be away from Syracuse. Rumours of their march towards Syracuse reached Timocrates; but his panic-stricken letter to Dionysius ended up being eaten by mistake. The coincidences and good omens continued to pile up until Timocrates fled in fear, and Dion marched in to liberate the city.
would not: That is, they would not stay and rest for a few days, preferring to march on Syracuse while they had the opportunity.
Epipolae: the hill where the castle was located
their towns: Lentini and Campania
ten furlongs: 1.25 miles (2 km)
in their best gowns: Dryden, "clad all in white"
the populace: the common people, the masses (sometimes the mob)
popular government: a state governed by or belonging to the people
Megacles: (also spelled Megakles) the brother of Dion
Callippus the Athenian: see Lesson Four
357 B.C.: Dionysius II deposed by Dion
On the Map
Agrigento (Agrigentines), Gela (Geloans), Camarina (Camarinians): cities on the south coast of Sicily
Rhegium, Caulonia: two cities in the region of Calabria
Campania (Campanians): a region of southwestern Italy
Leontini (Leontines): Now called Lentini; a city southeast of Syracuse
river of Anapus: The Anapo river in Sicily
Dion's soldiers were most of all encouraged by the happy accident of Dionysius' absence at their arrival; for it appeared that, not many days before, he had gone into Italy with eighty ships. Therefore when Dion willed them to remain there a few days to refresh themselves, because they had been so sore seabeaten a long time together, they themselves would not, they were so glad to embrace the occasion offered them, and prayed Dion to lead them forthwith to Syracuse. Dion left all his superfluous armour and provision in the hands of Synalus; and, praying him to send them to him when time served, he marched directly to Syracuse.
The first that came in to him upon his march were two hundred horsemen of the Agrigentines who were settled near Ecnomum; and, after them, the Geloans. The rumour of their coming ran straight to Syracuse. Thereupon Timocrates that had married Arete (Dion's wife, the sister of Dionysius), and who was the principle man among his friends now remaining in the city, immediately dispatched a courier to Dionysius, with letters announcing Dion's arrival; while he himself took all possible care to prevent any stir or tumult in the city, where all were in great excitement; but because they were uncertain whether this rumour was true or false, being afraid, every man was quiet.
Now there chanced a strange misfortune unto the messenger that carried the letters unto Dionysius. For after he had passed the strait, and was arrived in Rhegium, making haste to come to the city of Caulonia, where Dionysius was, he met by the way one of his acquaintance that carried a mutton but newly sacrificed. This good fellow gave him a piece of it, and the messenger spurred away with all the speed he could possible. But when he had ridden the most part of the night, he was so weary and drowsy for lack of sleep, that he was driven to lie down. So he lay down upon the ground, in a wood hard by the highway. The savour of this flesh brought a wolf to him, that carried away the flesh and the bag it was wrapped in, in which also were the letters to Dionysius.
When he awoke out of his sleep, and saw that his bag was gone, sought for it up and down a great while; and, not finding it, resolved not to go to the king without his letters, but to conceal himself, and keep out of the way.
Dionysius, therefore, came to hear of the war of Sicily from other hands, and that a good while after.
In the meantime, the Camarinians came and joined with Dion's army, in the highway towards Syracuse: and still there came unto him also a great number of the Syracusans that were up in arms, which were got into the field. On the other side, certain Campanians and Leontines, which were got into the Epipolae with Timocrates, of purpose to keep it, upon a false rumour Dion gave out (and which came unto them) that he would first go against their towns, they forsook Timocrates, and went to take order to defend their own goods. Dion understanding that, being lodged with his army in a place called Macrae, he presently removed his camp being dark night, and marched forward till he came unto the river of Anapus, which is not from the city above ten furlongs off: and there staying a while, he sacrificed unto the river, and made his prayer, and worshipped the rising of the sun.
At the selfsame instant also, the soothsayers came and told him that the gods did promise him assured victory. And the soldiers also, seeing Dion wear a garland of flowers on his head, which he had taken for the ceremony of the sacrifice, one and all crowned themselves with garlands. There were about five thousand men that had joined his forces in their march; who, though but ill-provided, with such weapons as came next to hand, made up by zeal and courage for the want of better arms; and when Dion commanded them to march, for joy they ran, and encouraged one another with great cries, to show themselves valiant for recovery of their liberty.
Now for them that were within Syracuse itself, the noblemen and chief citizens went to receive them at the gates in their best gowns. The populace set upon all that were of Dionysius' party, and principally searched for those they called "setters" or "informers," a number of wicked and hateful wretches who made it their business to go up and down the city, thrusting themselves into all companies, that they might inform Dionysius what men said, and how they stood affected. These men were they that had their payment first of all, for they killed them with dry blows, beating them to death with staves.
When Timocrates could not enter into the castle with them that kept it, he took to horseback, and fled out of the city, filling all the places where he came with fear and confusion, magnifying the amount of Dion's forces, because it should not seem that, for fear of a trifle, he had forsaken the city.
In the meantime, Dion came on towards the city with his men, and was come so near that they might see him plainly from the city, marching foremost of all, in a rich suit of arms, having his brother Megacles on his right hand of him, and Callippus the Athenian on the left hand, crowned with garlands of flowers: and after him also there followed a hundred soldiers that were strangers, chosen for his guard about him, and the rest came marching after in good order of battle, being led by their captains. The Syracusans looked on and welcomed them, as if they believed the whole to be a sacred and religious procession, to celebrate the solemn entrance, after an absence of forty-eight years, of liberty and popular government.
Narration and Discussion
Tell about Dion's day of glory. Could anyone (besides the soothsayers) have predicted this?
Why does Plutarch say that the tale-bearers were hateful to the gods and men? Why did they receive the first and most violent retaliation for their actions? Should such people have been forgiven?
Creative narration: Use the model you built to narrate this lesson.
