Encyclopedia of Southern Italy – T

Timasitheos: an athlete of ancient Kroton. He was victor in wrestling at the Olympian Games in 512 BC.

Time calculation: Prior to the Risorgimento, time was calculated using a 24 hour clock. The day began as sunset (referred to as Ave Maria) and progressed from 1 to 24 o’clock. Because the actual time of sunset varied throughout the year, clocks were readjusted every two weeks. After the unification of Italy, this practice was officially replaced by the standard method of time-keeping with each day beginning at midnight. The old system, however, remained in common use especially among the lower classes. It long remained in use in Sicily.

Timoleon: (b. c394 BC, Corinth; d. 337 BC, Syracuse). Liberator of Sicily. Born into one of Corinth’s most notable families, Timoleon was praised for the great courage he showed in battle when he saved the life of his brother Timophanes at great risk to himself. Later, however, when Timophanes attempted to overthrow the democratic government of Corinth and set up a tyranny, Timoleon was forced to kill his kill. This action created a dilemma for the Corinthians. On one hand, Timoleon had saved their democracy, but on the other he had committed fratricide, one of the worst crimes in the Greek world, to do so. In 344 BC, while this debate was still unresolved, a deputation from Syracuse arrived at Corinth. The envoys desperately request help from the Corinthians to settle the terrible factional conflict that was then tearing Syracuse and the rest of Greek Sicily apart. For the Corinthians this request was a perfect way to settle their own problems over Timoleon’s fate. It was decided that he should be sent to Sicily at the head of a small force in an attempt to bring peace there. There were those who must have honestly believed that Timoleon’s talents could accomplish this seemingly impossible undertaking, while others believed that it would prove to be a suicide mission. Either way, their own problem over Timoleon’s fate was solved.

                At the time of Timoleon’s expedition, Greek Sicily was in the grip of a contest between Hicetas and Dionysius the Younger over the control of Syracuse. The Siciliot Greek population, which had suffered so greatly from this conflict, saw Timoleon as a savior. Despite the small size of his force, he was able to drive both of the would-be tyrants from Syracuse. He then set about returning the stricken city to normalcy and peace. Nearly depopulated by the violent chaos of the previous years, Syracuse needed a new influx of people if it were to survive. Timoleon sent out word that all those who had suffered exile were now free to return home. He also encouraged new colonists from the other cities of Greek Sicily, from Italy, and from mainland Greece to relocate to Syracuse. For the next two years Timoleon worked tirelessly on rebuilding Syracuse’s size and strength, on rewriting the city’s legal codes, and on establishing a new constitution based on democratic principles.

                Timoleon’s achievements soon caught the attention of the Carthaginians who controlled the western portion of Sicily. It had been to their advantage to have Greek Sicily weak and divided. They were able to maintain firm control over their holdings free from any threat by the Greeks and, at the same time, exert their own influence on the petty tyrants who dominated the Siciliot Greek cities. Now, the stability which Timoleon was bringing to Syracuse was seen as a serious threat to Carthaginian power. Should he return Syracuse to its former glory, he could use it as a base for uniting the whole of Greek Sicily. Before it was too late, the Carthaginians decided to take direct action. A massive army, 80,000 strong, was organized and placed under the command of Hasbrubal and Hamilcar. This force was assigned the mission of invading eastern Sicily and ending Greek power there once and for all. Faced with this threat, Timoleon was able to raise a force of only about 12,000 men. Nonetheless, in 339 BC, he marched to face the invaders. When the battle as the river Crimissus began, the Carthaginians seemed to had all the advantages and expect a quick and easy victory. The battle, however, ended in one of the greatest victories ever won by a Greek army over a non-Greek “barbarian” force. The key to the Greek victory was simple; Timoleon was a military genius who few generals could ever hope to equal.