Immagini della pagina

tion, as by Timoleon, they respected the authority of the laws and magistrates, and obeyed them with joy.

Hiero was no sooner entered upon office, and had the supreme authority confided to him, than he showed his detestation for the wretched policy of the tyrants; who, considering the citizens as their enemies, had no other thoughts than to weaken and intimidate them, and reposed their whole confidence in the foreign soldiers, by whom they were perpetually surrounded. He began by putting arms into the hands of the citizens, formed them with care in the exercises of war, and employed them in preference to all others.


Hiero's pacific reign. He particularly favours agriculture. He applies the abilities of Archimedes his relation to the service of the public, and causes him to make an in finite number of machines for the defence of a besieged place. He dies very old, and much regretted by the people.

When Hiero attained the sovereign authority, his great aim was to convince his subjects, less by his words than his actions, that he was infinitely remote from any design to the prejudice of their fortunes or liberty. He was not intent upon being feared, but upon being loved. He looked upon himself less as their master, than as their protector and father. Before his reign, the state had been divided by two factions, that of the citizens and that of the soldiers; whose differences, supported on both sides with great animosity, had occasicned infinite misfortunes. He used his utmost endeavours to extinguish all remains of this division, and to eradicate from their minds all seeds of discord and misunderstanding. He seems to have succeeded wonderfully in that respect, as, during a reign of more than fifty years, no sedition or revolt disturbed the tranquillity of Syracuse.

What contributed most, without doubt, to this happy calm, was the particular care taken by Hiero to keep his subjects employed ; to banish luxury and idleness, the parent of all vices, and the usual source of all seditions, from his dominions; to support and improve the natural fertility of his country; and to reflect honour upon agriculture, which he considered as the certain means to render his people happy, and to diffuse abundance throughout his kingdom. The cultivation of lands, indeed, besides employing an infinite number of hands, which would otherwise remain idle and unprofitable, draws into a country, by the exportation of grain, the riches of the neighbouring nations, and turns their current into the houses of the people, by a commerce which is renewed every year, and which is the deserved fruit of their labour and industry. This is, and we . cannot repeat it too often, what ought to be the peculiar attention of a wise government, as one of the most essential parts of wi.e and

salutary policy, though unhappily too much neglected. Hiero applied himself entirely to this end. He did not think it unworthy of the sovereignty to study and make himself thoroughly master of all the rules of agriculture. He even gave himself thọ trouble to compose books upon that subject, of which we oughí much to regret the loss.* But he considered that object of his in. quiries in a manner still more worthy of a king. The principal riches of the state, and the most certain fund of the prince's revenue consisted in corn. He therefore believed it of the highest conse quence, and what demanded his utmost care and application, to establish good order in that traffic, to render the condition of the husbandmen, of whom the greatest part of the people were composed, safe and happy; to ascertain the prince's dues, whose princi. pal revenue rose from them; to obviate such disorders as might get ground to the prejudice of his institutions; and to prevent the unjust vexations which might possibly be attempted to be introduced in the sequel. To answer all these purposes, Hiero made regulations so wise, reasonable, equitable, and at the same time conformable to the people's and prince's interests, that they became in a manner the fundamental laws of the country, and were always observed as sacred and inviolable, not only in his reign, but in all succeeding times. When the Romans had subjected the city and dominions of Syracuse, they imposed no new tributes, aud decreed that all things should be disposed according to the laws of Hiero :t in order that the Syracusans, in changing their masters, might have the consolation not to change their laws, and see theniselves in some measure still governed by a prince, whose vory name was always dear to them, and rendered those laws exceedingly venerable.

I have observed, that in Sicily the prince's principal revenue consisted in corn; the tenth being paid him. It was therefore his interest that the country should be well cultivated, that estimates should be made of the value of the lands; and that they should produce abun. dantly, as his revenue augmented in proportion to their fertility. The collectors of this tenth for the prince, which was paid in kind, and not in money, were called Dpcumani, that is to say, farmers of the tenths. Hiero, in the regulations he made upon this head, did not neglect his own interests, which is the mark of a wise prince and good economist. He knew very well, there was reason to apprehend, that the country people, who frequently consider the most legal and moderate imposts as intolerable burdens, might be tempt. ed to defraud the prince of his dues. To spare them this tempia. tion, he took such just and exact precautions, that whether the corn were in the ear, on the floor to be thrashed, laid up in barns,

* Plin. l. xviii. c. 3.