The conflict between Dion and Dionysius was much like a game of chess. Dion made his opening move; Dionysius (who had returned to Syracuse) considered it and made a countermove; Dion mustered his army and forced a retreat; and Dionysius, devious as always, then tried a different tactic, raising a bit of sympathy for himself and also throwing in a few suggestions to create suspicion against Dion.
Acradina, Epipolae: sections (neighbourhoods) of Syracuse
Pentapyla: or Pentapylon; five towers protecting the castle
soothsayers and prognosticators: those who predicted the future
Fortune: When Plutarch speaks of Fortune, he is referring to the Greek goddess Tyche and her Roman equivalent Fortuna.
returned by sea to the castle of Syracuse: This seems a pretty clear reference to the island fortress of Ortygia, rather than the Euryalos castle. At first Dionysius was merely protecting himself there, but, shortly afterwards, he was besieged by the Syracusans.
they should pay no more subsidies and taxes: not that they should not pay their taxes, but that there would be no more taxes required
procuring oblivion for the past: letting bygones be bygones
For those that were sent him . . . : Some sources include Dion with the prisoners, but Plutarch does not say that.
sally: a sudden charge out of a besieged fort or city
mina: a unit of money
Timonides: Timonides of Leukas, military officer and historian
When Dion was come into the city by the Menitid Gate, and, having by sound of trumpet quieted the noise of the people, he caused proclamation to be made that Dion and Megacles, who were come to put down the tyranny, did set all the Syracusans at liberty, and all the other Sicilians also, from the bondage and subjection of the tyrant; and because Dion himself was desirous to speak unto the people, he went up through the Acradina. The Syracusans, all the streets thorough as he passed by, had on either hand of him prepared sacrifices, and set up tables, and cups upon them: and as he passed by their houses, they cast flowers and fruits on him, and made prayers unto him, as if he had been a god.
Now under the castle and the Pentapyla there was a sun-dial, which Dionysius had set up, and it was of a good pretty height. Dion got up upon it, and from thence made his oration to the people that were gathered round about him, exhorting and persuading his countrymen to do their endeavour to recover their liberty again, and to maintain it. They being in a marvellous joy withal, and desirous to please Dion, did choose him and his brother Megacles their generals, with absolute power and authority. Afterwards also, by the consent of Dion himself and his brother, and at their requests in like manner, they chose twenty other captains, of the which the most part of them had been banished by the tyrant, and were returned again with Dion. The soothsayers and prognosticators liked it well, and said it was a good sign for Dion, that he trod that sumptuous building and workmanship of the tyrant under his feet, when he made his oration; but because it was a sun-dial on which he stood when he was made general, they expressed some fears that the great actions he had performed might be subject to change, and admit some rapid turn and declination of Fortune.
After this, Dion having taken the Epipolae, he set all the citizens at liberty which were kept there as prisoners in captivity by the tyrant, and environed the castle roundabout with a wall. Within seven days after, Dionysius returned by sea to the castle of Syracuse, and therewithal also came the carts laden with armour and weapons to Syracuse, the which Dion had left with Synalus, which Dion caused to be distributed among the citizens of Syracuse that had none. Others did furnish themselves as well as they could, and showed that they had courage and goodwill to fight for the maintenance and defense of their liberty.
In the meantime, Dionysius sent ambassadors, first unto Dion privately, to try what terms they could make with him. But Dion would not hear them, but bade them tell the Syracusans openly what they had to say, being men that were free, and enjoyed liberty. Then the ambassadors spoke on behalf of the tyrant, unto the people of Syracuse, promising them with mild and gentle words that they should pay no more subsidies and taxes, but very little, and should be no more troubled with wars, other than such as they themselves should like of. The Syracusans laughed at these offers, and Dion returned answer to the envoys, that Dionysius must not think to treat with them upon any other terms but resigning the government; which if he would actually do, he would not forget how nearly he was related to him, or be wanting to assist him in procuring oblivion for the past, and whatever else was reasonable and just.
Dionysius liked very well of this good offer, and therefore sent his ambassadors again to pray the Syracusans that they would appoint some amongst them to come to the castle, to talk with him for the benefit and commodity of the commonwealth, that he might hear what they would allege, and they also what answer he would make. Dion chose certain men, whom he sent unto him.
Now there ran a rumour in the city among the Syracusans, which came from the castle, that Dionysius would willingly, of himself, rather than by reason of Dion's coming, depose himself of the tyranny. But this was but a false alarm, and crafty fetch of Dionysius, to entrap the Syracusans by. For those that were sent him from the city, he kept them prisoners every man of them; and one morning having made his soldiers drink wine lustily, which he kept in pay to guard his person, he sent them with great fury to assault the wall the Syracusans had built against the castle. The attack was quite unexpected, and the barbarians set to work boldly with loud cries to pull down the cross-wall, and assailed the Syracusans so furiously that they were not able to maintain their post. Only a party of Dion's hired soldiers, on first taking the alarm, advanced to the rescue; neither did they at first know what to do, or how to employ the aid they brought, not being able to hear the commands of their officers, amidst the noise and confusion of the Syracusans, who fled from the enemy and ran in among them, breaking through their ranks, until Dion, seeing none of his orders could be heard, resolved to let them see by example what they ought to do, and charged into the thickest of the enemy.
All about him there was a cruel and bloody fight. For his enemies knew him as well as his own men, and they all ran upon him with great cries. Though his time of life was no longer that of the bodily strength and agility for such a combat, still his determination and courage were sufficient to maintain him against all that attacked him. Yet he had his hand also thrust thorough with a pike; his body armour also had been much battered, and was scarcely any longer serviceable to protect him, either against missiles or blows hand-to-hand. Many spears and javelins had passed into it through the shield, and, on these being broken back, he fell to the ground, but was immediately rescued and carried off by his soldiers.
