11. II. VII. System Of Government, note

Chapter II

The War Between Rome And Carthage Concerning Sicily

State Of Sicily

For upwards of a century the feud between the Carthaginians and the rulers of Syracuse had devastated the fair island of Sicily. On both sides the contest was carried on with the weapons of political proselytism, for, while Carthage kept up communications with the aristocratic-republican opposition in Syracuse, the Syracusan dynasts maintained relations with the national party in the Greek cities that had become tributary to Carthage. On both sides armies of mercenaries were employed to fight their battles--by Timoleon and Agathocles, as well as by the Phoenician generals. And as like means were employed on both sides, so the conflict had been waged on both with a disregard of honour and a perfidy unexampled in the history of the west. The Syracusans were the weaker party. In the peace of 440 Carthage had still limited her claims to the third of the island to the west of Heraclea Minoa and Himera, and had expressly recognized the hegemony of the Syracusans over all the cities to the eastward. The expulsion of Pyrrhus from Sicily and Italy (479) left by far the larger half of the island, and especially the important Agrigentum, in the hands of Carthage; the Syracusans retained nothing but Tauromenium and the south-east of the island.

Campanian Mercenaries

In the second great city on the east coast, Messana, a band of foreign soldiers had established themselves and held the city, independent alike of Syracusans and Carthaginians. These new rulers of Messana were Campanian mercenaries. The dissolute habits that had become prevalent among the Sabellians settled in and around Capua,(1) had made Campania in the fourth and fifth centuries--what Aetolia, Crete, and Laconia were afterwards--the universal recruiting field for princes and cities in search of mercenaries. The semi-culture that had been called into existence there by the Campanian Greeks, the barbaric luxury of life in Capua and the other Campanian cities, the political impotence to which the hegemony of Rome condemned them, while yet its rule was not so stern as wholly to withdraw from them the right of self-disposal--all tended to drive the youth of Campania in troops to the standards of the recruiting officers. As a matter of course, this wanton and unscrupulous selling of themselves here, as everywhere, brought in its train estrangement from their native land, habits of violence and military disorder, and indifference to the breach of their allegiance. These Campanians could see no reason why a band of mercenaries should not seize on their own behalf any city entrusted to their guardianship, provided only they were in a position to hold it--the Samnites had established their dominion in Capua itself, and the Lucanians in a succession of Greek cities, after a fashion not much more honourable.


Nowhere was the state of political relations more inviting for such enterprises than in Sicily. Already the Campanian captains who came to Sicily during the Peloponnesian war had insinuated themselves in this way into Entella and Aetna. Somewhere about the year 470 a Campanian band, which had previously served under Agathocles and after his death (465) took up the trade of freebooters on their own account, established themselves in Messana, the second city of Greek Sicily, and the chief seat of the anti-Syracusan party in that portion of the island which was still in the power of the Greeks. The citizens were slain or expelled, their wives and children and houses were distributed among the soldiers, and the new masters of the city, the Mamertines or "men of Mars," as they called themselves, soon became the third power in the island, the north-eastern portion of which they reduced to subjection in the times of confusion that succeeded the death of Agathocles. The Carthaginians were no unwilling spectators of these events, which established in the immediate vicinity of the Syracusans a new and powerful adversary instead of a cognate and ordinarily allied or dependent city. With Carthaginian aid the Mamertines maintained themselves against Pyrrhus, and the untimely departure of the king restored to them all their power.

Hiero Of Syracuse War Between The Syracusans And The Mammertines

It is not becoming in the historian either to excuse the perfidious crime by which the Mamertines seized their power, or to forget that the God of history does not necessarily punish the sins of the fathers to the fourth generation. He who feels it his vocation to judge the sins of others may condemn the human agents; for Sicily it might be a blessing that a warlike power, and one belonging to the island, thus began to be formed in it--a power which was already able to bring eight thousand men into the field, and which was gradually putting itself in a position to take up at the proper time and on its own resources that struggle against the foreigners, to the maintenance of which the Hellenes, becoming more and more unaccustomed to arms notwithstanding their perpetual wars, were no longer equal.

In the first instance, however, things took another turn. A young Syracusan officer, who by his descent from the family of Gelo and his intimate relations of kindred with king Pyrrhus as well as by the distinction with which he had fought in the campaigns of the latter, had attracted the notice of his fellow-citizens as well as of the Syracusan soldiery--Hiero, son of Hierocles--was called by military election to command the army, which was at variance with the citizens (479-480). By his prudent administration, the nobility of his character, and the moderation of his views, he rapidly gained the hearts of the citizens of Syracuse--who had been accustomed to the most scandalous lawlessness in their despots--and of the Sicilian Greeks in general. He rid himself--in a perfidious manner, it is true--of the insubordinate army of mercenaries, revived the citizen- militia, and endeavoured, at first with the title of general, afterwards with that of king, to re-establish the deeply sunken Hellenic power by means of his civic troops and of fresh and more manageable recruits.

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