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Diony'sius or Diony'sius the Younger or the Younger Diony'sius

*Dionu/sios) the Younger, tyrant of SVRACUSE, son of the preceding, succeeded his father in the possession of supreme power at Syracuse, B. C. 367. Something like the form of a popular election, or at least the confirmation of his power by the people, appears to have been thought necessary; but it could have been merely nominal, as the amount of his mercenary force and the forti-fications of the citadel secured him the virtual sovereignty. (Diod. 15.74.) Dionysius was at this time under thirty years of age: he had been brought up at his father's court in idleness and luxury, and studiously precluded from taking any part in public affairs. (Plut. Dio 9.) The consequences of this education were quickly manifested as soon as he ascended the throne: the ascendancy which Dion, and through his means Plato, obtained for a time over his mind was undermined by flatterers and the companions of his pleasures, who persuaded him to give himself up to the most unbounded dissipation. Of the public events of his reign, which lasted between eleven and twelve years (Diod. 15.73; Clinton, F. H. ii. p. 268), we have very little information : he seems to have succeeded to his father's influence in the south of Italy as well as to his dominion in Sicily, and to have followed up his views in regard to the Adriatic, for which end he founded two cities in Apulia. We also find him sending a third auxiliary force to the assistance of the Lacedaemonians, (Xen. Hell. 7.4.12.) But his character was peaceful and indolent; he hastened to conclude by a treaty the war with the Carthaginians, in which he found himself engaged on his accession; and the only other war that he undertook was one against the Lucanians, probably in defence of his Italian allies, which he also quickly brought to a close. (Diod. 16.5.) Philistus, the historian, who, after having been one of his father's chief supporters, had been subsequently banished by him, enjoyed the highest place in the confidence of the younger Dionysius, and appears to have been charged with the conduct of all his military enterprises. Notwithstanding his advanced age, he is represented as rather encouraging than repressing the excesses of Dionysius, and joining with the party who sought to overthrow the power of Dion, and ultimately succeeded in driving him into exile. The banishment of Dion contributed to render Dionysius unpopular among the Syracusans, who began also to despise him for his indolent and dissolute life, as well as for his habitual drunkenness. Yet his court seems to have been at this time a great place of resort for philosophers and men of letters : besides Plato, whom he induced by the most urgent entreaties to pay him a second visit, Aristippus of Cyrene, Eudoxus of Cnidus, Speusippus, and others, are stated to have spent some time with him at Syracuse; and he cultivated a friendly intercourse with Archytas and the Pythagoreans of Magna Graecia. (Plut. Dio 18-20; D. L. 3.21, 23; Aelian, Ael. VH 4.18, 7.17; Pseud.-Plat. Epist. 6.) Much doubt indeed attaches to all the stories related by Plutarch and other late writers concerning the intercourse of Plato with Dionysius, but they can hardly have been altogether destitute of foundation.

Dionysius was absent from Syracuse at the time that Dion landed in Sicily : the news of that event and of the sudden defection of the Svracusans reached him at Caulonia, and he instantly returned to Syracuse, where the citadel still held out for him. But his attempts at negotiation having proved abortive, the sallies of his troops having been repulsed, and the fleet which Philistus had brought to his succour having been defeated, he despaired of success, and sailed away to Italy with his most valuable property, leaving the citadel of Syracuse in charge of his son, Apollocrates, B. C. 356. (Diod. 16.11-13, 16, 17; Plut. Dio 26-37.)

Dionysius now repaired to Locri, the native city of his mother, Doris, where he was received in the most friendly manner by the inhabitants--a confidence of which he availed himself to occupy the citadel with an armed force, and thus to establish himself as tyrant of the city. This position he continued to hold for several years, during which period he is said to have treated the inhabitants with the utmost cruelty, at the same time that he indulged in the most extravagant licentiousness. (Justin, 21.2, 3; Clearch. apud Athen. xii. p. 541; Strab. vi. p.259; Aristot. Pol. 5.7.) Meanwhile the revolutions which had taken place at Syracuse seem to have prepared the way for his return. The history of these is very imperfectly known to us : but, after the death of Dion, one tyrant followed another with great rapidity. Callippus, the murderer of Dion, was in his turn driven from the city by Ilipparinus (son of the elder Dionysius by Aristomache, and therefore nephew of Dion), who reigned but two years: another of Dion's nephews, Nysaeus, subsequently obtained the supreme power, and was in possession of it when Dionysius presented himself before Syracuse with a fleet, and became master of the city by treachery. According to Plutarch, this took place in the tenth year after his expulsion, B. C. 346. (Diod. 16.31, 36; Justin, 21.3; Athen. 11.508; Plut. Tim. 1.) The Locrians meanwhile took advantage of his absence to revolt against him : they drove out the garrison which he had left, and wreaked their vengeance in the most cruel manner on his wife and daughters. (Strab. vi. p.260; Clearch. apud Athen. xii. p. 541.) Dionysius was not however able to reestablish himself firmly in his former power. Most of the other cities of Sicily had shaken off the yoke of Syracuse, and were governed severally by petty tyrants: one of these, Hicetas, who had established himself at Leontini, afforded a rallying point to the disaffected Syracusans, with whom he joined in making war on Dionysius, and succeeded in gaining possession of the greater part of the city, and blockading the tyrant anew in the fortress on the island. It was in this state of things that Timoleon arrived in Sicily. His arms were not indeed directed in the first instance against Dionysius, but against Hicetas and his Carthaginian allies; but his rapid successes and the general respect entertained for his character induced Dionysius, who was still blockaded in the citadel, and appears to have abandoned all hope of ultimate success, to treat with him rather than the opposite party. He accordingly surrendered the fortress of Ortygia into the hands of Timoleon, on condition of being allowed to depart in safety to Corinth, B. C. 343. (Diod. 16.65-70; Plut. Timole. 8-13.) Here he spent the remainder of his life in a private condition, and is said to have frequented low company, and sunk gradually into a very degraded and abject state. According to some writers, he was reduced to support himself by keeping a school; others say, that he became one of the attendants on the rites of Cybele, a set of mendicant priests of the lowest class. His weak and voluptuous character render these stories by no means improbable, although it seems certain that he was in the first instance allowed to take with him a considerable portion of his wealth, and must have occupied an honourable position, as we find him admitted to familiar intercourse with Philip of Macedon. Some anecdotes are preserved of him that indicate a ready wit and considerable shrewdness of observation.

Further Information

Plut. Tim. 14, 15 ; Justin, 21.5; Clearch. up. Athen. xii. p. 541 ; Aelian, Ael. VH 6.12; Cic. Tusc. 3.12.


There are no authentic coins of either of the two Dionysii: probably the republican forms were still so far retained, notwithstanding their virtual despotism, that all coins struck under their rule bore the name of the city only. According to Müller (Arcäol. d. Kunst. p. 128), the splendid silver coins, of the weight of ten drachms, commonly known as Syracusan medallions, belong for the most part to the period of their two reigns. Certain Punic coins, one of which is represented in the annexed cut, are commonly ascribed to the younger Dionysius, but only on the authority of Goltzius (a noted falsifier of coins and their inscriptions), who has published a similar coin with the name Διονυσιου.

[E. H. B.]

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367 BC (1)
356 BC (1)
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hide References (24 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (24):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5.1312a
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.65
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.73
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.74
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.11
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.13
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.16
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.17
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.31
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.36
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.5
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.70
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 7.4.12
    • Plutarch, Dion, 18
    • Plutarch, Dion, 20
    • Plutarch, Dion, 26
    • Plutarch, Dion, 37
    • Plutarch, Dion, 9
    • Plutarch, Timoleon, 1
    • Plutarch, Timoleon, 14
    • Plutarch, Timoleon, 15
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 4.18
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 6.12
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 7.17
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