(b. c. 408)

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Dionysius I (c. 430—367 bc)

Dionysius II

Plato (c. 429—347 bc)



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Son of Hipparinus, Dionysius I's father-in-law. A disciple of Plato from 388/7, married Dionysius' daughter Arete and became his most trusted minister and diplomatist. His vast wealth and notorious Platonism, together with his austerity and ambition for his nephews, aroused the suspicion of Dionysius II and of the ‘old guard’ monarchists. Hoping to convert Dionysius, he brought Plato to Syracuse (367/6), but the disclosure of an indiscreet letter to the Carthaginians led to his banishment. At Athens he associated with the Academy, and he was honoured at Sparta; but Plato failed to reconcile Dionysius with him, and he was dispossessed of his wife and property. Landing in western Sicily (357), and greatly augmenting his small force on the march, he seized Syracuse, less the citadel, in the absence of Dionysius, and was elected general plenipotentiary (with his brother). Dion soon quarrelled with the radical leader Heraclides and was forced to retire to Leontini. Recalled (355) to eject Dionysius' general Nypsius from Syracuse, he became master of the whole city; but his imperiousness, his exactions, his employment of Corinthian advisers, and his intention of establishing some form of Platonist aristo-monarchy, again alienated the dēmos. He had Heraclides murdered, but his supporters fell away and he was himself assassinated at the instigation of his Athenian friend Callippus, who (briefly) became the ruler of Syracuse. Austere, haughty, aloof, contemptuous of democracy, tainted by his long connection with tyranny; he was probably sincere in his own interpretation of Platonism; but he lacked the domestic support, the resources, and the devoted military force needed to establish a stable non-democratic regime; and his ‘liberation’ of Sicily brought only political and social chaos to the island, for nearly twenty years.

Brian M. Caven

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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