II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World > 5. The Hellenistic World, to 30 B.C.E. > h. Sicily
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 354–347)
h. Sicily
AGATHOCLES made himself tyrant of Syracuse in consequence of a civil war (c. 323–316) in which, as a democratic leader, he had executed and expelled the Syracusan oligarchs, dividing their property among the poor. He established Syracusan suzerainty over eastern Sicily.  1
The exiled oligarchs appealed to Carthage whose general, Hamilcar, defeated Agathocles at the Himera River and besieged Syracuse. In 310 Agathocles slipped across to Africa and attacked Carthage. The siege of Syracuse was lifted, and Agathocles maintained himself in Africa until 307, when his army, under his sons, was annihilated during his absence.  2
Agathocles came to terms with Carthage and the oligarchs and took the title of king. In the meantime, the Tarentines had made peace with the Samnites (c. 320) but were attacked by the Lucanians and eventually called in Agathocles for help.  3
Agathocles arrived in Italy (c. 300), established his power in Bruttium, but was called back to Syracuse, where he died in 289. He bequeathed freedom to the Syracusans, who restored the democracy. A certain group of the Campanian mercenaries of Agathocles, calling themselves Mamertines (“sons of Mars”), seized Messana.  4
The Tarentines, angered by Roman occupation of towns in southern Italy, sunk four Roman ships that had violated a treaty by sailing into Tarentine waters. They then drove a Roman garrison from Thurii. When Rome declared war, they called in Pyrrhus (280). After victories over the Romans, Pyrrhus campaigned against the Carthaginians in Sicily (279–276). He returned to Italy, was defeated by the Romans, and departed (275), leaving southern Italy under the Romans and much of Sicily under the Carthaginians.  5
Hiero II made himself tyrant of Syracuse, defeated the Mamertines, and took the title of king (270). He joined the Carthaginians in attacking the Roman force which occupied Messana in 264. When he was defeated and besieged in Syracuse, he made peace with Rome (263). At the end of the First Punic War (241) (See 264–241), Hiero's kingdom encompassed about a quarter of Sicily; most of the rest became Rome's possession. Denied the possibility of expansion by Rome, Hiero pursued a peaceful policy and Sicily prospered for a quarter century. He died in 215 and was succeeded by his grandson Hieronymus. (See The Punic Wars)  6
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.