Diodorus Siculus

BOOK XIX - The Library of History

Page 607


IT's an old Saying, (brought down to us by Tradition) That none overturn Democracies, but Men that overtop others in Power and Interest. For which reason some Cities are always jealous of such of their Fellow Citizens as grow Great and Powerful; and therefore do what they can to depress them. For when Men are in Power, the next Step is to domineer over their Country; and for those that (through the Greatness of their Interest above others) have Grounds to expect the Sovereign Authority, 'tis very difficult to be free from an Itch of Monarchy. For 'tis very natural for them that are ambitious, when they have much, to thirst after more, and never set Bounds to their insatiable Ambition.

The Athenians therefore, upon this very account, made a Law, which they call'd Ostracism, for the banishing such as grew Great amongst them; not so much to punish them for any Fault they had committed, but to prevent the Mischief and Prejudice to their Country, which by their Power and Interest they were in a Capacity to bring upon them: For they remembred (as it were an Oracle) what Solon had formerly said, who foretelling the Tyranny of Pisistratus, compos'd this Elegiack:

〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉

〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉

A City by Great Persons is o'erthrown;

And Fools beneath a Monarchy do groan.

Of all other Places, Sicily was most infected with this Itch of Monarchy, before the Romans reduc'd it into the Form of a Province. For the Cities, deceiv'd by the Flatteries of the Orators, advanc'd inconsiderable Men to that height, till they became absolute Lords over the deluded Multitude.

But the Advancement of Agathocles to be Prince of Syracuse, is above all othersthe most singular and remarkable: For he began at first in very mean and unlikely Circumstances; but at last he involv'd not only Syracuse, but all Sicily and Lybia it self in Blood and Slaughter. He was so mean and low in the World in his Original, that he follow'd the Trade of a Potter; from whence he rose to that height of Power and Cruelty, that he Lorded over the greatest and richest Island in the World; and for some time gain'd the greatest part of Africa, and some Parts of Italy, and fill'd the Cities of Sicily with Butcheries and Oppressions. None of the Tyrants that ever were before him committed the like Villany, or exercis'd such barbarous Cruelty upon their Subjects. For as for his own Kindred, he put them all to Death, Root and Branch; and so plagu'd the Cities, that he sometimes butcher'd all that were at Men and Women's estate; and would would cut the Throats of Multitudes of poor Innocents for the Faults of a few, without any difference or distinction; and then presently would murder whole Cities, Men, Women, and Children.

But because this Book, with others that follow, comprehend the Tyranny of Agathocles, omitting any further Preface relating thereunto, we shall now connex things coherent with those that were before related, first allotting to everything we treat of its due and proper time.

In the preceding Eighteen Books, we have endeavour'd to set forth whatever was done in the known Parts of the World, from the beginning of Time, to the Year next before theReign of Agathocles, to which time, from the Taking of Troy, are computed Eight hundred sixty six Years.

In this Book, beginning with the first of his Reign, we shall end with the Battelfought by Agathocles with the Carthaginians, containing an account of Affairs for the space of Seven Years.

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