DIONYSIUS, THE ELDER, tyrant of Syracuse, was b, 431 or 430 ii.c. He was origi nally a clerk in a pnblic office, but manifested at an early period a passion for political and military distinction. '4Vlien the Agrigentines, after the conquest of their city by the Carthaginians, accused the Syracusan generals who had failed to relieve then of treachery, D. supported their accusations before the people of Syracuse, and induced the latter to appoint new commanders, of whom he himself was one. But in a very' short time he supplanted his colleagues also, and, when only 25 years of age, made him self, by the help of his mercenaries, absolute ruler of the city. To strengthen his • • tyranny" (the name given by the Greeks to any usurped authority, however wisely and beneficently exercised), he married the daughter of Ilermocrates, the late head of the aristocratic party, and thus attached the followers of that leader to himself. After ho had fiercely suppressed several insurrections, and conquered some of the Greek towns of Sicily, he made preparations for a great war with the Carthaginians. It broke out 397 n.c. At first, fortune favored D., but after a short time he suffered a series of reverses, so calamitous, that all his allies abandoned him, and he was shut up in the city of Syracuse, apparently without hope of escape. When he was about to fall a victim to despair, a pestilence broke out in the Carthaginian fleet. D. took courage, and suddenly attacking his enemies by land and sea, obtained a complete victory. In the years 393 and 399 B.C., the Carthaginians renewed hostilities, but were defeated on both occasions, and D. was enabled to conclude a most advantageous peace. He now
turned his arms against lower Italy, and in 387 s.c.,. after a siege of 11 months, cap tuned Rhegium. From this time lie continued to exercise the greatest influence over the Greek cities of lower Italy, while his fleets swept the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas.' But D. was not contented with the reputation of being the first warrior and statesman of his age; he wished to shine as a poet also. He even ventured so far as to contend for the prize at the Olympic games, and about the end of 388 B.C., sent thither a splendid embassy, comprising the host reciters of the time, whose utmost skill, could not induce the judges to decide in his favor. D. was more successful at Athens, where he several times obtained the second and third prizes for tragedy, his last production even obtaining the first. He also invited many poets and philosophers to his court, his treatment of whom, however, was not always courteous. In 368 B.C., ho renewed the war with the Carthaginians, whom he wished to drive out of Sicily' altogether, but died in the following year, before he could accomplish his design. It was rumored that his death was hastened by his physician, at the instigation of his son. D. was unquestionably a most vigorous ruler, but unscrupulous as to the means lie employed to secure his ends, and tormented in his last years by the suspicion that he was surrounded with traitors.