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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).

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Book XXI

Dionysius the younger becomes tyrant of Syracuse, I.—His cruelties; is expelled from Syracuse, and received at Locri, II.—His conduct there; is driven from the place, and regains the government at Syracuse, III.—Usurpation of Hanno at Carthage; his death, IV.—Dionysius is again driven from Syracuse, and leads a mean life at Corinth, V.—The Carthaginians are alarmed at the conquests of Alexander the Great; the unjust execution of Hamilcar, VI.


1 2 3 4 5 6

1 WHEN Dionysius the tyrant was cut off in Sicily, the army elected in his room Dionysius the eldest of his sons, both in accordance with the law of nature, and because they thought the power would be more secure, if it continued in the hands of one son, than if it were divided among several. Dionysius, at the commencement of his reign, was eager to remove the uncles of his brothers,1 as being his rivals in the government, and as having encouraged the young men to ask for a division of power. But concealing his inclinations for a while, he applied himself first to gain the favour of his subjects, as being likely to cause the atrocity, which he had resolved on committing, to be regarded with more indulgence, if he previously made himself popular. He therefore released three thousand prisoners from the gaols, remitted the people the taxes for three years, and sought the affection of all by whatever blandishments he could use. Then, proceeding to execute his determination, he put to death, not only the relatives of his brothers, but his brothers themselves; so that he left to those, to whom he owed a share of power, not even a share of life, and commenced cruelty upon his kindred before he exercised it upon strangers.

2 When his rivals were removed, he fell into indolence, and contracted, from excessive indulgence at table, great corpulence of body, and a disease in his eyes, so that he could not bear the sunshine, or dust, or even the brightness of ordinary daylight. Suspecting that, for these weaknesses, he was despised by his subjects, he proceeded to inflict cruelties upon them; not filling the gaols, like his father, with prisoners, but the whole city with dead bodies. Hence he became not more, contemptible than hateful to every one. The Syracusans, in consequence, resolving to rebel against him, he long hesitated whether he should lay down the government or oppose them in arms; but he was compelled by the soldiery, who hoped for plunder from sacking the city, to march into the field. Being defeated, and trying his fortune again with no better success, he sent deputies to the people of Syracuse, with promises that “he would resign the government, if they would send persons to him with whom he might settle terms of peace.” Some of the principal citizens being accordingly sent for that purpose, he put them in close confinement, and then, when all were off their guard, having no fear of hostilities, he despatched his army to devastate the city. A contest, in consequence, which was long doubtful, took place in the town itself, but the townsmen overpowering the soldiery by their numbers, Dionysius was obliged to retire, and fearing that he should be besieged in the citadel, fled away secretly, with all his king-like paraphernalia, to Italy. Being received, in his exile, by his allies the Locrians, he took possession of the citadel as if he were their rightful sovereign, and exercised his usual outrages upon them. He ordered the wives of the principal men to be seized and violated; he took away maidens on the point of marriage, polluted them, and then restored them to their betrothed husbands; and as for the wealthiest men, he either banished them or put them to death, and confiscated their property.

3 In process of time, when a pretext for plunder was wanting, he over-reached the whole city by an artful stratagem. The Locrians, being harassed in war by Leophron the tyrant of Rhegium, had vowed, if they were victorious, to prostitute their maidens on the festal day of Venus; and as, on neglecting to perform the vow, they were unsuccessful in another war with the Lucanians, Dionysius called them to an assembly, and advised them “to send their wives and daughters, as richly dressed as possible, to the temple of Venus; out of whom a hundred, chosen by lot, should fulfil the public vow, and, for religion’s sake, offer themselves for prostitution during the space of a month, the men previously taking an oath not to touch any one of them; and, in order that this should be no detriment to the women who released the state from its vow, they should make a decree, that no other maiden should be married till these were provided with husbands.” This proposal, by which regard was shown both to their superstitious observances and to the honour of their virgins, being received with approbation, the whole of the women, in most expensive dresses, assembled in the temple of Venus, when Dionysius, sending in his soldiers, took off their finery, and made the ornaments of the matrons a spoil for himself. The husbands of some of them too, who were of the richer class, he put to death; others he tortured to make them discover their husbands’ wealth. After reigning in this manner for six years, he was driven from Locri by a conspiracy of the people, and returned to Sicily; where, while all, after so long an interval of peace, were free from apprehension, he possessed himself of Syracuse by surprise.

