Cornelius Nepos
De Viris Illustribus



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Timoleon delivers Corinth from the tyranny of his brother, and causes him to be put to death, I.----He expels Dionysius the younger from Sicily; defeats Hicetas; overcomes the Carthaginians, II.----After settling affairs in Sicily, he lays down the government, III.----He loses his sight from old age, but still attends to the interests of his country; builds a temple to Fortune, IV.----Instances of his patience; his death, V.

I. TIMOLEON of Corinth was doubtless a great man in the opinion of everybody, since it happened to him alone (for I know not that it happened to any one else),213 to deliver his country, in which he was born, from the oppression of a tyrant, to banish a long established slavery from Syracuse (to the assistance of which he had been sent), and, on his arrival, |409 to restore Sicily, which had been disturbed by war for many years, and harassed by barbarians,214 to its former condition. But in these undertakings he struggled not with one kind of fortune only, and, what is thought the more difficult, he bore good much more discreetly than evil fortune; for when his brother Timophanes, on being chosen general by the Corinthians, had made himself absolute by the aid of his mercenary troops, and Timoleon himself might have shared the sovereignty with him, he was so far from taking part in his guilt, that he preferred the liberty of his countrymen to the life of his brother, and thought it better to obey the laws of his country than to rule over his country. With this feeling, he contrived to have his brother the tyrant put to death by a certain augur, a man connected with them both, as their sister by the same parents 215 was married to him. He himself not only did not put his hand to the work, but would not even look upon his brother's blood; for, until the deed was done, he kept himself at a distance on the watch, lest any of his brother's guards should come to his aid. This most noble act of his was not equally approved by all; for some thought that natural affection had been violated by him, and , from envy, to lessen the praise of his virtue. His mother, indeed, after this proceeding, would neither admit her son into her house, nor look upon him, but, uttering imprecations against him, called him a fratricide, and destitute of natural feeling. With this treatment he was so much affected, that he was sometimes inclined to put an end to his life, and withdraw himself by death from the sight of his ungrateful fellow-creatures.

II. In the meantime, after Dion was assassinated at Syracuse, Dionysius again became master of that city, and his enemies solicited assistance from the Corinthians, desiring a general whose services they might employ in war. Timoleon, being in consequence despatched thither, expelled Dionysius, with wonderful success, quite out of Sicily. Though he might have put him to death, he refused to do so, and secured him a safe passage to Corinth, because the Corinthians had often |410 been supported by the aid of both the Dionysii, and he wished the memory of that kindness to be preserved, esteeming that victory noble, in which there was more clemency than cruelty; and, finally, he wished it not only to be heard, but seen, what a personage he had reduced from such a height of power to so low a condition. After the departure of Dionysius, he had to go to war with Hicetas, who had been the opponent of Dionysius; but that he did not disagree with him from hatred of tyranny, but from a desire for it, this was a sufficient proof, that after the expulsion of Dionysius he was unwilling to lay down his command. Timoleon, after defeating Hicetas, put to flight a vast army of the Carthaginians on the river Crimessus, and obliged those who had now for several years maintained their ground in Sicily, to be satisfied if they were allowed to retain Africa. He took prisoner also Mamercus, an Italian general, a man of great valour and influence, who had come into Italy to support the tyrants.

III. Having achieved these objects, and seeing not only the lands, but also the cities, deserted through the long continuance of the war, he assembled, in the first place, as many Sicilians as he could, and then sent for settlers also from Corinth, because it was by the Corinthians that Syracuse had been originally founded. He gave back to the old inhabitants their own lands, and divided such estates as had lost their owners in the war, among the new colonists; he repaired the dilapidated walls of the cities, and the neglected temples;216 he restored their laws and liberties to the several communities, and, after a most destructive war, established such tranquillity through the whole island, that he, and not those who had brought colonists thither at first, might have been thought the founder of those cities. The citadel of Syracuse, which Dionysius had built to overawe the city, he demolished to its foundations; other bulwarks of tyranny he removed, and exerted his efforts that as few traces as possible of servitude might be left.

Though he was possessed of so much influence that he |411 might have ruled the Syracusans even against their will, and though he had so strongly gained the affection of all the Sicilians that he might have assumed supreme power without opposition from any one, he chose rather to be loved than to be feared. He therefore laid down his authority as soon as he could, and lived as a private person at Syracuse during the remainder of his life. Nor did he act in this respect injudiciously; for, what other rulers could scarcely effect by absolute power, he attained by the good will of the people. No honour was withheld from him; nor, when any public business was afterwards transacted at Syracuse, was a decision made upon it before Timoleon's opinion was ascertained. Not only was no man's advice ever preferred to his, but no man's was even compared to it; nor was this occasioned more by the good will of others towards him, than by his own prudence.

IV. When he was advanced in age he lost the sight of his eyes, without any apparent disease in them; a misfortune which he bore with so much patience, that neither did any one ever hear him complain, nor did he take a less part in private and public business. He used to come to the theatre,217 when any assembly of the people was held there, riding in a carriage by reason of his infirmity, and used to state from the vehicle what he thought proper. Nor did any one impute this to pride; for nothing arrogant or boastful ever came out of his mouth. Indeed when he heard his praises repeated, he never made any other observation than that "he paid and felt the utmost gratitude to the immortal gods for this favour, that when they had resolved on regenerating Sicily, they had appointed him, above all others, to be the leader to execute their will." For he thought that nothing in human affairs was done without the directing power of the gods; and he therefore erected a temple to Fortune 218 in his own house, and used to worship at it most religiously.

V. To this eminent virtue in his character were added certain wonderful incidents in his life; for he fought all his most remarkable battles on his birth-day; and hence it |412 happened that all Sicily kept his birth-day as a festival. When one Lamestius, an impudent and ungrateful fellow, wanted to compel him to give bail for his appearance, as he said that he was merely dealing with him according to law, and several persons, flocking about him, would have curbed the insolence of the man by laying hands upon him, Timoleon entreated them all "not to do so, for that he had encountered extreme labours and dangers in order that Lamestius and others might enjoy such privileges; since this was the true form of liberty, if it were permitted to every one to try at law what he pleased." When a person, too, something like Lamestius, by name Demaenetus, had proceeded to detract from his actions before an assembly of the people, and uttered some invectives against Timoleon himself, he observed, that "he now enjoyed the fulfilment of his prayers,219 for that he had always made this his request to the immortal gods, that they would re-establish that degree of liberty among the Syracusans, in which it would be lawful for every man to say what he wished of any one with impunity." When he died, he was buried at the public expense by the Syracusans, in the Gymnasium, which is called the Timoleontean Gymnasium,220 all Sicily attending his funeral.

213.  † Namque huic uni contigit, quod nescio an nulli.] I have endeavoured to give a satisfactory turn in the English to that which is not very satisfactory in the Latin. "For (that) happened to (him) alone, (of) which I know not whether (it happened) to any one (else)." If it happened to him alone, it of course happened to no one else. Some editors read ulli: but nulli appears to be the right reading, nescio an being taken in the sense of ''perhaps."

214.  * A barbaris.] The Carthaginians, when they were at war with the elder Dionysius.

215.  † Soror ex iisdem parentibus nata.] She was whole sister to him and Timophanes.

216.  * Fana deserta.] Bos retains deserta, in his text, but shows an inclination, in his note, to adopt the emendation of Lambinus, deleta; déserta, however, which is found, I believe, in all the manuscripts, is susceptible of a very good interpretation; for temples that were deserted or neglected might have fallen into decay, and require to be repaired or rebuilt.

217.  * In theatrum.] Public assemblies were often held in theatres.

218.  † Sacellum Au)tomati/aj.] A word compounded of au)toj, self, and ma&w, to desire or will, and applied to Fortune as acting from her own will or impulse.

219.  * Se voti esse damnatum.] The meaning is, that he was now obliged to the fulfilment of that which he had vowed when he prayed for such a degree of freedom.

220.  † Timoleonteum.] Sc. Gymnasium.

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