CARTHAGE AND SICILY
THE PHOENICIANS IN THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN
WHEN Greek settlers began in the latter half of the eighth century BC to descend upon the coasts of Sicily, they found the greater part of the island inhabited by the people to whom it owes its name, the Sicels. According to Thucydides this people had entered Sicily from Italy some three hundred years before the Greek colonization, and had displaced and confined to the western part of the island an earlier population, the Sicans. This latter people, the earliest inhabitants of Sicily that we hear of, claimed to be autochthonous, but Thucydides believed them to be Iberians who had been driven out of Spain by the Ligurians. Whatever be the truth as to their origin, the two peoples were racially distinct, and the similarity of their names is merely accidental. The Sicans maintained a separate existence in a number of towns, of which the chief was Hyccara, but they play little part in Sicilian history. In the same quarter we find the Elymians, whom a tradition of dubious value describes as fugitives from Troy: their towns were Eryx, Entella and Segesta. Of far greater importance than any of these three peoples, who may be regarded as the native population of the island, and from whom the Greeks had little to fear, were the Phoenician settlers; for the early history of Sicily is largely that of the conflict between Phoenicians and Greeks.
The chronology of the Phoenician settlements in the western Mediterranean is a matter of some uncertainty. It is possible that the adventurous traders of Tyre and Sidon had established posts on the north African coast as early as 1100 bc: it is certain that they had passed the Straits of Gibraltar and entered into commercial relations with Tartessus (Tarshish) before 1000 bc. The chief motive for the Phoenician penetration of the western sea was the prospect of profitable trade with this important city at the mouth of the Baetis (Guadalquivir). The Tartessians, who had developed a civilization far in advance of other Iberian peoples, owed their prosperity mainly to the rich mineral deposits of Andalusia, silver, copper and lead, partly also to the enterprise of their seamen in the quest for tin in Ireland and the islands off the coast of Brittany, and for amber in the lands of the North Sea. These were the precious metals for which the Phoenicians exchanged their own wares, and the good value that they received is suggested by the story that the first Tyrian traders returned from Tartessus with so much silver that some of it had to be used as anchors for their ships. The earliest Phoenician settlement in Spain was at Gades (Cadiz) in the near neighbourhood of Tartessus: the date assigned to its foundation, 1100 bc, may well be approximately correct, and it was probably established with the goodwill of Tartessus. Gradually, however, relations grew worse; the south and south-east coasts of Spain became dotted with Punic factories, such as Malaca, Sexi, Abdera; peaceful penetration changed into the lust for possession, and Tartessus came to feel in danger of being cut off from the sea. Ultimately it must have come to fighting, in which the Phoenicians prevailed; for before 800 bc we find that Tartessus has become a tributary of Tyre.
Meanwhile a number of Phoenician settlements had sprung up on the north African coast, including Hadrumetum, Utica, and the two towns known later as Hippo Regius and Hippo Diarrhytus; while outside the Straits Gades in the north was matched by Lixus (El-Arish) in the south. The only importance of these towns is that they came to form the nucleus of the empire of Carthage (kart-hadasht., the ‘New Town’), the last and greatest of the colonies of Tyre, founded probably towards the end of the ninth century b.c. It is indeed doubtful whether we are justified in speaking of the pre-Carthaginian settlements in Spain and Africa as towns: they were perhaps no more than trading-stations or factories, which would explain the lack of archaeological evidence for the presence of Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean until as late as the middle of the eighth century bc. It is, however, difficult to believe that Gades and Utica were not real colonies; for the subjugation of Tartessus implies a military establishment based on Gades, while Utica was powerful or venerable enough to maintain a position of quasi-equality with Carthage down to the time of the second Punic War.
In addition to their settlements in Spain and Africa the islands of Sardinia and Malta also furnished sites for Phoenician occupation. With regard to Sicily, there is no sufficient reason to doubt the statement of Thucydides that its promontories and the small islands round its coasts were occupied by Phoenicians before the coming of the Greeks, though here again archaeological evidence is wanting. We have no means of dating these settlements, but we may take them to be pre-Carthaginian, for it is unlikely that the Sicel trade, which Thucydides expressly assigns as the motive of their establishment, would have been neglected down to the time when Carthage herself began to colonize.
Just as the Sicans had retreated into the west of Sicily before the Sicel advance, so now the Phoenicians retreated before the Greeks to the three towns of Motya, Panormus and Solus; possibly these towns only came into existence at this date, though no doubt their sites had been in Phoenician occupation before.
It is significant that the motive assigned by Thucydides for the Phoenician withdrawal to this corner of the island is its proximity to Carthage. The older Phoenician colonies were as early as 735 bc beginning to look for support to the city founded less than a hundred years before. But Carthage was as yet not strong enough to oppose the Greek occupation of Sicily, nor probably did she feel it necessary to do so. The first clash of Carthaginian with Greek was not destined to come about until Carthage had become an imperial state, mistress of the Phoenician possessions in Africa and the islands, nor until Phoenician commercial interests were more vitally threatened than they were by the presence of the Greeks in Sicily. It was not until the sixth century bc that these two conditions were both fulfilled. In the history of the western Mediterranean the two hundred years (735—535) between the foundation of Naxos and the battle of Alalia witness on the one hand the growth of Carthage into a powerful sea and land empire, on the other the ever-encroaching advance of Greek colonists and traders into the regions which the Phoenicians claimed as their preserve.
THE ADVANCE OF CARTHAGE
At the moment when Greeks were beginning to colonize Sicily, the cities of old Phoenicia had fallen upon evil days. Tyre, the most famous of them, had been thrice besieged by Assyrian kings in the eighth and early seventh centuries; and although each time she proved impregnable upon her island, yet she was so exhausted that soon after the siege by Esarhaddon she submitted in 669 to Assyrian control. When Babylon succeeded in 611 to the power of Nineveh, the Phoenician cities recovered some degree of independence: but in 588 they were attacked by Apries of Egypt in the course of his revolt from his Chaldaean masters: for a few years they remained under Egyptian control, but in 586 Nebuchadrezzar defeated Apries and began yet another siege of Tyre which lasted thirteen years. After her capitulation Tyre became further exhausted by a period of civil disorder, until she passed without a struggle under Persian control c. 539. The place of Tyre as leading state of Phoenicia was taken by Sidon, but although as subjects of the Persian Empire they entered upon a new period of commercial prosperity and constituted the main part of the Persian navy, neither city was now powerful enough to influence the course of events in the western Mediterranean.
But powerless as Tyre had become, there still subsisted between her and her colonies the ties of religion and of sentiment. Though Carthage had long since freed herself from all political dependence she continued for several centuries to show her respect by the annual despatch of sacred envoys to the festival of Tyrian Melkart. As we learn from Herodotus Tyre showed herself, on one occasion at least, ready to brave the displeasure of her Persian rulers in the interest of her daughter-city. Cambyses, after his conquest of Egypt, is said to have intended to subjugate Carthage, which he probably affected to regard as rightfully subject to Tyre and therefore to himself: the refusal of the Phoenicians in his fleet to proceed against a Phoenician colony led him to abandon his project.
It was to Carthage that the western Phoenicians must now look. The rapid growth of Carthage in power and prosperity was due partly to her geographical situation; an excellent harbour favoured her commerce, a fertile hinterland her agriculture; even more perhaps was it due to the superior energy and genius, military and political, which raised her above her Phoenician fellows. It is a probable suggestion that with the decay of Tyre and Sidon the best elements in their population were attracted to Carthage; in any case it was her fortune, now as in later days, to produce statesmen and soldiers who realized her task and had strength to lead her on in the path marked out for her by destiny. That she was moved by the desire of power and wealth for their own sake we need not deny; but the same is surely true of all conquering peoples, and praise and censure in such matters are equally idle.
Little is known of the stages by which Carthage won her empire. It is probable that she began by gradually asserting a hegemony over the Phoenician towns in Africa, adding to their number by colonies of her own. We may suppose that she was not slow to maintain and develop the Phoenician trade with Tartessus; her occupation of Ebusus (Iviza), an island off the south-east coast of Spain, assigned by Diodorus to as early a date as 654/3 bc, was probably designed to safeguard and facilitate the passage of her vessels to and from the peninsula. We have no certain evidence of any Carthaginian settlement in Spain itself earlier than the fourth century bc, but the first treaty with Rome (508/7) appears to shut off Roman enterprise from Spanish waters, and we may believe that before that date Carthage controlled the old Phoenician settlements in Spain. But we have no ground for assuming a date much earlier than this; for the Carthaginian conquest of southern Spain was more than an assumption of hegemony over Phoenician settlements, which might be readily enough conceded; it necessitated in all likelihood a conflict both with Tartessus and with the Greek colonists in Spain.
