Royal Family of Syracuse
   H I E R O N Y M O S
Back to . . .

Archimedes Home Page

This section . . .

Hiero II
Gelo II

Coronation Coinage (obverse)

Coronation Coinage (reverse)

War Coinage (obverse)

War Coinage (Reverse)

HIERONYMOS (or Hieronymus) was the son of Gelo and Nereis. He succeeded his grandfather Hiero as king of Syracuse in 215 BC when he was about 15 years old. In his will Hiero had installed fifteen guardians over Hieronymos, including Adranodoros and Zoippos, the husbands of Hiero’s two daughters, Damarata and Heraclia. Adranodoros rapidly established himself as Hieronymos’s main counselor at the urging of Damarata.

Hieronymos ascended the throne at a critical time in Syracuse’s history. His grandfather had signed a treaty with Rome some fifty years before and was a loyal ally of Rome. But now Rome and Carthage were in the midst of the Second Punic War and Rome was losing badly following Hannibal’s invasion of Italy (218 BC) and Rome’s catastrophic defeat at Cannae (216 BC). Hieronymos’s father Gelo, who died shortly after Cannae, was in favor of joining the Carthaginian side, as were his uncles, Adranodoros and Zoippos. Hieronymos consequently courted Hannibal and received two of Hannibal’s generals, Hippokrates and Epikydes, as ambassadors to negotiate the terms of a treaty between Syracuse and Carthage. The Romans anxiously observed Hieronymos’s actions and continually pressured him to reaffirm Hiero’s treaty.

Meanwhile the pro-Roman faction in Syracuse was plotting the elimination of Hieronymos, undoubtedly with the assistance of Rome. His royal excesses and erratic temperament contrasted with his grandfather’s restraint and dignity and served to alienate him from the Syracusan citizenry. While on a visit to the neighboring Greek city of Leontini, the plotters assassinated him in 214 BC, just thirteen months after he had assumed power.

Adranodoros attempted to seize power following Hieronymos’s assassination, but he acted too cautiously, against his wife’s better judgment. The pro-Roman faction quickly assassinated him also, along with Themistos, the husband of Hieronymos’s sister Harmonia. They convinced an angry assembly that the royal princesses were to blame for their husbands’ alleged machinations and the assembly put to death Harmonia, Damarata, Heraclia, and Heraclia’s two young daughters. But to the surprise of the pro-Roman faction, Hippokrates and Epikydes were elected magistrates to replace Adranodorus and Themistos on Syracuse’s ruling council.

The Romans now sent Marcus Claudius Marcellus to Sicily to deal with Syracuse. The Syracusan council sent Hippokrates and Epikydes to Leontini to help protect that city, but Marcellus captured it easily. Hippokrates and Epikydes escaped and Marcellus had 2000 Carthaginian sympathizers in Leontini beaten and beheaded. The fall of Leontini and Marcellus’s brutal reprisals hardened the Syracusan resolve. This allowed Hippokrates and Epikydes to gain total control of Syracuse upon their return from Leontini. Marcellus then began his siege of Syracuse in 213 BC.

The coinage during Hieronymos’s thirteen-month reign mirrors the change in allegiance of Syracuse from Rome to Carthage. The coinage at the beginning of his reign, the “coronation” coinage, is in the classic Greek style: refined and idealized. However, toward the end of his reign the “war” coinage is very much in the Carthaginian style: rough and realistic. Hieronymos’s hair style also is transformed from the Greek to the Carthaginian styles of his day.

The reverse of Hieronymos’s coinage features the winged thunderbolt of Zeus, a symbol of vigor and power. The Greek inscription is ΒΑΣΙΛΕΟΣ ΙΕΡΩΝΥΜΟΥ (KING HIERONYMOS in the possessive case). A complete discussion of Hieronymos’s coinage can be found in

The Thirteen-Months Coinage of Hieronymos of Syracuse
by R. Ross Holloway
Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin, 1969

SOURCES (with links to translation references)

LIVY (History of Rome from its Foundation, Book XXIV.4)
On Hieronymos’ ascent to the throne in 215 BC:

In Sicily the situation had been fundamentally changed by the death of Hiero and the transference of power to his grandson Hieronymus, who was hardly yet of an age to bear with any sort of decency even the ordinary responsibilities of an adult, let alone the burden of absolute monarchy. Such as he was, guardians and friends had taken him over only to tumble him headlong into a sink of iniquity. Hiero towards the end of his long life had foreseen the danger, and he is said to have wished to leave Syracuse a free community, to prevent his kingdom, won and built up over the years by honest means and sound government, from falling to pieces in the hands of a boy and becoming a mere mockery. His intention was, however, violently opposed by his daughters [Damarata and Heraclia], who looked forward to a time when the boy would be nominally king but the actual power would be wholly in their own hands and in the hands of their husbands, Adranodorus and Zoippus, who were being left the guardians. It had not been easy for a man in his ninetieth year, surrounded, as Hiero was, day and night by feminine blandishments, to free his mind from its concern with the personal and turn it to public affairs. So it was for this reason that he left the boy fifteen guardians, begging them from his death-bed to maintain inviolate the loyalty which for fifty years he had preserved towards Rome and to persuade his young successor to follow in his footsteps and continue for him to the moral and intellectual training in which he had been brought up.
LIVY (History of Rome from its Foundation, Book XXIV.7)
On Hieronymos’s assassination in 214 BC:
But the gulf was already yawning before Hieronymus’s feet. He had sent Hippocrates and Epicydes, each with a force 2,000 strong, to attack the towns held by the Romans, and had himself with the rest of his army -- in all some 15,000 foot and horse -- proceeded to Leontini. Here the men who had plotted to kill him -- they were all serving with the forces -- took possession of an empty house overlooking a narrow street by which the king used to go down to the forum. The plan was that the rest should wait in the house, armed and ready, for the king to pass, while to one of them as a member of the king’s bodyguard -- his name was Dinomenes -- was assigned the task of finding some means of holding up the crowds of people walking behind the king, just as, in the narrow street, he was approaching the door. All went according to plan: Dinomenes pretended his shoe was tied too tightly and raised his foot to loosen the knot; this stopped the crowd and enabled the king to go so far in front of them that as he passed the house without any guards the attack was made on him, and he was stabbed in several places before help could arrive. There were cries of alarm, and a moment later it was obvious that Dinomenes was deliberately blocking the way. Spears were hurled at him, but, though wounded in two places, he escaped. The king’s attendants, seeing him prostrate on the ground, fled; of the conspirators, some made their way to where the crowds in the forum were rejoicing over their liberty, others hurried to Syracuse to forestall any steps which might be taken by Adranodorus and the other supporters of the king.

In this confused situation Appius Claudius [Pulcher, the Roman praetor in Sicily], who being on the spot could see that war was coming informed the Senate by letter that Sicily was going over to Hannibal and Carthage; at the same time, as a precaution against any move by the Syracusans, he concentrated all his forces at the boundary between the Syracusan kingdom and the Roman-held portion of the island.

LIVY (History of Rome from its Foundation, Book XXVI.30)
On Hieronymos’s assassination in 214 BC (Livy is quoting some pro-Roman Syracusans pleading to the Roman senate for a restoration of their property after the sacking of Syracuse by Marcellus.):
“There were many reasons for the hatred we felt towards Hieronymus and afterwards towards Hippocrates and Epicydes, but the principal one was their abandoning Rome for Hannibal. It was this that led some of the foremost of our younger men to assassinate Hieronymus close to the senate-house, and also induced some seventy who belonged to our noblest houses to form a plot for the destruction of Epicydes and Hippocrates.”
PAUSANIAS (Description of Greece, [6.12.4])
On Hieronymos’s assassination in 214 BC:
He met his end at the hands of Deinomenes, a Syracusan by birth and an inveterate enemy of tyranny, who afterwards, when Hippocrates the brother of Epicydes had just come from Erbessus to Syracuse and was beginning to harangue the multitude, rushed at him with intent to kill him. But Hippocrates withstood him, and certain of the bodyguard over-powered and slew Deinomenes.
LIVY (History of Rome from its Foundation, Book XXIV.5)
On Hieronymos’s character (Livy, a Roman, is particularly hard on this young king who had the audacity to favor Carthage over Rome. Remember that history is written by the victors.):
It would not have been easy for any king, even for one who ruled well and justly, to find favour with the Syracusans after Hiero, who had been so well beloved. But Hieronymus on his very first appearance showed how sadly things had changed. It was as if he were deliberately vicious in order to make people wish his grandfather back again. For many years the Syracusans had known Hiero and his son Gelo dressed like themselves and distinguished by no outward mark of royalty, and now they saw the royal purple, the diadem [a silver or gold headband as Hieronymos wears on his coins], the armed attendants -- even, at times, the young king driving from the palace behind four white horses, like Dionysius the tyrant of old. All this outward show of regal dress and appurtenances was soon followed by behaviour to match: contemptuous treatment of everybody, haughty refusal to listen to advice or complaint, insolent speech, denial of access not only to outsiders but even to his former guardians, strange forms of lust, inhuman cruelty. The result was such universal terror that some of the guardians anticipated the punishment they expected by either flight or suicide.
POLYBIUS (Universal History, Book VII.7)
On Hieronymos’s character:
Some of the historians who have described the fall of Hieronymus have written at great length, and introduced an element of the supernatural into the story by reporting the various prodigies that preceded his reign and the misfortunes that befell the Syracusans. They have painted in dramatic colours the cruelty of his character, and the impious nature of his actions, and finally the strange and terrible circumstances that attended his death, so that to judge from their accounts neither Phalaris nor Apollodorus [two previous Sicilian tyrants] nor any other tyrant would seem to have been more ferocious than he. The fact remains, however, that he was a mere boy when he came to power, and that he lived for no more than thirteen months after his accession. In this space of time it is possible that one or two men may have been tortured and some of his friends or other Syracusans executed, but it is hardly likely that his rule can have been extravagantly wicked or his impiety outrageous. It must be admitted that his character was exceptionally erratic and violent, but it cannot be compared with that of the other tyrants I have named. The truth of the matter, as it seems to me, is that those who write the history of particular episodes, whenever they have to deal with a subject which is narrowly limited in its interest, are compelled by sheer lack of subject-matter to exaggerate the importance of trivial incidents and to write at great length on matters which are scarcely worth mentioning at all. There are some also who make the same kind of mistake through sheer lack of judgement. How much more to the point it would be if the space given by such a writer to those topics which at present merely fill up and spin out his books were devoted to the reigns of Hiero and Gelo without even mentioning Hieronymus! This would at once be more enjoyable for the curious reader and more useful to the student of history.