4 While this affair occurred in Sicily, Hanno, a leading man among the Carthaginians, in Africa, employed his power, which surpassed that of the government, to secure the sovereignty for himself, and endeavoured to establish himself as king by killing the senate. For the execution of this atrocity he fixed on the day of his daughter’s marriage, in order that his nefarious plot might be the better concealed in the pomp of religious ceremonies. He accordingly prepared a banquet-for the common people in the public porticoes, and another for the senate in his own house, so that, by poisoning the cups, he might take off the senate privately and without witnesses, and then more easily seize the government, when none were left to prevent him.2 The plot being disclosed to the magistrates by his agents, his destructive intentions were frustrated, but not punished, lest the matter, if publicly known, should occasion more trouble, in the case of so powerful a man, than the mere design of it had caused. Satisfied, therefore, with putting a stop to it, they merely set bounds by a decree to the expenses of marriage entertainments, and ordered the decree to be obeyed, not by him alone, but universally, that nothing personal to him, but the general correction of an abuse, might seem to be intended. Prevented by this measure, he, for a second attempt, raised the slaves, and appointing another day for the massacre of the senate, but finding himself again betrayed, he threw himself, for fear of being brought to trial, into a strong fortress with a body of twenty thousand armed slaves. Here, while he was soliciting the Africans, and the king of the Moors, to join him, he was captured, and after being scourged, having his eyes put out, and his arms and legs broken, as if atonement was to be exacted from every limb, he was put to death in the sight of the people, and his body, mangled with stripes, was nailed to a cross. All his children and relations, too, though guiltless, were delivered to the executioner, that no member of so nefarious a family might survive either to imitate his villainy, or to revenge his death.

5 Dionysius, in the meantime, being re-established in Syracuse, and becoming every day more oppressive and cruel to the people, was assailed by a new band of conspirators Laying down the government, therefore, he delivered up the city and army to the Syracusans, and, being allowed to take his private property with him, went to live in exile at Corinth; where, looking on the lowest station as the safest, he humbled himself to the very meanest condition of life. He was not content with strolling about the streets, but would even stand drinking in them; he was not satisfied with being seen in taverns and impure houses, but would sit in them for whole days. He would dispute with the most abandoned fellows about the merest trifles, walk about in rags and dirt, and afford laughter to others more readily than he would laugh at them. He would stand in the shambles, devouring with his eyes what he was not able to purchase; he would wrangle with the dealers before the aediles, and do everything in such a manner3 as to appear an object of contempt rather than of fear. At last he assumed the profession of a schoolmaster, and taught children in the open streets, either that he might continually be seen in public4 by those who feared him, or might be more readily despised by those who did not fear him; for though he had still plenty of the vices peculiar to tyrants, yet his present conduct was an affectation of vices,5 and not the effect of nature, and he adopted it rather from cunning than from having lost the self-respect becoming a sovereign, having experienced how odious the names of tyrants are, even when they are deprived of power. He strove, therefore, to diminish the odium incurred from his past by the contemptibleness of his present life, not looking to honourable but to safe practices. Yet amidst all these arts of dissimulation, he was accused of aspiring to the sovereignty, and was left at liberty only because he was despised.

6 During these proceedings, the Carthaginians, alarmed at the rapid successes of Alexander the Great, and fearing that he might resolve to annex Africa to his Persian empire, sent Hamilcar, surnamed Rhodanus, a man remarkable for wit and eloquence beyond others, to sound his intentions; for, indeed, the capture of Tyre, their own parent city, and the founding of Alexandria, as a rival to Carthage, on the confines of Africa and Egypt, as well as the good fortune of the king, whose ambition and success seemed to know no limit, raised their apprehensions to an extreme height. Hamilcar, obtaining access to the king through the favour of Parmenio, represented himself to Alexander as having been banished from his country, and as having fled to him for refuge, offering, at the same time, to serve as a soldier in the expedition against Carthage. Having thus ascertained his views, he sent a full account of them to his countrymen, inscribed on wooden tablets, with blank wax spread over the writing. The Carthaginians, however, when he returned home after the death of Alexander, put him to death, not only ungratefully but cruelly, on pretence that he had offered to sell their city to the king.

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1 Avunculos fratrum suorum.] Among these was Dion, who was not the uncle of Dionysius himself, but of his brothers; for Dionysius the elder had Hipparinus and Nysaeus by Aristomache, the sister of Dion, and Dionysius by another wife named Doris. See Corn. Nep. Vit. Dion. c. i.; Diod. Sic. xvi. 6; Plutarch. Dion. c. 3. Dion had wished to ask Dionysius the elder, when he was on his death-bed, to bequeath his sister’s sons a share of the kingdom. Corn. Nep. Dion. c. 2.—Wetzel.

2 Orbamque rempublicam—invadent.] Orbam, destitute of defenders or supporters.

3 Omnia ita facere.] Wetzel injudiciously reads ista.

4 He never thought that he made himself sufficiently contemptible, because he never thought himself sufficiently safe.—Scheffer.

5 Simulatio vitiorum.] Referring to his general conduct, not to his assumption of the character of a schoolmaster.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

This material may only be used for private and educational use and provided that its copyright status is properly cited. Any modification, remote loading, publication, reproduction on another site, diffusion on the internet, or commercial use of these texts is strictly prohibited without the prior agreement of the author.

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