1902 Encyclopedia > Dionysius the Elder (Dionysius I)

Dionysius the Elder
(Dionysius I)
Ruler of Syracuse in Sicily

(c. 430 - 367 BC)




DIONYSIUS, the Elder (c. 430-367 B.C.), tyrant of Syracuse, was born about 430 B.C. He began life as a clerk in a public office, and first took part in political affairs during the dissensions that followed the destruction of the Athenian expedition. He was wounded in the attempt of Hermocrates to seize upon Syracuse ; and, during the disasters inflicted by the Carthaginians who had invaded the island, he succeeded, along with Philistus and Hipparinus, in procuring the deposition of the Sicilian generals, and was himself included in the number appointed in their stead. By intriguing with the inhabitants of Gela, which he had been sent to relieve, and spreading insinua-tions of treachery in regard to his colleagues, he was ultimately invested with the supreme command; and by the help of a large body-guard he soon made himself independent of the popular opinion. Pestilence having thinned the Carthaginian army, Dionysius, in spite of his ill success, found no difficulty in procuring peace (405 B.C.). In the stronghold of Ortygia he defied the machinations of his enemies, until, partly from defeats and partly from dissensions, the opposition died away. After a success-ful expedition against Naxos, Catana, and Leontini, his efforts were directed against Carthage. (See CARTHAGE). He also carried an expedition against Bhegium and its allied cities in Magna Grascia. In one campaign, in which he was joined by the Lucanians, he devastated the territories of Thurii, Croton, and Locri. After a protracted siege he took Bhegium, 387 B.C., and sold the inhabitants as slaves. He joined the Illyrians in an unsuccessful attempt to plunder the temple of Delphi, and also pillaged the temple of Caere on the Etruscan coast. In the Peloponnesian war he espoused the side of the Spartans. Not content with his military renown, Dionysius aspired also to poetical glory. His poems were hissed at the Olympic games; but having gained a prize for tragic poetry at Athens, he was so elated that he engaged in a debauch which proved fatal (367 B.C.) His life was written by Philistus, but the work has unfortunately perished.





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Dionysius the Younger (son of Dionysius the Elder)




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