Th e history of Syracuse from its foundation to the chaos into which the city was pitched in the 340s is as dramatic as if it were a creation of fi ction. Fiction is, of course, an underlying problem in any attempt to study Syracuse. Its beginning was certainly an invention and the antiquity ascribed to it by Th ucydides derived from a patriotic source. Th e power the city acquired in the early part of the fi ft h century was the result of clever management of human resources by Gelon and Hieron. Without their guiding hands, the whole edifi ce crashed in spectacular fashion in the 460s and there followed decades of uncertainty. Only with the defeat of the Athenian invasion in 413 was Syracusan confi dence fully restored, but it was rapidly undermined in the crisis caused by a sustained Carthaginian invasion of Sicily, and the way was open for Dionysius to seize power. Th e rule of the tyrants again produced favourable results; and during the next 50 years, the prosperity of Syracuse attained new peaks. Th erefore, the removal of sole rule once again produced not order, but discord. Th e inability of Dion or one of his many competitors to bring security to the city almost caused its demise. Luckily wise counsel prevailed and Timoleon arrived to restore calm; Syracuse, like the proverbial phoenix, was reborn from the fi ery ashes of its ruined predecessor. Cicero’s statement (in Verr. 2.4.117) could, therefore, not have been more apposite:
You have oft en heard that the greatest city of the Greeks and the most beautiful of them all is that of the Syracusans. Urbem Syracusas maximam esse Graecarum, pulcherrimam omnium saepe audistis.