The command-in-chief he left to Timonides, and, mounting a horse, he rode about the city, rallying the Syracusans that fled; and ordering a detachment of the foreign soldiers out of Acradina, where they were posted on guard, he brought them as a fresh reserve, eager for battle, upon the tired and failing enemy, who were already well inclined to give up their design.
For having hoped at their first sally to take the whole city, when beyond their expectation they found themselves engaged with bold and practiced fighters, they fell back towards the castle. And the Grecian soldiers on the other side, perceiving they gave back, they came the faster upon them, so that they were compelled to turn their backs, and were driven within their walls, after they had slain seventy-four of Dion's men, and lost a great number of their own. This was a noble victory, and therefore the Syracusans gave the soldiers that were strangers a hundred silver minas, in reward for their good service: and they gave Dion, their general, a crown of gold.
Narration and Discussion
Why did the soothsayers feel it was both a good and a bad sign that Dion made his speech from the sundial? What do you think about this?
Dion had been sent on many diplomatic missions in his lifetime, and was certainly able to negotiate and compromise when necessary. Why then was he unwilling to accept anything from Dionysius besides full surrender?
How did Dion show leadership in the battle described here? What personal difficulties did he have to ignore?
Creative narration #1: Write this passage as a series of news headlines.
Creative narration #2: Use the model you built to narrate this lesson.
Dion was now the Syracusan general or archon, with absolute power and authority (although the siege of the castle continued, with Dion's relatives being held there as hostages). Certain people grumbled about his apparent grab for power, having forgotten who led the liberation of Syracuse; and their suspicions were increased with the arrival of a letter from Dionysius (addressed to Dion, but read to everyone), begging him to keep the power of Syracuse in his own hands rather than hand it over to the less-capable public. Dion's enemies began to make noises about the need for fresh leadership.
companion-in-arms: fellow soldier
plausible: credible, believable
entreaty: humble request
magnanimity: noble spirit
withstood all his dearest interests: set aside personal interests (such as protecting family members)
invincible necessity: pressing need
to have the better hand of him: to be in a place of advantage
generalissimo, chieftain general: archon; the one highest in command
Heracleides: Mentioned briefly in Lesson Three. Heracleides was an admiral who had fled to the Peloponnesus (probably along with Dion) after being suspected of conspiring to overthrow the government. He had helped plan the expedition back to Syracuse, but remained behind, possibly (as Plutarch says) because he and Dion had some disagreement; other sources say he was busy gathering soldiers and/or was delayed by bad weather.
Philistus: See Lesson Three
Apollocrates: the son of Dionysius
356 B.C.: Dionysius left Syracuse
After this, there came heralds from Dionysius, bring Dion letters from the women of his family, and one addressed outside, "to his father, from Hipparinus"; this was the name of Dion's son, though Timaeus says he was, from his mother Arete's name, called Aretaeus. But in such matters, methinks Timonides is better to be credited, because he was his friend and companion-in-arms.
All the other letters that were sent were openly read before the assembly of the Syracusans, and did only concern requests of these women unto Dion. The Syracusans would not have the supposed letter of his son to be openly read but Dion, against their minds opened it, and found that it was Dionysius' letter, who by words made the direction of it unto Dion, but in effect he spoke unto the Syracusans; and so worded that, under a plausible justification of himself and entreaty to him, means were taken for rendering him suspected by the people.
First of all he reminded him of the good service he had formerly done the usurping government; it added threats to his dearest relations, his sister, son, and wife, if he did not comply with the contents; also passionate demands mingled with lamentations. But that which most moved Dion of all other was, that he (Dionysius) required him not to destroy the tyranny, but rather to take it for himself; and not to set them at liberty that hated him, and would always remember the mischief he had done unto them: and that he would himself take upon him to be lord, saving by that means the lives of his family and friends.
When this letter was read, the Syracusans were not, as they should have been, transported with admiration at the unmovable constancy and magnanimity of Dion, who withstood all his dearest interests to be true to virtue and justice, but, on the contrary, they saw in this their reason for fearing and suspecting that he lay under an invincible necessity to be favourable to Dionysius; and they began, therefore, to look out for other leaders, and the rather because to their great joy they received the news that Heracleides was on his way.
This Heracleides was one of them that had been banished, a good soldier and captain, and well esteemed of for the charge and office he bore under the tyrants; yet a man of no constant purpose, of a fickle temper, and least of all to be relied upon when he had to act with a colleague in any honourable command. He had fallen out with Dion in Peloponnesus, and had resolved, upon his own means, with what ships and soldiers he had, to make an attack upon Dionysius.
So he arrived at length at Syracuse, with seven galleys and three other ships, where he found Dionysius again shut up into his castle with a wall, and the Syracusans also to have the better hand of him. Then he began to curry favour with the common people all the ways he could possibly devise, having by nature a certain pleasing manner to win the common people, which seek nothing else but to be flattered. Furthermore, he found it the easier for him to win them, because the people did already mislike Dion's severity, as a man too severe and cruel to govern a commonwealth. For they had now their will so much, and were grown so strong-headed, because they saw themselves the stronger, that they would be flattered (as commonly the people be in free cities, where they only be lords, and do rule) before they had in reality secured a popular government.
Therefore, getting together in an irregular assembly, they chose Heracleides their admiral; but when Dion came forward, and told them that conferring this trust upon Heracleides was in effect to withdraw that which they had granted him, for he was no longer their generalissimo if another had the command of the navy: they repealed their order, and, though much against their wills, cancelled the new appointment. When this business was over, Dion invited Heracleides to his house, and pointed out to him, in gentle terms, that he had not acted wisely or well to quarrel with him upon a point of honour, at a time when the least false step might be the ruin of all; and then, calling a fresh assembly of the people, he there named Heracleides admiral, and prevailed with the citizens to allow him a life-guard, as he himself had.
