In Sicily Dionysius, the tyrant of the Siceli,2
since his government was making satisfactory progress, determined to
make war upon the Carthaginians; but being not yet sufficiently prepared, he concealed this
purpose of his while making the necessary preparations for the coming encounters.
And realizing that in the war with Athens the city had been blocked off
by a wall that ran from the sea to the sea,3
he took care that he should never, where caught at a similar disadvantage, be cut
off from contact with the countryside; for he saw that the site of Epipolae, as it is called,
naturally commanded the city of the Syracusans.
therefore, for his master-builders, in accord with their advice he decided that he must fortify
Epipolae at the point where there stands now the Wall with the Six Gates.
For this place, which faces north, is precipitous in its entirety, and
so steep that access is hardly to be won from the outside. Wishing to complete the building of
the walls rapidly, he gathered the peasants from the countryside, from whom he selected some
sixty thousand capable men and parcelled out to them the space to be walled.
For each stade he appointed a master-builder and for each plethron4
mason, and the labourers from the common people assigned to the task numbered two hundred for
each plethron. Besides these, other workers, a multitude in number, quarried out the rough
stone, and six thousand yoke of oxen brought it to the appointed place.
And the united labour of so many workers struck the watchers with great
amazement, since all were zealous to complete the task assigned them. For Dionysius, in order
to excite the enthusiasm of the multitude, offered valuable gifts to such as finished first,
special ones for the master-builders, and still others for the masons and in turn for the
common labourers; and he in person, together with his friends, oversaw the work through all the
days required, visiting every section and ever lending a hand to the toilers.
Speaking generally, he laid aside the dignity of his office and reduced
himself to the ranks. Putting his hands to the hardest tasks, he endured the same toil as the
other workers, so that great rivalry was engendered and some added even a part of the night to
the day's labour, such eagerness had infected the multitude for the task.
As a result, contrary to expectation, the wall was brought to completion
in twenty days. It was thirty stades in length and of corresponding height, and the added
strength of the wall made it impregnable to assault; for there were lofty towers at frequent
intervals and it was constructed of stones four feet long and carefully joined.