Philistus, Greek historian of Sicily, was born at Syracuse about the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (432 BC). He was a faithful supporter of the elder Dionysius, and commander of the citadel. In 386 he excited the jealousy of the tyrant by secretly marrying his niece, and was sent into banishment.
He settled at Thurii, but afterwards removed to Adria, where he remained until the death of Dionysius (366). He was then recalled by the younger Dionysius, whom he persuaded to dismiss Plato and Dion. When Dion set sail from Zacynthus with the object of liberating Syracuse, Philistus was entrusted with the command of the fleet, but he was defeated and put to death (356).
During his stay at Adria, Philistus occupied himself with the composition of his history of Sicily in eleven books. The first part (bks. i.—vii.) comprised the history of the island from the earliest times to the capture of Agrigentum by the Carthaginians (406); the second, the history of the elder and the younger Dionysius (down to 363). From this point the work was carried on by Philistus's fellow countryman, Athanas. Cicero who had a high opinion of his work, calls him the miniature Thucydides (pusillus Thucydides). He was admitted by the Alexandrian critics into the canon of historiographers, and his work was highly valued by Alexander the Great.