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Τιμολέων), the son of Timodemus or Timaenetus and Demariste, belonged to one of the noblest families at Corinth, and gained at an early age among his fellow-citizens a reputation for ability and courage. Corinth had long exercised great influence over the Greek cities in Sicily as the metropolis or mother-city of Syracuse. After the death of Dion, the most terrible disorders had prevailed throughout Sicily, and several men of enterprize and energy had succeeded in making themselves tyrants or supreme rulers in various places. Dionysius had again recovered his power in Syracuse. Hicetas had established himself as tyrant at Leontini, and Andromachus, the father of the historian Timaeus, at Tauromenium. The friends of Dion had taken refuge either with Hicetas or Andromachus, and the former was making war against Dionysius under the pretext of restoring the exiles, but in reality in hopes of making himself master of Syracuse. Meantime, the Carthaginians prepared to take advantage of the distracted condition of Sicily and the fears of this invasion, as well as the hopes of restoring tranquillity to the island, led many of the Sicilians, and among them the Syracusan exiles, to send an embassy to Corinth to implore assistance (B. C. 344). The Corinthians immediately resolved to comply with their request, and the unanimous voice of the people selected Timoleon as the person most competent to take the command in the proposed expedition. Such a proposal was, in itself, most acceptable to the bold and enterprising spirit of Timoleon; but there was another reason which had rendered Corinth an unwelcome place of residence to him. His elder brother Timaophanes had commanded the Corinthian troops in a war against Argos with great success; and subsequently when the state expected another attack, he had the command of four hundred mercenaries entrusted to him. By their means, and supported by a powerful party in the state, he resolved to obtain the supreme power in Corinth, and make himself tyrant of the city. His brother Timoleon, who was a warm lover of liberty, disapproved of his schemes, and endeavoured by argument and persuasion to turn him from his purpose, but when he found Timophanes inflexible, he resolved to kill his brother rather than allow him to destroy the liberty of his state. The manner of Timophanes' death is stated differently by the ancient writers. Diodorus says that Timoleon slew him with his open hand openly in the forum. Plutarch relates that Timoleon introduced the assassins into his brother's house, but turned his back while the deed was done; and Cornelius Nepos states that Timoleon was not even present at the murder, though it was perpetrated at his desire. (Diod. 16.65; Plut. Tim. 4 ; Corn. Nep. Tim. I; Aristot. Pol. 5.5.9.) Plutarch further relates that Timophanes was murdered twenty years before the Sicilian ambassadors arrived at Corinth, during the whole of which time Timoleon lived in solitude, a prey to sorrow and remorse ; but as Xenophon in his Greek history makes no mention of the affair, which he would hardly have omitted, if it occurred in B. C. 364, we may follow in preference the narrative of Diodorus, who relates that Timoleon murdered his brother just before the arrival of the Sicilian ambassadors, and that at the very moment of their arrival the Corinthians had not come to any decision respecting Timoleon's act, some denouncing it as a wilful murder which should be punished according to the laws, others as a glorious deed of patriotism, for which he ought to be rewarded. The historian adds that the Corinthian senate avoided the difficulty of a decision by appointing him to the command of the Sicilian expedition, with the singular provision, that if he conducted himself justly in the command, they would regard him as a tyrannicide, and honour him accordingly; but if otherwise, they would punish him as a fratricide.

