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1. Philoxenus, the son of Euletidas, was a native of Cythera, or, as others said, of Heracleia on the Pontus (Suid. s. v.); but the former account is no doubt the correct one. We learn from the Parian Marble (No. 70) that he died in Ol. 100. B. C. 380, at the age of 55; he was, therefore, born in Ol. 86. 2, B. C. 435. The time when he most flourished was, according to Diodorus (14.46), in Ol. 95. 2, .100.398.

The brief account of his life in Suidas involves some difficulties; he states that, when the Cythereans were reduced to slavery by the Lacedaemonians, Philoxenus was bought by a certainly Agesylas, by whom he was brought up, and was called Μύρμηξ : and that, after the death of Agesylas, he was bought by the lyric poet Melanippides, by whom he was also educated. Now there is no record of the Lacedaemonians having reduced the Cythereans to slavery; but we know that the island was seized by an Athenian expedition under Nicias, in B. C. 424 (Thuc. 4.53, 54; Diod. 12.65; Plut. Nic. 6); and therefore some critics propose to read Ἀθηναίων for Λακεδαιμονίων(Meineke, Fragm. Com. Graec. vol. iv. p. 635). This solution is not quite satisfactory, and another, of much ingenuity, is proposed by Schmlidt (Dithyramb. pp. 5. 6); but it is not worth while here to discuss the question further, since the only important part of the statement, namely, that Philoxenus was really a slave in his youth, is quite sustained by other testimonies, especially by the allusions to him in the comic poets (see Hesych. s. υ. Δούλωνα ; Meineke, I. c.). Schmidt (pp. 7, 8) very ingeniously conjectures that there is an allusion to Philoxenus in the Frogs of Aristophanes (Frogs 1506), in the name Μύρμηκι, which we have seen that Suidas says to have been given to him by his first master, and which belongs to a class of words which seem to have been often used for the names of slaves. Others, however, suppose the name to have been a nicknamne given to him by the comic poets, to express the intricacy of his musical strains, the ε᾽κτραπέλους μυρμηκιάς, as Pherecrates calls them (see below).

He was educated, says Suidas, by Melanippides, of course in that poet's own profession, that of dithyrambic poetry, in which, if the above interpretation of the allusion in the Frogs be correct, he had already attained to considerable eminence before B. C. 408; which agrees very well with the statement of Diodorus (i. c.), according to which he was at the height of his fame seven years later. Pherecrates also attacked him in his Cheiron, as one of the corruptors of music; at least Plutarch applies to him a part of the passage; and if this application be correct, we have another allusion to his name Μύρμηξ, in the mention of ε᾽κτραπέλους μυρμηκιάς ( Pllt. de Mus. 30, p. 1146, as explained and corrected by Meineke, Frug. Com Graec. vol. ii. pp. 326-335). In the Daitales of Aristophanes, which was also on the prevalent corruptions of poetry and music, and which seems to have been acted some little time after the Frogs, though Philoxenus is not mentioned by name, there are passages which are, to all appearance, parodies upon his poem entitled Δεῖπνον (Fr. xii. xiii. ed. Bergk, ap. Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec. vol. ii. pp. 1009, 1010). In the Ecclesiazusae also, B. C. 392, there is a passage which is almost certainly a similar parody (vv. 1167-1178; Bergk, Comment. de Reliq. Comoed. Att. Antiq. p. 212). There is also a long passage in the Phaon of the comic poet Plato, which seems to have been acted in the year after the Ecclesiazusae, B. C. 391, professing to be read from a book, which the person who has it calls Φιλοξένου καινή τις ο᾽ψαρτυσία which is almost certainly a pairody on tice same poem, although Athenaeus and some modern critics suppose the allusion to be to a poem by Philoxenus, the Leucadian, on the art of cookery. It is true that the latter was known for his fondness of luxurious living; but the coincidence would be too remarkable, and the confusion between the two Philoxeni utterly hopeless, if we were to suppose, with Schmidt and others, that they both wrote poems of so similar a character about the same time. (Meineke, Frag Com. Grauc. vol. ii. pp. 72-674; Bergk, Comment. pp. 211, 212 Schmidt, Dithgratmb. p. 11, &c.)

