Agathocles (361-289 BC), (Greek name "Αγαθοκλής" ("Agathokles"): derived from "αγαθός" ("agathos") "good" and "κλέος" ("kleos") "glory"), was
tyrantof Syracuse (317-289 BC) and king of Sicily(304-289 BC).
Agathocles was born at Thermae Himeraeae (modern name
Termini Imerese) in Sicily. The son of a potter who had moved to Syracuse in about 343 BC, he learned his father's trade, but afterwards entered the army. In 333 BC he married the widowof his patron Damas, a distinguished and wealthy citizen. He was twice banished for attempting to overthrow the oligarchical party in Syracuse.
In 317 BC he returned with an army of mercenaries under a solemn oath to observe the democratic
constitutionwhich was then set up. Having banished or murdered some 10,000 citizens, and thus made himself master of Syracuse, he created a strong army and fleet and subdued the greater part of Sicily.
Carthagefollowed. In 311 BC Agathocles was besieged and defeated in Syracuse in the battle of Himera. After defeat in 310 BC he took the desperate resolve of breaking through the blockadeand attacking the enemy in Africa. In Africa he concluded the treaty with Ophellas, ruler of Cyrenaica. After several victories he was at last completely defeated (307 BC) and fled secretly to Sicily.
After concluding peace with Carthage in 306 BC, Agathocles styled himself king of Sicily in 304 BC, and established his rule over the Greek cities of the island more firmly than ever. A peace treaty with Carthage left him in control of Sicily east of the
Halycus River. Even in his old age he displayed the same restless energy, and is said to have been contemplating a fresh attack on Carthage at the time of his death.
His last years were plagued by ill-health and the turbulence of his grandson
Archagathus, at whose instigation he is said to have been poisoned; according to others, he died a natural death. He was a born leader of mercenaries, and, although he did not shrink from cruelty to gain his ends, he afterwards showed himself a mild and popular "tyrant." Agathocles restored the Syracusan democracy on his death bed and did not want his sons to succeed him as king.
Agathocles married Theoxena, stepdaughter of
Ptolemy I of Egypt. His daughter Lanassamarried King Pyrrhus of Epirus.
Agathocles was cited as an example of “those who by their crimes come to be princes” in Chapter VIII of
Niccolò Machiavelli’s treatise on politics, " The Prince" (1513).
Diodorus Siculusxix., xxi., xxii. (follows generally Timaeus who had a special grudge against Agathocles)
* Schubert, (1887) "Geschichte des Agathokles"
* Grote, "History of Greece", ch. 97.
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