Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls by  W.H. Weston

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

TIMOLEON

[69] THE situation of Corinth upon the narrow isthmus joining the mainland of Greece to its southern peninsula, the Peloponnesus, caused the city early to become a place of great commercial importance. All the great roads by land met at Corinth, While for sea traffic the town had two ports, one on either side of the isthmus, across which the small boats of early days were often carried in order to avoid the dangerous passage round the south of Greece.

These advantages of position naturally turned the inclinations of the people of Corinth towards the sea. There the first artificial harbour in Greece was made, and there also the trireme, a vessel with a triple bank of oars, was invented. With the growth of commerce by sea came expansion across its waters. A number of colonies were sent out from Corinth, and, among other places, the town of Syracuse in Sicily was founded, and grew into a wealthy and populous city.

The story of Syracuse, like that of most Greek cities and colonies, is largely made up of the struggles between those who strove to maintain a more or less popular government, and 'tyrants' who aspired to sole rule. It must be noticed that the Greek word from we derive our word tvrnnt means an absolute ruler simply, and not necessarily a cruel or unjust one. Diony sius of Syracuse, whom Timoleon overthrew, was, however, a tyrant in both the Greek and the English senses of the word.

It was natural that the Syracusans, suffering bitterly from the oppression of the tyrant, should apply to the mother-city Corinth for assistance. The remarkable series of triumphs won by Timoleon freed not only Syracuse, but the whole of Sicily, [70] from the rule of the tyrants, While in the brilliant victory on the river Crimissus Timoleon with 12,000 men defeated 80,000 Carthaginian foes. The second invasion of the Carthaginians, however, won some successes at first, but on the whole Timoleon had the advantage, and the enemy was glad to accept terms of peace, which settled the boundary between the Greek and Carthaginian territories in Sicily.

Timoleon lived in the fourth century before Christ. The freedom which he had given to Syracuse did not last long, and twenty years after the hero's death the city again came under the rule of a tyrant.

A German writer calls Timoleon the Grecian Garibaldi. Their exploits are certainly not unlike, though the Greek excelled the hero of Italian independence in political wisdom and foresight.


BEFORE Timoleon was sent into Sicily, the affairs of Syracuse, the chief Greek colony in the island, were in a desperate condition. The tyrant Dionysius, who had oppressed the city, had indeed been driven out, but the people of the town were torn by faction; one tyrant succeeded another, and Syracuse was made almost desolate by the miseries it underwent. As for the rest of Sicily, a part of the island was made quite a desert by the wars, and such towns as remained were in a state of utter confusion and turmoil.

Such being the state of affairs, Dionysius, in the tenth year after his expulsion, was able by the aid of a body of foreign soldiers to retake and establish himself once again in his dominions. At the best Dionysius was of a cruel nature, but by this time he had been exasperated, on account of his expulsion and the miseries he had endured, to a state of savage ferocity. All those who remained in Syracuse became, therefore, the abject slaves of the tyrant. The best and most important of the citizens, however, fled from the city, sought shelter [71] in a neighbouring town, and put themselves under the protection of its prince, Icetes. They also chose Icetes as their leader and general, not because he was himself any better than the most avowed tyrants, but because they had no other resource. Moreover, they hoped that they might place some trust and confidence in him, since he came of a Syracusan family. He had the power to help them, too, for he possessed an army capable of encountering the forces of Dionysius.

Meantime the Carthaginians with a great fleet appeared off Sicily, and it appeared likely that the disordered state of the island would afford them the opportunity of reducing the whole of the Greek colonies. The Sicilian Greeks were struck with terror, and determined to send an embassy to the mother-country to beg assistance from the Corinthians. They appealed to them especially, partly because Corinth was their parent city, and had helped them on many former occasions, and partly because they knew that Corinth was ever the friend of liberty and the enemy of tyrants. Icetes pretended to approve of this embassy, but in secret he was treating with the Carthaginians. He hoped to use them either against Dionysius or against the friends of freedom, as might be most to his advantage, and in either case he hoped to establish himself as master of Syracuse by their aid.

The people of Corinth were always accustomed to pay especial attention to the affairs of the colonies, and particularly to such matters as concerned Syracuse. More over, it happened that at the time no danger threatened the Corinthians in their own country. Hence, when the ambassadors arrived and stated their business, the people of Corinth readily passed a vote that the succours should be granted. The question of the [72] choice of a general then arose. The magistrates nominated such as had already made some show in the state, when, quite unexpectedly, one of the common people stood up and proposed Timoleon, who up to this time had taken no special part in public business. It seemed as though some god inspired the proposer, so wonderfully did fortune, against all reasonable expectations, secure the election of Timoleon, and so wonderfully did fortune afterwards make that general's deeds and valour illustrious.

Timoleon was of noble birth on both sides, for his father and mother alike were of the greatest families in Corinth. He was remarkable for his deep love of country, and also for a natural kindness of disposition, except that he bore a deep hatred to oppressors and to all evil men. He had great natural talents for war, and these were so happily tempered that, While he showed great prudence in his early years, his old age was distinguished by the boldest courage.

