The Ancient Library

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that the account which he has left must be received with much suspicion. Marvellous stories are re­lated of the early years of Agathocles. Born at Thermae, a town of Sicily subject to Carthage, he is said to have been exposed when an infant, by his father, Carcinus of Rhegium, in consequence of a succession of troublesome dreams, portending that he would be a source of much evil to Sicily. His mother, however, secretly preserved his life, and at seven years old he was restored to his fa­ther, who had long repented of his conduct to the child. By him he was taken to Syracuse and brought up as a potter. In his youth he led a life of extravagance and debauchery, but was re­markable for strength and personal beauty, qualities which recommended him to Damas, a noble Syra-cusan, under whose auspices he was made first a soldier, then a chiliarch, and afterwards a military tribune. On the death of Damas, he married his rich widow, and so became one of the wealthiest citizens in Syracuse. His ambitious schemes then developed themselves, and he was driven into exile. After several changes of fortune, he col­lected an army which overawed both the Syracusans and Carthaginians, and was restored under an oath that he would not interfere with the democracy, which oath he kept by murdering 4000 and banish­ing 6000 citizens. He was immediately declared sovereign of Syracuse, under the title of Autocrator. But Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general in Sicily, kept the field successfully against him, after the whole of Sicily, which was not under the dominion of Carthage, had submitted to him. In the battle of Himera, the army of Agathocles was defeated with great slaughter, and immediately after, Syra­cuse itself was closely besieged. At this juncture, he formed the bold design of averting the ruin which threatened him, b}r carrying the war into Africa. To obtain money for this purpose, he of­fered to let those who dreaded the miseries of a protracted siege depart from Syracuse, and then sent a body of armed men to plunder and murder those who accepted his offer. He kept" his design a profound secret, eluded the Carthaginian fleet, which was blockading the harbour, and though closely pursued by them for six days and nights, landed his men in safety on the shores of Africa. Advancing then into the midst of his army, arrayed in a splendid robe, and with a crown on his head, he announced that he had vowed, as a thank-offer­ing for his escape, to sacrifice his ships to Demeter and the Kora, goddesses of Sicily. Thereupon, he burnt them all, and so left his soldiers no hope of safety except in conquest.

. His successes were most brilliant and rapid. Of the two Suffetes of Carthage, the one, Boaiiicar, aimed at the tyranny, and opposed the invaders with little vigour; while the other, Hanno, fell in battle. He constantly defeated the troops of Car­thage, and had almost encamped under its walls, when the detection and crucifixion of Bomilcar in­fused new life into the war. Agathocles too was summoned from Africa by the affairs of Sicily, where the Agrigentines had suddenly invited their fellow-countrymen to shake off his yoke, and left his army under his son Archagathus, who was un­able to prevent a mutiny. Agathocles returned, "but was defeated ; and, fearing a new outbreak on the part of his troops, fled from his camp with Archagathus, who, however, lost his way and was taken. Agathocles escaped; but in revenge for


this desertion, the soldiers murdered his sons, and then made peace with Carthage. New troubles awaited him in Sicily, where Deinocrates, a Syra-cusan exile, was at the head of a large army against him. But he made a treaty with the Carthaginians, defeated the exiles, received Deinocrates into fa-? vour, and then had no difficulty in reducing the revolted cities of Sicily, of which island he had some time before assumed the title of king. He afterwards crossed the Ionian, sea, and defended Corcyra against Cassander. (Diod. xxi. Fragm.) He plundered the Lipari isles, and also carried his arms into Italy, in order to attack the Bruttii.

But his designs were interrupted by severe ill­ness accompanied by great anxiety of mind, in consequence of family distresses. His grandson Archagathus murdered his son Agathocles, for the sake of succeeding to the crown, and the old kin'* feared that the rest of his family would share lv fate. Accordingly, he resolved to send his wi -Texena and her two children to Egypt, her nativ. country; they wept at the thoughts of his dying thus uncared for and alone, and he at seeing them depart as exiles from the dominion which he had won for them. They left him, and his death fol­lowed almost immediately. For this touching nar­rative, Timaeus and Diodorus after him substituted a monstrous and incredible story of his being poi­soned by Maeno, an associate of Archagathus. The poison, we are told, was concealed in the qui1 with which he cleaned his teeth, and reduced him to so frightful a condition, that he was placed on the funeral pile and burnt while yet living, being unable to give any signs that he was not dead.

There is no doubt that Agathocles was a man who did not hesitate to plunge into any excesses of cruelty and treachery to further his own pur­poses. He persuaded Ophelias, king of Gyrene, to enter into an alliance with him against Carthago, and then murdered him at a banquet, and seized the command of his army. He invited the princi­pal Syracusans to a festival, plied them with wine, mixed freely with them, discovered their secret feelings, and killed 500 who seemed opposed to his views. So that while we reject the fictions of Timaeus, we can as little understand the statement of Polybius, that though he used bloody menus to acquire his power, he afterwards became most mild and gentle. To his great abilities we have the testimony of Scipio Africanus, who when asked what men were in his opinion at once the boldest warriors and wisest statesmen, replied, Agathocles arid Dionysius. (Polyb. xv. 3o.) He appears also to have possessed remarkable powers of wit and repartee, to have been a most agreeable companion, and to have lived in Syracuse in a security gene­rally unknown to the Greek tyrants, unattended in public by guards, and trusting entirely either to the popularity or terror of his name.

As to the chronology of his life, his landing in Africa was in the archonship of Hieromnemon at Athens, and accompanied by an eclipse of the sun, i.e. Aug. 15, b. c. 310. (Clinton, Fust. Hell.) He quitted it at the end of b. c. 307, died b. c. 200, after a reign of 28 years, aged 72 according to Diodorus, though Lucian (Macrob. 10), gives his. age 95. Wesseling and Clinton prefer the state­ ment of Diodorus. The Italian mercenaries whom Agathocles left, were the Mamertini who after his death seized Messana, and occasioned the first Punic war. £G. E. L. C.]

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