HE AFFAIRS of the Sicilian Greeks, an important branch of the Hellenic race, deserve a passing notice. A few years after the destruction of the Athenian armament, Dionysius made himself master of Syracuse, and openly seized upon the supreme power (B.C. 405). His reign as tyrant or despot was long and prosperous. After conquering the Carthaginians, who more than once invaded Sicily, he extended his dominion over a great part of the island, and over a considerable portion of Magna Graecia. He raised Syracuse to be one of the chief Grecian states, second in influence, if indeed second, to Sparta alone. Under his sway Syracuse was strengthened and embellished with new fortifications, docks, arsenals, and other public buildings, and became superior even to Athens in extent and population.
Dionysius was a warm patron of literature, and was anxious to gain distinction by his literary compositions. In the midst of his political and military cares he devoted himself assiduously to poetry, and not only caused his poems to be publicly recited at the Olympic games, but repeatedly contended for the prize of tragedy at Athens. In accordance with the same spirit we find him seeking the society of men distinguished in literature and philosophy. Plato, who visited Sicily about the year 389 from a curiosity to see Mount AEtna, was introduced to Dionysius by Dion. The high moral tone of Plato's conversation did not however prove so attractive to Dionysius as it had done to Dion; and the philosopher was not only dismissed with aversion and dislike, but even, it seems through the machinations of Dionysius, seized, bound, and sold for a slave in the island of AEgina. He was, however, repurchased by Anniceris of Cyrene, and sent back to Athens.