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governed by a council of magistrates ; but Dionysius was an exceedingly able man, and made the city much more rich and powerful, he defeated the Carthaginians, and rendered Syracuse by far the chief city in the island, and he contrived to make every one so much afraid of him that no one durst attempt to overthrow his power. He was a good scholar, and very fond of philosophy and poetry, and he delighted to have learned men around him, and he had naturally a generous spirit ; but the sense that he was in a position that did not belong to him, and that every one hated him for assuming it, made him very harsh and suspicious. It is of him that the story is told, that he had a chamber hollowed in the rock near his state prison, and constructed with galleries to conduct sounds like an ear, so that he might overhear the conversation of his captives ; and of him, too, is told that famous anecdote which has become a proverb, that on hearing a friend, named Damocles, express a wish to be in his situation for a single day, he took him at his word, and Damocles found himself at a banquet with everything that could delight his senses, delicious food, costly wine, flowers, perfumes, music; but with a sword with the point almost touching his head, and hanging by a single horse-hair! This was to show the condition in which a usurper lived !
Thus Dionysius was in constant dread. He had a wide trench round his bedroom, with a drawbridge that he drew up and put down with his own hands; and he put one barber to death for boasting that he held a razor to the tyrant's throat every morning. After this he made his young daughters shave him ; but by-and-by he would not trust them with a razor, and caused them to singe off his beard with hot nutshells ! He was said to have put a man named Antiphon to death for answering him, when he asked what was the best kind of brass, “ That of
which the statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton were made.” These were the two Athenians who had killed the sons of Pisistratus the tyrant, so that the jest was most offensive, but its boldness might have gained forgiveness for it. One philosopher, named Philoxenus, he sent to a dungeon for finding fault with his poetry, but he afterwards composed another piece, which he thought so superior, that he could not be content without sending for this adverse critic to hear it. When he had finished reading it, he looked to Philoxenus for a compliment; but the philosopher only turned round to the guards, and said dryly, “Carry me back to prison.” This time Dionysius had the sense to laugh, and forgive his honesty.
All these stories may not be true ; but that they should have been current in the ancient world shows what was the character of the man of whom they were told, how stern and terrible was his anger, and how easily it was incurred. Among those who came under it was a Pythagorean called Pythias, who was sentenced to death, according to the usual fate of those who fell under his suspicion.
Pythias had lands and relations in Greece, and he entreated as a favor to be allowed to return thither and arrange his affairs, engaging to return within a specified time to suffer death. The tyrant laughed his request to scorn. Once safe out of Sicily, who would answer for his return? Pythias made reply that he had a friend, who would become security for his return; and while Dionysius, the miserable man who trusted nobody, was ready to scoff at his simplicity, another Pythagorean, by name Damon, came forward, and offered to become surety for his friend, engaging that, if Pythias did not return according to promise, to suffer death in his stead.
Dyonysius, much astonished, consented to let Pythias go, marvelling what would be the issue of the affair. Time went on, and Pythias did not appear. The Syracusans watched Damon, but he showed no uneasiness. He said he was secure of his friend's truth and honor, and that if any accident had caused the delay of his return, he should rejoice in dying to save the life of one so dear to him.
Even to the last day, Damon continued serene and content, however it might fall out; nay, even when the
very hour drew nigh and still no Pythias. His trust was so perfect, that he did not even grieve at having to die for a faithless friend who had left him to the fate to which he had unwarily pledged himself. It was not Pythias's own will, but the winds and waves, so he still declared, when the decree was brought and the instruments of death made ready. The hour had come, and a few moments more would have ended Damon's life, when Pythias duly presented himself, embraced his friend, and stood forward himself to receive his sentence, calm, resolute, and rejoiced that he had come in time.
Even the dim hope they owned of a future state was enough to make these two brave men keep their word, and confront death for one another without quailing Dyonysius looked on more struck than
He felt that neither of such men must die. He reversed the sentence of Pythias, and calling the two to his judgment-seat he entreated them to admit him as a third in their friendship. Yet all the time he must have known it was a mockery that he should ever be such as they were to each otherhe who had lost the very power of trusting, and constantly sacrificed others to secure his own life, whilst they counted not their lives dear to them in comparison with their truth to their word, and love to one another. No wonder that Damon and Pythias have become such a by-word that they seem too well known to have their story told here, except that a name in every one's mouth sometimes seems to be mentioned by those who have forgotten or never heard the tale attached to it.
THE DEVOTION OF THE DECII.
B. C. 339.
HE spirit of self-devotion is so beautiful and
obedience to the dictates of a false religion, it is impossible not to be struck with admiration and almost reverence for the unconscious type of the one great act that has hallowed every other sacrifice. Thus it was that Codrus, the Athenian king, has ever since been honored for the tradition that he gave his own life to secure the safety of his people ; and there is a touching story, with neither name nor place, of a heathen monarch who was bidden by his priests to appease the supposed wrath of his gods by the sacrifice of the being dearest to him. His young son had been seized on as his most beloved, when his wife rushed between and declared that her son must live, and not by his death rob her of her right to fall, as her husband's dearest. The priest looked at the father ; the face that had been sternly composed before was full of uncontrolled anguish as he sprang forward to save the wife rather than the child. That impulse was an answer, like the entreaty of the mother before Solomon ; the priest struck the fatal blow ere the king's hand could withhold him, and the mother died with a last look of exceeding joy at her husband's love and her son's safety. Human sacrifices are of course ac
cursed, and even the better sort of heathens viewed them with horror; but the voluntary confronting of death, even at the call of a distorted presage of future atonement, required qualities that were perhaps the highest that could be exercised among those who were devoid of the light of truth.
In the year 339 there was a remarkable instance of such devotion. The Romans were at war with the Latins, a nation dwelling to the south of them, and almost exactly resembling themselves in language, habits, government, and fashions of fighting. Indeed the city of Rome itself was but an offshoot from the old Latin kingdom ; and there was not much difference between the two nations even in courage and perseverance. The two consuls of the year were Titus Manlius Torquatus and Publius Decius Mus. They were both very distinguished
Manlius was a patrician, or one of the high ancient nobles of Rome, and had in early youth fought a single combat with a gigantic Gául, who offered himself, like Goliath, as a champion of his tribe ; had slain him, and taken from him a gold torque, or collar, whence his surname Torquatus. Decius was a plebeian ; one of the free though not noble citizens who had votes, but only within a few years had been capable of being chosen to the higher offices of state, and who looked upon every election to the consulship as a victory. Three years previously, when a tribune in command of a legion, Decius had saved the consul, Cornelius Cossus, from a dangerous situation, and enabled him to gain a great victory; and this exploit was remembered, and led to the choice of this well-experienced soldier as the colleague of Manlius.
The two consuls both went out together in command of the forces, each having a separate army, and intending to act in concert. They marched to the beautiful country at the foot of Mount Vesuvius,