Dionysius the Elder, c.430–367 B.C., tyrant of Syracuse. Of humble origin, he entered politics as a supporter of the poorer classes. Having prompted (400 B.C.) a measure to elect truly democratic generals, he secured for himself one of these generalships. His next move was to arouse distrust of his colleagues, and so well did he succeed that he soon became tyrant. Fundamentally his reign was characterized by a consistent policy of maintaining the obedience of the Syracusans through fear of the constant menace of the Carthaginians, then masters of a large part of Sicily. At the same time he kept alive the enthusiasm of his subjects by expeditions against the cities of the Italian mainland and by his none too successful efforts to repel the Carthaginians. He sided with Sparta against Athenian naval predominance. He wrote tragedies and was patron of the arts.
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