previous next


Φιλήμων), literary.

1. The first in order of time, and the second in celebrity, of the Athenian comic poets of the New Comedy, was the son of Damon, and a native of Soli in Cilicia, according to Strabo (xiv. p.671) : others make him a Syracusan; but it is certain that he went at an early age to Athens, and there received the citizenship (Suid. Eudoc. Hesych., Anon. de Com. p. xxx.). Meineke suggested that he came to be considered as a native of Soli because he went there on the occasion of his banishment, of which we shall have to speak presently; but it is a mere conjecture that he went to Soli at all upon that occasion; and Meineke himself withdraws the suggestion in his more recent work (Frag. Com. Graec. vol. ii. p. 52).

There can be no doubt that Philemon is rightly assigned to the New Comedy, although one authority makes him belong to the Middle (Apul. Flor. § 16), which. if not a mere error, may be explained by the well-known fact, that the beginning of the New Comedy was contemporary with the closing period of the Middle. There is, however, nothing in the titles or fragments of Philemon which can be at all referred to the Middle Comedy. He was placed by the Alexandrian grammarians among the six poets who formed their canon of the New Comedy, and who were as follows :--Philemon, Menander, Diphilus, Philippides, Poseidippus, Apollodorus. (Anon. de Com. p. xxx. τῆς δὲ νέας κωμῳδίας γεγόνασι μὲν ποιηταὶ ξδ᾽, ἀξιολογώτατοι δὲ τούτων Φιλήμων, Μένανδρος, Δίφιλος, Φιλιππίδης, Ποσείδιππος, Ἀπολλόδωρος; comp. Ruhnken, Hist. Crit. Orat. Graec>. p. xcv.) He flourished in the reign of Alexander, a little earlier than Menander (Suid.), whom, however, he long survived. He began to exhibit before the 113th Olympiad (Anon. l.c.), that is, about B. C. 330. He was, therefore, the first poet of the New Comedy 1, and shares with Menander, who appeared eight years after him, the honour of its invention, or rather of reducing it to a regular form; for the elements of the New Comedy had appeared already in the Middle, and even in the Old, as for example in the Cocalus of Aristophanes, or his son Araros. It is possible even to assign, with great likelihood, the very play of Philemon's which furnished the first example of the New Comedy, namely the Hypobolimaeus, which was an imitation of the Cocalus. (Clem. Alex. Stromn. vi. p. 267; Anon. de Vit. Arist. pp. 13, 14. s. 37, 38.)

Philemon lived to a very great age, and died, according to Aelian. during the war between Athens and Antigonus (ap. Suid. s. v.), or, according to the more exact date of Diodorus (23.7), in Ol. 129. 3, B. C. 262 (see Wesseling, ad loc.), so that he may have exhibited comedy nearly 70 years. The statements respecting the age at which he died vary between 96, 97, 99, and 101 years (Lucian, Maicrob. 25; Diod. l.c. ; Suid. s. v.). He must, therefore, have been born about B. C. 360, and was about twenty years older than Menander. The manner of his death is differently related; some ascribing it to excessive laughter at a ludicrous incident (Suid. Hesych. Lucian, l.c. ; V. Max. 9.12. ext. 6); others to joy at obtaining a victory in a dramatic contest (Plut. An Seni sit Respubl. gerend. p. 785b.); while another story represents him as quietly called away by the goddesses whom he served, in the midst of the composition or representation of his last and best work (Aelian, apud Suid. s. v. ; Apuleius, Flor. 16). There are portraits of him extant in a marble statue at Rome, formerly in the possession of Raffaelle, and on a gem : the latter is engraved in Gronovius's Thesaurus, vol. ii. pl. 99. (See Meineke, Men. et Phil. Reliq. p. 47.)

Although there can be no doubt that Philemon was inferior to Menander as a poet, yet he was a greater favourite with the Athenians, and often conquered his rival in the dramatic contests. Gellius (17.4) ascribes these victories to the use of unfair influence (ambntiu gratiaque et facticonibus), and tells us that Menander used to ask Philemon himself, whether he did not blush when he conquered him. We have other proofs of the rivalry between Menander and Philemon in the identity of some of their titles, and in an anecdote told by Athenaeus (xiii. p. 594d.). Philemon was, however, sometimes defeated; and it would seem that on one such occasion he went into exile for a time (Stob. Serm. xxxviii. p. 232). At all events he undertook a journey to the East, whether from this cause or by the desire of king Ptolemy, who appears to have invited him to Alexandria (Alciphr. Epist. 2.3); and to this journey ought no doubt to be referred his adventure with Magas, tyrant of Cyrene, the brother of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Philemon had ridiculed Magas for his want of learning, in acomedy, copies of which he took pains to circulate; and the arrival of the poet at Cyrene, whither he was driven by a storm, furnished the king with an opportunity of taking a contemptuous revenge, by ordering a soldier to touch the poet's throat with a naked sword, and then to retire politely without hurting him; after which he made him a present of a set of child's playthings, and then dismissed him. (Plut. de Cohib. Ira, p. 458a., de Virt. Mor. p. 449e.)


