king of SYRACUSE, was the son of Hierocles, a Syracusan of illustrious birth, who claimed descent from the great Gelon, the victor at IIimera.
He was however illegitimate, being the offspring of a female servant, in consequence of which it is said that he was exposed as an infant, but that some omens prophetic of his future greatness caused his father to relent, and bring him up with care and attention. (Just. 23.4
; Zonar. 8.6
The year of his birth cannot be fixed with certainty, but it must have taken place before
B. C. 306; hence he was at least thirty years old when the departure of Pyrrhus from Sicily (B. C. 275) left the Syracusans without a leader. Hieron had already distinguished himself in the wars of that monarch, and had acquired so much favour with the soldiery, that the Syracusan army, on occasion of some dispute with the people of the city, appointed him, together with Artemidorus, to be their general; and he had the skill and address to procure the ratification of his command from the people, and conciliate the affections of the multitude as effectually as he had those of the soldiers.
But his ambition did not stop here.
By his marriage with the daughter of Leptines, at that time unquestionably the most distinguished and influential citizen at Syracuse, he secured for himself the most powerful support in the councils of the republic.
But he felt that he could not rely on the army of mercenaries, which, though they had been the first to raise him to power, he well knew to be fickle and treachecus; he therfore took an opportunity during the war with the Mamertines (who, after the departure of Pyrrhus, had attacked the Syracusans), to abandon these troops to the enemy, by whom they were almost all cut to pieces, while IIieron, with the Syracusan citizens, who had kept aloof from the combat, effected in safety his retreat to Syracuse. Here he immediately proceeded to levy a new army, and as soon as he had organised these troops, marched forth to chastise the Mamertines, who were naturally elated with their victory.
He soon drove them out of all the territory they had conquered, took the cities of Mylae and Alaesa, while those of Tyndaris, Abacaenum, and Tauromenium, declared in his favour. The Mamertines, thus hemmed in in a corner of the island, ventured on a pitched battle at the river Longanus, but were totally defeated, their leader, Cios, taken prisoner, and Messana itself would have probably fallen into the hands of Hieron, had not the intervention of the Carthaginians prevailed on him to grant a peace to his humbled enemies. On his return from this glorious expedition, Hieron was saluted by his fellowcitizens with the title of king, B. C. 270. (Plb. 1.8
; Diod. Exc. Hoesch.
xxii. p. 499, 500.)
The chronology of these events is not very clear (see Paus. 6.12.2
; Clinton, F. H.
vol. ii. p. 267; and Droysen, Hellenism.
vol. ii. p. 268, not.
), but if the date above assigned for the commencement of the reign of Hieron be correct, it was in the year preceding his elevation to the royal dignity (B. C. 272), that he assisted the Romans during the siege of Rhegium with supplies of corn, as well as with an auxiliary force. (Zonar. 8.6
.) We know nothing more of his proceedings from this time until the year 264, nor can we clearly discover the relations in which he stood, either towards Carthage or Rome; it is said indeed that the assistance furnished by him to the latter had given umbrage to the Carthaginians (Dio Cass. Frag. Vat.
57; Zonar. 8.6
), and rendered them unfavorable to Hieron, but this disposition did not break out into actual hostilities. His great object seems still to have been the complete expulsion of the Mamertines from Sicily; and when, in 264, the Romans for the first time interposed in favour of that people, his indignation at their interference led him to throw himself at once into the arms of the Carthaginians, with whom he concluded an alliance, and united his forces with those of Hanno, who had just arrived in Sicily, at the head of a large army. [HANNO, No. 8.] With their combined forces they proceeded to lay siege to Messana both by sea and land, but they failed in preventing the Roman consul, Appius Claudius, from crossing the straits with his army.
He landed near the Syracusan camp, and Hieron gave him battle the next day, but met with a partial defeat ; and, alarmed at the aspect of affairs, and mistrusting the faith of his allies, suddenly withdrew with all his forces to Syracuse. Thither, after some interval, Claudius followed him, and ravaged the open country up to the very walls, but was unable to effect any thing against the city itself, and was compelled by the breaking out of a pestilential disorder in his army to retreat.
