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Philo'stratus or Philostratus the Lemnian

3. The LEMNIAN. The account of the Philostrati given by Suidas, to which it is here necessary to return, is that the son of Verus, the first Philostratus, lived in the time of Nero. His son, the second Philostratus, lived till the time of Philip. The third was the grand-nephew of the second, by his brother's son, Nervianus, and was also his son-in-law and pupil. He, too, practised rhetoric at Athens; and he died and was buried at Lemnos.


According to Suidas, Philostratus the Lemnian wrote :--Εἰκόνας, Παναθηναϊκόν, Τρωικόν, Παράφρασιν τῆς Ὁμήρου ἀσπίδος, Μελέτας. And some attribute to him the lives of the sophists generally assigned to his grand-uncle.

Problems with the Εἰκόνες

This account is palpably inconsistent with itself, as it makes a man who lived in the time of Nero, A. D. 54-168, the father of another who was alive under Philip, A. D. 244-249. Besides, the connection between the second and the third Philostratus is unintelligible, and, if we are to take every thing as it stands, is contradicted by a passage in the Εἰκόνες of the author last-mentioned, where he speaks of the second as Μητροπάτωρ, which Fabricius, following an alteration of Meursius on the text of Suidas, translates avunculus. Those difficulties are rendered insuperable by the fact that the second Philostratus, in his Lives of the Sophists though he speaks of an Egyptian and a Lemnian Philostratus, does not give the remotest hint that his father had ever practised his own art. He was sufficiently impressed with the honour of the profession, which he often magnifies; and he shows his sense of this in his dedication of the Lives of the Sophists, in his allusion to the descent of Antoniiis Gordianus the consul from Herodes Atticus, whom he there expressly names "the sophist." It is inconceivable, then, that he should never have alluded to the distinctions gained, and the works written by his own father. With regard to the third Philostratus, he repeatedly names a Lemnian of that name, whose intimate friend he was. But he classes him along with other intimate friends, of whom, at the close of the work, he declines to say anything, on the ground of that very intimacy, -- but not a word of relationship. No shifting of the names, such as that adopted by Meursius, and followed by Vossius and others, of referring the lives of the sophists to the third and not the second Philostratus, removes these difficulties, which are increased by the singular coincidence of three generations born in Lemnos, teaching in Athens, then in Rome, then returning to Lemnos, to perpetuate Lemnian sophists. If the Εἰκόνες attributed to the third Philostratus be actually his, then μητροπάτωρ stares us in the face, and, to make the tale intelligible, we must alter the text of Suidas as Meursius does, and understand the word in an unusual sense, or disbelieve Suidas in an important portion of his evidence, as is done by Kayser. But the truth seems to be that the mention of two other Philostrati, in the Lives of the Sophists, and the very probable occurrence of imitations of the writings of the biographer, whose works, from the unbroken chain of quotations in succeeding authors, we know to have been exceedingly popular, led Suidas into an error which has been the source of so much perplexity. We can easily believe that, finding many works ascribed to men of that name, with fictitious genealogies, purposely contrived, he carelessly assumed the truth of the title, and inserted the name in his list without inquiry.

Confining ourselves to the evidence of the biographer, we find another distinguished sophist of his time, who was his intimate friend, and may have been a relation, though he takes no notice of it. He uniformly calls him the Lemnian. The first notice that we have of him is that when twenty-two years old he received instructions at the Olympic games, held A. D. 213 (see Clinton, Fasti Rom. p. 225), from the aged and magnanimous Hippodromus (V. S. 2.27.3). He received exemption from public duties at the hands of Caracalla, whom Philostratus calls Antoninus, the son of Julia, τῆς φιλοσόφου,--an exemption generally attached to the rhetorical chair of Athens, but, on this occasion, withheld from Philiscus, the professor, and bestowed on Philostratus. The Lenmian was then twenty-four years old, A. D. 215 (2.30). He once found Aelian reading with great vehemence a declamation against an unmanly emperor (Γύννικος), recently deceased. Philostratus rebuked him, saying, "I could have, admired you if you had attacked him in his lifetime; for only a man can assail a living tyrant, any one can when dead" (2.32.2). Vossius and others had fallen into the error of supposing that this tyrant was Domitian, but Perizonius pointed out the impossibility of a man who was twenty-four years old in the reign of Caracalla, being placed near the time of an emperor dead upwards of 110 years before. He conjectures (and his idea has since then been universally acquiesced in) that it was Elagabalus, slain A. D. 22, whom Aelian had attacked (V. H. praefat. p. 50). At the close of his work, Philostratus the biographer praises his powers in forensic, popular, and extemporaneous eloquence, in rhetorical exercises, and for his writings, and naming him with Nicagoras and Apsines, he says, οὐκ ἐμὲ δεῖ γράφειν, καὶ γὰρ ἂν καὶ ἀπιστηθείην ὡς χαρισάμενος, ἐπειδὴ φιλία μοι πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἦν. It has been held that this last cause infers the death of the Lemnian, previously to the finishing of these memoirs. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. v. p. 555.) But this by no means follows. Among the parties mentioned is Nicagoras, of whom he expressly says, that he is (ἐστί) herald in the Eleusinian rites (Kayser has ἐστέφθη, not on the best authority). Then χαρισάαενος, in its plain meaning, would lead us to suppose that Philostratus was afraid of appearing to flatter, not the dead, but the living. And as to ἦν, that is accounted for by the indirect narration, and as preceded by ἂν ἀπιστηθείην. From this then we can infer noting as to the time of his death. But Suidas says he died and was buried in Lemnos.

It is hardly possible that he can have been a grandson of the biographer, as Kayser in his preface supposes, as the latter was writing vigorously in th>e reign of Philip (A. D. 244-249), when, according to the computation already given, the Lemnian, born in 191, would have been between 53 and 58 years old. We have already seen that the biographer notices no relationship. Hence the Prooemium to the Εἰκόνες, printed along with the Εἰκόνες of the elder writer, is highly suspicious. He mentions that the work of the same nature, written bv his namesake and grandfather τοὐμῷ ὁμωνύμῳ καὶ μητροπάτορι, led him to undertake his. If so we must add another to the Philostrati, and suppose that the Lemnian married the biographer's daughter, and that this writer was the issue of the marriage. But the truth is, that although this work is not destitute of merit, it has very much the appearance of a clever imitation by a later sophist, who found Philostratus a convenient name. This is confirmed by the fact, that while the Εἰκόνες of the elder writer furnish favourable materials for imitation, quotation, and reference to subsequent poets, collectors, grammarians, and critics, not a single quotation from this by any subsequent writer can be traced, and only three MSS. have yet been discovered.

The writer, whoever he was, after rather a clumsy Prooemium, discusses seventeen pictures, which are almost all mythological, and in describing them he appeals to the poets more than his predecessor does.


From the first, this work has been uniformly printed along with the Εἰκόνες of the other Philostratus.


It formed a part of Blaise de Vigenere's translation into French; with Callistratus, it forms the eighth volume of Jacobs's translation, already mentioned.

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