The elder brother of Timoleon, who was named Timophanes, was altogether unlike him. He was rash, indiscreet and wildly ambitious by nature, and his natural tendencies were encouraged by loose acquaintances, and by certain foreign soldiers with whom he habitually consorted. In battle he made a show of great daring, and appeared to court danger. Hence he gained such a reputation among his countrymen that they frequently put him in command of the army.

In a certain battle between the Corinthians and the forces of another Greek state, it happened that Timoleon was serving with the infantry, While his brother Timophanes was in command of the cavalry. During the fight the latter's horse was wounded, and [73] plunging and rearing in pain, threw the rider in the midst of his foes. Timophanes was now in a position of extreme danger. Some of his companions took fright and fled, While such as stood their ground were greatly outnumbered by the enemy. His danger was perceived by Timoleon, who at once rushed to his assistance. He covered the body of his fallen brother with his shield and, though many darts were hurled at him and he received many sword-strokes upon body and armour, he succeeded in driving back the enemy and in saving his brother's life.

Some time after this battle, the Corinthians made Timophanes the commander of a body of four hundred hired soldiers who had been engaged to protect the city against any surprise. Timophanes, however, was destitute of the sense of truth and honour. He employed the power, which had been entrusted to him, to subject the city to his own will. A number of the chief citizens were put to death, and Timophanes proclaimed himself absolute prince of Corinth. Timoleon was profoundly vexed and upset by this action. He felt the treachery of his brother as a reproach to himself, and went to reason with him in the hope of inducing him to give up his mad ambition for authority. All he could say was, however, scornfully rejected by the usurper.

A few days later Timoleon again visited his brother for the same purpose, taking with him one of his kinsmen and another friend. The three stood in a group with Timophanes, and earnestly besought him to listen to reason and to change his designs. At first their entreaties were met with laughter, but as they continued to urge him, Timophanes burst into a violent passion. Thereupon Timoleon turned aside and [74] covered his face, for he was weeping at his brother's treachery and violence. At the same time his two companions drew their swords, and in an instant slew Timophanes.

The news of the killing of the usurper was soon noised abroad, and awakened diverse opinions. The best and worthiest of the Corinthians praised Timoleon's greatness of soul, which they believed had led him, in spite of his natural gentleness and family affection, to put the welfare of the state before the interests of his family. 'When his brother,' said these citizens, 'was the valiant soldier of the state, Timoleon saved his life; when, on the other hand, he enslaved his native city, Timoleon stood by at his slaying.' Others, however, While pretending to be glad of the death of the tyrant, spoke with horror of Timoleon as one guilty of an unnatural deed. The opinion of these latter caused Timoleon much uneasiness, and his distress was greatly increased when he learnt with what bitter sorrow his mother heard of the death of Timophanes, and what dreadful curses she called down upon the head of her younger son. Timoleon went to see her, in order if possible to console her and excuse himself, but she refused to see him, and ordered the doors to be shut in his face. He was then overwhelmed with sorrow, so much that he even sought to starve himself to death. His friends, however, did not abandon him, and at length, by entreaties and even by force, they prevaHed on him to live. He dwelt, however, in solitude and withdrew from all public affairs. For years he did not even approach the city, but wandered, a prey to melancholy, in the most gloomy recesses of his estate.

When, after his long seclusion from public affairs, which lasted almost twenty years, he was chosen general [75] of the expedition, one of the most powerful and reputable citizens of Corinth besought him to be of good courage and to execute his commission well. 'If,' said he, 'you conduct the expedition well, we shall esteem you the destroyer of a tyrant; but, if ill, the murderer of your brother.' While the forces for the expedition were being assembled and Timoleon was making ready to set sail, letters came from Icetes which plainly revealed his treachery. The prince had indeed openly joined the Carthaginians as soon as the Sicilian ambassadors had set out for Greece, and acted in alliance with them in order to drive out Dionysius, and set himself up as tyrant in his stead.

He now wrote to the Corinthians to tell them that it was useless for them to send their fleet. He told them also that the Carthaginians were watching for them with a great navy, and would oppose them, and that he, for his part, had been obliged to join the Carthaginians by reason of the delay of the Corinthians in sending the succours.

The reading of these letters and the treachery which they revealed greatly incensed the people of Corinth, so that even those who had hitherto been cold or in different in the matter now readily joined in supplying whatever was wanted, and in hastening the sailing of the expedition.

When the fleet was fitted out, the priestesses of the goddess Proserpine had a dream in which the goddess and her mother Ceres, habited as for a journey, appeared to them and declared their intention of accompanying the expedition into Sicily. Thereupon the citizens fitted out a sacred galley, and called it the Galley of the Goddesses. Further, when Timoleon went to sacrifice to Apollo, a wreath, ornamented with crowns [76] and other signs of victory, fell down from among the offerings in the temple and rested on his head. Thus Apollo seemed to send Timoleon forth crowned as to victory.


[Illustration]

TIMOLEON SETTING SAIL FOR SICILY.