The next year (B. C. 263) hostilities were renewed by the Romans, and the consuls, Otacilius and Valerius, not only laid waste the Syracusan territory, but took many of their smaller and dependent towns; and Hieron, finding himself unable to cope single-handed with the Roman power, and seeing little hope of assistance from Carthage, concluded a peace with Rome.
The terms of the treaty were on the whole sufficiently favourable; Hieron retained possession of the whole south-east of Sicily. and the eastern side of the island as far as Tauromenium, advantages which were cheaply purchased by the surrender of his prisoners and the payment of a large sum of money. (Plb. 1.11
; Diod. Exe. Hoesch.
23.2, 4, 5; Zonar. 8.9
; Oros. 4.7
From this time till his death, a period of little less than half a century, Hieron continued the steadfast friend and ally of the Romans, a policy of which his subjects as well as himself reaped the benefits, in the enjoyment of a state of tranquillity and prosperity such as they had never before known for so long a period.
But such an interval of peace and quiet naturally affords few materials for history, and our knowledge of the remainder of Hlieron's long life is almost confined to the interchange of good offices between him and the Romans, which cemented and confirmed their friendship. During the first Punic war he was frequently called upon to render important services to his new allies; in B. C. 262, by the zeal and energy which he displayed in furnishing supplies to the Roman consuls before Agrigentum, he enabled them to continue the siege, and ultimately effect the reduction of that important fortress. (Plb. 1.18
; Zonar. 8.10
.) On a subsequent occasion we find him sending them the military engines and artillery, by means of which they took Camarina (Diod. Exe. Hoesch.
23.9), and in 255 displaying the utmost solicitude in relieving the wants of the Roman mariners and soldiers after the dreadful shipwreck of their fleet off Camarina. (Id. ibid.
13.) Again in 252 he is mentioned as furnishing the consul Aurelius Cotta with ships (Zonar. 8.14
), and as relieving the spirits of the Roman army by an opportune supply of corn, when almost disheartened, during the long protracted siege of Lilybaeum, B. C. 249. (Diod. Exc. Hoesch.
24.1.) For these faithful services he was rewarded by being included under the protection of the treaty of peace concluded between Rome and Carthage in B. C. 241 (Plb. 1.62.8
), and by a renewal of the treaty between him and the Romans, which was now changed into a perpetual alliance, the payment of all tribute being henceforth remitted. (Zonar. 8.16
; Appian, App. Sic. 2
During the interval of peace between the two Punic wars, Hieron visited Rome in person, where he appears to have been received with the highest honours, and gave a proof at once of his wealth and liberality, by distributing a vast quantity of corn to the people at the secular games. (Eutrop. 3.1
.) In B. C. 222, after the great victory of Marcellus over the Gauls, a portion of the spoils taken on that occasion was sent to him by the senate as a friendly offering. (Plut. Marc. 8
; Liv. 24.21
The beginning of the second Punic war now came, to put his fidelity to the highest test ; but he was not found wanting to his allies in the hour of their danger.
He not only fitted out a fleet to co-operate with that of the consul Sempronius (of which, notwithstanding his advanced age, he appears to have taken the command in person), but offered to supply the Roman legions and naval forces in Sicily with provisions and clothing at his own expense.
The next year (217), on receiving the tidings uf the fatal battle of Thrasymene, he hastened to send to Rome a large supply of corn, as well as a body of light-armed auxiliaries, and a golden statue of Victory, which was consecrated by the Romans in the capitol. (Liv. 21.49
; Zonar. 8.26
; V. Max. 4.8
The still heavier disaster of Cannae in the following year (B. C. 216) appears to have produced as little change in his disposition towards the contending powers; and one of the last acts of his life was the sending a large supply of money and corn to the propraetor T. Otacilius. (Liv. 23.21
The date of his death is nowhere expressly mentioned, but it seems clear that it must have occurred before the end of the year 216. (See Clinton, F. H.
vol. ii. p. 267.)