We have seen that at some time before 800 bc Tartessus had become tributary to Tyre. About a century later she appears to have regained her independence, probably in consequence of the weakening of Tyre by the Assyrian siege, and in the early part of the sixth century we find her apparently mistress of the Tyrian colonies in Spain. These were the flourishing days of Tartessus, which have left their mark in Herodotus’ story of her wealthy and phil-Hellene King Arganthonius (‘Silver-man’); it has been suggested that the lifetime of 120 or 150 years assigned to him by Greek legend may symbolize the period of Tartessus’ greatest wealth and prosperity, from about 700 to 550. It is possible no doubt to exaggerate the importance of Tartessus and the extent of her dominion; but the point that is important and significant for the record of Carthaginian development is that after the middle of the sixth century BC Tartessus completely vanishes from history. The most probable explanation is that it was destroyed by the Carthaginians about the same time that the Greeks were driven by them out of southern Spain, and that the expulsion of both Greeks and Tartessians was rendered possible by the battle of Alalia (535 bc), in which the victory of Carthage, aided by the Etruscans, over the Phocaeans secures for her the command of the western sea together with the ability to close the Straits of Gibraltar to the merchantmen of Tartessus.
In tracing the steps by which Carthage acquired her Spanish dominion it has been necessary to anticipate the account of Greek colonization in the peninsula; this is part of the general westward expansion of Greece in the seventh and sixth centuries bc, and to that we must now turn.
GREEK EXPANSION IN THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN
It has been seen that the Greek colonization of Sicily, begun in 735 bc, went on steadily for one hundred years. By the time of the foundation of Selinus (c. 630 bc) the best sites in the island with the exception of Acragas (founded in 580) had been occupied, and the energies of adventurers began to be turned elsewhere. In Africa, where the Theraeans had planted about 630 their colony of Cyrene, whose territory expanded rapidly westwards, Greeks became near neighbours of the Carthaginians who were simultaneously advancing eastwards. The African coast west of Carthage shows no trace of any attempt at Greek settlement, a fact which may perhaps be taken as confirming the early supremacy of Carthage in that region. Spain was reached by Greek mariners at least as early as 620, when Colaeus of Samos was driven out of his course by an east wind beyond the Pillars of Heracles to the kingdom of Tartessus. This chance introduction of the Greeks to a region which, as we have seen, had been long since exploited by Phoenician traders was shortly afterwards followed up by some adventurers from that most enterprising commercial state of seventh-century Hellas, Phocaea.
It is to Phocaeans that the distinction belongs of penetrating farther west than any other Greeks, and of first occupying a site which has ever since been one of the world’s greatest ports, Massilia. The date assigned to this Phocaean colony is 600 bc. More important, however, for our present story is another Phocaean colony, less famous and immeasurably less permanent, Maenaca, a little east of Malaca (Malaga) on the southern Spanish coast. It was founded probably rather earlier than Massilia, and may be regarded as the Greek counterpart to the Phoenician Gades, both being established for the sake of trade with Tartessus. It is probable that the Phocaeans came at a favourable time, for with the lessening prosperity of Tyre the Tartessian trade with Phoenicia would suffer and their market be open to newcomers. Of the history of Maenaca nothing is known, but it must have disappeared at some time in the sixth century b.c.: and the most explanation of its disappearance is that the Carthaginians destroyed it, as they probably destroyed Tartessus, soon after the battle of Alalia. Just as Tartessus was afterwards confused with Gades, so was Maenaca with Malaca.
The Carthaginians were thus without a rival in southern Spain, but Greeks still maintained a footing on the northern part of the east coast, at Emporiae and Rhode, two colonies founded by Massilia after the fall of the Phocaeans.
In Corsica the Phocaean settlement of Alalia (Aleria) on the east coast was established about 560 bc: while the neighbouring island of Sardinia appears to have exercised a perennial attraction for homeless and exiled Greeks: a Messenian settlement was projected after the second Messenian war towards the end of the seventh century and about 545 BC a suggestion was made by Bias of Priene that the Ionians should migrate to Sardinia en masse to escape the rule of Persia: later still an enterprising adventurer, Histiaeus of Miletus, proposed to Darius that he should acquire the island for the Persians themselves.
It is plain that the Greeks were becoming an increasing menace to Phoenician supremacy, political and commercial, in the western Mediterranean. During the seventh century however no hostilities occurred, for both Greeks and Phoenicians seem to have deliberately avoided those regions where their rivals were actually settled. Thus Greek settlements are not found on the north African coast west of Carthage, nor Phoenician settlements in Magna Graecia. Butin Sicily the peril of the Greek advance was brought home more vividly to the Semites. Their presence in the north-west corner was obviously endangered by the later Hellenic colonies of Himera, Selinus and Acragas. These three states were destined to play each a prominent part—two of them were to make common cause with the barbarian—in the first episode of the struggle between western Greece and Carthage, the episode which ended with the battle of Himera: though the leading role was played by none of them, but by a city of the east coast which in 600 bc can hardly have seemed very dangerous to Phoenician interests, the city of Syracuse.
EARLIEST CONFLICTS BETWEEN PHOENICIANS AND SICILIAN GREEKS
We have now to trace, so far as the scanty evidence permits, the events which lead up to the predominance of Syracuse in the early fifth century and to the crowning mercy of Himera.
The earliest conflict of which we know between Phoenicians and Greeks upon Sicilian soil may be dated about 580 bc; that is to say simultaneously with, or very little later than, the foundation of Acragas. The Sicilian Greeks had hitherto respected the retirement of the Phoenicians to their three towns in the northwest corner of the island: but the enterprise of Pentathlus which we have now to relate was undertaken by Greeks from the Aegean, Cnidians and Rhodians, and was directed towards the ‘barbarian corner’ itself. It would be interesting to know the true motive of this expedition. Was it a deliberate attempt at the complete domination of Sicily by the Greeks, to be secured by driving the Phoenicians from their sole remaining portion of the coast line? We do not hear of any such motive, and if it had existed, one would have expected the initiative to have come from Greeks of Sicily, in particular from Selinus. But this does not seem to have been the case.
Whatever the motives of Pentathlus and his comrades, they met with utter failure. On their landing they found a struggle going on between the people of Selinus, Dorians like themselves, and the Elymians of Segesta. As might be expected, the newcomers made common cause with the Selinuntines: we are tempted to conjecture that their arrival was not so unexpected by Selinus as our accounts imply. This cooperation however called forth Phoenician help for the Elymians. In any case Pentathlus would have had to fight the Phoenicians for a footing on the promontory of Lilybaeum: for its occupation by Greeks was obviously not to be tolerated by the men of Motya. Pentathlus was defeated, and according to one story killed: a number of his followers however made good their escape to the Aeolian Islands where they settled in Lipara, the largest of that group. It is of no moment whether a Greek colony was actually established at this time on Lilybaeum or not: if it was, its life was exceedingly brief. The ‘barbarian corner’ was to remain barbarian for well-nigh two centuries more; but they were content, it seems, with the repulse of Pentathlus and his allies of Selinus, for we hear of no injury inflicted on the Selinuntines as a sequel of their defeat.
For the next thirty years the history of Sicily is almost a blank. One name alone stands out, that of Phalaris, tyrant of Acragas. To sift out the residuum of fact from the mass of legends that grew up around this notable figure is a task of much difficulty. Rising to power, some ten years after the city’s foundation, by a trick of a type ascribed to many other usurpers, he ruled Acragas for sixteen years with a rigour and cruelty unexampled even among Sicilian tyrants. The story of the brazen bull, in which he roasted his victims to death, must be accepted as literal fact: for it rests on far too good and too early authority to be explained away as a misunderstanding of some religious practice of Semitic origin. But we may well believe that it was from Phoenician models that Phalaris learnt to practise a form of torture so repugnant to Greek sentiment.
With regard to the extent of his dominion, it is possible that it embraced other Siceliote cities: we hear of him as ruling at Himera and at Leontini, and a very late reference makes him tyrant of all Sicily. It would however be most unsafe to take any of these stories as facts. One scrap of information about his exploits has an air of probability, namely that he was engaged in warfare with the Sican tribes of the interior: it is reasonable to assume that he came into contact with this early stratum of native population in the course of extending the territory of his city, which as we know from a casual notice embraced the hill of Ecnomus beside the southern Himera river. About 554 he fell as the result of a popular movement; we know the name of the liberator of Acragas, Telemachus, the ancestor of Theron, who was destined to rule and bring great glory to his city three generations later. We know also the names of two intervening rulers, Alcamenes and Alcander; but they are mere names, and Acragas like other Siceliote cities has for us no history for some seventy years after the fall of Phalaris.
There were tyrants, less famous or infamous than Phalaris, in other Sicilian cities in the early part of the sixth century, such as Panaetius of Leontini and Theron of Selinus. But it is only with the beginning of the fifth century that we find tyrants simultaneously in almost all the cities. At Catana it would seem that the citizens forestalled the appearance of a tyrant by the wiser course of appointing a lawgiver. To Charondas, whose date cannot be determined with any exactness, there was ascribed a mass of political and social legislation comparable to that of Lycurgus or Solon. It is said that he was the pupil of another famous lawgiver, Zaleucus of the Italian Locri, and that his laws were observed in other cities of Sicily and Italy. Although we have no trustworthy information as to the details of his life and work, yet he was certainly a real personage; and the reputation which is attached to him by numerous Greek writers from Plato onwards attests the excellence of his work and the permanence which it secured.
