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The Elder, a celebrated tyrant of Syracuse, raised to that high rank from the station of a simple citizen, was born in that city, B.C. 430. He was son-in-law to Hermocrates, who, having been banished by an adverse party, attempted to return by force of arms and was killed in the action. Dionysius was dangerously wounded, but he recovered and was afterwards recalled. In time he caused himself to be nominated one of the generals, and, under pretence of raising a force sufficient to resist the Carthaginians, obtained a decree for recalling all the exiles, to whom he gave arms. Being sent to the relief of Gela, then besieged by the Carthaginians, he effected nothing against the enemy, pretending that he was not seconded by the other commanders; and his friends suggested that, in order to save the State, the supreme power ought to be confided to one man, reminding the people of the times of Gelon, who had defeated the Carthaginians. The General Assembly therefore proclaimed Dionysius supreme chief of the Republic about B.C. 405, when he was twenty-five years of age. He increased the pay of the soldiers, enlisted new ones, and, under pretence of a conspiracy against his person, formed a guard of mercenaries. He then proceeded to the relief of Gela, but failed in the attack on the Carthaginian camp; he, however, penetrated into the town, the inhabitants of which he advised to leave it quietly in the night under the escort of his troops. On his retreat he persuaded those of Camarina to do the same. This raised suspicion among his troops, and a party of horsemen, riding on before the rest, raised, on their arrival at Syracuse, an insurrection against Dionysius, plundered his house, and treated his wife so cruelly that she died in consequence. Dionysius, with a chosen body, followed close after, set fire to the gate of Acradina, forced his way into the city, put to death the leaders of the revolt, and remained undisputed possessor of the supreme power. The Carthaginians, being afflicted by a pestilence, made proposals of peace, which were accepted by Dionysius, and he then applied himself to fortifying Syracuse, and especially the island of Ortygia, which he made his stronghold, and which he peopled entirely with his trusty partisans and mercenaries, by the aid of whom he put down several revolts. After reducing the towns of Leontini, Catana, and Naxus, he engaged in a new war with Carthage, in which he met with the most brilliant success, making himself master of numerous towns in Sicily, and becoming eventually feared both in Italy and Sicily. In order to raise money, he allied himself with the Illyrians, and proposed to them the joint plunder of the temple of Delphi; the enterprise, however, failed. He then plundered several temples, such as that of Persephoné at Locri; and as he sailed back with the plunder, with a fair wind, he, being a humourist in his way, observed to his friends, “You see how the immortal gods favour sacrilege.” Having carried off a golden mantle from a statue of Zeus, consecrated by Gelon out of the spoils of the Carthaginians, he replaced it by a woollen garment, saying that this was better suited to the vicissitudes of the seasons. He also took away a golden beard from Aesculapius, observing that it was not becoming for the son of a beardless father (Apollo) to make a display of his own beard. He likewise appropriated to himself the silver tables and golden vases and crowns in the temples, saying that he would make use of the bounty of the gods (Cic. N. D. iii. 34). He made a descent with a fleet on the coast of Etruria, and plundered the temple at Caeré or Agylla of 1000 talents. With these resources he was preparing himself for a new expedition to Italy, when a fresh Carthaginian armament landed in Sicily, B.C. 383, and defeated Dionysius, whose brother Leptines fell in the battle. A peace followed, of which Carthage dictated the conditions.

This peace lasted fourteen years, during which Dionysius remained the undisturbed ruler of Syracuse and one half of Sicily, with part of southern Italy. He sent colonies to the coasts of the Adriatic, and his fleets navigated both seas. Twice he sent assistance to his old ally, Sparta: once against the Athenians, B.C. 374, and again in 369 after the battle of Leuctra, when the Spartans were hard pressed by Epaminondas. Meantime the court of Dionysius was frequented by many distinguished men, philosophers and poets. Plato is said to have been among the former, being invited by Dion (q.v.), the brother-in-law of Dionysius; but the philosopher's declamations against tyranny led to his being sent away from Syracuse. The poets fared little better, as Dionysius himself aspired to poetical fame, for which, however, he was not so well qualified as for political success. Those who did not praise his verses were in danger of being led to prison. Dionysius twice sent some of his poems to be recited at the Olympic Games, but they were hissed by the assembly. He was more successful at Athens. A tragedy of his obtained the prize, and the news of his success almost turned his brain. He had just concluded a fresh truce with the Carthaginians, after having made an unsuccessful attack on Lilybaeum, at the expiration of the fourteen years' peace; and he now gave himself up to rejoicings and feastings for his poetical triumph. In a debauch with his friends he ate and drank so intemperately that he fell senseless, and soon after died, B.C. 367, in the sixty-third year of his age, having been tyrant of Syracuse for thirtyeight years. Dionysius, his elder son by Doris, succeeded him in the sovereignty.