With ten ships Timoleon set sail in the night time. As the vessels were making their way before a strong favouring wind, it seemed on a sudden as if the heavens opened, and a bright flaming light fell thence upon Timoleon's ship. The flame spread itself out in the form of a torch, and, guiding the ships throughout the whole passage, brought them at last to that part of Italy which they desired to reach. The heavenly light, said the soothsayers, confirmed the dream of the priestesses, and showed that the goddesses were indeed interested in the success of the expedition.

The men in the fleet were much encouraged by these signs of divine favour. But when they reached the coast of Italy discouraging news, which caused much perplexity to Timoleon, met them. They learnt that Icetes had beaten Dionysius in a pitched battle, and, having captured the greater part of the town of Syracuse, had shut up the tyrant in the citadel and a part of the city near it, and was closely besieging him therein. At the same time he had sent the Carthaginian fleet to prevent the landing of the Corinthians in Sicily. He trusted that, once rid of the Corinthians, he and his new allies would have little difficulty in taking the whole island and sharing it between them.

Thus it happened that, when Timoleon's expedition arrived at Rhegium on the Italian side of the Straits of Messina, they found twenty Carthaginian ships riding at anchor in the harbour. With them were ambassadors from Icetes, who bore a message to the effect that Timoleon might, if he liked, go unaccompanied to assist Icetes with his counsel, but that all the ships [77] and troops must be sent back to Corinth, and that, if they attempted to cross over to Sicily, the Carthaginians would oppose them.

The Corinthians were filled with indignation against Icetes and with perplexity at their own position. There seemed little chance of getting the better of the Carthaginians, who lay watching them with twice their number of ships. Even could they do so, it seemed improbable that they could contend successfully with the forces of Icetes, which they had expected to meet as allies, and now found to be foes.

In this state of affairs Timoleon, in an interview with the ambassadors and the Carthaginian commanders, pretended to agree to their proposals. There was, he said, nothing to be gained by opposition, and he must therefore submit, but, for his own security and so that the facts might be generally known, he required that the proposals should be laid before the people of Rhegium in public assembly.

All the while he was intending to steal secretly away from the town. The magistrates of the place, to whom he disclosed his intentions, entered heartily into the scheme, for they favoured the cause of the Greeks in Sicily, and dreaded the power of the Carthaginians. They summoned the people to meet in public assembly, and shut the gates of the town, so that none might leave the place upon any other business. When the people were gathered together, one after another of those who were in the secret stood up and made long speeches, with the object of giving time for the Corinthian galleys to get under sail. Meanwhile the Carthaginians remained in the assembly without any suspicion, for they saw that Timoleon was present, and they expected every moment that he [78] would stand up and make his speech. But when word was privately brought that Timoleon's galley alone remained in the harbour and that all the others had set sail, the Rhegians crowded round Timoleon and hid him from view while he slipped through the crowd. Once clear of the assembly, he hastened down to the harbour and made sail with all speed. When the assembly broke up, the Carthaginians found that Timoleon was gone and that they had been outwitted. They could not conceal their vexation and annoyance, and the Rhegians were greatly amused to find so deceitful a people as the Carthaginians complain of being tricked.

Timoleon soon arrived with all his ships at the town of Tauromenium in Sicily, and was kindly received there. The lord of the town was much the best of the Sicilian princes, a lover of justice and an enemy of tyranny. He therefore readily allowed the Corinthians to use his city as a place of arms, and persuaded his people to aid them.

Thither there soon came one of the Carthaginian galleys with an ambassador to the prince. With much pride and insolence he demanded that the Corinthians should be turned out of the town. Stretching out his hand palm upwards, he turned the palm downwards. With the same ease, said he, would the Carthaginians overturn the city if their demands were not complied with. The prince only smHed at the threat. Stretching out his hand, and turning it over as the other had done, he made this reply, 'Begone immediately, if you do not choose to have your galley turned upside down in like manner.'

Icetes heard with alarm that Timoleon had made good his footing in Sicily, and at once sent for a large [79] number of the Carthaginian galleys to come to Syracuse. The condition of the people of that town now appeared to be desperate. The Carthaginians held the harbour, Icetes the city, and Dionysius the citadel. Against these forces there seemed small hope of succour from Timoleon, who held but the little town of Tauromenium with a force numbering not more than a thousand men scantily supplied with provisions. Moreover, most of the Sicilian states had no confidence in the Corinthians, and believed that they themselves came not as deliverers, but to establish their own authority. In one town, Adranum, opinions were divided, and While one party called in Icetes, the other applied to Timoleon. Both generals therefore set out for the town, each seeking to get there first, but While Icetes led five thousand men with him, Timoleon had but twelve hundred at the most. Towards evening of the second day after setting out, after a hurried march through rugged country, Timoleon received news that Icetes had just reached the town, and was encamping outside it. Just at that time the officers of Timoleon's vanguard called a halt, so that the men might have some rest and refreshment and be fresh and vigorous for the fight that lay before them. But this plan did not meet with Timoleon's approval. Hurrying to the front, he besought his men to march forward with all speed in order that thev might attack the enemy While they were in the disorder of pitching their tents and preparing their supper. Then, seizing his buckler, he put himself at the head of his force, and led them on with the air of one marching to an assured victory. Encouraged by their leader's manner, his men followed him cheerfully over the distance of rather more than three and a half miles [80] which lay between them and Adranum. As soon as they came up with the enemy they fell upon them vigorously. The troops of Icetes, however, were in such confusion and disorder that they fled almost at the first shock. So poor a stand did they make that only about three hundred were killed, but twice as many were taken prisoners, and their camp was captured.

