Leptines of Syracuse

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Leptines (Greek: Λεπτίνης; died 375 BC) was a military leader from Syracuse, Sicily, active during his brother Dionysius the Elder's wars.

Leptines was a brother of Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse. He is first mentioned as commanding his brother's fleet at the siege of Motya (397 BCE), and was for some time entrusted by Dionysius with the whole direction of the siege, while the latter was engaged in reducing the other towns still held by the Carthaginians. (Diod. xiv. 48.)

After the fall of Motya he was stationed there with a fleet of 120 ships, to watch for and intercept the Carthaginian fleet under Himilco; but the latter eluded his vigilance, and effected his passage to Panormus (modern Palermo) in safety, with the greater part of his forces, though Leptines pursued them, and sunk fifty of his transports, containing 5000 troops. (Id. 53-55.) The state of affairs was now changed: Himilco was able to advance unopposed along the north coast of the island, and took and destroyed Messana (modern Messina); from whence he advanced upon Syracuse, his fleet, under Mago, supporting the operations of the army. Leptines, by his brother's orders, immediately advanced with the Syracusan fleet to engage that of Mago, and a great naval action ensued, in which Leptines displayed the utmost valor; but having imprudently advanced with 30 of his best ships into the midst of the enemy, he was cut off from the rest of his fleet, and only able to effect his escape by standing out to sea.

The result was, that the Syracusans were defeated with great loss, many of their ships fell into the hands of the enemy, and Leptines himself retired with the rest to Syracuse. During the siege that followed, he continued to render important services, and commanded (together with the Lacedaemonian Pharacidas) the final attack upon the naval camp of the Carthaginians, which terminated in the complete destruction of their fleet.[1]

We hear no more of him until 390 BCE, when he was again despatched by Dionysius with a fleet to the assistance of the Lucanians against the Italian Greeks. He arrived just as the former had gained a great victory over the Thurians; but instead of joining them to crush their enemies, he afforded a refuge to the Thurian fugitives, and succeeded in bringing about a peace between the contending parties. For this conduct, which was entirely opposed to the views of Dionysius, he was deprived of the command of the fleet, which was given to his younger brother, Thearides. (Id. xiv. 102.) Some time afterwards he gave further offence to the jealous temper of the tyrant, by giving one of his daughters in marriage to Philistus, without any previous intimation to Dionysius, and on this account he was banished from Syracuse, together with Philistus.

They thereupon retired to Thurii, where the services rendered by Leptines to that city during the late war with the Lucanians secured them a favorable reception. Leptines quickly rose to so much power and influence among the Greeks of Italy, that Dionysius judged it prudent to recall his sentence of banishment, and invite him again to Syracuse. Here he was completely reinstated in his former favor, and received the hand of Dionysius' daughter Dicaeosyne in marriage. (Diod. xv. .7; Plut. Dion. 11.)

In 383 BCE, war having again broken out with the Carthaginians, Leptines once more took an active part in the support of his brother, and commanded the right wing of the Syracusan army in the battle near Cronium, around 375 BCE. After displaying the greatest personal prowess, Leptines fell in the action, and the troops under his command immediately gave way. (Diod. xv. 17.)

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  1. ^ Diod. xiv. 59, 60, 64, 72.