Dionysius was a clever statesman and generally successful in his undertakings. He did much to strengthen and extend the power of Syracuse, and it was probably owing to him that all Sicily did not fall into the hands of the Carthaginians. He was unscrupulous, rapacious, and vindictive; but several of the stories related of his cruelty and suspicious temper appear improbable, or at least exaggerated. An account of the famous prison, or “Ear of Dionysius,” will be found under the title Lautumiae.


The second of the name, styled The Younger, was son of Dionysius I. by Doris. His father, whom he succeeded, had left the State in a prosperous condition, but young Dionysius had neither his abilities nor his prudence and experience. He followed at first the advice of Dion, who, although a republican in principle, had remained faithful to his father, and who now endeavoured to direct the inexperienced son for the good of his country. For this purpose Dion invited his friend Plato to Syracuse, about B.C. 364. Dionysius received the philosopher with great respect, and, in deference to his advice, reformed for a while his loose habits and the manners of his court. But a faction, headed by Philistus, who had always been a supporter of the tyranny of the elder Dionysius, succeeded in prejudicing the son against both Dion and Plato. Dion was exiled, under pretence that he had written privately to the Senate of Carthage for the purpose of concluding a peace. Plato urgently demanded of Dionysius the recall of Dion, and not being able to obtain it, he left Syracuse, after which Dionysius gave himself up to debauchery without restraint. Dion, meanwhile, was travelling through Greece, where his character gained him numerous friends. Dionysius, moved by jealousy, confiscated his property and obliged his wife to marry another. Upon this, Dion collected a small force at Zacynthus, with which he sailed for Sicily and entered Syracuse without resistance. Dionysius retired to the citadel in Ortygia, and after some resistance, in which Philistus, his best supporter, was taken prisoner and put to death, he quitted Syracuse by sea and retired to Locri, the country of his mother, where he had connections and friends. Dion having been treacherously murdered, several tyrants succeeded each other in Syracuse, until Dionysius himself came and retook it about B.C. 346. Instead, however, of profiting by his ten years' exile, he had grown worse. Having, during the interval of his absence from Syracuse, usurped the supreme power in Locri, he had committed many atrocities, had put to death several citizens and abused their wives and daughters. Upon his return to Syracuse, his cruelty and profligacy drove away a great number of people, who emigrated to various parts of Italy and Greece, while others joined Hicetas, tyrant of Leontini and a former friend of Dion. The latter sent messengers to Corinth to request assistance against Dionysius. The Corinthians appointed Timoleon leader of the expedition. This commander landed in Sicily, B.C. 344, entered Syracuse, and soon after obliged Dionysius to surrender. Dionysius was sent to Corinth, where he spent the remainder of his life in the company of actors and low women. Some say that at one time he kept a school. Several repartees are related of him, in answer to those who taunted him upon his altered fortunes, which are not destitute of wit or wisdom (Dion; Diod. Sic. xvi. 5 foll.).


Dionysius Thrax, a celebrated Greek grammarian, a native of Byzantium, or perhaps of Alexandria (Suidas). Coming to Rome about B.C. 80, he engaged in teaching rhetoric and grammar. Of numerous manuals, commentaries, etc., that he published, one entitled Τέχνη Γραμματική has come down to us, and is of very great importance, as it became the basis for all subsequent grammars, and for many centuries was a standard text-book, either in the original or in Latin translations. From it, through the Latin equivalents, came the technical terms of modern grammar, such as “case” (casus, πτῶσις), “plural” (pluralis, πληθυντικός), “singular” (singularis, ἑνικός), “nominative” (nominativus, ὀνομαστική), etc. In the fourth century the book was translated into Armenian, and this version, which contains five more chapters than the Greek MSS., has given a definitive text of the whole. It is to be found in Bekker's Anecdota Graeca (Berlin, 1821), but especially in the recent edition by Uhlig (Leipzig, 1884). A French translation is given in Cirbied, Mémoires et Dissertations sur les Antiquités Nationales et Étrangères (Paris, 1824). On Dionysius see Gräfenhan, Geschichte d. Class. Phil. i. p. 402 foll. (Bonn, 1850); Lersch, Sprachphilosophie der Alten, i. p. 64 foll. (Leipzig, 1841); Steinthal, Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft, 2d ed. (Berlin, 1891); Sayce, Science of Language, Introduction; Hübschmann, Casuslehre, pp. 15 foll.; Suidas, s. v. Διονύσιος; and the article Grammatica.