In consequence of this success the people of Adranum opened their gates to Timoleon and allied themselves with him. Moreover, several cities and one of the most warlike and wealthy princes of the island also cast in their lot with Timoleon. Most important of all, Dionysius, who despaired of victory for himself and felt he could not hold out much longer, sent to Timoleon offering to surrender himself and the citadel to the Corinthians, for he despised Icetes on account of his shameful defeat, and admired the courage of Timoleon.

The Corinthian general gladly accepted this good fortune, so greatly in excess of his hopes, and sent two of his officers and four hundred men to take possession of the city. They did not, of course, march in openly, for the enemy were upon their guard, but, a few at a time, they stole through the enemy's lines and entered the citadel. They then took possession of the place and of the stores which the tyrant had provided for carrying on the war. Among them were a good number of horses, all kinds of engines of war, a vast quantity of javelins, and also arms for seventy thousand men, which had been laid up in store for a long time. With these stores Dionysius also delivered up his two thousand soldiers. The tyrant, however, reserved his money to himself, and, having secretly gone on board ship, stole away without being perceived by Icetes, [81] and came to the camp of Timoleon. Thus Dionysius for the first time appeared as a private man, and as such he was sent off to Corinth with only one ship and a moderate sum of money. His life affords a striking instance of the changes of fortune, since he had been born in a splendid court, and had for years held the most absolute monarchy that ever existed. But for many years he had been constantly engaged in wars and troubles, so that the evils of his tyranny were fully avenged in his own sufferings.

When Dionysius arrived at Corinth, nearly every one sought to see him and to talk with him. Some did so for the pleasure of reviling the fallen tyrant whom they hated, but others, when they saw his present condition, were touched with some compassion for him. For he, who had but lately been master of Sicily, now spent his time wholly in trivial and unworthy pursuits: gossiping in a butcher's shop, or spending a whole day with a perfumer, or drinking in the taverns and squabbling in the streets.

The success of Timoleon in Sicily was no less striking than the downfall of Dionysius. Within fifty days of his landing in the island, he was master of the citadel of Syracuse, and had sent off Dionysius to Greece. His success encouraged the Corinthians, and they sent a reinforcement of two thousand infantry and two hundred cavalry to join him. 'These forces arrived safely in Italy, but for a time were unable to make their way into Sicily, because of the great fleets of Carthage which held the sea.

Meanwhile, Icetes kept up the siege of the citadel, and invested it so closely that no provisions could reach the garrison. He also planned the murder of Timoleon, and, having hired two assassins for the purpose, sent [82] them to Adranum, where the Corinthian general still lay. Timoleon never kept any regular guards about him, and lived among the people of the town without any suspicion or precaution. After their arrival in the city, the assassins learnt that Timoleon was going to offer sacrifice. Concealing their daggers under their clothes, they went into the temple and mixed with the people who stood around the altar. Gradually working their way among the press, they at last came close to the general. But, at the very moment when they were looking to one another for the signal to strike, one of them was struck dead by a blow from the sword of a man in the crowd, who at once fled to the top of a high rock near by. At this the second assassin was seized with terror, for he imagined that his purpose was known. Laying hold of the altar, he implored pardon, and confessed that he and the man who was slain had been sent to murder Timoleon. Meanwhile, the man who had killed the assassin was brought down from the rock. He loudly protested that he was guilty of no injustice, since he had only taken vengeance upon a villain who was the murderer of his father. The truth of this statement was attested by several of those present, and men could not but wonder at the marvellous ways of fortune, which had moved this man to take vengeance at the very moment when his act avaHed to save the life of Timoleon. So far from being punished, the slayer of the assassin was rewarded by the Corinthians.

Icetes, having faHed in this treacherous attempt to compass the death of Timoleon, now resolved to call in the aid of the full forces of the Carthaginians, whom hitherto, as if ashamed of their help, he had only employed in small numbers. In response to his appeal, [88] Mago, the Carthaginian commander-in-chief, entered the harbour of Syracuse with a hundred and fifty ships, and landed an army of sixty thousand men, who encamped in the town. Thus Syracuse, which had never, in the course of the many wars waged by the Carthaginians against the Greeks in Sicily, been taken by them, now became a camp of the barbarians.