Heracleides outwardly seemed to honour Dion, and confessed openly that he was greatly bound unto him, and was always at his heels very lowly, being ready at his commandment: but in the meantime, secretly he enticed the common people to rebel, and to stir up those whom he knew meet men to like of change. Whereby he procured Dion such trouble, and brought him into such perplexity, that he knew not well what way to take. For if he (Dion) gave them advice to let Dionysius quietly come out of the castle, then they accused him; and said he did it to save his life. If on the other side, because he would not trouble them, he continued the siege still, and did establish nothing, then they thought he did it of purpose to draw out the wars in length, because he might the longer time remain their chieftain general, and so to keep the citizens longer in fear.
[omission for length and content]
The Syracusans were as jealous as before of Dion's soldiers, and the rather because the war was now carried on principally by sea, Philistus being come from Iapygia with a great fleet to assist Dionysius. They supposed, therefore, that there would be no longer need of the soldiers, who were all landsmen and armed accordingly; these were rather, indeed, they thought, in a condition to be protected by themselves, who were seamen, and had their power in their shipping.
Their good opinion of themselves was also much enhanced by an advantage they got in an engagement by sea, in which they took Philistus prisoner, and used him in a barbarous and cruel manner.
[Omission for length and content. The historian Ephorus says that Philistus took his own life after the battle.]
After Philistus' death, Dionysius sent to Dion, offering to surrender the castle, all the arms, provisions, and garrison soldiers, with full pay for them for five months; demanding in return that he might have safe conduct to go unmolested into Italy, to take the pleasure of the fruits of the country called Gyarta, which was within the territory of Syracuse, reaching from the seaside to the middle of the country. Dion refused this offer, and referred him to the Syracusans. They, supposing they should easily take Dionysius alive, would not hear the ambassadors speak, but turned them away.
Dionysius, seeing no other remedy, left the castle in the hands of his eldest son Apollocrates, and, having a lusty gale of wind, he secretly put on board his ships the persons and the property that he set most value upon, and made his escape, undiscovered by the admiral and his fleet.
[omission for length; see the synopsis at the beginning of Lesson Ten]
Narration and Discussion
Plutarch says that Dion "withstood all his dearest interests to be true to virtue and justice." Do you agree? Was he most concerned about the well-being of Syracuse, or was he trying to keep all the power for himself (and away from Heracleides)?
Most of what we know about Heracleides comes only from this story, and as Plutarch tends to take Dion's side of matters, it may be a bit biased. There are various ways to explore this idea: one might be to write or act out an interview with Heracleides, allowing him to tell his side of the story. Another might be to gather evidence from the story: do the facts support Plutarch's negative view?
For older students and further thought: In this passage Plutarch says that the "common people" only want to be flattered; that they don't know what to do with power when they get it; and that they are led by emotion rather than wisdom. Do you agree with this judgment?
Creative narration: Use the model you built to narrate this lesson.
The following is a condensed version of the events omitted between Lessons Nine and Ten.
Dion's enemies among the Syracusans tried to persuade his Peloponnesian soldiers to desert him, but they refused, and marched out of town with Dion protected in the midst of them. And the Syracusans followed them, planning to attack. At first there was no battle; Dion tried to "pacify their fury and tumult," but was unsuccessful. He forbade his men to attack first, but they did rattle their weapons and yell in a way that scared the Syracusans back into their city. Then, feeling ashamed of their cowardice, they marched out once again and overtook Dion's army. Dion was much less patient with them this time and told his men to fight back as they wished. It didn't take much of a fight to send them scurrying for home again.
Dion marched his mercenaries to the city of the Leontines, and a Sicilian congress sat in judgment over the Syracusan situation. Plutarch says, "it was judged that the Syracusans were to blame. Howbeit they would not stand to the judgment of their confederates, for they were now grown proud and careless, because they were governed by no man, but had captains that studied to please them, and were afraid also to displease them."
And with that, we arrive at the opening scene of Lesson Ten, as the Syracusans (without the help of Dion) besieged the island fortress; and some unexpected help arrived for Dionysius.
confederates: friends, allies
works: siegeworks; constructions built by those besieging a place
barbarians: In other Lives, the word "barbarians" refers specifically to Persians; but in this case it seems a general term for foreign soldiers.
sacked: destroyed, plundered
seditious governors: those attempting to end Dion's leadership
let Dion alone: cancel the request for him to come and help
Dion marched very softly at his ease: Some were pleading with Dion to hurry to Syracuse, others were pleading with him not to come at all; so he compromised and marched slowly.
sacked the city: The first "sacking" (see above) had been bad, but this one was even worse.
strait and desperate case: tight situation
mortal malice: deep hatred
sixty furlongs: about 7.5 miles (12 km)
Nypsius the Neapolitan: We do not have further information on him.
On the Map
Leontini (Leontines): see Lesson Seven
After that, there arrived certain galleys of Dionysius at Syracuse, under the command of Nypsius the Neapolitan, which brought victuals and money to help them that were besieged within the castle. The Syracusans fought him, had the better, and took four of his ships; but they made very ill use of their good success. For they, having nobody to command nor rule them, employed all their joy in rioting and banqueting, taking so little care and regard to their business that now, when they thought the castle was sure their own, they almost lost their city. For Nypsius, seeing the citizens in this general disorder, spending day and night in their drunken singing and reveling, and their commanders well-pleased with the frolic, or at least not daring to try and give any orders to men in their drink, took advantage of this opportunity, made a sally, and stormed their works; and, having made his way through these, let his barbarians loose upon the city, and commanded them to do with them they met, what they would or could.
The Syracusans quickly saw their folly and misfortune, but could not, in the distraction they were in, so soon redress it. The city was in actual process of being sacked, the enemy putting the men to the sword, demolishing the fortifications, and dragging the women and children, with lamentable shrieks and cries, prisoners into the castle. The commanders, giving all for lost, could give no present order, nor have their men to serve them against their enemies, that came hand over head on every side amongst them.
