Then, Dion used every effort to inculcate the maxims of his master in the mind of the tyrant. Once, Dion invited the despot so he assisted to a conference of the celebrated Athenian philosopher. However, Dionysius was offended by the philosopher (who was speaking against the tyrannical leaders, in general). This ensued in a quarrel, after which the despot ordered the assassination of the philosopher (who ended sold, thus, as an Athenian slave, at Aegina). Nonetheless, between Dion and the despot, the relationship continued normally.
Under such circumstances, Dion began building a conspiracy, with both Heracleides and Theodotes. They would wait patiently, for reforming, although they would oust the despot if this may not happen. Even, Dion was ready, to install a full democracy, although, by his wealthy patrician birth, he disliked such type of government.
Nonetheless, Plato arrived and he was welcomed with much éclat. Effectively, this meant significant changes in Dionysius, who became sober and attentive, whereas his realm lived an intellectual fad. Then, during a traditional sacrifice, the ruler (who was so civilized, now) declaimed openly that he didn't want anymore, to be a despot.
The situation peaked when Dionysius and Philistus intercepted an obscure letter, which had been sent by Dion to the Carthaginians. Dion recommended that they should consult him, for a peace agreement, because he would provide all demands to them. Fearing an international plot of Dion, the resolute despot feigned a sudden friendship then and, with him, Dion walked to the seashore (which was under the Syracusan acropolis). There, the despot showed the letter to Dion (who wasn't allowed to argue) and, immediately, Dion was forced, sailing toward the Italian peninsula. Diplomatically, Plato was confined inside the acropolis (receiving excellent treatment, as an important guest) thus he wouldn't follow Dion (divulging such events, amongst the Athenians). When the Carthaginian war restarted, the despot allowed the philosopher's departure too, promising the return of Dion for the next summer.
Thus, Dion lived amongst the Athenian high society, dwelling at the upper Athens with the patrician Athenian Callipus (who would be his murderer, eventually), with whom he had gotten acquainted during the celebrations of the Eleusian Mysteries. Additionally, Dion purchased a rural residence, for leisure. His closest friend was the mirthful Speusippus (with whom he spent most time).
However, the young despot protracted the return of Dion, now until the end of the war. Underhand, he recommended Plato that Dion shouldn't declaim publicly, against the Syracusan regime. Consequently, Dion obeyed, staying within the Athenian Academy, studying philosophy.
However, Dion began traveling throughout the region (transgressing the requested low profile), meeting many local statesmen. Indeed, Dion was quite celebrated by his personality (which was so courteous and intellectual) and many Greek urban centers rewarded him. For instance, the Spartans endowed him with the local citizenship, although this nation was warring against Thebes and being allied with Dionysius (who enraged, by such news).
Although (abroad) the exiled Syracusan leaders were quite scared (and few joined the expedition), Dion could gather many other important Greek figures. Eventually, they mustered 800 fine soldiers (who were ideal, to embolden the Syracusans properly), at Zacynthus. To these mercenaries, Dion assured that they would be Sicilian commanders once they may defeat the politically weak despot. At Zacynthus, Dion sacrificed to Apollo and, at the local racetrack, he served a magnificent farewell dinner with golden tableware and superb dishes, for the whole expedition.
In 357 BC, Dion's fleet comprised 2 merchantmen (which brought the soldiers), 1 ancillary vessel, and 2 triremes. Particularly, he loaded much food for they would sail through high sea (as the aware Philistus was surveying the Italian coast). After 13 days, they reached Sicily, at Pachynus. However (despite his own helmsman's advice) Dion ordered, sailing further along the southern coast of Sicily. Then, by some seasonal northern winds (which were followed by an intense storm), the vessels were pushed southward and almost they are crushed apart, against the rocky insular territories of Cercina, at northern Africa. The fleet had to wait for five days until a favorable southerly brought it back to Sicily. There, Dion had to land in Carthaginian territory. Although he was personal friend to the governor Synalus of Minoa, he hadn't recognized him, barring the disembarkment. Thus, Dion had to launch amphibious assault, ordering no slaying though. After both leaders met, the Carthaginian offered plentiful supplies, lodging the expedition of Dion.
Then, Dion's soldiers learned that Dionysius was visiting Caulonia (at the Italian Peninsula), with 80 ships. They insisted to Dion so they began their march, toward Syracuse. On the road, they were joined, by 5,000 other Sicilians (through Agrigento, Gela, Camarinea, and the rural Syracuse). Such people were wretchedly armed yet they were quite decided. Within the urban center, the Syracusans were emotionally stirred although they kept their calm, fearing the despot's informers. About Acrae, Dion spread the fake rumor that, beforehand, he would attack both Lentini and Campania. These regiments deserted Timocrates' forces, to defend their respective towns. Then, during the night, Dion ordered and the expedition advanced, reaching the Anapus river (which was 2 km from Syracuse). At the daybreak, Dion sacrificed religiously, in behalf of the rising sun. He had a garland on his head and the soldiers imitated him, crowning their heads with wreaths. After the gods granted victory promises, Dion launched the attack.
A week afterward, the young despot filtered into his still-loyal syracusan acropolis (which hadn't been captured, yet, and which was holding its large garrison), with the protection of his loyal fleet, whereas Dion had built a palisade (which surrounded this fortification). Dionysus attempted negotiating with Dion but he responded that the now free Syracusans should decide. The proposals of the despot were utterly spurned and Dion suggested his surrender. Deceivingly, Dionysus accepted this and he invited a local embassy, to discuss the details. Dion picked the representatives, who were confined immediately after entering into the palace. After the daybreak, from the fortification, a surprising sally of the despot's army overwhelmed the many besieging Syracusans, who retreated in utter disorder. With his men, amidst such extreme confusion, Dion was unable to issue orders so he charged personally against the worst sector and (effectively) all his men followed him. However, the enemies recognized him, charging preferentially against. Dion was injured in his hand, his breastplate was completely beaten up, and his shield was pierced by many spears and javelins. Dion ended onto the ground and he was snatched out of the field, by his men. After Timonides took the command, Dion mounted a horse and he reunited all revolutionary forces, throughout Syracuse. Particularly, the great foreign mercenaries had superior skills, with respect to the frustrated despot's men (who had expected capturing Syracuse swiftly), who ended retreating back into the castle. By such signal victory, the Syracusans awarded 100 minae to the foreign men and Dion was presented with a golden crown, by his foreign warriors.
Effectively, the people began distrusting Dion (whose political initiatives were conservative, already). Particularly, those Syracusans who were dedicated to liberal activities (such as the merchants) resorted to Heracleides, who was a famous officer, who had been exiled too. Enthusiastically, Heracleides learned the situation immediately and he formed his own political party. Then, he was appointed Admiral, by the assembly, so he gained the favor of the sailors as well (in the eminently maritime Syracuse). This enraged Dion, who demanded his destitution, because this would limit his full power command. Reluctantly, the people obeyed. However, both political leaders met at Dion's home and, to confront the despot unitedly (in such perilous days), Dion ordered the assembly and Heracleides was reinstalled in the admiralty.
Hypocritically, Heracleides had many goodwill gestures to Dion but (underhand) he kept instigating the Syracusans, for the most revolutionary causes. Furthermore, this popular leader's fleet was the one which fought the rest of the sicilian revolution and, in a battle, they captured Philistus (who was slain humiliatingly, before all Syracusans). The rivalry peaked after Heracleides couldn't prevent Dionysius' escape, through his blockade. (The despot's son Apollocrates was left, commanding the fortification) The Syracusans started rebuking the popular leader so (angrily) Heracleides decided sending Hippo and, together, to the popular assembly, they proposed so:
Dion opposed such plans and, then, the Syracusans reacted decisively, against his rather oppressive government (which relied much, on the so unpopular foreigners) thus 25 new generals (among whom Heracleides was) where appointed.
At Lentini, Dion was friendly received whereas the foreign mercenaries were made local citizens. There, the Sicilian congress held a meeting, denouncing Syracuse, but they responded that they preferred their actual liberties, instead of other totalistic government (referring Dion).
However, learning about Dion's imminent arrival, the despot decided, burying the entire Syracuse together with his own spurned despotic dreams, so he ordered to his men that the urban center should be ignited. During that night, the entire Syracuse burned while its citizens were slain, throughout the streets. On the next day, the now popularly demanded Dion mustered, at the Syracusan Hecatompedon, dispatching his light troops (to encourage the Syracusans, right away) and commending all the available troops (which could be gathered), to the respective military leaders. Subsequently, Dion headed the troops splendidly, across the streets, cheered by the local people. However, whereas the enemy had hidden, behind the destroyed palisade of the acropolis, the liberating soldiers were unable, to reach it, through the intense fire and its dense smoke. They were the Syracusans, who encouraged spontaneously, to charge onto the enemy, which ended retreating back into the fortification. Dion captured 2,000 enemies (who were ransomed later). However, they couldn't celebrate much for (then) they had, to deal with the blazing Syracuse and its reconstruction. Nonetheless, with both the local people and his own soldiers, Dion rebuilt the palisade of the acropolis, during a single night.
Hopelessly, Heracleides sailed around, until encountering the Spartan Gaesylus (who expected reclaiming the Syracusan government, on behalf of this nation). To this, Dion responded: "Here, in Syracuse, we have enough generals already. Besides, (even) I have been made Spartan so I could serve this nation likewise, just like you." Gaesylus was so met with such response that, declining his original aspiration, he promised chastising Heracleides if he might attack Dion again. After this event, (furthermore) Dion disbanded the expensive Syracusan navy (which had been so conflictive, in the hands of the populists).
Also, Dion spent the majority of his own possessions for presents, which were given to his friends, to his foreign mercenaries, and to anyone who had contributed to his cause. Indeed, Dion was, amongst the most famed Mediterranean leaders, and he corresponded constantly, with the Athenian Academy, showing much interest for the opinion of its philosophers.
Then, Heracleides refused joining the aristocratic senate (after an invitation of Dion) and, again, the populist leader began conspiring. He protested because Dion hadn't leveled the acropolis, after he had barred the profanation of Dionysius' tomb, and because he had brought the foreign politicians. Then, Dion countenanced that his most virulent partisans (who desired this, long time ago) slew Heracleides (at his own home). Although (solemnly) Dion led the magnificent funeral of the popular leader, with his foreign mercenaries; the assassination was quite resented popularly, as a serious blot of Dion's regime.
Then, Dion's son committed suicide and Callippus spread the rumor that Dion would recall Apollocrates (who was his closest relative) so he would be his successor. At this point, the conspiracy was widely known and Dion said: "If (beside my usual foes) I may fear my own friends; opening my chest to the treacherous dagger, I would prefer being slain in a thousand occasions, before enduring such menace longer." Then, Callippus convoked both Aristomache and Arete (who were investigating) at the temple of Persephone, forswearing against the rumors by the great oath of the goddess. However, (ironically) he scheduled the assassination of Dion, precisely for this goddess' celebratory day.
On that date, Dion was celebrating home, with his friends. The assassins were some Zacynthians, who wore light garments and who were unarmed. They walked into the house while (behind) many other accomplices began shutting all doors and windows (restraining these). The Peloponnesians jumped onto Dion, choking his throat and mashing his body, however they were unable still, to assassinate him. While the many witnesses didn't dare intervening (fearing for their own lives), to the outside, the killers screamed, beseeching for some weapon. Minutes later, a short Spartan sword (which was richly ornamented) was dropped into, by the Syracusan Lyco. Dion was trembling fearfully when (with it) his own foreign mercenaries stabbed him, to death.
Mary Renault's historical novel The Mask of Apollo tells the story of Dion and his relationship to Plato and his Syracusan predecessors through the eyes of an itinerant tragic actor.
Dionysius the Younger
|Tyrant of Syracuse|
Intermittently from 357 –354 BC