First Carthaginian Invasion — 492-474 B.C. The Sicilian Expedition — 415-413 B.C.
Second Carthaginian Invasion — 409-379 B.C. Third Carthaginian Invasion — 345-340 B.C.
By the fifth century, the Island of Sicily had been colonized by numerous Greek city states, most of which were ruled by petty tyrants. The next few centuries involved numerous wars between the city-states, and several attempts of the Carthaginians of Africa to take over the island. These wars were related to each other, because the conflicts between the city-states often resulted in the invitation of a foreign power to come and intervene on behalf of the weaker party. All of these conflicts, both domestic and foreign, are therefore referred to as the 'Sicilian Wars', and although the main battles of significance involved the repulsion of the Carthaginian menace, the wars cannot be understood simply as a united Greek front against a foreign invader.
The reign of Gelon coincided with the time of the great Persian invasion of Greece, and ambassadors from Athens had approached Gelon with a request for ships to join the Greek navy. The request was fortunately declined because shortly thereafter, a great force of Carthaginians was summoned by the tyrant of Himera to assist him in defense of the city. The Carthaginian invasion was massive, but the Syracusans, led by Gelon routed the invaders. Syracuse was now the prominent Greek city in the region. Gelon's brother Hieron I succeed him and his reign marks the height of the first Syracusan tyranny. He moved the citizens of Catana to Leontini and resettled Catana with his mercenaries. He then defeated the Etruscans, who were besieging the Italian Greek city of Cumae in a naval battle (474 BC).
|Battle of Helorus (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
Fought B.C. 492, between Hippocrates, Tyrant of Gela, and the Syracusans, The Syracusans were totally routed, and were so weakened by this defeat, that Syracuse fell an easy prey to Gelon, Hippocrates' successor, in the following year.
|Battle of Himera (Liberation of Syracuse )
Fought 480 B.C., between the Syracusans and Agrigentines, 557,000 strong, under Gelon, Tyrant of Syracuse, and the Carthagians, said to number 300,000, under Hamilcar. The Carthagians were totally routed and Hamilcar was slain.
|Battle of Cumae (First Carthaginian Invasion )
Fought B.C. 474, between the fleet of Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse, and the Etruscan fleet, which was investing the Greek colony of Cumae. The Etruscans were routed, and from this defeat dates the rapid decline of the Etruscan power.
|Tyrant of Gela. Conquered Syracuse in B.C. 492.|
|Tyrant of Syracuse who succeeded Hippocrates. Defeated the Carthaginians at Himera in B.C. 480.|
|Succeeded brother Gelon as tyrant of Syracuse. Defeated the Etruscans and relieved the Siege of Cumae.|
|Carthaginian general who killed himself after his defeat to Syracuse at Himera.|
|Lord of Syracuse in||Helmet and Spear by Alfred J. Church|
|Greek Colonies: The Tyrants in||The Story of the Greek People by Eva March Tappan|
The allies prepared to call upon Athens for aid, but peace was declared in time to prevent escalation. In 416 B.C. however, Segesta, one of the allied cities of Sicily, called upon Athens for aid and the war-party in Athens took the opportunity to launch an enormous expedition to conquer Syracuse. The campaign ended in utter disaster for Athens. Her navy was utterly destroyed and the devastating defeat proved to be the turning point in the Peloponnesian War.
|Siege of Syracuse (Thirty Year Truce )
Siege was laid to this city by the Athenians, under Alcibiades, Lamachus and Nicias, who with a fleet of 134 galleys, took possession of the harbour and effected a landing in the autumn of 415 B.C. Alcibiades was soon recalled, and Lamachas killed in a skirmish, while Nicias proved weak and incompetent. The siege works were not pressed and in the following year, Gylippus of Sparta succeeded in getting through the Athenian lines, and bringing a considerable force to the aid of the Syracusans, capturing at the same time the advanced positions of the besiegers. Early in 413, Demosthenes arrived from Athens, with a fleet of 93 triremes, and made a desperate attempt to recover the lost ground. He was, however, totally defeated, and in a series of sea-fights which followed, the Athenian fleet was completely destroyed. This disaster forced the Athenians to raise the siege, and was, in addition, a death-blow to the naval supremacy of Athens.