Towards the middle of the sixth century we get another glimpse of the conflict between Greek and Phoenician in Sicily: and by this time it is not the resistance of the isolated barbarians of the north-west corner that the Greek has to meet, but the aggressive power of Carthage. With the figure of Malchus, whose campaigns in Sicily may be put about 550, Carthage emerges into the light, though it can hardly yet be called the full light, of history. Our information is no more than this, that Malchus waged a long and successful war and subdued a part of Sicily. It is generally, and not unreasonably, assumed that his opponents were Greeks; but if so we have no means of saying what Greeks; that they were the troops of Phalaris is a mere guess based on the fact that Phalaris and Malchus are roughly contemporary; it is surely to be expected that the numerous stories of Phalaris’ exploits would contain some reference to such warfare if it had occurred. It is perhaps more likely that Selinus was amongst the foes of Malchus, as being the Greek colony nearest to the Phoenician corner, from which we may suppose any Carthaginian army would operate. On the other hand it has been suggested that the enemy was not Greek, but Phoenician, that Carthage had to assert her supremacy over Panormus, Motya and Solus by force of arms. No certainty is attainable: we can only say with assurance that the middle years of the century witnessed the presence of a Carthaginian army on Sicilian soil, and the subjection of the Phoenicians on the island to Carthaginian dominion or hegemony whether bv agreement or by the sword.
The first certain instance of conflict between Carthage and Sicilian Greeks belongs to the last decade of the century. Between 550 and 510 we chance to know more of Carthaginian than of Sicilian affairs. Malchus after his successes in Sicily met with some disaster at the hands of native tribes in Sardinia. The islanders were able to withstand the Carthaginian armies for many years, until their resistance was finally broken about 520 by the commanders who succeeded Malchus, Mago and his sons Hasdrubal and Hamilcar. Under their leadership Carthage secured a firm grasp of the coast regions, the natives being driven back into the mountainous interior. Meanwhile the failure of Malchus had important consequences in the Carthaginian state. Condemned to exile together with the survivors of his defeated army Malchus defied the ruling oligarchy and by a successful coup d’état made himself master of the state. He did not however, as might be expected, attempt to convert the constitution into a military monarchy: contenting himself with the execution of ten members of the Council he left the oligarchy in control, with the result that after no long interval he found himself again at their mercy: accused of aiming at monarchical power he was condemned and executed.
In this story of Malchus, preserved to us in a late authority with a surprising amount of circumstantial detail, we see Carthage passing through a critical stage of her development. Experience had shown that the maintenance and extension of her commerce demanded a strong, and if need were, an aggressive army. So long as that army was content to be the obedient instrument of the commercial oligarchy no troubles ensued: but as soon as it aspired to a voice of its own in the destinies of the state it became dangerous to the oligarchy. We may suppose that the latter seized upon the defeat of Malchus in Sardinia as a favourable occasion for a trial of strength; but if it lost in the first round, it would seem to have recovered in the second, since Malchus was either unwilling or unable to secure his position permanently. Happily for Carthage a compromise was found which saved her from the disasters of prolonged internecine conflict. To Mago, the successor of Malchus as general, belongs the credit of a bold and sweeping reform, which, though not without its dangers, as later centuries were to prove, was at this time salutary and essential. Henceforth the ranks of the Carthaginian army were to be recruited no longer from her own citizens, but from subject peoples, allies and mercenaries: in practice from the battle of Himera to that of Zama her troops were largely mercenary, though officered by Carthaginian citizens. The danger thus removed, it was felt to be safe for the chief command to be held by one of the two Suffetes, or heads of the civil administration for the year: in fact such a combination of offices seems to have been normal for the remainder of the period with which we are now concerned.
These years witnessed great military activity on the part of Carthage, activity crowned in the main with success. In addition to the long warfare in Sardinia against natives, the neighbouring island of Corsica was the scene, in 535 bc, of the encounter, already referred to, between the allied fleets of Carthage and Etruria and that of Greeks from Phocaea. The colony of Alalia founded some twenty-five years earlier had just received an accession from its metropolis, abandoned by its citizens by reason of the aggression of Persia. The original establishment of the colony had been resisted by the ships of Carthage, which had then fought without an ally and suffered defeat. But on the present occasion her sixty vessels were supported by an equal number of Etruscan ships. The battle of Alalia was the most outstanding result—and indeed the only result, of which we have a detailed record—of an alliance between the two powers interested in preventing the expansion of the Greeks in the western Mediterranean. When the treaty was drawn we are not told, perhaps early in the sixth century: it was both a military and a commercial treaty containing clauses dealing with the trade between the two contracting parties and with the redress of grievances.
The victory was claimed by the Phocaeans: but it was a victory in which the victors lost more than the vanquished, and it resulted in the abandonment of Alalia. Corsica was now lost to the Greeks, but it fell to the share not of Carthage but of Etruria. It is probable that we should assign to a date not much later than the battle of Alalia the naval victory of Massilia over Carthage which brought an end to a war of some duration. The Phocaean colony would naturally feel it incumbent on her to champion the cause of Greek against barbarian after the defeat of her mother-city. The battle was followed by a definitive treaty, which probably fixed the Cape de la Nao as the boundary between Massiliote and Carthaginian ‘spheres of influence.’ Neither the Etruscan nor the Massiliote treaty has been preserved, but we may suppose that they followed the lines of the first treaty with Rome (508/7) which is quoted by Polybius. We can thus see that in the latter half of the sixth century Carthage was employing both military and diplomatic means in the steady pursuit of a forward policy and rapidly becoming a strong naval power.
THE ENTERPRISE OF DORIEUS
After the defeat of the Phocaeans and the settlement with Massilia, Carthage might reasonably expect that the tide of Greek expansion in her waters would rise no higher; but it was not to be so. Rather more than twenty years after the battle of Alalia she received yet another provocation, this time from a city that had hitherto founded but few colonies in West or East. A man of Sparta now appeared to trouble the peace of the same Phoenician ‘reserve’ in north-west Sicily that other Dorians had troubled seventy years before. But it was the enterprise rather of an individual Spartan prince than of the Spartan state. The wife of King Anaxandridas had borne him no child: he therefore took another wife who bore him a son, Cleomenes. Soon afterwards, however, another son was born to the king by his first wife. His name was Dorieus. On the death of Anaxandridas the succession was decided in favour of Cleomenes as the firstborn. But the young prince Dorieus, high-spirited, enterprising, encouraged by popular esteem, deemed it intolerable to abide at Sparta under the rule of his brother. His first design was to found a colony in Libya, at the mouth of the river Cinyps, a point between the Greater and the Lesser Syrtis. Thither he was guided by men of Thera, and it is to be supposed that the scheme had the support —it may even have been the suggestion—of the neighbouring Theraean colony of Cyrene. The spot selected was attractive from its fertility, and the new settlement endured for two years. But Carthage proved as vigilant and jealous on her eastern landfrontier as in the waters of her sea: in the third year (c. 510 bc) Dorieus and his fellow-adventurers were expelled by a force of Libyan natives acting with Punic troops. In the action of Carthage we may see the assertion of a claim to control the coast as far as the southernmost point of the Great Syrtis.
The failure of Dorieus was ascribed by pious Greek sentiment to his omission to seek religious guidance for his enterprise—he had neglected to enquire of Apollo what land was destined for his new home. Returning to the Peloponnese he resolved to make good his omission. The share of Apollo in this second enterprise was limited to an oracular blessing upon a suggestion that came from another source. Dorieus had chanced to fall in with a certain Antichares, a Boeotian skilled in prophecies, from whom he learnt that he must make his way to Sicily and recover for the descendants of Heracles their rights to that region of Eryx which was the scene of one of the hero’s most famous exploits. So romantic an adventure, so plain a duty of filial piety doubtless seemed to the mind of the Heraclid prince certain of heaven’s favour; though to one of a more prudent and less idealistic temperament it might have occurred that the fact of human opposition was one to be reckoned with. If the Phoenicians of Motya and her sister-towns had viewed with disfavour a settlement by Pentathlus on the promontory of Lilybaeum, they had as good reason to oppose that of Dorieus upon Eryx: while the Elymians of Segesta would hardly submit to a Greek settlement on Elymian ground.
But Dorieus had an enemy to face far more serious than had Pentathlus, an enemy stronger than the Elymian of Segesta or the Phoenician of Motya: Carthage had now beyond all doubt the controlling voice in the affairs of Phoenician Sicily, and she was no less alive to Greek encroachment in the island than she had just shown herself on her land frontier in Africa. And so it was that Dorieus like his predecessor fell in battle against the united forces of Phoenicians and their subjects or allies—we know not which—of Segesta. These latter paid their conquered foe a curious tribute of admiration. Amongst the companions of Dorieus was a certain Philip of Croton, famed as the most beautiful of all Greeks. The barbarians built for him a tomb and over it a chapel where they might honour the fallen warrior with sacrifice as a hero. The Spartan prince himself gained no such memorial: the land which the oracular voice of Delphi had prophesied would be his was no more than the soil of a nameless grave.