The Corinthians still held the citadel, but they found themselves in a position of great difficulty and danger. They were constantly engaged in sharp fights about the walls, and, moreover, they were in want of provisions, which could not be brought in on account of the fleet blockading the harbour. Timoleon, however, managed to bring them relief. He sent a supply of corn in fishing-boats and other small vessels, and these, waiting an opportunity, slipped into the harbour at a time when the enemy's fleet happened to be driven off by a storm. Icetes and Mago now determined to capture the town from which the food had been shipped, in order to prevent further supplies from being sent thence. With this object they took ship with the best of their troops, and saHed from Syracuse. The Cor- inthian officer in command of the garrison, watching from the top of the citadel, noticed a slackening of vigilance on the part of those who were left behind, and that they were keeping a careless guard. He therefore made a sudden sally from the citadel, fell upon them, killed some, and putting the rest to flight captured an important quarter of the town. There he found plenty of provisions and money. He therefore determined to hold the part of the town he had won, and with that object fortified it and joined it to the citadel by new defences. Meanwhile, Mago and Icetes had almost reached their destination when a horseman [84] dashed up to them with the news of the Corinthian success. Thereupon they hastily returned, having neither succeeded in the object of their expedition nor in retaining what they had before possessed.

Fortune greatly favoured the Corinthians in the next event of importance in the war. The reinforcements which had landed in Italy, and which were prevented from crossing by the Carthaginian fleet, determined at length to march by land to Rhegium. In spite of some resistance they effected their purpose. Meanwhile a storm raged and the sea for many days was very rough and tempestuous. The Carthaginian admiral thought that the Corinthians would never venture to take ship in such a storm. He therefore hit upon the stratagem of sailing to Syracuse with his ships and men decorated as if for victory over the reinforcements, in order to make the defenders of the citadel despair of succour. With his galleys adorned with Greek bucklers and his sailors crowned with garlands, he accordingly entered the harbour with loud cheers and cries of triumph. But, While he was playing this part, the Corinthians got down to the shore at Rhegium and found the coast clear. Moreover, the wind fell as if by a miracle, and the sea became calm. The troops immediately went on board such fishing-boats and other vessels as they could find. They crossed so smoothly and in such a calm that they were even able, by holding the reins, to swim their horses across alongside the ships.

When the reinforcements had joined Timoleon, he captured the town of Messina, and thence, though he had still but four thousand men with him, advanced against Syracuse. His approach greatly disturbed Mago, who felt some suspicion of the troops of Icetes. [85] His doubts were increased by the fact that these allies of his, who were Greeks by race, often met the Corinthians in times of truce and intervals of the fighting. The soldiers of Icetes, too, frequently repeated in camp the words of the Corinthians, who on such occasions expressed their wonder that men of Greek blood should act in concert with the Carthaginians, who were the enemies of the Greeks, and whose success would be to their disadvantage. Hence, though Icetes begged him to stay, and pointed out how few the Corinthians were, Mago weighed anchor on the approach of Timoleon, and shamefully saHed back to Africa. Thus he allowed Sicily to slip from his grasp.

Next day Timoleon drew up his forces in order of battle before Syracuse. When, to their astonishment, they saw the harbour empty of Carthaginian ships, and learnt that Mago had saHed away, they were consumed with laughter at his cowardice. In mockery, they caused a proclamation to be made offering a reward to any one who would reveal the hiding-place of the Carthaginian fleet. Icetes, however, showed a more resolute spirit, and vigorously defended those parts of the town which he held. But Timoleon, dividing his forces into three bodies, delivered an assault upon three different quarters of the city at the same time. He succeeded in overpowering the enemy and in putting their troops to flight. The capture of the town may in itself be fairly ascribed to the genius of the general and the valour of the troops. But the extraordinary fact that not one Corinthian was killed or wounded in the assault can only be put down to the good fortune which assisted Timoleon.

The fame of this achievement spread rapidly through Sicily and Italy. In a few days, indeed, it resounded [86] throughout Greece, so that the city of Corinth, which had been in doubt whether its succours had arrived in Sicily, heard at the same time of their arrival and of their success in attaining the object of the expedition. Thus the glory of the exploit was increased by the rapidity of its execution.

The city being now in the hands of Timoleon, he issued a public order calling upon all who wished to do so to assemble and destroy the ramparts by which the tyrants had maintained their rule. With one consent the citizens obeyed the summons, which they regarded as marking the first day of their liberty. Not only did they destroy the citadel, but they also levelled the palaces and monuments of the tyrants with the ground.

The Corinthians found the town, in comparison with its former flourishing condition, almost destitute of inhabitants. Many of its citizens had perished in the wars and in domestic broils, many more had fled from the savage rule of the tyrants. Grass grew so thickly in the very market-place, that the horses of the troops pastured there, While the grooms reposed on the herbage. With very few exceptions, the other cities of Sicily were deserts, so that deer and wild boars harboured in them. Timoleon and the people of Syracuse therefore wrote to the Corinthians asking them to send a good number of colonists who were required, not only to cultivate the land, which must otherwise lie desolate, but also because a new and more formidable war with Carthage was threatened. The news came that Mago had killed himself and that the Carthaginians, in anger at his conduct of their forces, had crucified his body, and were now collecting great forces with the object of invading Sicily in the following summer.

