Summary: A military commander and the liberator of the city of Syracuse
Date: Born c. 411 BC; died 337 BC
Location: Corinth, Greece
Family: Father: Timodemus; Mother: Demariste
- Introduction -
Timoleon achieved the seemingly impossible and the events which aligned to further his mission were extraordinary. He was born in Corinth, a strategic city on the small stretch of land between the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. Because of the city’s location, the sea was important to the people of Corinth for trading. The Corinthians also sailed to other lands to found new colonies.
One important settlement was the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. Most of Timoleon’s effort was spent freeing and defending the Corinthians of Sicily who were troubled by fighting and oppressed by Tyrants. Timoleon’s objective was to untangle this mess of affairs which also involved Carthage, a foreign power, and somehow, restore democracy in Syracuse.
- The Life of Timoleon -
During the period, the island of Sicily was ruled by war and confusion. Around this time Dionysius the II, an infamous tyrant took the city of Syracuse. Many of the Syracusan nobles fled the city and allied with a prince called Hictas. Dionysius wasn't the only tyrant in power though, there were many mmmm. Adding to the difficulties, the Carthaginians appeared off the coast with a large fleet eager to subdue the Greek colonies. The Sicilian Greeks called on Corinth to help them. Hicetas however, opposed this and allied with Carthage, hoping with their help, to overthrow Dionysius and become master of Syracuse. The Corinthians held a vote on who would lead the small force of soldiers to assist the colonists and the difficult task of driving out the Sicilian Tyrants fell to a man called Timoleon.
Timoleon sailed from Corinth but when he arrived at Sicily the Carthaginian ships prevented him from landing. He couldn’t fight his way through the larger fleet but managed to trick them and slip through. In 344 BC Timoleon gained a foothold in Sicily, but by this time Hicetas had captured most of the city of Syracuse and was besieging Dionysius in the citadel. Hicetas sent a force of 5,000 men to secure the city of Aduranum where the people were unsure whether to side with him or Timoleon. Timoleon led his 1,200 soldiers Aduranaum where he soundly defeated Hicetas’ army. The people of Aduranum allied with Timoleon and encouraged by Timoleon’s victory, other cities joined him also. Dionysius decided to hand over his 2,000 soldiers and what he still held of Syracuse to Timoleon.
Timoleon managed to sneak 400 of his own men into the citadel to reinforce it. Dionysius escaped from Syracuse and Timoleon sent him to Corinth. The Corinthians were impressed with Timoleon’s success and sent him 2,200 fresh troops. Hicetas, who was getting uncomfortable, sent men to assassinate Timoleon, but the attempt miraculously failed, spurring Hicetas to employ the full force of the Carthaginians. With only 4,000 men, Timoleon now marched on Syracuse. Hicetas and Mago, the Carthaginian general were alarmed at this. Their relationship was one of mutual suspicion and it soon ended with Mago leaving for Carthage with his army. To top off his extraordinary success Timoleon defeated Hicetas and reclaimed Syracuse without the loss of one Corinthian soldier.
The Carthaginians were furious with Mago for the way he’d handled their army. They gathered a force of 70,000 soldiers and landed in Sicily. Timoleon boldly marched to meet them with 12,00 men. In 339 BC the battle of the Crimissus began when Timoleon took the Carthaginians by surprise. They resisted fiercely but it began to storm. Rain bucketed down and the battlefield turned to mud. The heavily armed Carthaginians were slower and Timoleon’s men soon defeated them. After the battle, Timoleon killed or expelled most of the remaining tyrants, established a form of democracy and encouraged the repopulation of Syracuse. Timoleon never returned to Corinth but lived among the Syracusans until his death in 337 BC.
The Syracusans had been liberated from the rule of the tyrants, freed from the immediate fear of Carthage and order had been restored in their city. None of this would have happened without the influence of Timoleon. Though many events had certainly gone his way, Timoleon had proved himself an excellent leader. He had boldly led his men against daunting odds. Not only did he fight, but he also overcame and appeared to lead the people of Syracuse just as well in peace as in war.
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