Whether Dorieus did or did not found a short-lived colony on the chosen site cannot be certainly decided. Herodotus, our principal and by far our earliest authority for this episode, clearly had heard nothing of such a foundation: if he had, he could not have omitted it from his narrative. On the other hand we are told by Diodorus, presumably on the authority of Timaeus, that Dorieus did found a city of Heraclea, which quickly grew to prosperity, to such an extent indeed that the Carthaginians became fearful of losing their hegemony in Sicily, attacked it with large forces and razed it to the ground. The attempts that have been made to harmonize the two accounts are ingenious but unsuccessful: Herodotus clearly believed that Dorieus was defeated and slain very soon after landing in Sicily, Diodorus that he lived long enough at least to see his projected colony in being for a period which can hardly be reckoned as less than a year. For the credit of the oracle of Antichares we may perhaps suppose that the colony did get as far as a technical existence, but was wiped out almost before it was born, and that its rapid growth and prosperity were the product of imaginative Siceliote historians.
As to the voice of Delphi, Apollo could justify himself for giving his prophecy so grim a manner of fulfilment. Dorieus had sinned in that he did not go direct to the accomplishment of the task assigned him: he had tarried on the way. On his voyage from Peloponnese he had passed along the coast of southern Italy, following the usual course. He came at the moment when Sybaris, once the wealthiest, perhaps even the most famous of all Greek cities in East or West, was engaged in her death-struggle with the neighbouring city of Croton. With the aid of Dorieus and his followers Croton was victorious over her rival: so at least Herodotus was told in later days by the descendants of the conquered Sybarites who still survived on a soil which they no longer ruled. The men of Croton denied the story, and each side endeavoured to prove its case to the curious enquirer. The arguments of neither are convincing: but the balance of probability is in favour of the intervention of Dorieus having actually occurred: for it is more likely that Croton should have denied a true account that seemed to lessen the glory of her victory than that Sybaris should have invented an account that had no foundation in fact. The question is of no great moment for us: what is certain is that the Sicilian enterprise of Dorieus took place at the time of the fall of Sybaris, that is to say about 510 bc. The doubts that have been cast upon this date cannot be sustained.
The surviving followers of Dorieus, like those of Pentathlus, were resolved to do at least something to rescue their names from oblivion. If they could not found a new Heraclea they could at least confer the name upon an existing city. Farther south along the coast lay the town of Minoa, an outpost of Selinus designed perhaps to guard against aggression on the part of her nearest neighbour Acragas. This place, we are told, the Spartan company led by Euryleon occupied, and Herodotus adds that they helped the Selinuntines to get free from their tyrant Peithagoras. What the exact connection between these two exploits was is not clear: it may be that the occupation of Minoa was really, or nominally, part of the joint operations against Peithagoras. At all events Euryleon soon dropped the role of liberator, proclaimed himself ruler of Selinus and her territory, and maintained his rule for a short while. His end which came soon as the result of a popular uprising can hardly excite our pity or surprise. It is curious that the memory of this usurper was preserved in the name of the town that he had seized: Minoa in after days was known as Heraclea Minoa, and the name must be a record of the Spartan who had been disappointed of his share in the glory of the true Heraclea on Mount Eryx.
If we may believe a vague and doubtful scrap of information given us by a late authority, the fight between Siceliotes and Carthaginians did not begin with the attack on Dorieus, nor cease with his fall. It would appear—the very text is corrupt—that Dorieus had received the aid of Sicilian allies provoked by Carthaginian aggression, and that a heavy and protracted war was waged with varying success. The most natural ally of Dorieus would be Selinus, the city that had given aid to Pentathlus.
THE RISE OF SYRACUSE
But the story of Sicily for the next thirty years, that is to say in the interval between the enterprise of Dorieus and the campaign of Himera, so far as it has come down to us, is that of the struggle not of Greek with Carthaginian but of Greek with fellow-Greek. It is moreover a new phase in the development of the Sicilian colonies upon which we are now entering. Hitherto the affairs of one city had been little, if at all, affected by the affairs of another: they had lived side by side in amity, or at least without conflict, except in isolated cases and in exceptional circumstances, such as the war between Syracuse and her semi-independent out-settlement of Camarina, presently to be recorded. There had been mistrust, a feeling that the more distant and vulnerable parts of a city’s territory must be guarded against aggression: thus Camarina was planted as an outpost of Syracuse against Gela, and Minoa barred the encroachment of Acragas upon the land of Selinus. But, generally speaking, it had been possible for the most flourishing cities to expand without threat or damage to any but the pre-Greek inhabitants of the island. With the opening of the fifth century this was no longer the case. The tyrants who are found in many cities, some rising to power in their native places and by their own enterprise, others set in control by a foreign overlord, tend to look beyond the confines of their own territories; it is an age of alliances and combinations, and of the rise of one great power which finally attains a supremacy hardly less than the lordship of Sicily. But before we come to those great and memorable events which culminate in the battle of Himera and the glory brought to Syracuse by the ruler who forsook his own city to dwell there, it is necessary to record what can be recorded of that city’s growth since her foundation.
From the days of Archias to the days of Gelon the city proper was confined to the island of Ortygia. This was not indeed the only inhabited quarter; the adjoining mainland soon became dotted with fortified posts and temples and other buildings. Amongst these were Polichna, the hill commanding the road which led south to Helorum, crowned with the temple of Olympian Zeus; Temenites, the quarter which took its name from the sanctuary of Apollo, likewise commanding the inland road leading westward; and Achradina to the north, where a line of stone quarries provided the hill with a natural defence that could easily be adapted to military ends by simply cutting out the rock. The lowland between this hill and Ortygia was afterwards included in Achradina, but was for the present left unfortified and uninhabited, with the result that upper Achradina remained an isolated outpost.
The geographical situation of Syracuse, on the east coast but not far from its southern extremity, and the fact that to the north her way was soon blocked by Megara, pointed her naturally to expansion southward and westward. Her citizens would aspire to stretch across the south-east corner of the island from the eastern to the western sea: and the record of her early settlement marks the fulfilment of that purpose. It is probable that two sites away from the immediate vicinity of Ortygia were early occupied, Neetum amongst the hills to the south-west, and Helorum on the coast to the south. But the first settlement actually recorded is that of Acrae in 664, situated, as its name implies, on high ground about twenty-four miles west: and the next is Casmenae in 644, due south of Acrae a few miles from the southern sea. We may thus suppose that within a century of her foundation Syracuse had secured control of the whole district enclosed between the coast and a line drawn north from below Casmenae to Acrae and eastward thence to Ortygia. Although these two places are included by Thucydides, to whom we owe the dates, in his list of Sicilian colonies, they were certainly not colonies in the ordinary sense: their inhabitants were citizens of Syracuse, and their coins the coins of Syracuse: they were in fact in the same position as the nearer outpost of Achradina in the period before it was connected with Ortygia.
In 599 bc a settlement of a different character was planted, Camarina on the south-west coast, which possessed seemingly from the first some measure of independence. Her relation to the mother-city was not that of the normal Greek colony, which was bound only by ties of sentiment and religion: it was rather analogous to that subsisting between Corcyra or Potidaea and their metropolis of Corinth: the degree of control retained by Syracuse is not known to us, but it was such that when Camarina attempted to shake it off some forty-five years later, the attempt was held to be that of a rebellious subject.
By the time of the foundation of Camarina Syracuse had realized her ambition of extending her sway over south-eastern Sicily from sea to sea, and possessed a territory far larger than any other Sicilian city. There is some evidence that in the earliest times she was ruled by kings: for several writers, one as early as the days of Gelon, speak of a king Pollis, who if he is a historical personage must have been a constitutional monarch, not a usurping tyrant. But apart from this shadowy figure the earliest glimpse we get shows us an oligarchical type of government. In accordance with the normal course of development in Greek colonies political power remained in the hands of the descendants of the original settlers, while later comers remained unenfranchised. Thus as the population of Syracuse grew by successive additions from without, the government, originally democratic, approximated more and more to oligarchy. Long before the end of the sixth century the unenfranchised and landless Demos must have far outnumbered the citizens who became known as the Gamori or landowners. A third class of the population were known as Kyllyrioi, a name of uncertain derivation: these were the natives who remained on the lands of their conquerors in the condition of serfs or villeins bound to till the lands of their masters: Herodotus, not without some exaggeration, speaks of them as slaves of the Gamori, but a more exact comparison, save for the fact that they were of a different race, is that drawn between the Kyllyrioi and the Helots of Laconia or the Penestae of Thessaly.
The first recorded act of war between Greeks in Sicily is that War of Independence waged by Camarina in 554 bc to which reference has been made. It was evidently a war of some magnitude, for both sides called in allies, Syracuse winning the aid of Megara and of the Sicels of Enna, Camarina that of other Sicels and of Greeks unnamed. It appears that Gela was at this time in some sense an ally of Camarina, but she refused to fight against Syracuse. It is not easy to conjecture the motives which inspired the readiness of Megara, or the unreadiness of Gela: it may have been fear of a powerful neighbour operating with different results. That the Sicels should in the main fight on the side of the weaker city against the stronger, which was continually advancing at their own cost, was only to be expected. Somewhere east of the river Hyrminus the battle was fought. It was a day of disaster for Camarina and she paid dearly for her struggle for independence. Her land was devastated, her existence blotted out; we may conjecture that the victors felt they could dispense with the outpost against Gela, for that city which had been unwilling to join the enemies of Syracuse would hardly attack her unaided. It was many years yet before a tyrant of Gela was destined to bring her beneath his sway.
