Plutarch and the Sicilian tyrants

Claude Mossé

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI:
Plutarch and the Sicilian tyrants

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Plutarch's Parallel Lives present exemplary lives of great men from the history of Greece and Republican Rome. Two of these Lives — those of Dion of Syracuse and Timoleon of Corinth — unfold against the background of the history of Sicily in the fourth century BC. Both Dion and Timoleon attempted to free Sicily from the yoke of tyranny, and specifically from the two Dionysii who ruled over Syracuse and part of the island for much of the period: Dionysius the Elder from 406 to 367 and Dionysius the Younger from 367 until his ultimate fall in 344. Plutarch is interested in these two figures in the history of fourth-century Syracuse, and therefore in the tyranny of the two Dionysii, mainly because Plato, the founder of the Academy, was linked to these events. This chapter shows how Plutarch drew his depiction of tyrants in his Lives of Dion and Timoleon from Plato's Letters, so that the Dionysii are seen through the prism of Platonic interpretation and Dionysius II in particular is characterised by his brush with Platonic philosophy.

Keywords: Plutarch; tyrants; tyranny; Sicily; Parallel Lives; Syracuse; Dion; Timoleon; Plato; Dionysius

Chapter.  3920 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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