When Dionysius the tyrant died at last, he was succeeded by his son, a lazy, goodfornothing young man, who was always changing his mind. Every day he had some new fancy, admired something new, or rode some new hobby. As the son’s name was the same as the father’s, the latter is now sometimes known as Dionysius the Elder, while the son is generally called Dionysius the Younger.
The new tyrant had a brotherinlaw named Dion, a good and studious man, who had received an excellent education. Like most rich young Greeks of his day, Dion had gone to Athens to finish his studies; and there he had been a pupil of Plato, the disciple of Socrates.
As Dion was modest, truthful, and eager to learn, he soon became a favorite of Plato, who took great interest in him, and spared no pains to make him a fine scholar and philosopher. When Dion came back to Syracuse, he often spoke with great warmth of his teacher. This so excited the curiosity of Dionysius, the new tyrant, that he longed to see Plato himself. He therefore begged Dion to invite Plato to Syracuse to teach him also.
The young man was very glad to do so. He hoped, that, under the philosopher’s wise teachings, Dionysius would learn to be good and industrious, and thus become a blessing instead of a curse to his people. But Plato was already an old man, and answered that he could not undertake so long a journey at his advanced age.
Dion then wrote again such imploring letters, that the philosopher finally decided to change his mind, and set sail for Syracuse. There he was received at the shore by Dionysius in person, and escorted to the palace. For a short time the tyrant listened with great pleasure to the philosopher’s teachings. Then, growing weary of virtue as of everything else, he suddenly began to reproach Dion for bringing such a tiresome person to court.
All the courtiers had pretended to listen to Plato’s teaching with the greatest interest; but they liked feasting better than philosophy, and now began to make fun of the great Athenian, and to turn him into ridicule. They were so afraid that the virtuous Dion would again win their fickle master’s ear, and induce him to do something really useful and reasonable, that they made up their minds to get rid of him.
By artful slander they soon made Dionysius believe that his brotherinlaw was a traitor, and that his only wish was to take the power, and become tyrant of Syracuse in his stead. Now, these accusations were not true; but Dionysius believed them, and sent Dion into exile, forbidding his wife, who loved him dearly, to go with him, and even forcing her to take another husband instead.
The courtiers wished to revenge themselves for the weary hours they had spent listening to Plato’s beautiful talk, which they were too base to understand, so they now said that he had helped Dion; and they had him first put into prison, and then sold into slavery. Happily, there were some of the philosopher’s friends in town; and they, hearing of this outrage, knew no rest until they had bought his freedom, and sent him back to Athens to end his life in peace.