Sunday, 11 August 2019

Agathocles of Syracuse

Agathocles was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse (317–289 BC) and king of Sicily (304–289 BC). The son of a potter, he entered the army along with his brother Antander. In 333 BC he married the widow of 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 and they took the city. After banishing or murdered some 10,000 citizens, he made himself master of Syracuse. He then created a strong army and fleet and subdued the greater part of Sicily. War with Carthage followed.
His last years were plagued by ill-health and the turbulence of his ambitious grandson Archagathus, at whose instigation he is said to have been poisoned. He was a born leader and used cruelty to gain his ends, but he afterwards showed himself a mild and popular tyrant.

Agathocles restored the Syracusan democracy on his death bed and did not want his heirs to succeed him as king.
Machiavelli reasons that Agathocles' success, in contrast to other criminal tyrants, was due to his ability to commit his crimes quickly and ruthlessly, and states that cruelties are best used when they are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and that are not persisted in.