[87] These letters having been delivered, the Corinthians caused proclamation to be made by the heralds inviting all fugitives from Syracuse and Sicily to return to their native island, and assuring them that they should there enjoy their liberties and privHeges, and that the vacant lands should be divided among them. They also sent envoys with a message to this effect into the Greek islands and cities of Asia, and at their own expense provided vessels to bring the refugees safely to Corinth. Hence the Corinthians earned the honour and glory of having delivered a Grecian city from tvrants and the barbarians, and of restoring it to its citizens without seeking their own advantage in the matter.

The fugitives who assembled at Corinth were not sufficient in number to repcople Syracuse, and other new colonists from Corinth and other parts of Greece were therefore added to them. The whole body, fully ten thousand in number, then saHed to Syracuse. Meanwhile great numbers of people had flocked into the town from Italy and from the rest of Sicily. Timoleon divided the lands freely among the settlers, but sold the houses in order to raise a public fund. Thus the fortunes of Syracuse were revived and the city replenished with inhabitants. Timoleon then proceeded to free the other cities of Sicily and to destroy arbitrary rule throughout the island. He compelled Icetes to give up his alliance with Carthage, to pull down his castles, and to live among his people as a private person. Another prince was also forced to surrender and was sent to Corinth. Timoleon then returned to Syracuse in order to settle the government of the place, and to aid in the establishment of necessary laws.

[88] While he himself was engaged in this important work, he sent his hired soldiers to lay waste the Carthaginian province in Sicily. They succeeded in withdrawing several cities from the interests of Carthage, and also obtained such an amount of plunder as not only supplied themselves abundantly, but also provided money for carrying on the war. While affairs were in this state, a vast Carthaginian expedition arrived in the island. It consisted of two hundred war galleys, with a thousand other vessels laden with engines of war, chariots, provisions and other stores, and bearing seventy thousand land forces. As soon as the invaders learnt that the Carthaginian territories had been laid waste, they marched in great fury against the Corinthians.

The news of the advance of this great force caused such terror to the people of Syracuse that scarce three thousand men, out of ten times that number, were bold enough to take up arms and follow Timoleon. There were, in addition, four thousand hired soldiers, but of these about a thousand gave way to their fears While upon the march, and refused to advance farther. Timoleon, they declared, must be mad to march against seventy thousand men with but five thousand foot and a thousand horse, and still more mad to draw them away eight days' march from Syracuse.

Timnlenn considered it a good thing that the cowardice of the deserters had been revealed before the battle. He encouraged the rest of his troops, and led them hastily to the banks of a river, where he understood that the enemy was assembled. As the troops were climbing a hill, from the top of which they would be able to see the camp of the enemy, they met some mules laden with parsley. The soldiers took [89] this to be a bad omen, because the Greeks were accustomed to place parsley upon their sepulchres. To rid them of this superstition and the fear that it was likely to occasion, Timoleon called a halt and made an address to his men. He told them that crowns of victory were brought to them even before the fight; for the Corinthians from the earliest days looked upon garlands of parsley as sacred, and with such garlands were accustomed to crown the victors at the Isthmian games. Timoleon then crowned himself with a wreath of parsley, and next his officers and then the soldiers did the same. At that moment the soothsayers saw two eagles flying towards them, one bearing a serpent transfixed by its claws, the other uttering loud cries. They pointed the birds out to the army, and the soldiers betook themselves to prayer and to the invocation of the gods.

It was now the time of summer, and the Corinthians, when they reached the top of the hill, found that a summer mist lay over the river and the low-lying lands, so that they could see nothing of the enemy, though the confused and indistinct noise which reached them showed that a great army was near. But, after they had laid aside their shields and rested aWhile, the mist rose and lay about the summit of the hill, so that it hid the Corinthians from view, While they for their part could see plainly what was happening in the valley below. The river was clearly seen, and crossing it there appeared the Carthaginian army. First came the war-chariots, each drawn by four horses and formidably armed. Next marched ten thousand men with white shields. These the onlookers judged, from the brightness of their armour and the steadiness and good order of their movements, to be native [90] Carthaginians. Behind them, in more confused and disorderly array, marched the troops of other nations who made up the whole great army.

