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A native of Gela in Sicily, who rose from the station of a private citizen to be supreme ruler of Gela and Syracuse. He was descended from an ancient family, which originally came from Telos, an island off the coast of Caria, and settled at Gela, when it was first colonized by the Rhodians. During the time that Hippocrates reigned at Gela (B.C. 498-491), Gelon was appointed commander of the cavalry, and greatly distinguished himself in the various wars which Hippocrates carried on against the Grecian cities in Sicily. On the death of Hippocrates, who fell in battle against the Siculi, Gelon seized the supreme power (B.C. 491). Soon afterwards a more splendid prize fell in his way. The nobles and landholders (γάμοροι) of Syracuse, who had been driven from the city by an insurrection of their slaves, supported by the rest of the people, applied to Gelon for assistance. This crafty leader, gladly availing himself of the opportunity of extending his dominions, marched to Syracuse, into which he was admitted by the popular party (B.C. 485), who had not the means of resisting so formidable an opponent (Herod.vii. 154 foll.). Having thus become master of Syracuse, he appointed his brother Hiero governor of Gela, and exerted all his endeavours to promote the prosperity of his new acquisition. In order to increase the population of Syracuse, he destroyed Camarina, and removed all its inhabitants, together with a great number of the citizens of Gela, to his favourite city. By his various conquests and his great abilities, he became a very powerful monarch; and therefore, when the Greeks expected the invasion of Xerxes, ambassadors were sent by them to Syracuse, to secure, if possible, his assistance in the war. Gelon promised to send to their aid two hundred triremes, twenty thousand heavyarmed troops, two thousand cavalry, and six thousand light-armed troops, provided the supreme command were given to him. This offer being indignantly rejected by the Lacedaemonian and Athenian ambassadors, Gelon sent, according to Herodotus, an individual named Cadmus to Delphi, with great treasures, and with orders to present them to Xerxes if he proved victorious in the coming war (Herod.vii. 157-164). This statement, however, was denied by the Syracusans, who said that Gelon would have assisted the Greeks, if he had not been prevented by an invasion of the Carthaginians, with a force amounting to three hundred thousand men, under the command of Hamilcar. This great army was entirely defeated near Himera by Gelon and Theron, monarch of Agrigentum, on the same day, according to Herodotus, on which the battle of Salamis was fought (Herod.vii. 165 foll.). An account of this expedition is also given by Diodorus Siculus (xi. 21), who states that the battle between Gelon and the Carthaginians was fought on the same day as that at Thermopylae. There seems, indeed, to have been a regular understanding between Xerxes and the Carthaginians, in accordance with which the latter were to attack the Greeks in Sicily, while the Persian monarch was to move down upon Attica and the Peloponnesus.

Gelon appears to have used with moderation the power which he had acquired by violence, and to have endeared himself to the Syracusans by his just government, and by the encouragement he gave to commerce and the fine arts. Plutarch states that the Syracusans would not allow his statues to be destroyed together with those of the other tyrants, when Timoleon became master of the city (Timol.). He died B.C. 478, and was succeeded by his brother Hiero (Aristot. Polit. v. 12).


The son of Hiero II., king of Syracuse, who died before his father.

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