But it is with the record of Gela that the story of this second phase of Sicilian history begins. One characteristic feature thereof we have already noted, the interaction of one Sicilian city upon another: but it is marked by a second and even more important characteristic, the interaction of Sicily with Hellas proper, and with Magna Graecia across the narrow strait. The island had of course never been cut off from connection with Old Greece, but the connection had hitherto been fitful and intermittent: in the main the development of the Sicilian colonies had been independent. But henceforth Sicilian history becomes an integral part of the history of Greece: we are drawing near to the time of the Persian invasions, to the time when eastern and western Hellas are to meet and repel not indeed the same barbarian foe but two barbarian foes aiming independently at the same object, the extinction of Greek civilization in its two most famous seats. It is with the year 499 bc—about ten years after the destruction of Sybaris and the discomfiture of Dorieus—that we resume our story. In that year the oligarchy at Gela, doubtless of the same origin as that of the Gamori at Syracuse, was overthrown by Cleander who established himself as tyrant. He ruled the city for seven years but of the nature of his rule we know nothing.
In 492 bc he was slain by one of his subjects, but the tyranny was not overthrown. It passed to his brother Hippocrates, destined to exalt Gela for some years to the pride of place amongst her sister-cities. With the exception perhaps of Phalaris, whose title to fame is at least dubious, Hippocrates is the first great name in Sicilian history. Energetic, ambitious and unscrupulous, not content with rising to supreme power in his own city but aiming at the dominion over the whole, or if that might not be, over a great part of the island, he has been justly called a precursor of the great Dionysius and of Agathocles. We possess but the barest summary of his exploits: we know that he employed Sicel mercenaries to supplement the troops of Gela, that he sometimes employed them even against Sicel towns. It was to the east coast that he directed his main energies, a fact which suggests that he, like his successor Gelon, had an understanding with Acragas, his nearest western neighbour, which debarred him from advance along the western coast. He conquered in turn Naxos, her colony Callipolis, Zancle, and Leontini, all of which, in the words of Herodotus, he reduced to slavery. What this implies in the cases of Naxos and Gallipolis we do not know, but in the latter two cities he either found or set up tyrants to be answerable to himself as overlord. One city he marched against but did not enslave: the prize of Syracuse was to fair not to him but to his successor.
In the year in which Hippocrates succeeded his brother at Gela, the city of Rhegium, on the other side of the Strait of Messina facing Zancle, passed under the control of a tyrant, Anaxilas, whose character and ambitions were very similar to those of Hippocrates, though he preferred the path of diplomacy and fraud where possible to that of warfare. Acting on the favourite principle of usurpers, that their best chance of maintaining the goodwill of their subjects is a successful foreign war, Anaxilas, at the very outset of his reign, looked about for a favourable opportunity of attacking Zancle. This project however was destined to remain unrealized for the present: for a situation arose which seemed to offer the tyrant of Rhegium a chance of securing the control of Zancle in another way. The year of his accession (493) witnessed the final collapse of the revolt of the Ionians against Persia. The battle of Lade and the fall of Miletus had extinguished the last hopes of the Greeks of Asia Minor and the Aegaean islands. In their extremity it seemed to some better to quit their homes than to endure the rule of tyrants of their own race acting as the vicegerents of the Persian.
Even before the end had come, the eyes of some had been turned westwards: many years before, when the struggle with Persia was only beginning, there had been talk of a migration of Ionian Greeks en masse to Sardinia: now it was Sicily that seemed to offer them a refuge. Dionysius of Phocaea, true to the enterprising spirit of his people, had gone off with the ships under his command together with three others captured from the foe, to Sicilian waters, where he proceeded to combine patriotism with profit by piratical descents upon the merchantmen of Carthage and Etruria. It is a plausible suggestion that this refugee from Phocaea came in the course of his voyaging to Zancle and there suggested a project for the succour of the distressed Ionians. However this may be, an invitation was sent from Zancle proposing that the Ionians should come and establish a settlement at a spot on the north Sicilian coast midway between Himera and the Zanclaean settlement at Mylae, named Cale Acte, to be taken from its Sicel possessors.
We can hardly suppose that this proposal was inspired by pure compassion or friendliness. Zancle was not free to act in matters of foreign policy at her own caprice: she was under the rule of a tyrant, Scythes, who was in alliance with Hippocrates of Gela: but, as the sequel shows, the relation between Scythes and Hippocrates was by no means one of equal alliance. The lord of Gela was overlord of Zancle: most probably by inheritance from his brother Cleander. We may be certain that the invitation to the Ionians was given with the consent, if not at the behest, of Hippocrates, and that it was part of a policy which aimed at securing the control of that stretch of coast between Mylae, already controlled by him as overlord of Zancle, and Himera— a coast hitherto empty of Greek settlements. The Ionian refugees might be counted upon to offer no opposition to the suzerainty of one already recognized as the overlord of the generous city that had stretched out the hand of friendliness to them; and anyhow they would prefer the mild rule of an independent Greek tyrant at a distance to that of a Greek tyrant acting under the orders of Persia close at hand. And if it be asked why Hippocrates preferred this indirect method of securing the hegemony of northern Sicily instead of the more obvious course of a campaign against the Sicels of Cale Acte, we may reply that he had other work on hand for his troops in the reduction of the Greeks of the east coast, and that he would probably have found it difficult to collect from Gela a sufficient number of willing colonists for the projected settlement.
The invitation met with less response perhaps than Scythes and Hippocrates had anticipated: the only Ionians that sailed to Sicily were some Samians—how many we are not told—and a few Milesians, who after the fall of their city had managed to escape the fate of their fellow-citizens whom Darius had carried off to Mesopotamia. These came, but they did not come to Cale Acte. They were diverted by Anaxilas of Rhegium, who was minded to show that he could turn the situation to his own advantage. He knew well that if he stood by and permitted Hippocrates to realize his project there was an end to his own ambitions in north Sicily. Why should not the Samians accept him as their protector and overlord instead of Hippocrates? It was merely a question, he felt, of offering them a more tempting bait. Instead of a mere site which they would have to wrest from Sicels, he would offer them Zancle itself, which at the moment was providentially destitute of a garrison, the Zanclaean troops being away on a campaign against the Sicels. He could turn them out again later on, if it appeared desirable. And if, as might be expected, the Zanclaeans resisted this simple plan, and the Samians proved too weak to hold the city, it would leave Anaxilas no worse off than before. True, there was Hippocrates to reckon with: but what could he do without a fleet to Anaxilas across the Strait? We must suppose that Anaxilas had good reason to think that the Samians, once in possession of Zancle, would be able to hold it: at the very least it was worth trying, for the risk was not his.
The sequel however was other than he had expected. At the cry of Zancle her overlord came at the head of an army, which besieged and captured Zancle: but it was not to restore the city to its rightful owners that he came. Instead he seized and imprisoned Scythes, affecting to regard him as responsible for the loss of the city, and came to terms with the Samians. The Zanclaeans were enslaved, and 300 of their chief men were given over to the Samians for execution, a privilege which they declined to use. From the moral standpoint, the conduct of Anaxilas, of Hippocrates and of the Samians alike falls short of the highest standards.
For some years the Samians remained in occupation of the city of the Straits, but they were not their own rulers. The tyrant of Gela determined to retain his control by the same means as before the coming of the Samians, by an inferior tyrant owing him allegiance. The man whom he now set in authority at Zancle was Cadmus the son of the former tyrant. Father and son had both had experience of ruling elsewhere before they came to Sicily— Scythes had been tyrant of Cos, and had abdicated, for reasons unknown to us, in favour of his son. Later the son in his turn abandoned the reins of government at Cos, an act which Herodotus insists was entirely voluntary, and followed his father to Sicily, where the turn of events which he certainly cannot have foreseen was ultimately to place him in his father’s seat.
The affair of Zancle thus settled, Hippocrates was free to stretch out his hands for the greatest prize the island had to offer. There is no reason to suppose that his attack on Syracuse was anything but unprovoked, and indeed it was not the habit of tyrants, in Sicily or elsewhere, to waste time in diplomatic niceties. Whether Syracuse expected an attack or made any special preparations to withstand it we cannot say; we are simply told that the opposing armies met on the banks of the Helorus, and that the Syracusans were defeated. After the battle the victor marched on and encamped on the hill of Polichna, hard by the Olympieum. If possible he would avoid assault or siege. He knew that all was not well within the city that he looked down upon: the commons were murmuring against their rulers, and it is likely that the recent disaster on the Helorus had exaggerated grievances that had long been growing up. An opportunity of posing as the people’s friend lay ready to the hand of the invader. Alarmed for the safety of the rich treasures of the temple, its custodians were seeking to remove them out of Hippocrates’ immediate reach: he promptly denounced them as sacrilegious robbers, at the same time ostentatiously refraining himself from laying hands on any of the sacred emblems: thus he would gain favour at once with heaven and with the Syracusan Demos.
