I've writen two books about Greece and Rome, introducing each civilization with their most famous authors woven into the narrative. Check them out on their own website!


Check out what I'm up to this summer and fall and see if you can learn some Greek and Latin with me.

Full Show Notes Available at https://plutarch.life/timoleon

Season 4 is brought to you by Hackett Publishing – Use the coupon code PLUTARCH for 20% off and free shipping at hackettpublishing.com

Important People

Timophanes – Timoleon’s brother and the first tyrant we meet in this story. His name, rather fittingly, means "seems honorable."

Dionysius II – The tyrant whom Dion overthrew, but did not execute. He returns to power after Dion’s death only to be replaced by Hicetas.

Hicetas – The tyrant who replaces Dionysius II, who had allied with the Carthaginians to gain power. Starting out allied with the Corinthians, he becomes Timoleon’s main enemy in the fight to free Syracuse.

Mago – Carthaginian general allied with Hicetas and leading a formidable navy. He’s the first Carthaginian general to “capture” Syracuse, though it’s Hicetas who hands the city over. 

Plato – Though dead by the time Timoleon comes to power, he haunts this dialogue both in its analysis of tyranny and its understanding of justice.

Key Virtues and Vices

Justice (δίκη – dikē) Plutarch argues (30.9) that Justice preserved Timoleon’s good fortune. With this in mind, it’s helpful to remember that Dion didn’t have the same good fortune, though he seems to have deserved it. Perhaps he stepped off the road of Justice and Plutarch allows us to decide where and when. Timoleon also puts justice and honor over convenience (5.1), his brother acts without justice (4.5) when he becomes tyrant, and Timoleon not only acts justly (5.1; 10.7; 29.6), but physically restores the courts of justice (22.3) to the democracy of Syracuse that before had to rely on the whims of the tyrant. 

Gentleness (πραότης – praotēs) – Though not mentioned often, it's important for us to remember that this is a virtue listed explicitly in Aristotle's Ethics and one that Plutarch takes great interest in for his characters. Timoleon is introduced to us as gentle (3.4), but not with tyrants and base men. We're also told at the end that he dealt gently and justly with friends (37.5), but boldly and powerfully against barbarians (i.e. Carthaginians in this case). See Plutarch's "On the Moderation of Anger" or Aristotle's Ethics Book 4, Ch. 5 (1125b35) for a more thorough discussion of this virtue and its most obvious excess: anger. 

Wisdom (φρονήσις – phronēsis) – Especially on the heels of Dion’s life, Timoleon just strikes us as lucky. Yet, Plutarch primes us in the preface (0.8) to read with an eye for his wise choices and not to judge every decision by its (usually positive) outcome. Plato's wisdom even helps men like Dionysius (15.4)

External Links

Support the show

Leave a Comment