Timoleon (Greek: Τιμολέων), son of Timodemus, of
411–337 BC) was a Greek statesman and general.
As the champion of
Greece against Carthage he is closely connected
with the history of Sicily, especially Syracuse.
1 Early life
3 Ruler of Syracuse
5 Tyrant or democrat?
7.1 Primary sources
7.2 Secondary sources
8 Further reading
In the mid 360s BC, Timophanes, the brother of
possession of the acropolis of
Corinth and effectively made himself
tyrant of the city. In response, Timoleon, who had earlier saved his
brother's life in battle, became involved in the assassination of
Timophanes. Public opinion approved his conduct as patriotic;
however the curses of his mother and the indignation of some of his
kinsfolk drove him into an early retirement for twenty years.
Sicily 431 BC
Because of the political problems facing Syracuse and the threat from
Sparta, a group of Syracusans sent an appeal for help to
reached the city state in 344 BC.
Corinth could not refuse help,
though her chief citizens declined to accept responsibility for
attempting to establish a stable government in fractious and turbulent
Timoleon, being named by an unknown voice in the Corinthian popular
assembly, was chosen by a unanimous vote to undertake the mission, and
set sail for
Sicily with seven ships, a few of the leading citizens of
Corinth and 700 Greek mercenaries. He eluded a Carthaginian
squadron and landed at
Tauromenium (now Taormina) in 344 BC, where he
met with a friendly reception. At this time Hicetas, tyrant of
Leontini, was master of Syracuse, with the exception of the island of
Ortygia, which was occupied by Dionysius, still nominally tyrant.
Hicetas was defeated by
Timoleon at Adranum, an inland town, and
driven back to Syracuse.
Timoleon was sent reinforcements from Corinth
and some north-western Greek states. During the siege of Syracuse,
Ortygia in 343 BC on the condition of his being
granted a safe conduct to Corinth. This was agreed and Dionysius was
sent to exile in Corinth.
Hicetas now received help from Carthage (60,000 men), but ill-success
roused mutual suspicion; the Carthaginians abandoned Hicetas, who was
besieged in Leontini, and who was then compelled to surrender.
Timoleon was thus master of Syracuse.
He at once began the work of restoration, bringing new settlers from
the mother-city and from
Greece generally, and establishing a popular
government on the basis of the democratic laws of Diocles. The citadel
was razed to the ground, and a court of justice erected on its site.
The amphipolos, or priest of Olympian
Διὸς Ὀλυμπίου), who was chosen annually by lot out of
three clans, was invested with the chief magistracy. The impress of
Timoleon's reforms seems to have lasted to the days of Augustus.
Hicetas was able to persuade Carthage to send (340–339 BC) a great
army (70,000 men), which landed at Lilybaeum (now Marsala). With a
miscellaneous levy of about 12,000 men, most of them mercenaries,
Timoleon marched westwards across the island to the neighbourhood of
Selinus and won a great and decisive victory on the Crimissus.
Timoleon led his infantry, and the enemy's discomfiture was completed
by a blinding storm of rain and hail.
Carthage made one more effort and despatched some mercenaries to
prolong the conflict between
Timoleon and the tyrants. But it ended in
the defeat of Hicetas, who was taken prisoner and put to death.
Carthage then agreed to a treaty in 338 BC by which Carthage was
Sicily to the west of the Halycus (Platani) and undertook
to give no further help to the Sicilian tyrants. Most of the remaining
tyrants were killed or expelled. This treaty gave the Greeks of
Sicily many years of peace and safety from Carthage.
Ruler of Syracuse
Timoleon established a new Syracusan constitution. It was described at
the time as democratic. However, he did have wide powers equivalent to
a supreme commander. He invited settlers from mainland
assist in the re-population of Syracuse and other Sicilian cities.
During this period, Greek
Sicily enjoyed a recovery in its economy and
Timoleon retired into private life, possibly on becoming blind, but
when important issues were under discussion he was carried to the
assembly to give his opinion, which was usually accepted. He was
buried at the cost of the citizens of Syracuse, who erected a monument
to his memory in their market-place, afterwards surrounded with
porticoes, and a gymnasium called Timoleonteum.
Tyrant or democrat?
The ancient historian Timaeus gave
Timoleon high accolades in his
work. However, Polybius criticized Timaeus for bias in favour of
Timoleon and many modern historians have sided with Polybius. Peter
Green shares this scepticism but thinks it has gone too far. While he
Timoleon tended to play the democrat while using the
methods of a tyrant (albeit benevolently), he did make an effort to
maintain the outward forms of democracy. Further, he reformed Syracuse
in a democratic direction and demolished the stronghold of the island
that had been so useful to tyrants in the past.
^ a b c d Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Tony (2000). Who's Who in the
Classical World. New York: Oxford Paperback Reference. p. 403.
^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911.
^ History of Greece, George Grote, vol. 7 pp. 575-6.
^ ἀμφίπολος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A
Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
^ a b Historians History of the World, Editor: Henry Smith Williams
vol 4 p207
^ Peter Green, Alexander to Actium p. 219.
^ Peter Green, Alexander to Actium, pp. 219-20.
Plutarch, Life of Timoleon.
Cornelius Nepos, Timoleon.
Diod. Sic., Historical Library, xvi.65–90.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Timoleon".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Timoleon and His Relations With Tyrants. Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1952 (hardcover,
Bicknell, P.J. "The Date of Timoleon's Crossing to Italy and the Comet
of 361 B.C.", The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34,
No. 1. (1984), pp. 130–134.
Timoleon and the Revival of Greek Sicily, 344–317
B.C. (Cambridge Classical Studies). New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1975 (hardcover, ISBN 0-521-20419-4); 2008 (paperback,
Dionysius the Younger
Tyrant of Syracuse
position next held by
Agathocles in 317 BC
The works of Plutarch
Alcibiades and Coriolanus1
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar
Aratus of Sicyon
Aratus of Sicyon / Artaxerxes and
Galba / Otho2
Aristides and Cato the Elder1
Crassus and Nicias1
Demetrius and Antony1
Demosthenes and Cicero1
Dion and Brutus1
Fabius and Pericles1
Lucullus and Cimon1
Lysander and Sulla1
Numa and Lycurgus1
Pelopidas and Marcellus1
Philopoemen and Flamininus1
Phocion and Cato the Younger
Pompey and Agesilaus1
Poplicola and Solon1
Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius
Romulus and Theseus1
Sertorius and Eumenes1
Agis / Cleomenes1 and
Tiberius Gracchus / Gaius Gracchus
Timoleon and Aemilius Paulus1
Themistocles and Camillus
Translators and editors
Arthur Hugh Clough
1 Comparison extant
2 Four unpaired Lives