These testimonies all point to the very end of the fifth and the beginning of the fourth centuries B. C., as the time when Philoxenus flourished. There is, indeed, a passage in the Clouds (332), which the scholiast explains as referring to him, but which must allude to Philoxenus the Leucadian, if to either, as Philoxenus of Cythera was only in his 11th year at the time of the first exhibition of the Clouds, and in his 15th at the time of the second. Possibly, however, the comment results from a mere contusion in the mind of the scholiast. who, seeing in the text of Aristophanes a joke on the voracity of the dithyrambic poets of his day, and having read of the gluttony of Philoxenus of Leucadia, identified the latter with Philoxenus the dithyrambic poet, and therefore supposed him to be referred to by Aristophanes.

At what time Philoxenus left Athens and went to Sicily, cannot be determined. Schmidt (p. 15) supposes that he went as a colonist, after the first victories of Dionysius over the Carthaginians, B. C. 396; that he speedily obtained the favour of Dionysius, and took up his abode at his court at Syracuse, the luxury of which furnished him with the theme of his poem entitled Δεῖπνον. However this may be, we know that he soon offended Dionysius, and was cast into prison; an act of oppression which most writers ascribe to the wounded vanity of the tyrant, whose poems Philoxenus not only refused to praise, but, on being asked to revise one of them, said that the best way of correcting it would be to draw a black line through the whole paper. Another account ascribes his disgrace to too close n intimacy with the tvrant's mistress Galateia; but this looks like a fiction, arising out of a misunderstanding of the object of his poem entitled Cyclops or Galateia. It appears that, after some time, he was released from prison, and restored outwardly to the favour of Dionysius; buteither in consseqiuence of some new quarrel, or because he had a distrust of the tyrant's feelings towards him, he finally left his court: other accounts say nothing of his reconciliation, but simply that he escaped from prison, andx went to the country of the Cythereans, where he composed his poem Galateia (Schol. ad Aristoph. Plut. 290)' According to Suidas he went to Tarentum (s. i. Φιλοξένοι γραμμα.τιον). There is a curious story related by Plutarch, that he gave up his estate in Sicily, and left the island, in order that he might not be seduced, by the wealth he derived from it, into the luxury which prevailed around hiln (Plut. de Vit. Aer. alien. p. 831). Schmidt endeavours to reconcile this statement with the former, by supposing that, after he left the court of Dionysius. he resided for some time on his Sicilian estate, and afterwards gave it up, in the way mentioned by Plutarch, and then departed finally from the island. It is doubtful where the last years of his life were spent whether in his native island, whither the scholiast just qupted says that he fled, or at Ephesus, where Suidas states that he died, and whither Schmidt thinks it likely that he may have gone, as the worship ot Dionysus prevailed there. In this point, however, as in so many others, we encounter the difficulty arising from the confusion of the two Philoxeni, for the Leucadian is also said to have spent the latter part of his life in Ephesus.

It is time to dismiss these doubtful questions; but still there is one tradition respecting Philoxenus, which passed into a proverb, and which must not be omitted. It is said that, after his quarrel with Dionysius at Syracuse, and during his subsequent residence at Tarentum or Cythera, he received an invitation from the tyrant to return to his court, in reply to which he wrote the single letter O, that is, either as the ancient mode of writing ου, or, as some think, what Philoxenus wrote was 8, as the contracted sign for ου᾽. Hence a flat refusal was proverbially called Φιλοξένον γραμμάτιον (Suid. s.v. Schmidt, p. 17).

Respecting the works of Philoxenus, Suidas relates that he wrote twenty-four dithyrambs, and ai genealogy of the Aeacidae. The latter poem is not mentioned by any other writer; but another poem, which Suidas does not mention, and which it is hardly likely that he reckoned among the twenty-four dithyrambs, is the Δεῖπνον already mentioned, which appears to have been the most popular of his works, and of which we have more fragnimets than of any other. These fragments, which are almost all in Athenaeus, are so corrupted, owing to the very extraordinary style and phraseology, which the poet purposely adopted, that Casaubon gave up the emendation of them as hopeless (Animnad. in Ath. iv. p. 470). Contributions to their restoration have, however, been made by Jacohs, Schweighauser, and Fiorillo, in their respective annotations upon Athenaeus, and by Bergk, in thie Act. Soc. Gr. Lips. for 1836; and recently most of the fragments have been edited by Meineke (Fra. Com. Graec. vol. iii. Epimetrumn de Philoxeni Cgticrii Convivio, pp. 635-646, comp. pp. 146, 637, 638, 639, and vol. ii. p. 306), and thle whole by Bergk (Poet. Lyr. Graec. pp. 851-860), and by Schmidt (Dithyramb. pp. 29-51), who has also added a discussion onl the metre, dialect, and style of the poem (pp. 52-54). The poem is a most minute and satirical description of a banquet, written in a style of language of which no idea can bie formed without reading it, but of which the following specimen may convey some slight notion (5.9.):-- “παντεπαλέΞ,λιπαροΥ τ̓ εΞ ἐγχελΩνΟς ἀρίστων”, with which a line from the parody of it by Aristophanes, in the lecl&csiatzusue may be compared (5.1170):--


and so on through six lines, forming but one word.

