The Tyrants of Syracuse: War in Ancient Sicily Volume I: 480-367 BC, Jeff Champion

The Tyrants of Syracuse: War in Ancient Sicily Volume I: 480-367 BC, Jeff Champion

Although Syracuse was indeed ruled by tyrants at the start and end of this period, the subtitle is rather more accurate than the title. Champion's text focuses on the military history of the political history of the Greek cities of Sicily and their relationships with their Carthaginian and native Sicilian neighbours and the Greeks of Greece and Italy.

Champion begins with a brief history of Sicily, looking at the early Greek and Phoenician settlements and their impact on the native tribes. He also includes a brief summary of the political history of the Greek cities, looking at the conflict between Aristocratic, Oligarchic, Democratic and Tyrannical forms on government, both on Sicily and in Greece.

The detailed military history begins with the war between Gelan, tyrant of Syracuse and the Carthaginians of Western Sicily. This took place at the same time as the Persian War in Greece and also ended with a  Greek victory, giving tyrants a level prestige in Sicily that they never possessed in Greece. Even so the tyrants were soon replaced by democracies, and it was the democracies that won the next victories against the Carthaginians (although it was military failures against the same enemy that led to the rise of Dionysius.

Warfare in ancient Sicily involved higher stakes than in Greece - in Sicily cities were routinely destroyed, by both the Greeks and Carthaginians, and their populations moved or enslaved. The same did happen in Greece, but rather less often.

I was familiar with some of the events covered in this book - in particular the Athenian siege of Syracuse, but others were totally new, and I found its focus on Sicilian affairs to be of great value.

1 - Colonies and Conflict
2 - Cities, Hoplites and Tyrants
3 - The First Sicilian Tyrants
4 - Gelon and the Battle of Himera
5 - The Democratic Experiment
6 - The Leontine War
7 - The Athenian Decision to Invade Sicily
8 - Nicias' First Attack on Syracuse
9 - The Athenian Siege Begins
10 - The Syracusan Counterattack
11 - The Syracusan Victory
12 - The Destruction of the Athenian Expedition
13 - The Carthaginians Return
14 - The First Carthaginian War
15 - The Siege of Akragas
16 - The Return of the Tyrants
17 - The Battle of Gela
18 - Dionysius' Conquest of Eastern Sicily
19 - The Destruction of Motya
20 - The Second Carthaginian War
21 - Italian and other Diversions
22 - Dionysius' Final Campaigns
23 - Conclusions

Author: Jeff Champion
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 249
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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