Halicarnassensis or Halicarnasseus, an historian and critic, born at Halicarnassus in the first century B.C. We know nothing of his history beyond what he has told us himself. He states that he came to Italy at the termination of the civil war between Augustus and Antony (B.C. 29), and that he spent the following two-and-twenty years at Rome in learning the Latin language and in collecting materials for his history. He died at Rome, B.C. 7. The principal work of Dionysius is his work on Roman antiquities (Ῥωμαϊκὴ Ἀρχαιολογία), which commenced with the early history of the people of Italy and terminated with the beginning of the First Punic War, B.C. 265. It originally consisted of twenty books, of which the first ten remain entire. The eleventh breaks off in the year B.C. 312, but several fragments of the latter half of the history are preserved in the collection of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, and to these a valuable addition was made in 1816, by Mai, from an old MS. Besides, the first three books of Appian were founded entirely upon Dionysius, and Plutarch's biography of Camillus must also be considered as a compilation mostly taken from the Antiquitates Romanae, so that perhaps, upon the whole, we have not lost much of his work. The intention of the author in writing his history was to give the Greeks a more accurate and favourable idea than they had hitherto entertained of the Roman people and its civilization, for it had always fretted the Easterns to have been conquered by a race of mere “barbarians.” The work is founded upon a very careful and thorough study of authorities, and is one of our chief sources of information upon ancient Roman history in its internal and external development. Good editions of the Antiquitates are those of Reiske, 6 vols. (Leipzig, 1774-76), Schwartz (Leipzig, 1877), and Jacoby 2 vols. (1885-88). The first edition in the original Greek was that of R. Stephanus (Paris, 1546).

Dionysius also wrote a treatise on rhetoric (Τέχνη Ρητορική); criticisms (Τῶν Ἀρχαίων Κρίσις) on the style of Thucydides, Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus , Dinarchus, Plato, and Demosthenes; a treatise on the arrangement of words (Περὶ Συνθέσεως Ὀνομάτων); and some other short essays. The first complete edition of the entire works of Dionysius was that of Sylburg (Frankfort, 1586; reprinted at Leipzig, 1691). More recent editors of the rhetorical works are Gros (Paris, 1826) and Westermann.


The author of a Greek poem in 1186 hexameters, entitled Τῆς Γῆς Οἰκουμένης Περιήγησις, “A Description of the Habitable World.” It is not clearly ascertained where he was born. The probability is, however, that he was a native of Charax in Susiana. It is uncertain, also, when he flourished; he belonged, however, according to the general opinion, to the latter part of the third or the beginning of the fourth century A.D. He derived from his poem the surname of Periegetes. This production of his has little merit as a work of imagination and but feeble interest for the geographer. The commentary, however, of Eustathius upon it possesses some value from the miscellaneous information which is scattered throughout. There are two Latin translations of the poem—one by Rufus Festus Avienus (q.v.) and the other by Priscianus (q.v.). The last and best edition of the Periegesis is that of Bernhardy (Leipzig, 1828), in the first volume of his Geographi Graeci Minores.


A Christian writer, called Areopagīta, from his having been a member of the court of Areopagus at Athens. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul's preaching (Acts, xvii. 34). He is reported to have been the first bishop of Athens, being appointed to that office by the apostle Paul, and to have suffered martyrdom under Domitian. His fundamental thought is the absolute transcendence of God. During the Middle Ages a great number of writings were circulated under his name, and were collected together and printed at Cologne in 1536, and subsequently at Antwerp in 1634 and at Paris in 1646. They have now, for a long time, been deemed spurious, although scholars differ in respect to the times and authors of the fabrication. The most probable reasoning, however, fixes them at the end of the fourth century. The standard text is that of Corderius, reprinted by the Abbé Migne. Trans. by Parker (1894). See Harnack's Dogmengeschichte, vol. ii., and the studies by Niemeyer (1869) and Schneider (1884).


Surnamed Exiguus, or “the Little,” on account of the smallness of his stature, a Scythian monk of the sixth century, who became an abbot at Rome. Cassiodorus, who was his intimate friend, speaks highly of his learning and character. At the request of Stephen, bishop of Salona, he drew up a body of canons entitled Collectio sive Codex Canonum Ecclesiasticorum, etc., translated from the Greek, containing the first fifty apostolical canons, as they are called, with those of the councils of Nice, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Sardis, and including 138 canons of certain African councils. He afterwards drew up a collection of the decretals. To him some ascribe the mode of computing the time of Easter, and of dating from the birth of Christ.


Of Colophon, an artist, contemporary with Polygnotus, whom he imitated. Aristotle describes him as a realist in the treatment of his subjects.


Dionysius Cato. See Cato, p. 302.

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