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Hieron II

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Tyrant, later king, of Syracuse (c.271–216bc); claimed, without grounds, descent from Gelon. Between 275 and 271, Hieron was elected general, seized power as the result of a military coup, allied himself with the popular faction, and was perhaps elected general plenipotentiary. He attacked the Mamertines, and after a severe defeat and further preparation, routed them on the Longanus river (west of Messana) (265). He was then acclaimed king. Alarmed by the Mamertines' alliance with Rome, Hieron joined the Carthaginians in besieging Messana (264); but forced by the Romans to withdraw, and besieged in Syracuse, he came to terms (263), preserving much of his kingdom, but becoming in effect a subordinate of Rome. His loyalty to Rome in the First Punic War earned him the revision of his treaty (248): it became a foedus aequum (a treaty as between equals), he received additions to his kingdom and the indemnity still outstanding was remitted. Hieron maintained an efficient navy and policed the sea, enjoyed friendly relations with Carthage (after 241), Rhodes, and Egypt, improved (with the help of his friend Archimedes) the defences of Syracuse, and enriched Syracuse and his kingdom by his building. He supplied Rome with grain, both before and during the Second Punic War, and co-operated with her at sea (218, 216) and sent troops and money (217, 216). He died shortly after Hannibal's victory at Cannae (216); his son (and colleague) Gelon having predeceased him, he was succeeded by his grandson Hieronymus, and Syracuse abandoned her Roman allegiance. ‘Naturally regal and statesmanlike’ (Polybius), Hieron was sufficiently realistic to jettison his early imperial aspirations in favour of loyalty to Rome and the prosperity and well-being of his people. His system of taxation, adopted by Rome after her annexation of Sicily (241)—the lex Hieronica—was regarded as both efficient and equitable.

Brian M. Caven

Subjects: Classical studies

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