Timoleon saw that While the enemy was crossing the river, he had it in his power, by choosing the moment of attack, to engage with what number of them he pleased. He pointed out to his men how the main body of the enemy was divided by the stream, and ordered his cavalry to press on and attack the Carthaginians before those who had crossed could find time to draw themselves up in order of battle. Descending into the plain, he then arrayed his own army, the men of Syracuse and the best of the hired soldiers being around him in the centre; the other Sicilians with some strangers on the wings. He then stood still aWhile to see what success had attended his horsemen. He perceived that they could not deliver their charge upon the Carthaginians because of the chariots which covered the enemy's front. He therefore sent orders to his cavalry to get beyond the line of chariots, and to attack the enemy in flank. Then seizing his shield, he, with a loud shout, called upon his foot-soldiers to follow him. They answered with cheers, and, with ranks closed up and bucklers interlocked, bore down upon their foes to the sound of the trumpet. The Carthaginians bore the first shock stoutly, for, indeed, as they were well armed with iron breastplates and brazen helmets and carried large shields, they sustained little hurt from the spears and javelins. But when the struggle came to a hand-to-hand fight with swords, in which skill is of as much account as strength, a terrible storm burst upon the armies. Dreadful thunders resounded and baleful lightnings flashed among the mountains, and soon the black clouds which swept [91] down upon the valley discharged themselves in a wind-lashed storm of rain and hail. The tempest drove up at the back of the Greeks, and beat full upon the faces of the barbarians, who were almost blinded by the stinging rain and hail and by the almost incessant lightning, While the noise of the thunder prevented them from hearing the orders of their commanders. Moreover, the field of battle was turned into a quagmire by the storm and by the overflowing of the river, which happened partly on account of the rainfall, and partly because the stream was choked by the masses of men crossing. This added to the disadvantages of the Carthaginians, who were very heavily armed, and could neither move readily in the mire nor arise easily if they were overthrown. In short, the storm continuing to beat violently upon them, and some four hundred of the men in the front ranks having been slain by the Greeks, the rest broke and fled. Alany were killed in the field itself; others took to the river, where they threw those who were still crossing into confusion, and were swept away and drowned. The majority of the fugitives endeavoured to escape to the hills, but were stopped by the light-armed troops of the Greeks and slain. Ten thousand in all were killed, and of these it is said that three thousand were natives of Carthage, and were, moreover, men of high birth, fortune and character, that the city sustained a heavy ioss in their deaths. Indeed, we have no account of so many native Carthaginians having ever before been slain in one battle, for, as they were accustomed to employ men of other nations in their armies, their defeats were generally at the expense of the blood of strangers.

The spoils of the battle showed the rank and fortune of the slain. So abundant was gold and silver that. [92] brass and iron were disregarded, and so busy were the Greeks in collecting the pillage of the battlefield and of the camp that it was not until the third day that the trophy of victory was erected. Many prisoners were secretly sold by the soldiers, but five thousand were delivered up to the public account, and two hundred chariots were also captured. The tent of Timoleon presented a sight of extraordinary wealth and magnificence, for in it were pHed all manner of spoils, including a thousand breastplates of the finest workmanship, and ten thousand shields. The best of these arms Timoleon sent, with the news of the victory, to Corinth, in order that the temples of the gods might be adorned with the spoils of the barbarians. The spoils bore this inscription: 'The Corinthians and Timoleon their general, having delivered the Sicilian Greeks from the Carthaginians, make this offering in gratitude to the gods.'

After the victory Timoleon left the hired soldiers to lay waste the Carthaginian province, and himself returned to Syracuse. There he issued a decree banishing the thousand hired soldiers who had refused to follow him to the battle. The cowards passed over into Italy, and were there treacherously slain by one of the peoples of that country. Thus the faithless desertion of their leader met with a just punishment.

in spite of the success of Timoleon, Mamercus, the Prince of Catania, either through envy or dread of the Corinthian general, entered into a league with the Carthaginians, and besought them to send a new army and a new general. In response there came a fleet of seventy ships under Gisco and a body of Greeks whom he had hired. Hitherto the Carthaginians had not employed any Greeks, but now the victories of [93] Timoleon caused them to regard the Greeks as the bravest of men.

About this time a body of foreign soldiers whom Timoleon had sent to Messina were slain by the populace. The hired soldiers who had been left in the Carthaginian province were also cut off by an ambush. The tyrants boasted loudly of these successes, and While Timoleon was laying siege to a town, Icetes ventured to make an inroad into the territories of Syracuse, and audaciously marched back with his booty past the very place Timoleon was besieging. The Corinthian general suffered him to pass, and then followed in pursuit with his cavalry and his light infantry. Icetes crossed a river and drew up his forces on the other side, in a position wihch was difficult of attack because of the steep banks and the river between them. When the army of Timoleon came up on the other side a strange contest arose between the officers. Each wanted to be first in the attack, and there was therefore some danger of a confused and disorderly onset. To avoid this, Timoleon declared that the matter should be decided by lot, and for this purpose he took the rings of the officers and shook them up in his robe. The first that was drawn out happened to have upon it a trophy as a seal. The officers haHed the omen with joy. They declared that they would wait for no other lot, and the whole army marched hastily down to the river. So fierce was their onset that the enemy,scarcely stood the first shock. Their men were soon in full flight, throwing away their arms as they ran, and leaving a thousand dead upon the field. A few days later Timoleon captured Icetes alive, and the tyrant's son was also brought to him bound by the soldiers. Both suffered death as tyrants [94] and traitors to their country. After Timoleon had returned to Syracuse, the wife and daughters of Icetes were also tried publicly, condemned to death, and executed. This appears to be the event in Timoleon's life most worthy of blame, for, if he had interposed, the women would have been spared.

