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Φωκυλίδης), of Miletus, an Ionian poet, contemporary with Theognis, both having been born, according to Suidas (s. v.) in the 55th Olympiad, B. C. 560, which agrees with Eusebius, who places Phocylides at Ol. 60 (B. C. 540) as a contemporary of the lyric poet Simonides.


Epic Poems and Elegies

According to Suidas, he wrote epic poems and elegies ; among which were Παραινέσεις or Γνῶμαι which were also called Κεφάλαια. This gnomic poetry shows the reason why Suidas calls him a philosopher. Most of the few fragments we possess are of this character; and they display that contempt for birth and station, and that love for substantial enjoyment, which always marked the Ionian character. One of his gnomic precepts, on the virtue of moderation, is quoted with praise by Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 4.8) :--
πολλὰ μέσοισιν ἄριστα: μέσος θέλω ἐν πόλει εἶναι.

The didactic character of his poetry is shown by the frequent occurrence of verses beginning, καὶ τόδε φωκυλίδεω. These words no doubt formed the heading of each of those sections (κεφάλαια), in which, as we have seen from Saidas, the poems of Phocylides were arranged.

We possess only about eighteen short fragments of his poems, of which only two are in elegiac metre, and the rest in hexameters.


The editions of them are too numerous to mention; the titles of these editions, and of the versions into Latin, German, French, Italian, English, and Spanish, fill seven columns of Hoffmann's Lexicon Bibliographicum (s.v.). They have, in fact, been included in all the chief collections of the lyric and gnomic poets, from that of Constantine Lascaris, Venet. 1494, 1495, 4to., down to those of Gaisford, Boissonade, Schneidewin, and Bergk.

Spurious works

Some of these collections, however, contain a didactic poem, in 217 hexanmeters, entitled ποίημα νουθετικόν, which is undoubtedly a forgery, made since the Christian era; but the fact of the name of Phocylides being attached to such a composition is a proof of the estimation in which he was held as a didactic poet.

So also, when Suidas states that some of his verses were stolen from the Sibylline Oracles, the meaning is either that some genuine verses of Phocylides had been preserved in that apocryphal collection, or that both the Oracles and the ποίημα νουθετικόν contained some of the same old verses, the true authorship of which was unknown.

Further Information

Fabric. Bil. Graec. vol. ii. p. 720, &c.; Ulrici, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtk. vol. ii. pp. 452-454; Bode, Gesch. d. Lyr. Dicht. vol. i. pp. 243, &c.; Bernhardy, Gesch. d. Griech. Lit. vol. ii. pp. 358-361.


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