The city being thus miserably in garboil, and the Acradina also in great hazard of taking, in the which they put all their hope and confidence to rise again, every man thought then with himself that Dion must be sent for; but yet no man moved it notwithstanding, being ashamed of their unthankfulness and overgreat folly they had committed in driving him away. Yet necessity enforcing them unto it, there were certain of the horsemen and of their confederates that cried they must send for Dion, and the Peloponnesians his soldiers, which were with him in the territory of the Leontines.
[Omission for length: Representatives were sent to Dion, who made a speech and thereby gained support for the idea of "liberating" Syracuse.]
So when all was quiet, Dion willed them forthwith to go and prepare themselves, and that they should be there ready armed after supper, determining the very same night to go to aid Syracuse.
But now at Syracuse, while daylight lasted, Dionysius' soldiers and captains did all the mischief and villainy they could in the city; and when night came, they retired again into their castle, having lost very few of their men. Then the seditious governors of the Syracusans took heart again unto them, hoping that the enemies would be contented with that they had done: and therefore began anew to persuade the citizens to let Dion alone, and not to receive him with his mercenary soldiers if they came to aid him; advising them not to yield, as inferior to them in point of honour and courage, but to save their city and defend their liberties and properties themselves.
So other ambassadors were sent again unto Dion, some from the captains and governors of the city, to stay them that they should not come; but others also from the horsemen, and the noble citizens his friends, to hasten his journey. Whereupon by reason of this variance, Dion marched very softly at his ease.
Now by night, Dion's enemies within the city got to the gates, and kept them that Dion should not come in.
Nypsius, on the other side, made a sally out of the castle with his mercenary soldiers, being better appointed and a greater number of them than before; and with them he straight plucked down all the wall which they had built before the castle, and ran and sacked the city [omission for content]. For, because Dionysius saw that he was brought to a strait and desperate case, he bore such mortal malice against the Syracusans, that if there was no remedy but that he must needs forego his tyranny, he determined to bury it with the utter destruction and desolation of their city. And therefore, to prevent Dion's aid, and to make a quick dispatch to destroy all, they came with burning torches in their hands, and did set fire of all things they could come to: and further off, they fired their darts and arrows, and bestowed them in every place of the city. So, they that fled for the fire, were met withal, and slain in the streets by the soldiers, and others also that ran into their houses, were driven out again by force of fire. For there were a number of houses that were afire, and fell down upon them that went and came.
This misery was the chiefest cause why all the Syracusans agreed together to set open the gates unto Dion. For when Dion heard, by the way, that Dionysius' soldiers were gone again into the castle, he made no great haste to march forward; but when day was broken, there came certain horsemen from Syracuse unto Dion, who brought him news that the enemies had once again taken the city. Then also came others of his enemies unto him, and prayed him to make haste. The pressure increasing, Heracleides sent his brother, and after him his uncle, Theodotes, to beg him to help them; for that now they were not able to resist any longer; he himself was wounded, and the greatest part of the city either in ruins or in flames.
When this news came to Dion, he was yet about sixty furlongs from the city. So he told his mercenary soldiers the danger the town was in, and having encouraged them, he led them no more fair and softly, but running towards the city, and meeting messengers upon messengers entreating them to make haste. By this means, the soldiers marching with wonderful speed and goodwill together, he entered the gates of the city at a place called Hecatompedon.
First of all, he sent the lightest-armed men he had against the enemies, to the end that, the Syracusans seeing them, they might take a good heart again to themselves; whilst he himself in the meantime did set all the other heavy-armed soldiers and citizens that came to join with him, in battle array, and did cast them into divers squadrons of greater length than breadth, and appointed them that should have the leading of them, to the end that setting upon the enemies in divers places together, they should put them in the greater fear and terror.
When he had set all things in this order, and had made his prayers unto the gods, and that they saw him marching through the city against their enemies, then there rose such a common noise and rejoicing, and great shout of the soldiers, mingled with vows, prayers, and persuasions of all the Syracusans, that they called Dion their god and saviour, and the mercenary soldiers their brethren and fellow citizens. Furthermore, there was not a Syracusan that so much regarded his own life and person, but he seemed to be more afraid of the loss of Dion only, than of all the rest. For they saw him the foremost man running through the danger of the fire, treading in blood, and upon dead bodies that lay slain in the midst of the streets.
Now indeed to charge the enemies, it was a marvellous dangerous enterprise: for they were like mad beasts, and stood beside in battle array along the wall which they had overthrown, in a very dangerous place, and hard to win. Howbeit the danger of the fire did most of all trouble and amaze the strangers, and did stop their way. For, on which side soever they turned them, the houses round about them were all of a fire, and they were driven to march over the burnt timber of the houses, and to run in great danger of the walls of the house sides that fell on them, and to pass through the thick smoke mingled with dust, and beside, to keep their ranks with great difficulty.
And when they came to assail the enemies, they could not come to fight hand to hand, but a few of them in number, because of the straitness of the place: howbeit the Syracusans with force of cries and shouts did so animate and encourage their men, that at length they drove Nypsius and his men to forsake the place. The most part of them got into the castle, being very near unto them: the other that could not get in in time, fled straggling up and down, whom the Grecian soldiers slew, chasing of them.
The extremity of the time did not presently suffer the conquerors to reap the fruit of their victory, neither the joys and embracings meet for so great an exploit. For the Syracusans went every man home to his own house, to quench the fire, the which could scarcely be put out all the night.
Narration and Discussion
Why was it so difficult for Dion's soldiers to get through the city to the castle? Why was their victory a bittersweet one?
It has been said previously that Dion was not a young man anymore, and not in top physical shape; did this seem to affect his leadership? How did others view him? Show examples from the passage.
Creative narration: Use the model you built to narrate this lesson.
The siege continued until, at last, Dion reached an agreement with Apollocrates, the son of Dionysius. However, the storm clouds were gathering for a final showdown with Heracleides.
popular haranguers: North calls them the "seditious flatterers of the people"; those who had led the anti-government group
yield them to the desires . . . : let the soldiers treat them as they wished
ambitious affectation of popularity: the threat of democratic government
meeter: better, fairer
line of palisade: wall made of stakes
inconsiderable: small, slight
at a jar: at odds, squabbling
composition: a deal, a compromise
redeem their credit: restore their honour
seven hundred furlongs: 87.5 miles (140.8 km)
tack: change course by heading a boat into the wind
head: lead the Sicilian force
amulet: lucky charm
being himself a citizen of Sparta: During Dion's time in Greece, he had been made an honourary Spartan.
embarked: gone on board the ship
Pharax: also called Pharacidas; a Spartan admiral
Gaesylus: a Spartan general
354 B.C.: Apollocrates' departure left Syracuse in Dion's hands
On the Map
Agrigentum: Agrigentum (Agrigento) is on the south coast of Sicily.
When day broke, not one of the popular haranguers dared stay in the city, but all of them, knowing their own guilt, by their flight confessed it, and secured their lives.
Heracleides and Theodotes came together of their own goodwill to yield themselves unto Dion, confessing that they had done him wrong, and humbly praying him to show himself better unto them than they had showed themselves unto him: and that it was more honourable for him, being every way unmatchable for his virtues, to show himself more noble to conquer his anger, than his unthankful enemies had done: who, contending with him before in virtue, did now confess themselves to be far inferior unto him. Though they thus humbly addressed him, his friends advised him not to pardon these wicked men, who did malice and envy his honour; but to yield them to the desires of his soldiers, and utterly root out of the commonwealth the ambitious affectation of popularity, which was as dangerous and great a plague to a city as the tyranny. Dion endeavoured to satisfy them, telling them that:
- "other generals exercised and trained themselves for the most part in the practices of war and arms; but that he had long studied in the Academy how to conquer anger, and not let emulation and envy conquer him; that to do this it is not sufficient that a man be obliging and kind to his friends, and those that have deserved well of him, but, rather, gentle and ready to forgive in the case of those who do wrong; that he wished to let the world see that he valued not himself so much upon excelling Heracleides in ability and conduct, as he did in outdoing him in justice and clemency; for therein chiefly consisted excellency, since no man else in wars can challenge power and government, but fortune, that ruleth most. 'And though Heracleides,' said he, 'through envy hath done like a wicked man, must Dion therefore through anger blemish his virtue? Indeed by man's law it is thought meeter, to revenge an injury offered, than to do an injury; but nature showeth that they both proceed of the same deficiency and weakness. Now, though it be a hard thing to change and alter the evil disposition of a man, after he is once nurtured in villainy, yet is not man of so wild and brutish a nature that his wickedness may not be overcome by kindness, and altered by repeated obligations."
Dion, making use of these arguments, pardoned and dismissed Heracleides and Theodotes.
And now, resolving to repair the blockade about the castle, he commanded all the Syracusans to cut each man a stake and bring it to the works; and then, dismissing them to refresh themselves and take their rest, he employed his own men all night, and by morning had finished his line of palisade; so that both the enemy and the citizens wondered, when day returned, to see the work so far advanced in so short a time. Burying, therefore, the dead, and redeeming the prisoners, who were near two thousand, he called a public assembly, where Heracleides made a motion that Dion should be declared general of Syracuse, with absolute power and authority, both by sea and land.
The chiefest men of the city liked very well of it, and would have had the people to have passed it. But the mob of sailors and tradespeople would not yield that Heracleides should lose his command of the navy: believing him, if otherwise an ill man, at any rate to be more citizen-like than Dion, and readier to comply with the people. Dion, therefore, submitted to them in this, and consented that Heracleides should continue as admiral.
But when they began to press the project of the redistribution of lands and houses, he not only opposed it, but repealed all the votes they had formerly made upon that account, which angered them.
Wherefore Heracleides, remaining at Messina, began thenceforth to enter into new practices again, and to flatter the soldiers and seafaring men he had brought thither with him, and to stir them up to rebel against Dion, saying that he (Dion) would make himself tyrant; and himself in the meantime secretly practised with Dionysius, by means of a Spartan called Pharax. The noblest men of the Syracusans mistrusted it, and thereupon there fell out great mutiny in their camp; and the city was in great distress and want of provisions. Dion now knew not what course to take, being also blamed by all his friends for having thus fortified against himself such a malicious and wicked person as Heracleides was.
Pharax at this time lay encamped at Neapolis, in the territory of Agrigentum. Dion, therefore, led out the Syracusans, but with an intent not to engage him till he saw a fit opportunity. But Heracleides and his seamen exclaimed against him, that he had delayed fighting on purpose that he might the longer continue his command; so that, much against his will, he was forced to an engagement and was beaten; his loss, however, being inconsiderable, happened rather because his men were at a jar among themselves, by reason of their faction and division, than otherwise. He rallied his men, and, having put them in good order and encouraged them to redeem their credit, resolved upon a second battle. But in the evening, he received advice that Heracleides with his fleet was on his way to Syracuse, with the purpose to possess himself of the city and keep him and his army out. Instantly, therefore, taking with him some of the strongest and most active of his men, he rode off in the dark, and about nine the next morning was at the gates, having ridden seven hundred furlongs that night.
Heracleides strove to make all the speed he could; yet, coming too late, he tacked and stood out again to sea; and, being unresolved what course to steer, accidentally he met Gaesylus the Spartan, who told him he was come from Lacedaemon to head the Sicilians, as Gylippus had formerly done. Heracleides was only too glad to get hold of him, and fastening him as it might be a sort of amulet to himself, he showed him to the confederates, and sent a herald to Syracuse to summon them to accept the Spartan general.
Dion made answer that the Syracusans had governors enough, and though that their affairs did of necessity require a Lacedaemonian captain, yet that himself was he, being himself a citizen of Sparta. Then Gaesylus perceiving he could not obtain to be general, he went unto Syracuse, and came to Dion, and there made Heracleides and him friends again, by the great and solemn oaths he made, and because Gaesylus also swore, that he himself would be revenged of him for Dion's sake, and punish Heracleides, if ever after he did once more conspire against him.
After that, the Syracusans broke up their navy, because it did them then no service, and was besides a great charge to keep it, and, further, it did also breed sedition and trouble amongst their governors; and so they pressed on the siege, and built up the wall again which the enemies had overthrown.
Then Apollocrates (Dionysius' son) seeing no aid to come to him from any part, and that victuals failed them, and further, that the soldiers began to mutiny, being unable to keep them, he agreed with Dion to deliver up the castle into his hands, with all the armour and munition in it: and so he took his mother and his sisters, and put them aboard upon five galleys, with the which he went unto his father, Dion seeing him safely out; and scarce a man in all the city not being there to behold the sight, as indeed they called even on those that were not present, out of pity, that they could not be there to see this happy day and the sun shining on a free Syracuse. If until this present day they do reckon the fleeing of Dionysius for one of the rarest examples of Fortune's change, as one of the greatest and notablest thing that ever was, what joy think we had they that drove him out; and what pleasure had they with themselves, that with the least means that could be possible, did destroy the greatest tyranny in the world?
So when Apollocrates was embarked, and Dion was entered into the castle, the women within the castle would not tarry till he came into the house, but went to meet him at the gates, Aristomache leading Dion's son by the hand, and Arete following her, weeping, being very fearful how she should call and salute her husband, after living with another man. Dion first spoke to his sister, and afterwards to his son: and then Aristomache, offering him Arete, said unto him:
- "Since thy banishment, O Dion, we have led a miserable and captive life: but now that thou art returned home with victory, thou hast rid us out of care and thralldom, and hast also made us again bold to lift up our heads, saving her here, whom I, wretched creature, was compelled to see another's while you were yet alive. Now then, since Fortune hath made thee lord of us all, what judgment givest thou of this compulsion? How wilt thou have her to salute thee, as her uncle, or husband?"
As Aristomache spoke these words, the water stood in Dion's eyes: so he gently and lovingly taking his wife Arete by the hand, he gave her his son, and willed her to go home to his house where he then remained, and so delivered the castle to the Syracusans.
[omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
What surprised the Syracusans most when they saw the repaired blockade? How might those inside the castle have reacted?
Dion said, "Though it be a hard thing to change and alter the evil disposition of a man, after he is once nurtured in villainy, yet is not man of so wild and brutish a nature that his wickedness may not be overcome by kindness . . . " Do you agree?
For further thought: Christian teaching says that we should overcome anger with love and forgiveness. But is there a time when it is not wise to show mercy too quickly? Is there a difference between forgiving wrongs, and excusing sin or allowing it to continue?
Creative narration #1: Use the model you built to narrate this lesson. (This will be the last time it is needed.)
Creative narration #2: Imagine that you are a poet living in Syracuse, and write something to commemorate the occasion.
In a passage omitted for length, Plutarch describes Dion's activities and status at this time: he busied himself rewarding those who had served or helped to liberate Syracuse, but he seemed to want little material reward for himself. According to Plutarch, what he did seem to care about was the good opinion of the Academy philosophers in Athens, who, he was sure, were watching him to see how he handled his "prosperous success and victory."
Now that the tyranny was ended, the burning question in Syracuse was, what kind of a government should replace it, and who would lead it? Dion wanted to set up a ruling council of nobles, and he asked the rulers of Corinth for help in implementing it.
However, he was opposed, as always, by Heracleides, and he finally decided that this longtime enemy must be disposed of. What the Academy made of that, we are not told. But even without Heracleides, Dion's enemies, and even his friends, continued to plot against him.
Celebration of the Mysteries: an Athenian religious ritual
gallantry: courageous behaviour
twenty talents: a huge amount of money
consort with people: to spend time in their company
apparition: ghost, spirit
gallery: a room in a building formed partly of columns (a colonnade)
man's estate: adulthood
displeasure and pet: fit of sulks, tantrum
fidelity: loyalty, faithfulness
great with child: about to have a baby
hemlock: a poisonous plant
Callippus: first mentioned in Lesson Four
354 B.C.: Death of Heracleides
354 B.C.: Death of Dion
348/347 B.C.: Death of Plato
347/346 B.C.: Dionysius II returned to Syracuse
344 B.C.: Syracuse appealed to Corinth for aid; Timoleon invaded Syracuse (see the Life of Timoleon); Dionysius surrendered
343 B.C.: Death of Dionysius II in Corinth
[See the Introduction for a synopsis of the omitted passage. Dion, facing political opposition from Heracleides, and believing that "in all ways he was a turbulent, fickle, and factious man," arranged to have him murdered. Dion apparently did not try to keep his part in this a secret, and he explained publicly that it was necessary to end the continued friction.]
Dion had a friend called Callippus, an Athenian, who, Plato says, first made acquaintance and afterwards obtained familiarity with him, not from any connection with his philosophic studies, but on occasions afforded by the Celebration of the Mysteries, and in the way of ordinary society. This man went with him in all his military service, and was in great honour and esteem; being the first of his friends who marched by his side into Syracuse, wearing a garland upon his head, having behaved himself very well in all the battles, and made himself remarkable for his gallantry.
This Callippus, seeing that Dion's best and chiefest friends were all slain in this war, and that Heracleides also was dead; that the people of Syracuse were without a leader; and besides, that the soldiers which were with Dion did love him better than any other man: he became the unfaithfullest man and the veriest villain of all others, hoping that, as his reward for the ruin of his friend and benefactor, he should undoubtedly come to have the whole government of all Sicily; and some report that he had taken a bribe of his enemies of twenty talents to destroy Dion. He inveigled and engaged several of the soldiers in a conspiracy against him, taking this cunning and wicked occasion for his plot. He daily informed Dion of what he heard or what he feigned the soldiers said against him; whereby he gained that credit and confidence, that he was allowed by Dion to consort privately with whom he would, and talk freely against him in any company: to the end he might thereby understand the better whether any of the soldiers were angry with him, or wished his death. By this means, Callippus straight found out those that held a grudge against Dion, and that were already corrupted, whom he drew to his conspiracy. And if any man unwilling to give ear unto him went and told Dion that Callippus would have enticed him to conspire against him: Dion was not angry with him for it, thinking that he did but as he had commanded him to do.
While this conspiracy was afoot, a strange and dreadful apparition was seen by Dion. As he sat one evening in a gallery in his house, alone and thoughtful, hearing a sudden noise, he turned about, and saw at the end of the colonnade, by clear daylight, a tall woman, in her countenance and garb like one of the Furies shown in plays, with a broom in her hand, sweeping the floor. This vision so amazed and affrighted him that he sent for his friends, and told them what a sight he had seen: and prayed them to tarry with him all night, being as it were a man beside himself, fearing lest the spirit would come to him again if they left him alone. He saw it no more.
But a few days after, his only son, being almost grown up to man's estate, upon some displeasure and pet he had taken upon a childish and frivolous occasion, threw himself headlong from the top of the house and broke his neck. While Dion was under this affliction, Callippus drove on his conspiracy, and spread a rumour among the Syracusans that Dion, being now childless, was resolved to send for Dionysius' son, Apollocrates, who was his wife's nephew and sister's grandson, and make him his heir and successor.
By this time, Dion and his wife and sister began to suspect what was doing, and from all hands information came to them of the plot. Dion being troubled, it is probable, for Heracleides' murder, which was like to be a blot and stain upon his life and actions, in continual weariness and vexation, he had rather die a thousand deaths, and to offer his throat to be cut to any that would, rather than live not only in fear of his enemies but suspicion of his friends.
But Callippus, seeing the women very inquisitive to search to the bottom of the business, took alarm, and came to them, utterly denying it with tears in his eyes, and offering to give them whatever assurances of his fidelity they desired. They required that he should take the Great Oath [a religious ritual; details omitted for length].
[But] as Dion was set in his chamber talking with his friends, where there were many beds to sit on, some of the conspirators compassed the house round about; others came to the doors and windows of his chamber; and they that should do the deed to dispatch him, which were the Zacynthian soldiers, came into his chamber in their coats without any sword. But when they were come in, they that were without did shut the doors after them, and locked them in, lest any man should come out: and they that were within, fell upon Dion, and thought to have strangled him. But when they saw they could not, they called for a sword. Never a man that was within dared open the doors, though there were many with Dion. For they thought every man to save their own lives, by suffering him to be killed, and therefore dared not come to help him.
So the murderers tarried a long time within, and did nothing. At length there was one Lycon, a Syracusan, that gave one of these Zacynthian soldiers a dagger in at the window, and thus, like a victim at a sacrifice, this long time in their power and trembling for the blow, they killed him. They hurried his sister, and wife, great with child, into prison, and there the poor lady was pitifully brought to bed of a goodly boy: which, by the consent of the keepers, they (the women) intended to bring up.
Their keepers that had the charge of them, were contented to let them do it, because Callippus began then a little to grow to some trouble. For at the first, after he had slain Dion, he bore all the whole sway for a time, and kept the city of Syracuse in his hands: and wrote unto Athens, the which next unto the immortal gods he was most afraid of, having defiled his hands in so damnable a treason. And therefore, in my opinion, it was not evil spoken, that Athens is a city of all other that bringeth forth the best men when they give themselves to goodness, and the wickedest people also, when they do dispose themselves to evil: as their country also produces the most delicious honey and the most deadly hemlock.
Callippus, however, did not long continue to scandalize Fortune and upbraid the gods with his prosperity, as though they connived at and bore with the wretched man while he purchased riches and power by heinous impieties; but he quickly received the punishment he deserved.
[Omission for length: the further adventures and death of Callippus, and the murder of Dion's family members.]
Narration and Discussion
What led to Dion's downfall? Were there errors that, if avoided, could have changed the end of this story?
Plutarch says that Dion would rather "offer his throat to be cut to any that would, rather than live not only in fear of his enemies but suspicion of his friends." Where had Dion previously seen an example of such a life?
How do you think that Callippus was able to bribe the mercenary soldiers to participate in the assassination? Do you think they trusted Dion less after the death of Heracleides, or was it simply the power of a bribe? (Here are some Scriptures describing what bribes can do: Deuteronomy 16:19, Proverbs 17:23, Micah 7:3.)
For older students: In either written or oral format, discuss the positive and negative aspects of a government where everyone has a voice, vs. one where a small group of people (such as the nobles) make most of the decisions.
1. Describe a) the early life of Dionysius II, and b) how he was affected by his time with Plato.
2. Describe the early life of Dion, and how he came to be so important in Syracuse.
1. Write a conversation between two Syracusans, one who thinks Dion is a valuable asset and a good person to have around, and another who wishes they could rid themselves of him.
2. (High school) Plato named four key virtues: prudence, fortitude, temperance (moderation and self-control), and justice. How did Dion's life reflect these?
AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey, Pt 1 Pompey, Pt 2 Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey, Pt 1 Pompey, Pt 2 Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus