Tyrant of Syracuse (r. 478-466 b. c.e.)
Born: Date unknown; place unknown Died: 466 b. c.e.; Catana, Sicily Also known as: Hiero Category: Government and politics
Life Hieron I (HI-uh-rahn) of Syracuse first appears in the historical record when his brother, Gelon of Syracuse, conquered the city of Gela and assigned its governance to him. After conquering Syracuse in 485 b. c.e., Gelon created a strong tyranny in eastern Sicily. However, he fell ill in 478 b. c.e. and passed his authority to Hieron. To guarantee the transition, Hieron plotted against a third brother, Polyzelus, by sending him into a dangerous battle. Learning of the scheme, Polyzelus fled to his father-inlaw, Theron of Acragas, and convinced him to prepare for war. Ambassadors, however, diffused the situation.
Hieron demonstrated Syracuse’s military power in 474 b. c.e. by decisively defeating an Etruscan naval force near Cumae. He later removed the inhabitants of Naxos and Catana (refounded as Aetna) and transplanted ten thousand colonists, earning a reputation for ruthlessness. He displayed his competitiveness in the Pythian and Olympic Games, triumphing in horse and chariot races in 476, 470, and 468 b. c.e. He commissioned the poets Pindar and Bacchylides to write commemorative odes. As a patron of the arts, Hieron sheltered the elderly poet Simonides. Further, Aeschylus gave a performance of his play Persai (472 b. c.e.; The Persians, 1777) at court. The philosopher Xenophanes also visited Sicily. Xenophon, the historian, related a fictitious conversation about tyranny between Hieron and Simonides.
Influence The creation of a strong state helped prevent Etruscan and Carthaginian domination of the western Mediterranean.
Diodorus, Siculus. Diodorus of Sicily in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 11. Translated by C. H. Oldfather et al. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Sammartino, Peter, and William Robert. Sicily: An Informal History. London: Associated University Press, 1992.
Xenophon. Hiero: A New Translation. Translated and introduced by Ralph E. Doty. Lewiston, N. Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.
Todd William Ewing
See also: Aeschylus; Bacchylides; Gelon of Syracuse; Olympic Games;
Pindar; Simonides; Syracuse; Xenophanes; Xenophon.