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CHAP. Dionysius a man who could sympathize with them

- in spite of his political greatness, and would rejoice

to associate with them on equal terms. Plato visited Syracuse ?, and Isocrates 75, at a safer distance, addressed to Dionysius a letter of compliment from Greece. As long as they remained on the opposite shores of the Ionian Sea, the philosopher and the tyrant might correspond with each other without offence. But many are the stories which show the folly of supposing that an equality of mind can triumph over the differences of rank and power. No man can associate freely with another, when his life is at the mercy of his companion's caprice. Plato soon returned to Greece, with a lesson from some of the philosophers of Syracuse, “ that men of their profession would do well either to shun the society of tyrants 76, or else in their intercourse with them, to study how they could please them most.” This advice is said to have been occasioned by a practical lesson given to Plato by Dionysius, which ought to have rendered it superfluous; the story ran, that the tyrant was so offended with something that Plato had said, that he sent him forthwith to the slavemarket, and had him sold as a slave, but that the philosophers immediately redeemed him by a general subscription amongst themselves, and then urged

74 Diodorus, XV. 7.

fact of his having corresponded 75 Whether the letters profess- with them may be true notwithing to be written from Isocrates standing. to Dionysius and Philip of Ma- 76 Diodorus, XV. 7. Acî cedon, and published at the end σοφον τοίς τυράννους ή ως ήκιστα ή of his orations, are genuine, mayos ndota bulheiv. well be doubted; althougb the

him to quit Sicily. A similar story is told of the CHAP.

XXI. poet Philoxenus, whom Dionysius is said to have sent from his own table to his prisons in the quarries, because he had expressed an unfavourable opinion of the tyrant's poetry. These stories may deserve but little credit for the particular facts; yet the intercourse between Frederick of Prussia and Voltaire was interrupted in a similar manner, and the presumption of literary men on the one hand, and the pride of rank and power on the other, are likely to lead to such results. That the despot of Syracuse should not scruple to His private

life. send a poet to the quarries and to sell a philosopher in the slave-market, is nothing wonderful. We may be more unwilling to believe the reports of the state of miserable fear to which suspicion could reduce one so able and so daring as Dionysius. “He could trust no man,” it was said ”, “ but a set of miserable freedmen, and outcasts, and barbarians, whom he made his body-guard. He fenced his chamber with a wide trench, which he crossed by a drawbridge; he never addressed the Syracusan people but from the top of a high tower, where no dagger could reach him ; he never visited his wives without having their apartments previously searched, lest they should contain some lurking assassin; nay, he dared not allow himself to be shaved by any hands except his own daughters’; and even them he was afraid to entrust with a razor; but taught them how to singe

77 Cicero, Tusculan. Disputat. V. 20.


CHAP. off his beard with hot walnut shells.” Much of

this is probably exaggeration, but the Greek tyrants knew that to kill them was held to be no murder ; and it is no shame to Dionysius, if his nerves were overcome by the hourly danger of assassination, a danger which appalled even the iron courage of Cromwell.

The Greeks had no abhorrence for kings : the decharacter of the ancient scendant of a hero race, ruling over a people whom



his fathers had ruled from time immemorial, was no subject of obloquy, either with the people or with the philosophers. But a tyrant, a man of low or ordinary birth, who by force or fraud had seated himself on the necks of his countrymen, to gorge each prevailing passion of his nature at their cost, with no principle but the interest of his own power, such a man was regarded as a wild beast, that had broken into the fold of civilized society, and whom it was every one's right and duty by any means, or with any weapon, presently to destroy. Such mere monsters of selfishness, Christian Europe has rarely seen. If the claim to reign by “ the grace of God” has given an undue sanction to absolute power, yet it has diffused at the same time a sense of the responsibilities of power, such as the tyrants, and even the kings of the later age of Greece, never knew. The most unprincipled of modern sovereigns would yet have acknowledged, that he owed a duty to his people, for the discharge of which he was answerable to God; but the Greek tyrant regarded his subjects as the mere instruments of his own gratification;


fortune, or his own superiority, had given him extra- CHAP. ordinary means of indulging his favourite passions, and it would be folly to forego the opportunity. It is this total want of regard for his fellow-creatures, the utter sacrifice of their present and future improvement, for the sake of objects purely personal, which constitutes the guilt of Dionysius and his fellow-tyrants. In such men all virtue was necessarily blighted; neither genius, nor courage, nor occasional signs of human feeling, could atone for the deliberate wickedness of their system of tyranny. Brave and able as Dionysius was, active, and temperate, and energetic, he left behind him no beneficial institutions; he degraded rather than improved the character of his countrymen; and he has therefore justly been branded with infamy by the accordant voice of his own and of after-ages; he will be known for ever as Dionysius the tyrant.




“ Cæterum,qui mortales initio coluerint, indigenæ an advecti, parum compertum.”—Tacitus, Agricola, 11.



CHAP. THE enlarged researches of our own times, while

" they make us more sensible of the actual extent of Difficulties of ancient our ignorance, yet encourage us with the hope that

it will gradually be diminished. But he who attempts to write history, in the interval between this awakened consciousness of the defects of our knowledge, and that fuller light which may hereafter remove them, labours under peculiar disadvantages. A reputation for learning was cheaply gained in the days of our fathers, by merely reading the works of the Greek and Roman writers, and being able to repeat the information which they have communicated.

But now we desire to learn, not what existing accounts may have recorded of a people or a race, but what that people or race really was, and did; we wish to conceive a full and lively image of them, of their language, their institutions, their arts, their

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