Decumas lege Hieronica semper vendendas censtterunt, ut iis jucundior esset mune ris illius functio, si ejus regis, qui Siculis carissimus fuit, non solúm instituta, commu tato imperio, verum etiam nomen remaneret. Cic. Ornit. in Ver. de frum. u. 15.

Hieronica lex omnibus custodiis subjectum aratorem decumano tradit ut neque i regeribus, neque in areis, neque in horreis, neque in amovendo, neque in asportando frumento, grano uno posset arator sine maximi pæna, fraudare decumanum. Cice Oral in Ver. de frum, n. 20.

or laden for carriage, it was not possible for the husbandmau to secrete any part of it, or to defraud the collector of a single grain, without exposing himself to a severe penalty. Cicero acquaints us with these circumstances at ni ich length. But he adds also, that Hiero had taken the same precautions against the avidity of the collectors, to whom it was equally impossible to extort any thing from the husbandmen beyond the tenth. Hiero seems to have been very much against the husbandman's being drawn from his home upon any pretext whatsoever. In fact, says Cicero, inveighing against Verres, who gave them great trouble by frequent and painful journeys, it is very hard and afflicting to the poor husbandmen, to be brought from their country to the city, from the plough to the bar, and from the care of tilling their lands to that of prosecuting law-suits. “Miserum atque iniquum, ex agro homines traduci in forum, ab aratro ab subsellia, ab usu rerum rusticarum ad insolitam litem atque judicium."* And besides, can they flatter themselves, let their cause be ever so just, that they shall carry it to the prejudice of the collectors ? " Judici ut arator decumanum persequatur?"

Can there be any thing more to a king's praise than what we have now said ? Hiero might undertake wars, for he did not want valour, gain battles, make conquests, and extend the bounds of his dominions, and upon these accounts might pass for a hero in the opinion of the generality of men. But with how many taxes must he have loaded his people! How many husbandmen must he have torn from their lands! How much blood would the gaining of those victories have cost him! and of what emolument would they have been to the state? Hiero, who knew wherein true glory consists, placed his in governing his people with wisdom, and in making ihem happy. Instead of conquering new countries by the force of arms, he endeavoured to multiply his own in a manner by the cultivation of the lands, by rendering them more fertile than they were, and in actually multiplying his people, wherein the real force and true riches of a state consist; and which can never fail to happen when the people of country reap a reasonable advantage from their labour.

It was in the second Punic war, that Hiero

gave distinguished proofs of his attachment to the Romans.t As soon as he received advice of Hannibal's arrival in Italy, he went with his fleet well equipped to meet Tiberius Sem-, pronius, who was arrived at Messina, to offer that consul his ser. vices, and to assure him that, advanced in age as he was, he would show the same zeal for the Roman people as he had formerly done in his youth in the first war against the Carthaginians. He took upon him to supply the consul's legions, he troops of the allies, with corn and clothes at his own expense. Upon the news re

A. M. 3783. Ant. J. C. 218.

. Cic. Orat, in Ver. de frum. 11. 14.

Liv.l. xi. 1. 50, 56.

[ocr errors]

ceived the same instant, of the adyantage gained by the Roman over the Carthaginian fleet, tbe consul thanked the king for lig advantageous offers, and inade no use of them at that time.

Hiero's inviolable fidelity towards the Romans,* which is very remarkable in his character, appeared still more conspicuously after their defeat near the lake of Thrisymenus. They had already lost three battles against Hannibal, each more unfortunate and more bloody than the other. Hiero, in that mournful conjuncture, sent a fleet laden with provisions to the port of Ostia. The Syracusar ambassadors, when introduced to the senate, told them, “ That Hiero their master had been as sensibly afflicted with their last disgrace, as if he had suffered it in his own person. That though he well knew, that the grandeur of the Roman people was almost more worthy of admiration in times of adversity, than after the most sig; nal success; he had sent them all the aid that could be expected from a good and faithful ally, and earnestly desired the scnate would not refuse to accept it. That they had particularly brought a Victory of gold, that weighed three hundred pounds, which the king hoped they would vouchsafe to receive as a favourable augury, and a pledge of the vows which he made for their prosperity, That they had also imported three hundred thousand bushels of wheat, and two hundred thousand of barley; and that if the Roman people desired a greater quantity, Hiero wou'd cause as much as they pleased to be transported to whatever places they should appoint. That he knew the Roman people employed none in their armies but citizens and allies; but that he had seen light-armed strangers in their camp. That he had therefore sent them a thousand archers and slingers, who might be opposed successfully to the Baleares and .Moors of Hannibal's army."-They added to this aid a very salutary piece of advice, which was, that the prætor, who should be sent to command in Sicily, might de. spatch a fleet to Africa, in order to find the Carthaginians such employment in their own country, as might put it out of their powe er by that diversion to send any succours to Hannibal.

The senate answered the king's ambassadors in very obliging and honourable terms, “ That Hiero acted like a very generous prince, and a most faithful ally: that from the time he had contracted an alliance with the Romans, his attachment for them had been constant and unalterable; in fine, that in all times and plaços he had powerfully and magnificently succoured them: that the pen. ple had a due sense of such generosity: that some cities of Italy had already presented the Roman people with gold, who, after having expressed their gratitude, had not thonght fit to accept that the Victory was too favourable an augury not to be received: that they would place hor in the Capitol, that is to say, in the temple of the most high Jupiter, in order that she might establish

*49. do # 37.

it :

there her fixed and lasting abode.” All the corn and barley on board the ships, with the archers and slingers, were sent to the consuls.

Valerius Maximus* makes an observation here, upon the noble and prudent liberality of Hiero; first, in the generous design be forms, of presenting the Romans with three hundred and twenty pounds weight of gold; then in the industrious precaution he uses, to prevent them from refusing to accept it. He does not offer thein that gold in specie; he knew

the exceeding delicacy of the Roman people too well for that; but under the form of a Victory, which they dared not refuse, upon account of the good omen it seemed to bring along with it.

It is extraordinary to see a prince, whose dominions were situate as Syracuse was, in regard to Carthage, from which it had every thing to tear, at a time when Rome seemed near her ruin, continue unalterably faithful, and declare openly for her interests, notwith standing all the dangers to which so daring a conduct exposed him. A more prudent politician, to speak the usual language, would perhaps have waited the event of a new action, and not have been so hasty to declare himself without necessity, and at his extreme peril. Such examples are the more estimable for being rare and almost unparalleled.

I do not know, liowever, whether, even in good policy, Hiero ought not to have acted as he did. It would have been the greatest of all misfortunes for Syracuse, had the Carthaginians entirely ruined, or even weakened the Romans too much. That city would have immediately felt all the weight of Carthage; as it was situated over-against it, and lay highly convenient for strengthening its commerce, securing to it the empire of the sea, and establishing it firmly in Sicily, by the possession of the whole island. It would therefore have been imprudent to suffer such allies to be ruilied by the Carthaginians, who would not have been the better friends to the Syracusans for having renounced the Romans by force. It was therefore a decisive stroke, to fly immediately to the aid of the Roinans; and as Syracuse would necessarily fall after Rome, it was absolutely requisite to hazard every thing, either to save Rome, or fall with her.

If the facts, which history has preserved of so long and happy & reign, are few, they do not give us the less idea of this prince, and ought to make us exceedingly regret the want of more particular information concerning his actions.

The sum of a hundred talents (a hundred thousand crowns,) which he sent to the Rhodians, and the presents he made them after the great earthquake, which laid waste their island, and threw

* Trecenta millia modiůni tritici, et slucenta millia hordei, aurique ducenta et quadraginta pondo urbi nostræ muneri misit. Neque ignarus verecundiæ majorum nostro rum, quod nollet accipere, in habitum id Victoriæ formavit, ul. eos religione nutos, munlicentlå sud uti cogeret: voluntate mittendi portus, iterum providentă cavendi ne poritteretur, liberalis. "Val. Mer, l. 1v. c. 8, 1 Polyb. l, v. p. 429.


« IndietroContinua »