A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

(Διοκλῆς), a Syracusan, celebrated for his code of laws. No mention of his name occurs in Thucydides, but according to Diodorus he was the proposer of the decree for putting to death the Athenian generals Demosthenes and Nicias. (Diod. 13.19.) He is called by Diodorus upon this occasion the most eminent of the demagogues at Syracuse, and appears to have been at this time the leader of the popular or democratic party, in opposition to Hermocrates. The next year (B. C. 412), if the chronology of Diodorus be correct, a democratic revolution took place, and Diodes was appointed with several others to frame and establish a new code of laws. In this he took so prominent a part, that he threw his colleagues quite into the shade, and the code was ever after known as that of Diodes. We know nothing of its details, but it is praised by Diodorus for its conciseness of style, and the care with which it distinguished different offences and assigned to each its peculiar penalty. The best proof of its merit is, that it continued to be followed as a civil code not only at Syracuse, but in many others of the Sicilian cities, until the island was subjected to the Roman law. (Diod. 13.35.)

The banishment of Hermocrates and his party (B. C. 410; see Xen. Hell. 1.1.27) must have left Diocles undisputed leader of the commonwealth. The next year he commanded the forces sent by Syracuse and the other cities of Sicily to the relief of Himera, besieged by Hannibal, the son of Gisco. He was, however, unable to avert its fate, and withdrew from the city, carrying off as many as possible of the inhabitants, but in such haste that he did not stay to bury those of his troops who had fallen in battle. (Diod. 13.59_61.) This circumstance probably gave rise to discontent at Syracuse, which was increased when Hermocrates, having returned to Sicily and obtained some successes against the Carthaginians, sent back the bones of those who had perished at Himera with the highest honours. The revulsion of feeling thus excited led to the banishment of Diocles, B. C. 408. (Diod. 13.63, 75.) It does not appear whether he was afterwards recalled, and we are at a loss to connect with the subsequent revolutions of Syracuse the strange story told by Diodorus, that he stabbed himself with his own sword, to shew his respect for one of his laws, which he had thoughtlessly infringed by coming armed into the place of assembly. (Diod. 13.33.) A story almost precisely similar is, however, told by the same author (12.19) of Charondas [CHARONDAS], which renders it at least very doubtful as regarduig Diocles. Yet it is probable that he must have died about this time, as we find no mention of his name in the civil dissensions which led to the elevation of Dionysius. (Hubmann, Diokles Gesetzgeber der Syrakusier, Amberg, 1842.)