Timoleon next marched against Mamercus, defeated him, and slew above two thousand of his men. Of the slain a considerable number were Carthaginians. Their countrymen now sued for peace, which Timoleon granted upon certain conditions, one of which was that the Carthaginians should give up all friendship and alliance with the tyrants. This treaty reduced Mamercus to despair. He endeavoured to sail to Italy to obtain aid, but the crews of his galleys, instead of proceeding thither, returned to Sicily and delivered up his town of Catania to Timoleon. Meanwhile Mamercus escaped to Messina, and took refuge with the prince of that place. Thither Timoleon marched, and invested it by land While his fleet blockaded it by sea. The Prince of Messina, despairing of a successful defenee, endeavoured to escape by sea, but was seized by his own subjects. He was exposed to the derision of the people in the theatre, scourged and then put to death. Thereupon Mamercus surrendered himself to Timoleon to take his trial at Syracuse. He was brought before the people in that city, and endeavored to make an oration to them which he had prepared for the occasion. But the people would not hear him, and received him with noise and clamour, so that the fallen tyrant perceived that they had made up their minds to show him no mercy. In despair, he cast off his upper garment, rushed through the theatre, and dashed his head against the stone steps with the object of killing [95] himself. He was, however, taken up alive, and suffered the death that is decreed for thieves and robbers.

Thus did Timoleon root out tyranny from the island of Sicily and put an end to the wars. He found the whole island turned almost into a desert by its calamities, so that even its natives could hardly endure to live in it. Yet such order did he bring back to it, and so desirable did he make it, that strangers flocked to settle in it. The cities, which had been sacked and left desolate, were now peopled again under the protection of Timoleon, who so aided and supplied the settlers that he was beloved by them as though he had been the founder of their cities. Indeed, to such a degree did he enjoy the love of the Sicilians in general, that no war seemed finished, nor law enacted, nor lands divided aright, unless the matter were first revised by him. He was the master-craftsman whose hand was required to put the finishing touches to every work and to reduce all to perfect beauty.

Timoleon himself ascribed all his successes to fortune. When he wrote to his friends at Corinth, or when he addressed the people of Syracuse, he often said that he owed much to the Goddess of Fortune, since she had chosen to save Sicily under his name. In the house which the Syracusans had in gratitude given him in the city, he built a chapel and offered sacrifices to Chance, While he didicated the house itself to Fortune. But most of his time he spent in his country house, which they had also given him, in the company of his wife and children, who had joined him from Corinth. He never returned to his native city nor took part in the troubles of Greece, avoiding the insatiable pursuit of glory and power which has wrecked so many great men. He was content to remain in Sicily, enjoying [96] the blessings which he had established, and seeing around him so many cities and such great numbers of peoples happy through his means.

But, as one writer says, every republic must have its impudent slanderer as surely as every lark must have a crest on its head. Thus it was at Syracuse, where two demagogues arose and attacked Timoleon. When the people would have refused to hear the first of these, Timoleon stilled the tumult. 'I have,' said he, 'undergone many dangers and labours in order that the meanest Syracusan may, if he wishes, have recourse to the laws.' And when the second made many charges against him, his only answer was to say, 'I cannot thank the gods enough for permitting me to live to see all Sy racusans enjoying the liberty of saying what they think fit.'

It was a happy fortune which kept Timoleon at a distance from the calamities which, during his lifetime, came upon Greece, and which kept his hands unstained with the blood of his countrymen. His victories, more remarkable than those of any other Greek of his age, were at the expense of foreigners and tyrants, and few of his trophies cost his countrymen a tear.

When he was well advanced in years, and had lived long in great prosperity, blindness came upon him. The affliction seems to have been the result of a family weakness together with the advance of vears. It was borne by Timoleon with patient fortitude, and the honour and respect paid to him in his blindness by the Syracusans were truly admirable. They frequently visited him themselves, and also brought to him all strangers who spent some time in the town, in order that the visitors might have the pleasure of beholding the deliverer of Syracuse. In their assemblies they [97] decided the less important affairs themselves, but consulted him in all great matters. On these occasions Timoleon was carried in a litter through the market-place to the place of assembly, where he was saluted by all the people. Having returned their salutations, and been informed of the subject under discussion, he delivered his opinion. Then, amidst the applause of the people, he was carried out again by his servants, and the rest of the public business was transacted without him.

Thus in his old age he was cherished as the father of his people, until at last he died of a slight illness, full of years and honour. The people of Syracuse buried him with great magnificence. His bier, splendidly adorned, was carried by young men over the ground on which the citadel and palace of the tyrants had formerly stood, and was followed by many thousands of men and women clad in white robes and crowned with garlands. The lamentations of the people and their praise of the dead hero showed that the stately procession was no formal show, but the outward sign of deep sorrow and affection. When, at length, the bier was laid upon the funeral pHe, a herald made proclamation, saying: 'The people of Syracuse inter Timoleon the Corinthian at the public charge, and decree that he shall be honoured through all time in annual games as the man who uprooted the tyrants, conquered the barbarians, repeopled great cities which aforetime lay desolate, and restored freedom to the Sicilians.'


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Pelopidas  |  Next: Alexander
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.