The prize indeed seemed within his grasp without further fighting, when it slipped from his hands. Syracuse was saved for the present by the intervention, not in arms but in the guise of peacemakers, of her mother-city Corinth and her sister-colony Corcyra. It is strange that these two secular enemies should for once unite to effect such a purpose: and it is to be regretted that we are told nothing either of the motives that prompted the intervention, or of the nature of the pressure brought to bear upon Hippocrates to submit. Was there perhaps a threat that the ports of Corcyra and of Corinth might be closed to the merchantmen of an enslaved Syracuse? However that may be, it was agreed that the Syracusan prisoners should be restored and that Hippocrates should receive the territory of devastated Camarina as ransom. With this acquisition of territory he was perforce to rest content for the time: Camarina he rebuilt, but we can hardly believe that he permanently relinquished his ambition of reigning as lord of Syracuse.
The precise dates of the events above recorded are in doubt: but it is probable that the battle of the Helorus was fought in 491 bc and that the re-population of Camarina was effected in 489 .c. The remainder of Hippocrates’ life seems to have been spent in warring against Sicel towns: we hear of one town, Ergetium, captured by a dishonourable trick, and of another, Hybla, in the assault on which the tyrant fell. He had lived long enough to incorporate in his army—presumably as mercenaries— citizens of the restored Camarina, and his death probably occurred in 485 bc.
Hippocrates is a notable figure in the history of Syracuse and indeed of Sicily: but for Herodotus, and consequently for us, he is memorable chiefly as the forerunner of one far more notable; for his successor in the seat of authority at Gela was Gelon, destined to preserve the liberties of western Hellas on the day of Himera. Belonging to a family of some distinction, Gelon adopted a military career and attracted the favourable attention of Hippocrates soon after that tyrant’s accession to power: he had indeed held some position of trust under Cleander. It is probably to the time of Cleander that we must attribute the earliest recorded exploit of Gelon. If we may believe the story, he was at one time the supreme magistrate at Himera, combining the civil and military powers under a title with which we shall meet again in Sicilian history, that of ‘general with supreme power’. How a man of Gela came to win this position at Himera we cannot tell; it must have been a purely individual enterprise implying no relations between the two cities. It is to be supposed that Gelon must have given the Himeraeans proof of his capacity in the field, and it may be that Himera had been amongst those allies of Dorieus with whom the Carthaginians had carried on the fight after the Spartan’s death. In that case we may picture Gelon as having been chosen in early life to do battle against the same enemy that he was to meet later, beside that same city of Himera, when it had passed into the hands of a tyrant who looked to its former enemy for help against fellow-Greeks.
But whatever the situation was that had occasioned Gelon’s election at Himera he was not minded to rest content with an office which, wide though its powers were, was yet hampered by constitutional restrictions. He would become tyrant, and sought sanction for the appointment of a personal bodyguard, a regular step in the career of aspirants to tyranny in Greek cities west and east alike. And it seems that he was likely to have gained his end but for the intervention of the poet Stesichorus, who opened the eyes of his countrymen to the danger in which they stood. Gelon did not become tyrant of Himera, nor, to all seeming, did he retain his magistracy there; but it was no great loss, for a path to fame lay open to him in the service of his native city, or as we should perhaps rather say, in the service of that city’s ruler Hippocrates. Distinguishing himself beyond all others in one campaign after another, he was appointed commander of the cavalry, a post in which he continued, with the full trust and confidence of Hippocrates, until the latter’s death in 48 5 bc. It is evident that by that time Gelon stood out as the most prominent son of Gela: it was not likely that he would be content to remain in a private station nor to serve a lesser man. The people of Gela however had had enough of tyrants and of military adventure. Hippocrates had contemplated the succession of his sons, Eucleides and Oleander, though of course there could be no question of a constitutional succession to an unconstitutional power. But these sons were minors or weaklings, and the Geloans would have none of them. In the troubles which ensued, during which we may suppose that Gela experimented in democracy, Gelon came forward as the champion of Eucleides and Oleander: by force of arms he overthrew the opponents of tyranny, and then without more ado threw off the mask of champion, and established himself as tyrant of Gela and successor to all the conquests of Hippocrates.
It would be idle to speculate whether we should condole with Gela on the failure of her attempt to recover her freedom or rather congratulate her on finding a strong and powerful protector. For Gelon the fortunes of his native city were not the paramount consideration: his accession to power there was but a necessary step in the path he had marked out for himself. He had determined to accomplish the great project of which his predecessor had been baulked, to become master of Syracuse, master of that city whose situation marked her out in his eyes as fitted above all others to become the seat of government, the capital of a ruler who hoped to bring all Sicily under one united sway. It may be that Gelon cherished another and a nobler ambition, to lead the armies of a united Greek Sicily against that Phoenician foe with whom he had perhaps in earlier life engaged on the field of battle. One thing at least we may confidently affirm, that he did not spend seven years of inactivity at Gela, as the received chronology implies: the words of Herodotus, apart from considerations of probability, make that certain.
Hippocrates, as we saw, had found Syracuse divided against herself: and at some point in the six years that had elapsed since he encamped beside the Olympieum the conflict had come to a head. The commons had risen, and with the aid of the Sicel serfs, whom we must suppose to have won some recompense, perhaps a restricted measure of citizenship, had expelled the oligarchy, who had taken refuge at Casmenae. Whether it was Gelon that made overtures to them, or they to Gelon, we are not told; but merely that he brought them back to Syracuse, where the Demos surrendered to his invading army without resistance. Why the banished oligarchs should set their hopes on Gelon, or why he should expect them to do so, is not easy to understand; they must surely have known that if he once gained entry into Syracuse he would be master of oligarchs and democrats alike. We can only suppose that their existence at Casmenae was so distasteful and their longing for a return home so keen that they were prepared to pay the price of submission to foreign rule. Equally difficult is it to see Gelon’s object in taking them back; for we are not told that they did anything to facilitate his capture of Syracuse, though of course it is possible that some intrigues were set on foot by them which made resistance on the part of the democrats impossible or ineffective. Gelon was now tyrant of Syracuse, but it must be remembered that, although the term tyrant is commonly applied by Greek writers to those who had seized power in an unconstitutional fashion, it was never formally recognized as a title; for the essential meaning of the word is an unconstitutional ruler, and no tyrant would emphasize the character of his power by claiming recognition. It is probable that Gelon, like Dionysius in later days, was formally invested with the office of ‘general with full powers,’ that same office which he is said to have held at Himera: a prouder title was to come to him five years later, after his great triumph over Carthage.
Leaving Gela under the control of his brother Hiero, Gelon now established himself at Syracuse; and without loss of time he set about strengthening and enlarging the city in such a fashion that it might permanently maintain its position as the capital of an island empire. As we have seen, Ortygia had always been the heart of the city, and it did not cease to be so now: it was always the stronghold, to which the name Acropolis was inaccurately but intelligibly applied; and it was doubtless there that Gelon and his successors established themselves. But Ortygia was no longer in the strict sense an island; for some sixty years before this time it had been connected with the mainland by a mole of stone. To compensate for the loss of security which this involved Gelon resolved to unite Ortygia with the fortified outpost of Achradina, and this was effected by continuing the western wall of Achradina down to the Great Harbour. It is probable that the docks in this harbour were now constructed, for under Gelon Syracuse became a strong naval power, which five years after his accession was able to offer no less than 200 triremes to fight for Greece against the Persian invader.
The city thus enlarged to a size many times greater than the original settlement on Ortygia required additional inhabitants, and it was the tyrant’s next duty to provide for this need. This was effected by wholesale transplantations. Four cities were forced to give up a greater or less proportion of their men to swell the population of the new Syracuse. Of these one was Gela, the tyrant’s own native city, who lost more than half her men; we can hardly suppose that most of these went willingly, but sentimental considerations did not greatly weigh with Gelon. Another was the ill-starred Camarina, and in this case there was more excuse; for Camarina had provoked the wrath of the lord of Syracuse by inflicting the death sentence on the tyrant, one Glaucus of Carystus, imposed upon her by Gelon shortly after his accession. As a punishment for this Camarina had a second time been destroyed, and her whole population transferred to Syracuse. The third was Megara, whose nearness to Syracuse was enough to doom her to the loss of independent political existence. The demands of Gelon caused a division of opinion amongst the Megarians, the commons counselling submission, the oligarchs resistance. Of the condition of Megara in these years we know nothing, but it may be inferred from the words of Herodotus that the city was under an oligarchical government, against which, however, the commons were able at least to make themselves heard, though on this occasion ineffectually. The fate of the resisting oligarchs was assuredly contrary to what they expected. On the subjugation of Megara they were transported to Syracuse with full Syracusan citizenship, while the Demos, who had given no cause of offence to Gelon, were sold as slaves, their purchasers being prohibited from keeping them in Sicily. Precisely the same differential treatment was accorded to the Leontine colony of Euboea, the fourth city that was forced to give up its sons to fulfil the purposes of the lord of Syracuse.
Gelon’s own comment upon his action in this matter is preserved to us: the common people, he said, were a ‘most unthankful neighbour’: that is to say he relied on the support not of the masses, as did the ordinary Greek tyrant who normally rose to power as their champion against the oligarchy, but of the wealthy, the men of substance. He preferred, it would seem, the adherence of a select few, attached to him by personal ties of service and friendship: some of these adherents came from Old Greece and are known to us by name, such as Phormis of Maenalus in Arcadia, and Agesias of Stymphalus, an Olympic victor celebrated by Pindar. We seem to see the picture of a great prince surrounded by nobles and courtiers rather than that of a typical Greek tyrant, solitary and inaccessible, fearing and feared by all his subjects. Yet Gelon was not slow to reward the humbler amongst those that had served him well: some ten thousand of his mercenaries, of whom the majority were probably non-Greek, received Syracusan citizenship. It is possible, however, that this last action belongs to a later date, when the victory at Himera had won him a popularity that removed all danger from the side of the multitude.
Before we pass to the greatest event of Gelon’s life, we are bound to take account of a problem for which it seems difficult to find a wholly satisfactory solution. Was Gelon ever engaged in warfare against the Carthaginians before the Himera campaign? Herodotus, when reporting Gelon’s reply to the envoys sent by Sparta and Athens to Syracuse in the spring of 480, makes him refer to a refusal on the part of those states to render help ‘at the time of my quarrel with the Carthaginians.’ Whether these words imply an actual outbreak of hostilities must remain uncertain; but there is one point on which we can pronounce with some assurance, namely that Gelon is referring to a time when he was already in a position to lead the forces of Greek Sicily against the barbarian, or rather to lead those Greeks that were still willing to make common cause against the barbarian. For, as we shall see, there were some Siceliote cities which in the years immediately preceding Himera had come to be in friendly relations with Carthage, and to look for support against their rivals to those that should surely have been deemed the common foe. If there was any Carthaginian war waged by Gelon before 480, it must then have been within the preceding five years, that is to say after his accession to power at Syracuse. The fighting was evidently in Sicily, but it is well-nigh impossible to believe that any large-scale expedition was sent from Carthage: it is more likely, and it is not inconsistent with the words of Herodotus, that the force opposing Gelon consisted of the ‘phoenicizing’ Greeks of Sicily supported by the Phoenicians of the north-west corner, stiffened by a small contingent from Carthage herself. If there had been a Carthaginian invasion comparable to that of 480 bc it would surely have left some trace in our extant records beyond this vague allusion in Herodotus. In any case, the danger had been great enough to induce Gelon to seek the assistance of Greeks from the mother-country, assistance which was refused: but the barbarian menace was for the time being repelled.
THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE CARTHAGINIAN INVASION
If we are to appreciate the full significance of the Himera campaign it is essential to gain as clear a conception as we can of the somewhat complicated situation existing in Sicily in the years preceding 480 bc. The key to that situation is to be found in the growing opposition to the predominance of Gela, or, as it ultimately became, the predominance of Syracuse. It is a priori likely that the rapid advance of Hippocrates and of Gelon would arouse the jealousy of other Sicilian powers; and there were particular causes which tended to stimulate such jealousy. One action of Gelon’s we may interpret as being at once the effect of the opposition of which he was becoming ever more conscious and the cause of strengthening it. This was his alliance with Theron, tyrant of Acragas, formed probably about 485 bc and clinched by Gelon’s marriage to Theron’s daughter Demarete and by Theron’s own marriage to the daughter of Gelon’s brother Polyzelus. The natural result of this alliance was to draw together into what may almost be called a coalition against Syracuse and Acragas all those states which had reason to fear or to hate either.
The clearest case is perhaps that of Selinus. From earliest times there had been enmity between her and Acragas, and the Selinuntine outpost of Minoa seems to have been more than once the bone of contention and the scene of conflict. By good fortune an inscription has recently been brought to light commemorating the spoils taken by Acragas from Minoa, and the reference is probably to a capture of Minoa from Selinus at some date between 530 and 490: but whether before or after the exploit of Euryleon we cannot say: it is conceivable that Euryleon won it back for Selinus. At some time during the reign of Theron, probably earlier than 480, it again appears as part of Acragantine territory. Selinus may well have feared that the aggressive ambitions of her neighbour, which had been in evidence ever since the days of her first tyrant Phalaris, would not rest content with the possession of Minoa. Moreover the treatment meted out in 483 bc by Theron’s new ally to Megara, the mothercity of Selinus, was not calculated to reassure her. In short, evidence is not lacking to explain why Selinus was ranged beside the enemies of Syracuse and Acragas on the day of Himera.
But Selinus was not the only city that ‘phoenicized’. It was from a city of the northern coast—from Himera itself—that the invitation which brought the Carthaginians to Sicily was actually sent: and it was sent at the instigation of one whom we have already met as the determined opponent of the ambitions of the tyrant of Gela, Anaxilas of Rhegium. It seems clear that Anaxilas was deliberately working to bring about a coalition of the enemies of Syracuse and Acragas, and that by co-operation with the Carthaginians he hoped to overthrow the power of Gelon and Theron, and win for himself a hegemony over northern Sicily as a philo-Phoenician power. How the conflicting interests of Greeks and Phoenicians in Sicily were to be harmonized we cannot conjecture, but we must suppose that some agreement as to partition of the island, or recognition of different spheres of influence, had been devised between Anaxilas and the rulers of Carthage.
Anaxilas was undoubtedly a skilful diplomatist, who played his cards to the best advantage and was, as we have seen, untroubled by moral scruples. In his original design upon Zancle he had been foiled by the equally unscrupulous Hippocrates. In the mixed game of fraud and force in which Zancle figured as a pawn the first success had gone to the tyrant of Gela: but Anaxilas was biding his time. He certainly did not intend the Samians to live on for ever at Zancle under the suzerainty of his great rival: and when a favourable moment occurred he expelled them by force. The date of this incident is unfortunately not preserved, but it has been argued with some probability that a likely moment was that immediately after the death of Hippocrates, when his successor was too fully occupied with affairs in Gela to interfere with Anaxilas’ designs. The tyrant of Rhegium was now firmly established as tyrant of Zancle, renamed, by him Messana in memory of his own original home in Greece: though it would appear that the old name was not wholly ousted for the present.
The next city to engage the attention of Anaxilas was naturally Himera. If we accept the story of Gelon’s attempt to secure the tyranny of that city we may suppose her to have been none too well-disposed towards him after his failure. From the fact that it was at Himera that Scythes of Zancle took refuge after escaping from his imprisonment by Hippocrates—an incident which, we are told, occurred before the death of Darius—we may infer that by 486 bc the city had declared herself opposed to the tyrant of Gela. It cannot have been much later—it may indeed have been earlier—that Himera came under the rule of a tyrant Terillus, whose daughter became the wife of Anaxilas. This could not be tolerated, for it was plain evidence that Himera had been won for the philo-Phoenician cause: it was answered promptly by Theron, acting doubtless in agreement with his ally. Terillus was expelled from Himera by force of arms, and the city came under the control of Acragas and Syracuse. The time was now ripe for Anaxilas to call upon Carthage; the expulsion of Terillus was made a casus belli, and Anaxilas gave his children as hostages to Hamilcar, the Suffete and commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian armies.
Our lack of precise chronology becomes at this point more than usually regrettable. We have no means of determining the exact date of the expulsion of Terillus, nor of the appeal to Carthage. It was probably in March 480 b.c. that representatives of Athens and Sparta came to Syracuse asking for help to repel the imminent invasion of Xerxes. That help was refused by Gelon owing to the impossibility of reaching a satisfactory agreement on the question of the command against Persia. In his description of the tone and attitude of the speakers at this famous conference Herodotus no doubt indulges his flair for a dramatic situation: but we cannot doubt that Gelon did make a conditional offer of assistance, both military and naval, on a large scale. Not a word was said by him of the danger of denuding Sicily of troops in view of an imminent expedition from Carthage, a fact which can only be explained by supposing that Gelon was not aware of any immediate danger. He became aware of it two or three months later. For Herodotus, after his account of the embassy, goes on to say, on the authority of Sicilian records which there is no reason to disbelieve, that Gelon would after all have sent assistance to Greece, had it not been for the action of Terillus and Anaxilas in calling upon Carthage. In consequence of this he sent not an expeditionary force but an agent, Cadmus, the ex-tyrant of Cos and of Zancle, to Delphi to watch events, taking with him a large sum of money to be paid to the Great King, together with the customary tokens of formal submission, in the event of a Persian victory. The mission of Cadmus occurred when Gelon had received the news that Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont, that is to say probably in April or May. It follows that it was not until the late spring that Gelon became conscious of the danger threatening him.
This is the natural interpretation of the straightforward account given by Herodotus who has drawn upon both Greek and Sicilian sources of information. For him the simultaneous occurrence of the two barbarian attacks upon eastern and western Hellas was quite fortuitous: for him the expedition of Hamilcar was sudden and unexpected, and moreover fully explicable by reference to the situation in Sicily. He knows nothing of any order or request from Persia to Carthage, he knows nothing of any concerted action or communication of plans between the barbarians of east and of west. And we must surely believe him. It was not until more than a century after the event that the attractive hypothesis of a concerted Perso-Carthaginian plan was advanced, only to be implicitly rejected by Aristotle, who knew at least as much of the history of Carthage as Ephorus, the historian whose testimony he repudiates.
It appears that the chief reason why the account of Herodotus has been doubted is the supposition that Gelon must have known, at least as early as the time of the Greek embassy, that Carthage was making her preparations. But this is a purely arbitrary assumption, resting on nothing but the mention by Diodorus of a three-years preparation by Carthage: that period is merely an outcome of the belief in co-operation with Persia. Herodotus had assigned four years to the preparations of Xerxes: the smaller armament of Carthage could not require quite so long, and was therefore given three. It is true of course that Carthage was always a potential enemy, and her troops had perhaps actually been encountered by Gelon on Sicilian soil in the very recent past; but it does not follow that another attack was to be immediately anticipated: it is rather likely that Gelon imagined himself to have got rid of the menace for the moment.
The battle of Salamis was fought on the 23rd September 480 bc; and the Siceliote tradition which was later communicated to Herodotus reflected men’s sense of the coincidence in time of the twin Greek triumphs in east and west, by assigning to the battle of Himera the selfsame day. This exact synchronism has doubtless a symbolic value for the historian, but it has had a misleading effect in so far as it has been taken to support the erroneous belief in Perso-Carthaginian co-operation. We can hardly believe in the exact coincidence; but we may well believe that the two battles were separated by but a few days. That Herodotus believed this much is a justifiable inference from the fact that he does not explicitly accept or reject the synchronism which he records as the Sicilian belief. It was enough for him, as it must be for us, that Salamis and Himera were roughly simultaneous, and the attempts of modern writers to set Himera in 481 or 479 bc must be decisively rejected.
THE BATTLE OF HIMERA
In the late summer of 480 bc the great expedition sailed from Carthage. We have no trustworthy information as to its size: the figures given—300,000 fighting men, more than 2000 warships and more than 3000 transports—are plainly impossible. But it was a great host, composed like later Carthaginian armies of mercenaries enlisted from lands near and distant, from Africa, Italy, Spain and Gaul. The objective was not Syracuse, but Himera whence the appeal for help had issued; and as might be expected the fleet set sail first for Panormus, the chief Phoenician city of the island. Its voyage thither was unmolested, save by the forces of nature: a storm arose and the vessels conveying the horses and war-chariots were lost. We are told that, on gaining the safe waters of the harbour at Panormus, Hamilcar exclaimed that the war was over, implying that he had escaped, though not without loss, from the only enemy that he feared. It is surprising that we hear of no attempt on the part of Gelon to use his fleet to intercept the Carthaginians on their voyage; he could hardly have failed to know of their coming before they reached Panormus. It may well be that his fleet was engaged in immobilizing that of Anaxilas, or that the latter was playing his part in the campaign by immobilizing that of Gelon. It was of course an immense advantage to the Carthaginians that Anaxilas’ control of the Straits prevented the Syracusan fleet from hastening to the succour of Himera by the short route of the east coast.
Our authorities however are completely silent as to the action of the lord of Rhegium and Zancle throughout the campaign. At Panormus the troops were disembarked and given three days’ rest, after which the march to Himera was begun, the fleet coasting along in touch with the army. Still no opposition was offered by Gelon or his ally. It would seem that the defence against the barbarian had been allotted to Theron alone in the first instance: it was of course his territory that was being attacked, and he may have thought his own resources adequate. We can hardly suppose that Gelon could not, if he had wished, have acted sooner than he did. When Hamilcar reached Himera he found the town occupied by Theron with a considerable force; he was permitted however, still unmolested, to beach his triremes and fortify a naval camp and to dispose his troops so as to cut off the town on two sides, north and west. Having completed his preparations Hamilcar with a picked body of men led an assault upon the city in person. A sally was made against him but it was beaten back with heavy losses. Theron realized at once that he could not hope to defend himself unaided, and a messenger was despatched in hot haste to Syracuse. Meanwhile Gelon anticipating the call for help, had been collecting an army, with which he promptly marched across country to Himera. The numbers, assigned to his force, 50,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry, may be somewhere near the truth: indeed the tendency to magnify the exploits of Gelon, which is manifest in the account of Diodorus, would work rather towards underestimating than exaggerating the size of the victorious army. The appearance of Gelon and the aggressive action which he at once adopted on reaching the neighbourhood of Himera had a prompt effect in raising the spirits of its faint-hearted defenders. Marauding parties of the enemy, hitherto left to ravage the country at their will, were surprised and more than 10,000 prisoners are said to have been taken. The city gates which Theron had blocked up were re-opened and fresh openings in the walls constructed through which sallies might be made.
Thus far we may follow the account of Diodorus without much hesitation. But of the description of the actual battle which follows it is doubtful how much we may accept. The inclination, mentioned above, to magnify the exploits of Gelon seems to involve on the one hand a depreciation of the part played by the forces of Acragas, and on the other the invention of fictitious parallels with the contemporary struggle in Greece.
The writer followed by Diodorus, whether Ephorus or Timaeus or some other, is clearly seeking to suggest a parallel between Gelon and Themistocles, to the advantage of the Sicilian: and, as he does not scruple to doctor facts by making Gelon live on in the enjoyment of power to a good old age in order to contrast him with the exiled Themistocles, we are naturally chary of belief in other points in his story which we cannot so easily check. His moving back of the date of Himera by some two months, so as to make it synchronize not with the victory of Salamis but with the defeat of Thermopylae was perhaps designed to suggest that Athens profited by the example and the result of the victory of Syracuse: if the Carthaginians had been successful they were, it was said, to have gone on to co-operate with the Persians directly against the eastern Greeks. Still, after making deductions for falsifications of this nature, there seems no good reason to doubt the most important point in the story of Diodorus, namely the stratagem to which the victory was mainly due. Hamilcar, it is said, was seeking to propitiate the gods of his enemies by a great sacrifice to Poseidon in the naval camp. For the performance of the proper ritual he needed the guidance of Greeks, and had therefore arranged for the presence of a body of horsemen from his ally Selinus. The letter in which he instructed the Selinuntines on which day to appear was intercepted by Gelon, a piece of good fortune which he was prompt to turn to account. A troop of horse duly presented itself, but they were Syracusans instead of Selinuntines; Hamilcar was surprised and slain and his warships, intended as we may suppose to attack Syracuse after the capture of Himera, were burnt. In the later stages of the battle the troops of Acragas under Theron played an important part.
From Herodotus we get another picture of the battle, or rather of the part played by the Punic commander himself. The story came to Herodotus from a Carthaginian source, and told how Hamilcar sacrificed whole carcases of beasts from morning till evening to the gods of his people, and how at last, finding all other sacrifice unavailing, he threw himself into the flames. All that need be said of this story is that it is not impossible, and that the grandeur of its telling makes us wish it may be true.
The magnitude of the victory and its results have undoubtedly been exaggerated by patriotic Sicilian historians, just as Herodotus exaggerated the results of Salamis. We are told that so many prisoners were taken that the whole population of Libya seemed to have become captives, and that many of the citizens of Acragas, into which territory most of the refugees had fled, had 500 slaves apiece. Those who managed to escape on the Punic warships were wrecked, and only one small boat with a handful of survivors got back home to tell the tale. The panic at Carthage was extreme, and the walls were manned night and day in the expectation of an immediate invasion by Gelon. In sober fact the result of Himera was that Greek Sicily gained immunity from Carthaginian attack for seventy years. Gelon had never any thought of invading Africa, nor did he even disturb the peace of the Phoenician territory in Sicily. The terms of peace arranged were moderate, amounting to little more than an indemnity of 2000 talents. But the position of Gelon in Sicily itself was immensely strengthened by the victory. His treatment of Anaxilas and of Selinus seems to have been magnanimous, for we are told that envoys from the cities and rulers who had opposed him were graciously received and granted alliance. Directly or indirectly the lord of Syracuse, with Acragas as his willing but less powerful ally, controlled virtually the whole of Greek Sicily. It is possible that Catana, of which we hear nothing throughout the story of Hippocrates and Gelon, still retained her independence, but we can hardly doubt that she was in actual, if not formal, dependence upon Syracuse after 480 bc.
The political and commercial power of Syracuse and Acragas is attested by a significant change, which took place during the first two decades of the fifth century, in the coinage of the island. The earliest coins struck in Sicily had been those of the Chalcidian cities, Naxos, Himera and Zancle, which adopted the Corcyraean standard of weight: the Dorian cities soon afterwards began to strike coins on the Euboic-Attic standard; but by 480 bc the latter had displaced the former throughout the island. In this connection mention must be made of the splendid decadrachms known as ‘Demareteia’ issued by Syracuse to commemorate the victory of Himera. It is said that they were struck out of a present made by the Carthaginians to Gelon’s queen, Demarete, who had pleaded for their lenient treatment. In his own capital Gelon was for the remaining two years of his life an unchallenged ruler, welcomed by all classes alike. At a great assembly convened soon after the day of triumph he was saluted by the enthusiastic Syracusans as ‘Saviour, benefactor and king’, and it is highly probable that the royal title was adopted by him thenceforward, though we have no record of an official vote conferring it. If he did now become king, that does not imply that he relinquished the former basis of power expressed by the title of General; a title continued by his brother and successor, Hiero. In regard to the succession one account, based on Timaeus, says that the generalship was bequeathed to a younger brother, Polyzelus; and this may imply a division of power, the civil authority going to Hiero and the military to Polyzelus. This however seems impossible to reconcile with the account of Diodorus; and we should perhaps accept a recent suggestion that the generalship in question is the lordship of Gela, where Polyzelus was to step into the position that Hiero had occupied during the eldest brother’s lifetime.