Philemon seems to have been inferior to Menander in the liveliness of his dialogue, for his plays were considered, on account of their more connected arguments and longer periods, better fitted for reading than for acting (Demetr. Phal. de Eloc. § 193). Apuleius (l.c.) gives an elaborate description of his characteristics :--“Reperias tamen apud ipsum multos sales, argument lepide inflexa, agnatos lucidle explicatos, personas rebus competentes, sententias vitae congruentes; joca non infra soccum, seria non usque ad cothurnum. Rarae apud illum corruptelae : et, uti errors, concessi amores. Nec eo minus et leno perjurus, et amrator fervius, et servulus callidus, et amica illudens, et uxor inhibens, et mater indulgens, et patruus objurator, et odalis opitulator, et miles proeliator (gloriator ?) : sed et parasiti edaces, et parentes tenaces, et meretrices procaces.

The extant fragments of Philemon display much liveliness, wit, elegance, and practical knowledge of life. His favourite subjects seem to have been love intrigues, and his characters, as we see from the above extract, were the standing ones of the New Comedy, with which Plautus and Terence have made us familiar. The jest upon Magas, already mentioned, is a proof that the personal satire, which formed the chief characteristic of the Old Comedy, was not entirely relinquished in the New; and it also shows the eagerness with which the Athenians, in their pride of intellectual superiority, displayed their contempt for the semi-barbarian magnificence of the Greek kings of the East; another example is shown by the wit in which Philemon indulged upon the tigress which Seleucus sent to Athens. (Ath. xiii. p. 590a.; Meineke, Men. et Phil. Reliq. p. 372, Frag. Com. Graec. vol. iv. p. 15.)

Lists of titles

The number of Philenon's plays was 97 (Diod. 23.7; Anon. de Com. p. 30; Suid. s. v. as amended by Meineke, p. 46). The number of extant titles, after the doubtful and spurious ones are rejected, amounts to about 53; but it is very probable that some of these should be assigned to the younger Philemon. The following is a list of the titles of those plays which are quoted by the ancient writers, but a few of which are still considered doubtful by Meineke :--Ἄγροικος, Ἀγύρτης, Ἄδελφοι, Αἰτωλός, Ἀνακαλύπτων, Ἀνανεουμένη, Ἀνδροφόνος, Ἀποκαρτερῶν, Ἄπολις, Ἁρπαζόμενος, Αὐλητής, Βαβυλώνιος, Γάμος, Ἐγχειρίδιον, Ἔμπορος, Ἐξοικιζόμενος, Ἐπιδικαζόμενος, Εὔριπος, Ἐφεδρῖται, Ἔφηβος, Ἥρωες, Θηβαῖοι, Θησαυρός, Θυρωρός, Ἰατρός, Καταψευδόμενος, Κοινωνοί, Κόλαξ, Κορινθία, Μετίων Ζώμιον, Μοιχός, Μυρμιδονές, Μυστίς, Νεαίρα, Νεμόμενοι, Νόθος, Νύξ, Παγκρατιαστής, Παιδάριον, Παῖδες, Παλαμήδης, Πανήγυρις, Παρεισιών, Πιττοκοπούμενος, Πτερύγιον, Πτωχὴ Ῥοδία, Πυρρός, Πυρφόρος, Σάρδιος, Σικελικός, Στρατιώτης, Συναποθνήσκοντες, Συνέφηβος, Ὑποβολιμαῖος, Φάσμα, Φιλόσοφοι, Χήρα. Of all these plays, those best known to us are the Ἔμπορος and Θησανρός, by their imitations in the Mercator and Trinummus of Plautus. The μυρμιδονές furnishes one of the instances in which poets of the New Comedy treated mythological subjects. Respecting the supposed subjects of the other plays see Meineke, and the article in Ersch and Gruber's Encyklopädie.


The fragments of Philemon have been printed with those of Menander in all the editions mentioned in the article MENANDER.

Further Information

For notices of the works upon Philemon, as well as Menander, see the prefisce to Meineke's Menandri et Philemonis Reliquaiae, and the articles in Hoffmann's Lexicon Bibliographicum.

Confusion with other figures whose names begin with Philo-

Many of the testimonres respecting Philemon are rendered uncertain by the frequently occurring confusion between the names Philemon, Philetaerus, Philetas, Philippides, Philipus, Philiscus, Philistion, Philon, Philoxenus. and others with the same commencement, that is, with the initial syllable Phil. which is often used in MSS. as an abbreviation of these names. Even the name of Diphilus is sometimes confounded with Philemon, as well as with Philon (see Meineke, Men. et Phil. Reliq. pp. 7-11). One of the most important instances in which this confusion has been made is in the title of a collection of fragments, arranged in the way of comparison with one another, under the title Σύγκρισις Μενάνδρου καὶ Φιλιστίωνος, which ought undoubtedly to be καὶ Φιλήμονος. (See further under PHILISTION.)

1 * Respecting the error by which Philippides is placed before him, see PHILIPPIDES.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
360 BC (1)
330 BC (1)
262 BC (1)
hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 17.4
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.12
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: