Heraclia was the daughter of Hiero and wife of Zoippus,1
who was sent as ambassador to King Ptolemy2
by Hieronymus and had accepted voluntary exile.
She, having learned in advance that they were coming to her house also, fled into the chapel of the household gods with her two maiden daughters, her hair dishevelled and her general appearance moving to pity.
And in addition were [p. 259]
her prayers, now by the gods, now by the memory of3
her father Hiero and her brother Gelo, that they should not allow her innocent self to perish by the fire of resentment against Hieronymus.
Nothing had she gained by his reign except the exile of her husband; and while Hieronymus lived, her station had not been so high as her sister's, nor was their situation the same after his death.
What of it that, if Adranodorus' plans had succeeded, the sister would have reigned with her husband, while she herself and all the rest must be slaves?
If someone should inform Zoippus that Hieronymus had been slain and Syracuse set free, who would have any doubt that he would forthwith board ship and return to his native city?
How the hopes of men were disappointed! In his native city, now set free, his wife and children were fighting for their lives, offering what obstacle to freedom and laws?
What danger to anyone was there from herself, a lone woman, virtually a widow, and from maidens living as orphans? But they might say that no danger was indeed feared from her, that nevertheless the royal family was hated.
Therefore they should send them far from Syracuse and Sicily and bid them to be carried away to Alexandria, the wife to her husband, the daughters to their father.
When they paid no attention whatever and shouted not to waste time, she could see some men drawing swords. Then ceasing entreaties for herself, she urgently begged them at least to spare the girls —an age on which even enraged enemies do not lay hands;
that in taking vengeance on the tyrants they should not themselves imitate the crimes which they hated.
While still speaking, they dragged her away from the altar and cut her throat, [p. 261]
then turned their attack upon the girls spattered with B.C. 214 their mother's blood. Beside themselves for grief and fear, as though insane, they dashed out of the chapel with such speed that, if there had been any escape to the street, they would have caused a riot throughout the city.
Even as it was, in the limited space of the house, amidst so many armed men, they several times escaped unharmed and tore themselves away from those who tried to hold them, although they had to fight off hands so many and so strong.
At last exhausted by wounds, after staining everything with their blood, they fell lifeless. The slaughter, in itself pitiful, was made still more pitiful by the coincidence that shortly after came the word that they were not to be put to death, for animosity had suddenly changed to pity.
From pity then came anger, that such haste to punish had been made, and no chance left for a change of mind or a cooling of anger.
And so the multitude complained, and to replace Adranodorus and Themistus —for both had been magistrates —they clamoured for an election, which would not prove at all to the liking of the magistrates.