Timoleon (c. 411-337 BC), of Corinth was a Greek statesman and general.
As the champion of Greece against Carthage he is closely connected with the history of Sicily, especially Syracuse. When his brother Timophanes, whose life he had saved in battle, took possession of the acropolis of Corinth and made himself master of the city, Timoleon, after an ineffectual protest, tacitly acquiesced while the friends who accompanied him put Timophanes to death.
Public opinion approved his conduct as patriotic; but the curses of his mother and the indignation of some of his kinsfolk drove him into retirement for twenty years. In 344 envoys came from Syracuse to Corinth, to appeal to the mother-city for relief from the intestine feuds from which the Syracusans and all the Greeks of Sicily were suffering. Carthage too, their old and bitter foe, was intriguing with the local despots. Corinth could not refuse help, though her chief citizens declined the responsibility of attempting to establish a settled government in the factious and turbulent Syracuse.
Timoleon, being named by an unknown voice in the popular assembly, was chosen by a unanimous vote to undertake the mission, and set sail for Sicily with a few of the leading citizens of Corinth and a small troop of Greek mercenaries. He eluded a Carthaginian squadron and landed at Tauromenium (now Taormina), where he met with a friendly reception. At this time Hicetas, tyrant of Leontini, was master of Syracuse, with the exception of the island of Ortygia, which was occupied by Dionysius, still nominally tyrant.
Hicetas was defeated at Adranum, an inland town, and driven back to Syracuse. In 343 Dionysius surrendered Ortygia on condition of being granted a safe conduct to Corinth. Hicetas now received help from Carthage (60,000 men), but ill-success roused mutual suspicion; the Carthaginians abandoned Hicetas, who was besieged in Leontini, and compelled to surrender. Timoleon was thus master of Syracuse.
He at once began the work of restoration, bringing new settlers from the mother-city and from Greece generally, and establishing a popular government on the basis of the democratic laws of Diocles. The citadel was razed to the ground, and a court of justice erected on its site. The amphi-polos, or priest of Olympian Zeus, who was annually chosen by lot out of three clans, was invested with the chief magistracy. The impress of Timoleon's reforms seems to have lasted to the days of Augustus.
Hicetas again induced Carthage to send (340-339) a great army (70,000), which landed at Lilybaeum (now Marsala). With a miscellaneous levy of about 12,000 men, most of them mercenaries, Timoleon marched westwards across the island into the neighbourhood of Selinus and won a great and decisive victory on the Crimissus. The general himself led his infantry, and the enemy's discomfiture was completed by a blinding storm of rain and hail. This victory gave the Greeks of Sicily many years of peace and safety from Carthage.
Carthage made, however, one more effort and despatched some mercenaries to prolong the conflict between Timoleon and the tyrants. But it ended (338) in the defeat of Hicetas, who was taken prisoner and put to death; by a treaty the dominion of Carthage--in Sicily was confined to the west of the Halycus (Platani).
Timoleon then retired into private life without assuming any title or office, though he remained practically supreme, not only at Syracuse, but throughout the island. Notwithstanding the many elements of discord Sicily seems to have been during Timoleon's lifetime tranquil and contented. He became blind some time before his death, but persisted in attending the assembly and giving his opinion, which was usually accepted as a unanimous vote. He was buried at the cost of the citizens of Syracuse, who erected a monument to his memory in their market-place, afterwards surrounded with porticoes, and a gymnasium called Timoleonteum.
Lives by Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos; see also Diod. Sic. xvi. 65-90; monograph by JF Arnoldt (1850), which contains an exhaustive examination of the authorities.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.