Dionysius’ military exploits and his capacity as warrior and general tend to fi ll out the ancient narrative and modern accounts of his long rule.1 However, the domestic and cultural scenes in Syracuse were no less notable, because the tyrant’s court became the focus of all activity, whether this was related to the complex politics of the reign, or to military planning and innovation, which was extensive, or to the arts, philosophical studies and scientifi c inquiry. Syracuse became as much a centre of Hellenic civilisation as an economic and military powerhouse. Th e patron, fi nancier and oft en a participator in all these wide-ranging pursuits was the tyrant himself. Th us the fortifi cation of the plateau of Epipolai was certainly a constructional achievement that ranks alongside or even outstrips the long walls of Athens; and the walls of Dionysius made Syracuse an almost impregnable city. His active participation in the building process made him an archetype for modern populist dictators.2 Th e development of the Great Harbour as a place for berthing and repairing up to 400 triremes was a notable factor in establishing the naval power of the Syracusans in the fi rst half of the fourth century.3 Th e military campaigns in which the tyrant indulged may not always have been successful; nonetheless, they promoted the economic prosperity of the citizen body and this alone explains why the rule of the tyranny extended so tranquilly into a second generation. Later on in the Hellenistic period, it became fashionable to denigrate rulers such as Dionysius and his son, but in fact, without these rulers, cities such as Syracuse and those associated with it such as Locri and Rhegium could not have enjoyed the prosperity that they did.