In whatever manner, and to whatever causes Timoleon owed his appointment, his extraordinary success more than justified the confidence which had been reposed in him. His history in Plutarcll reads almost like a romance; and yet of the main facts of the narrative, confirmed as they are by Diodorus and other authorities, we cannot entertain any reasonable doubt. Although the Corinthians had readily assented to the requests of the Sicilians in the appointment of a commander, they were not prepared to make many sacrifices in their favour ; and accordingly it was only with ten triremes and seven hundred mercenaries that Timoleon sailed from Corinth to repel the Carthaginians, and restore order to the Sicilian cities. It was not without difficulty that Timoleon could even reach Sicily. Hicetas, the tyrant of Leontini, who had ostensibly joined the other Greeks in asking assistance from Corinth, dreaded the arrival of Timoleon, and had therefore entered into secret negotiations with Hanno, the Carthaginian general, who had meantime arrived in Sicily. The interference of Corinth with Sicilian affairs could not be pleasing to the Carthaginians ; and Hanno accordingly sent a squadron of twenty ships to the coast of Italy, to watch the movements of Timoleon. The latter, however, contrived to outwit the Carthaginian commander at Rhegium, and crossed over in safety to Tauromenium, where he was kindly received by Andromachus, the tyrant of the place, and by the Syracusan exiles. Meanwhile, Hicetas had been prosecuting the war with success against Dionysius. At the head of a considerable force he had attacked Syracuse; and, after defeating Dionysius in a decisive battle, he had made himself master of the whole city, with the exception of the island citadel, where he kept Dionysius closely besieged. Timoleon saw that it was necessary to act with promptitude; for hardly any of the Sicilian Greeks could be expected to join him till he had won their confidence and commanded their respect. Accordingly, although he could collect only twelve hundred men, he marched at once to Adranum, the different parties in which had at the same time implored his assistance and that of Hicetas. The two generals reached the town almost at the same time; and in the battle which immediately ensued, Timoleon put Hicetas to flight, although he had nearly five times the number of men. Timoleon followed up his victory by marching against Syracuse, and before Hicetas could collect his troops, he succeeded in obtaining possession of two quarters of the city, Tyche and Epipolae. Syracuse was now in the hands of the three contending parties, Dionysius keeping the island citadel, Hicetas Neapolis and Achradina, and Timoleon the two other quarters. Such was the state of affairs towards the end of B. C. 344. The ensuing winter was spent in negotiations with the other Greek cities in Sicily, and Timoleon's recent success gained for him the adhesion of several important places, and among others that of Catana, of which Mamercus was tyrant. In the following spring (B. C. 343) Dionysius, despairing of success, surrendered the citadel to the Corinthian leader, on condition of his being allowed to depart in safety to Corinth. Hicetas, finding that he had to contend alone with Timoleon, first attempted to remove his rival by assassination, and, after the failure of this attempt, openly had recourse to the Carthaginians, and introduced Mago with his fleet and army into the port and city of Syracuse. Hicetas now seemed certain of success, for the Carthaginian force is said to have amounted to 50,000 men; but Timoleon did not despair, and showed himself quite equal to the emergency. He contrived to send a seasonable supply of provisions from Catana to the Corinthian garrison in the citadel at Syracuse; and while Mago and Hicetas marched against Catana with the best part of their troops, Leon, the commander of the Corinthian garrison at Syracuse, made a sudden attack upon Achradina, and gained this important quarter of the city. This unexpected success raised the suspicions of Mago. who, fearful of treachery, resolved to quit the island, and sailed away, with all his forces, to Carthage. Notwithstanding the defection of his powerful ally, Hicetas still attempted to retain possession of the part of Syracuse that was still in his power, but he was unable to resist the attack of Timoleon, and was obliged to abandon the city, and return to Leontini.

Timoleon thus became the undisputed master of Syracuse. Although he might easily have made himself tyrant of the city, he resolved to show that neither he nor any other private person should become the irresponsible ruler; and therefore one of his first acts was to call upon the people to destroy the citadel, which had been for so many years the seat and bulwark of the power of the tyrants. His next care was to repeople the city, which had become so deserted that whole streets were left without inhabitants, and grass grew in the market-place in sufficient quantity to feed the horses. He sent ambassadors to Corinth, to invite persons to come and settle at Syracuse, holding out to them as an inducement a division of lands. Corinth collected in Greece ten thousand colonists, who sailed to Syracuse; and such numbers flocked to the city from different parts of Italy and Sicily, that the number of new inhabitants amounted to sixty thousand. Having thus collected a population, he proceeded to enact laws for their government. Of the details of these we are not informed. We only know that they were of a democratical nature, and that he appointed a chief magistrate, to be elected annually, who was called the Amphipolus of the Olympian Zeus, and who gave his name to the Syracusan year. The historian adds that this office continued to be in existence in his time, that is, in the reign of Augustus (Diod. 16.70). The arrangement of the internal affairs of Syracuse engaged the principal attention of Timoleon for the next two or three years; but during that time he did not neglect the great object to which he had now devoted his life, the expulsion of the tyrants from the cities. He compelled Leptines, who was tyrant of Apollonia and Engyum, to surrender his power, and sent him into exile at Corinth. He was not, however, so successful in an attack upon Leontini (Diod. 16.72), although Plutarch represents him as forcing Hicetas to demolish his strongholds, and live among the Leontines as a private person (Tim. 24). But as these expeditions did not bring his troops much booty, and it was necessary to find both employment and rewards for his mercenaries, he sent the latter into the Carthaginian dominions in Sicily, where they reaped a rich harvest, and compelled many cities to desert the Carthaginian cause.

The Carthaginians did not need this provocation to engage in war against Timoleon. The rise of a new power at Syracuse, and the union of the Sicilian Greeks, could not but excite jealousy among the Carthaginians. They had been so exasperated against Mago for his cowardly conduct in leaving Sicily, that they would have crucified him if he had not put an end to his own life; and they now resolved to send a force to Sicily sufficiently powerful to subdue the whole island. This formidable armament reached Lilybaeum in B. C. 339. It was under the command of Hasdrubal and Hamilcar, and is said to have consisted of 70,000 foot and 10,000 horse and war-chariots, with a fleet of 200 ships of war, and 1000 other vessels carrying a vast quantity of provisions and military stores. Such an overwhelming force struck the Greeks with consternation and dismay. So great was their alarm that Timoleon, according to Diodorus (16.78), could only induce twelve thousand men to march with him against the Carthaginians, including in that number his mercenaries, and even of them one thousand deserted him on the march. Timoleon hastened to meet the enemy with this small force, knowing that any delay, in the divided condition in which the Sicilians still were, might prove fatal to him. The Carthaginian commanders were equally anxious to bring matters to a speedy decision, confident of victory from their superior numbers. The Greeks found the Carthaginians encamped on one side of the (`rimesus or Crimissus, a river which flows into the Hypsa, on the south-western coast of Sicily. Timoleon drew up his troops on the brow of a hill overlooking the Carthaginian army, who were on the further bank of the river. The Carthaginian commanders, impatient for the victory, began to cross the river in presence of the enemy. This favourable circumstance determined the movements of Timoleon. As soon as the Carthaginian army was divided by the stream, he charged them with all his forces. The Carthaginians resisted bravely, but in the hottest of the fight a dreadful storm came on, attended with lightning, hail, and rain, which beat full in the faces of the Carthaginians. Unable to bear up against the storm, and to hear the commands of their officers amidst the roar of the thunder, and the clattering of the rain and hail upon their arms, the Carthaginians began to retreat and make for the river; but pursued by the Greeks, their retreat soon became a rout; a panic spread through their ranks; and the different nations of which the vast army was composed, ignorant of one another's language, and maddened by fear, used their swords against one another, each eager to gain the stream. Numbers were killed, and still more were drowned in the river. The victory was complete, and justly ranks as one of the greatest gained by Greeks over barbarians. It was fought in the middle of summer, B. C. 339. The booty which Timoleon and his troops gained was prodigious; and some of the richest of the spoils he sent to Corinth and other cities in Greece, thus diffusing the glory of his victory throughout the mother country.

The victory of the Crimesus brought Timoleon such an accession of power and influence, that he now resolved to carry into execution his project of expelling all the tyrants from Sicily. Of these, two of the most powerful, Hicetas of Leontini, and Mamercus of Catana, had recourse to the Carthaginians for assistance, who sent Gisco to Sicily with a fleet of seventy ships and a body of Greek mercenaries. Although Gisco gained a few successes at first, the war was upon the whole favourable to Timoleon, and the Carthaginians were therefore glad to conclude a treaty with the latter in B. C. 338, by which the river Halycus was fixed as the boundary of the Carthaginian and Greek dominions in Sicily. It was during the war with Gisco that Hicetas fell into the hands of Timoleon. He had been completely defeated by Timoleon at the river Damurias, and was taken prisoner a few days afterwards, with his son Eupolemus. They were both slain by Timoleon's order. His wife and daughters were carried to Syracuse ; where they were executed by command of the people, as a satisfaction to the manes of Dion, whose wife Arete and sister Aristomache had both been put to death by Hicetas. This is one of the greatest stains upon Timoleon's character, as he might easily have saved these unfortunate women, if he had chosen.

After the death of Hicetas, and the treaty between the Carthaginians and Timoleon, Mamercus, being unable to maintain himself in Catana, fled to Messana, where he took refuge with Hippon, tyrant of that city. Timoleon quickly followed, and besieged Messana so vigorously by sea and land, that Hippon, despairing of holding out, attempted to escape by sea, but was taken and put to death in the public theatre. Mamercus now surrendered, stipulating only for a public trial before the Syracusans, with the condition that Timoleon should not appear as his accuser. But as soon as he was brought iuto the assembly at Syracuse, the people refused to hear him, and unanimously condemned him to death.

Thus almost all the tyrants were expelled from the Greek cities in Sicily, and a democratical form of government established in their place. Timoleon, however, was in reality the ruler of Sicily, for all the states consulted him on every matter of importance; and the wisdom of his rule is attested by the flourishing condition of the island for several years even after his death. He repeopled the great cities of Agrigentum and Gela, which had been laid desolate by the Carthaginians, and also settled colonies in other cities. He did not, however, assume any title or office, but resided as a private citizen among the Syracusans, to whom he left the administration of their own affairs. Once, when his public conduct was attacked in the popular assembly by a demagogue of the name of Demaenetus, Timoleon is reported to have thanked the gods for answering his prayer that the Syracusans might enjoy freedom of speech ; and when Laphystius, another demagogue, demanded that Timoleon should give sureties to answer an indictment that was brought against him, and some of Timoleon's friends began thereupon to raise a clamour, Timoleon himself restrained them by saying, that the great object of all his toils and exertions had been to make the law the same for all the Syracusans. A short time before his death Timoleon became completely blind, but the Syracusan people notwithstanding continued to pay him the same honour as they had done before, and took his advice on all difficult cases. He died, according to Diodorus, in B. C. 337, in the eighth year after his first arrival in Sicily. He was buried at the public expense in the market-place at Syracuse, where his monument was afterwards surrounded with porticoes and a gymnasium, which was called after him the Timoleonteium. Annual games were also instituted in his honour. Timoleon certainly deserves to be regarded as one of the greatest men of Greece, and it is not the slightest eulogium paid to him, that Mitford, with all his prejudices against the destroyer of his favourite tyrants, is able to detract so little from the virtues and merits of Timoleon. (Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos, Life of Timoleon ; Diod. 16.65-90; Polyaen. 5.3.8; Mitford, History of Greece, c. xxxiii.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5.1304a
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.65
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.72
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.90
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.70
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.78
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