According to Lucian (Macrob.
10), he had attained the age of ninety-two : both Polybius and Livy speak of him as not less than ninety. (Plb. 7.8
; Liv. 24.4
.) Pausanias, who asserts that he was murdered by Deinomenes (6.12.4), has evidently confounded him with his grandson Hieronymus.
It was not towards the Romans alone that Hieron displayed his wealth and munificence in so liberal a manner. His eyes were ever turned towards Greece itself, and he sought to attract the attention and conciliate the favour of the Greek nation not only by costly offerings at Olympia and other places of national resort, but by coming forward readily to the assistance of all who needed it.
A striking instance of this is recorded in the magnificent presents which lie sent to the Rhodians when their city had suffered from an earthquake. (Plb. 5.88
; Paus. 6.12.2
.) Nor did his steady attachment to the Romans prevent him from furnishing supplies to the Carthaginians when the very existence of their state was endangered by the war of the mercenaries. (Plb. 1.83
.) His internal administration appears to have been singularly mild and equitable : though he did not refuse the title of king, he avoided all external display of the insignia of royalty, and appeared in public unattended by guards, and in the garb of a private citizen.
By retaining the senate of the republic, and taking care to consult them upon all important occasions, he preserved the forms of a constitutional government; and we are even told that he was sincerely desirous to lay aside the sovereign power, and was only prevented from doing so by the unanimous voice of his subjects. (Plb. 7.8
; Liv. 24.4
The care he bestowed upon the financial department of his administration is sufficiently attested by the laws regulating the tithes of corn and other agricultural produce, which, under the name of Leges Hieronicae,
are repeatedly referred to by Cicero in his orations against Verres; and which, in consequence of their equitable and precise adjustment, were retained by the Romans when they reduced Sicily to a province. (Cic. Ver. 2.13
, 3.8, 51, &c.)
At the same time he adorned the city of Syracuse with many public works of great magnificence as well as of real utility, among which are mentioned temples, gymnasia, porticoes, and public altars (Athenae. 5.40; Diod. 16.83
); that his care in this respect was not confined to Syracuse alone is proved by the occurrence of his name on the remarkable edifices which have been brought to light of late years at Acrae, now Palazzolo. (See the Duca di Serra di Falco, Antichità della Sicilia,
vol. iv. p. 158.) Among other modes in which he displayed his magnificence was the construction of a ship of enormous size, far exceeding all previously constructed, which, when completed, he sent laden with corn as a present to Ptolemy king of Egypt.
A detailed account of this wonderful vessel has been preserved to us by Athenaeus (5.40
But while he secured to his subjects the blessings of peace, Hieron did not neglect to prepare for war, and not only kept up a large and well-appointed fleet, but employed his friend and kinsman Archimedes in the construction of powerful engines both for attack and defence, which afterwards played so important a part in the siege of Syracuse by Marcellus. (Liv. 24.34
; Plut. Marc. 14
The power and magnificence of Hieron were celebrated by Theocritus in his sixteenth Idyll, but the poet's panegyric adds hardly any thing to our historical knowledge.
Hieron had only one son, Gelon, who died shortly before his father; but he left two daughters, Demarata and Heraclea, who were married respectively to Andranodorus and Zoippns, two of the principal citizens of Syracuse.
He was succeeded by his grandson. Hieronymus.
Numerous coins are extant, which bear the name of Hieron, and some of these have been referred by the earlier numismatists to the elder Hieron; but it is quite certain, from the style of work of the coins themselves, and the characters of the inscription, that they must all have been struck in the reign of Hieron II. Eckhel (vol. i. pp. 251-257) and Visconti (Iconographie Grecque,
vol. ii. p. 16) are, however, of opinion that the head upon them, which bears the diadem, is that of the elder Hieron, and that we cannot suppose Hieron I. to have adopted the diadem on his coins when he never wore it in public.
There does not seem much weight in this objection, and it is probable, on the whole, that the portrait which we find on these coins is that of Hieron II. himself.