Diocles of Syracuse
Diocles of Syracuse was a legislator, orator, and political and military leader in the Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

 of Syracuse toward the end of the 5th century BC. Only a few years of his life have an historical account, from 413 to 408 BC.


The historian Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 presents Diocles as a famous and respected orator, when he proposed, on the day following the victory over the Athenians
Sicilian Expedition
The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a...

 in 413 BC, a punishment of the greatest severity against the vanquished: execution of Demosthenes
Demosthenes (general)
Demosthenes , son of Alcisthenes, was an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War.-Early Military Actions:The military activities of Demosthenes are first recorded from 426 BC when he led an Athenian invasion of Aetolia. This was a failure. Demosthenes lost about 120 Athenians along with his...

 and Nicias
Nicias or Nikias was an Athenian politician and general during the period of the Peloponnesian War. Nicias was a member of the Athenian aristocracy because he had inherited a large fortune from his father, which was invested into the silver mines around Attica's Mt. Laurium...

, the two Athenian generals, condemnation to slavery in the stone quarries for the Athenian soldiers, and the fate of being sold into slavery for the soldiers of the allies of Athens. Reinforced by the speech of Gylippus, that emphasized that a fate so cruel was intended for the Syracusans in case of Athenian victory, the suggestion was adopted against the opinion of those favoring clemency backed by the strategist Hermocrates
Hermocrates was a general of Syracuse during the Athenians' Sicilian Expedition.The first historical reference to Hermocrates is at the congress of Gela in 424 BC, where he gave a speech demanding the Sicilian Greeks stop their quarrelling...

. (According to Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 and Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

, Gylippus wanted to take the two Athenian generals back to Sparta as proof of his own military success.)

Democratic legislator

After the victory of 413 BC, the Syracusans that actively participated in the defense of the city were in a position to demand democratic reforms, following the example of the favor given to political democracy in Athens following the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

 that was won by an Athenian navy principally composed from the common people.

Diocles first put into practice two measures:
  • The term limit for the exit of the magistrates: This limitation by designation method, already practiced to Athens, is for Aristotle
    Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

     a characteristic of the democracies.

  • The nomination of a group of experts in charge of composing laws: Then, having been named in this group of experts, Diocles there takes a preponderant role, so well that the laws created carry his name. The justice and accuracy of his system of penalties and of rewards won him the admiration of its fellow countrymen, and beyond the city-state of Syracuse, with numerous Greek cities of Sicily that adopted and preserved the laws down to the time of the domination of Roman laws

Military leader in failure

In 410 BC, Hermocrates was forced into exile and historians believe this event gave Diocles undisputed control of Syracuse. In 409 BC, Diocles was named at the head of an army of 4000 armed men to bring relief to Himera
thumb|250px|Remains of the Temple of Victory.thumb|250px|Ideal reconstruction of the Temple of Victory.Himera , was an important ancient Greek city of Sicily, situated on the north coast of the island, at the mouth of the river of the same name , between Panormus and Cephaloedium...

, which was being besieged by the Carthaginians led by Hannibal Mago
Hannibal Mago
Hannibal was a grandson of Hamilcar Mago.He was shofet of Carthage in 410 BC and in 409 BC commanded a Carthaginian army sent to Sicily in response to a request from the city of Segesta. He successfully took the Greek city of Selinus and then Himera...

, who had landed in Sicily with Iberian troops and won a first victory at the Battle of Selinus
Battle of Selinus
The Battle of Selinus which took place in the spring of 409 BC, is the opening battle of the so called Second Sicilian War. The 10 day long siege and battle was fought in Sicily between the Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Mago and the Dorian Greeks of Selinus...

. The Syracusan expedition was a failure: after the first battle at Himera
Battle of Himera (409 BC)
The Second Battle of Himera was fought near the city of Himera in Sicily in 409 BC between the Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Mago and the Ionian Greeks of Himera aided by an army and a fleet from Syracuse...

, the Syracusan army was forced to turn back in fear of a Carthaginian attack against Syracuse. Himera then fell and was razed, leaving to the Syracusans the only consolation of rescuing some Himeran women and children who fled with the Syracusan army. In 408 BC, some time after the Battle of Himera, Hermocrates returned to Sicily and had some military successes against the Carthaginians, turning Syracusan public opinion against Diocles. It is known that Diocles himself was forced into exile in 408 BC and seems to vanish from the historical record. It is believed that he died shortly afterwards, and there is a legend about his death, similar to those surrounding the deaths of Zaleucus
Zaleucus was the Greek lawgiver of Epizephyrian Locri, in Italy, said to have devised the first written Greek law code, the Locrian Code.Although the Locrian code distinctly favored the aristocracy, Zaleucus was famous for his conciliation of societal factions. No other facts of his life at all...

 and Charondas
Charondas was a celebrated lawgiver of Catania in Sicily. His date is uncertain. Some make him a pupil of Pythagoras ; but all that can be said is that he was earlier than Anaxilas of Rhegium , since his laws were in use amongst the Rhegians until they were abolished by that tyrant...

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