Of the dithyrambs of Philoxeims, by far the most important is his *κύκλωψ Γαλάτεια, the occasion of his composing which is variously related, but the most probable account has been alread by given. Aelian (Ael. VH 12.44) calls it thle most beautiful of his poems, and Hermiesianax refers to it in terms of the highest praise (Ath. xiii. p. 598e.; Fr. l, ed. Bach). Its loss is greatly to be lamented. The few fragments which remain are collected by Bergk (Poet. Lyr. Graec. L. c.) and by Schmidt, who has added an interesting discussion respecting its plan (Dithyramb. pp. 54-68). The scholiast on the Plutus (I. c.) calls this poem a drama; and several other writers call Philoxenus a tragic poet; but this is probably only one of several instances in which the dithyrambic poets have been erroneously represented as tragedians (see Kayser, Hist. Grit. Trag. Graec. p. 262). We have a few other fragments of the poems of Philoxenus (pp. 68, 69), andt the following titles of four others of his dithyrambs, though even these are not free from doubt--Μυσοί, Σύρος, Κωμαστής, Φαέθων.

Of the character of the music to which his dithyrambs were set, we have little other information than the statement that they were publicly chanted in the theatres by the Arcadian youth on certain days of the year (Aristot. Pol. 8.7; Plb. 4.20). He was, however, as we have already seen, included in the attacks which the comic poets made onl all the musicians of the day, for their corruptions of the simplicity of the ancient music ; and there are several passages in Plutarch's treatise onl music, describing the nature of those inovations, in which he followed and even went beyond his master Melanippides, and in which Timotheus again vied with him (Plut. de Mus. 12, 29, 30, 31; Schmidt, pp. 72, 73). A curious story is told of his musical composition by Aristotle, who, in confirmation of the statement that the dithyramb belongs essentially to the Phrygian mode, relates that Philoxenus attempted to compose one of his dithyrambs in the Dorian, but that it fell back by the force of its very nature into the proper Phrygian harmony (Aristot. Pol. 8.7.12). In an obscure passage of Pollux (Onom. 4.9. s. 65, ed. Bekker) the Locrian harmony is stated to ibe his invention; and the Hypodorian has also been ascribed to him (Schmidt, pp. 73, 74).

There is a passage respecting his rhythms in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (de Comp. Verb. p. 131, Reiske).

We have abundant testimony to the high esteem in which the ancients held Philoxenus, both during his life and after his death. The most remarkable eulogy of him is the passage in which the comic poet Antiphases contrasts him with the musicians who camrie after him (Ath. xiv. p. 643). This, and the testimonies of Machon, Aelian, and others, are given fully by Schmidt (pp. 71, 72). Alexander the Great sent for his poems during his campaigns. in. Asia (Plut. Alex. 8, de Fort. Alex. p. 355a.) : the Alexandrian grammarians received him into the canon; and, moreover, the very attacks of the comic poets are evidence of his eminence and popularity, and the more so in proportion to their vehemence.

The most important works upon Philoxenus are those of D. Wyttenbach, in his Miscellanea Doctrinae, ii. pp. 64-72; Burette, Sur Philoxène, in his Rèmarques sur la, Dialogue de Plutarche touchant la Musique, in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Insc. vol. xiii. pp. 200, &c.; Luetke, Dissert. de Graec. Dithyramb. pp. 77, &c. Berol. 1829; L. A. Berglein, De Philoxeno Cytherio Dithyramborum Poeta, Götting. 1843, 8vo.; G. Bippart, Philoxeni, Timothei, Telestis Dithyrambographorum Reliquiae, Lips. 18143, 8vo.; G. M. Schmidt, Diatribe in Dithyrambum Poetarunmque Dithyrambicorum Reliquias, c. i. Berol. 1845; the passages already referred to, and others, in the works of Meineke and Bergk, on Greek Comedy; the Histories of Greek Poetry, by Ulrici and Bode; and Bernhardy, Gesch. d. Griech. Litt. vol. ii. pp. 548-551.

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  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 8.1342b
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.65
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.46
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.54
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.53
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.20
    • Plutarch, Nicias, 6
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 8
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.44
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