|After death of Pericles, emerged as leader of peace party. Led disastrous Sicilian Expedition.|
|Lead the resistance in Syracuse that defeated Athenian forces during Peloponnesian War.|
|Fatal Expedition in||Pictures from Greek Life and Story by Alfred J. Church|
|Statesman and Citizen in||Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Alfred J. Church|
|At Syracruse in||Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Alfred J. Church|
|Greek Colonies in Italy in||The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber|
|Alcibiades in||Famous Men of Greece by John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland|
|Alcibiades, and the War between Athens and Sparta in||Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding|
|Nicias in||Our Young Folks' Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman|
|Siege of Syracuse in||The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor|
|Sicilian Expedition in||The Story of the Greek People by Eva March Tappan|
As a consequence, Dionysius I, a general in the Syracuse army who had risen from the lower ranks made himself tyrant. He made a temporary peace with Carthage, and distributed the land of the oligarchs to the poor. He then conquered the neighboring cities of Catana (403 BC), Naxos, Leontini (400 BC), and Rhegium (396 BC). After these successes he launched an offensive against Motya, the main Carthage stronghold on Sicily, and conquered the city, but failed to dislodge them from Sicily. He then attempted to expand his power into southern Italy by launching a campaign against the Italians and won a victory at Elleporus (389 BC).
The Carthaginians, who had not launched an attack against Sicily for over ten years, now attacked Catana and defeated the Syracusans in a naval engagement in 387 BC. They then commenced a siege of Syracuse, and Dionysius was compelled to call on Sparta for Naval support. The siege was finally resolved when a plague broke out, and Dionysius launched a successful attack on the Carthage stronghold. Eight years later however, the Carthaginians returned, prevailed against the Syracusans and forced Dionysus to accept unfavorable terms.
|Siege of Selinus (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
This city was besieged by the Carthaginians, 100,000 strong, under Hannibal, B.C. 409. An attempt by the Syracusans, under Diocles, to relieve came too late, for after resisting stubbornly for nine days, the garrison, hopelessly outnumbered, were overpowered; and the place stormed and sacked, all the survivors being carried off into captivity.
|Siege of Himera (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
This place was besieged by the Carthaginians, under Hannibal, B.C. 409. A first assault was repulsed, and Diocles arriving in the harbour with 25 ships, rescued half the inhabitants. Three days later he returned for the remainder, but too late, for before he could reach the harbour the breach was stormed. The town was sacked, and 3,000 prisoners were sacrificed to appease the shade of Hamilcar, who had fallen in the battle of 480.
|Siege of Acragas (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
This fortress was besieged B.C. 406 by the Carthaginians under Hannibal, the garrison being commanded by Dexippus the Spartan. Early in the siege a pestilence in the Carthaginian camp carried off Hannibal, who was succeeded by his cousin, Himilco. A relieving army of 35,000 Syracusans, under Daphnaeus fought a pitched battle with the Carthaginians under the walls of the city, and succeeded in seizing and holding one of their camps, but shortly afterwards dissensions broke out in the garrison, and many of the foreign mercenaries deserting, the citizens, after a siege of eight months, left the place en masse. The Carthaginians at once occupied the fortress.
|Siege of Motya (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
This city, the chief stronghold of the Carthaginians in Sicily, was besieged by Dionysius of Syracuse, with 83,000 men, B.C. 398. Having built a mole to connect the mainland and the island on which Motya stood, he erected thereon his new engines of war, the catapults, used for the first time in this siege. He also built large moving towers to enable him to cope with the lofty defenses of the place, and by these devices succeeded in effecting an entrance. Every house, however, was in itself a small fortress, and after days of street fighting, which cost the assailants a heavy price, the city was still unsubdued. At last by a night surprise he mastered the quarter which still held out, and the inhabitants were massacred or sold as slaves.
|Siege of Rhegium (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
This city was besieged in 396 B.C. by a Syracusian force under Dionysius I. The tyrant of Syracuse took the city, and sold its inhabitants into slavery.
|Battle of Elleporus (Third Carthaginian Invasion )
Fought B.C. 389, between the Sicilians, 23,000 strong, under Dionysius of Syracuse, and the Italiots, 17,000 strong, under Heloris. Dionysius attacked the Italiot vanguard, under Heloris himself, on the march, and the Italiot army, coming into action in detachments, was beaten piecemeal, and finally routed with heavy loss. The survivors, 10,000 in number, surrendered, and were allowed to go free. Heloris was slain.
|Battle of Catana (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
Fought B.C. 387 between 200 Syracusan galleys under Leptines, and a vastly superior Carthaginian fleet. The Syracusans were utterly routed, partly owing to their inferior numbers, but also in part to the bad generalship of Leptines, who dispersed his ships too widely, allowing them to be overwhelmed in detail. The victors at once entered upon the siege of Syracuse.
|Siege of Syracuse (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
Sicilian Greeks victory
Syracuse was again besieged, B.C. 387, by about 80,000 Carthaginians,under Himilco, aided by a powerful fleet, and defended by Dionysius, with about an equal number of troops. A fleet of 30 Lacedaemonian triremes arrived to the succour of the Syracusans, and meanwhile a pestilence had carried off thousands in the besiegers' camp. At this juncture Dionysius decided on a joint sea and land attack upon the Carthaginians, which was completely successful. Leptinus, with 80 galleys, surprised the Carthaginian fleet while the crews were ashore, and completely destroyed it, while Dionysius stormed Himilco's defenses,and utterly routed the besiegers, Himilco and his principal officers escaping from Sicily, and leaving the army to its fate.
|Battle of Cabala (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
Sicilian Greeks victory
Fought B.C. 379, between the Syracusans under Dionysius, and the Carthaginians under Mago. The latter were totally defeated and Mago slain.
|Battle of Cronion (Second Carthaginian Invasion )
Fought B.C. 379 between the Syracusans under Dionysius, and the Carthaginians. The Syracusans were defeated, with enormous loss, and Dionysius forced to accept unfavourable terms of peace.
|Syracusan General who resisted Carthage at the battles of Selinus and Himera.|
|From humble origins, arose to become Tyrant of the city of Syracuse.|
|Storm from Africa in||Helmet and Spear by Alfred J. Church|
|Dionysius the Tyrant in||Helmet and Spear by Alfred J. Church|
|Dion in||Our Young Folks' Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman|
Shortly after his nearly bloodless conquest of Syracuse however, an enormous force of Carthaginians arrived. Timoleon met them at the Crimisus river, and with only a fraction of the forces, vanquished the Carthaginians and then negotiated a permanent peace. In spite of this overwhelming victory, he did not set himself up as a tyrant, but rather tore down the citadel in Syracuse and set up democratic reforms. He then expelled tyrants from all the neighboring cities, and liberated all of Greek Sicily.
|Battle of Hadranum (Rise of Gelon )
Fought B.C. 344, between Timoleon, the deliverer of Sicily, with 2,000 followers, and Hicetas, Tyrant of Leontini, with 10,000 men. The two had been summoned to the assistance of the rival factions in Hadranum, and Hicetas, who arrived first, was resting his men under the walls, when he was surprised by Timoleon, and totally routed. This was Timoleon's first exploit, and Hadranum became his headquarters.
|Battle of Crimisus
Fought June B.C. 340, between 10,000 Sicilians under Timoleon, and 70,000 Carthaginians, including the "Sacred Band" of 2,500 Carthaginian citizens of good birth, under Hamilcar and Hasdrubal. Timoleon attacked the Carthaginians while they were crossing the Crimisus, and routed and dispersed the Sacred Band before the main army had crossed. A heavy storm of rain in the faces of the Carthaginians came to the aid of the Sicilians, and after a severe struggle, they gained a signal victory, and the Carthaginians fled, leaving 10,000 dead in the field, and 15,000 prisoners. Many more were drowned in their endeavour to recross the river.
|Liberated the entire island of Syracuse from Tyrants and Carthaginians.|
|Tyrant of Leontini who was allied with the Carthaginians.|
|Deliverer from Corinth in||Helmet and Spear by Alfred J. Church|
|Man Who Saved Sicily in||Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch by F. J. Gould|
|Civil War in Syracuse in||The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber|
|Timoleon in||Our Young Folks' Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman|
|Timoleon in||Stories from Greek History by Ethelwyn Lemon|
|Timoleon Sends Dionysius to Corinth in||The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor|
|Battle of Crimisus in||The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor|
|Timoleon, the Favorite of Fortune in||Historical Tales: Greek by Charles Morris|
Timoleon holding the ford of the Crimessus.
in Helmet and Spear
The Surprise at Himera
in Greatest Nations - Greece
Timoleon and the Eagles
in Stories from Greek History
Timoleon setting sail for Sicily
in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston