Born: c. 361 BC
Birthplace: Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Died: c. 263 BC
Location of death: Athens, Greece
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: Ancient Greece
Executive summary: Greek poet of the New Comedy
Philemon, Greek poet of the New Comedy, was born at Soli in Cilicia, or at Syracuse. He settled at Athens early in life, and his first play was produced in 330 BC. He was a contemporary and rival of Menander, whom he frequently vanquished in poetical contests. Posterity reversed the verdict and attributed Philemon's successes to unfair influence. He made a journey to the east, and resided at the court of Ptolemy, king of Egypt, for some time. Plutarch relates that on his journey he was driven by a storm to Cyrene, and fell into the hands of its king Magas, whom he had formerly satirized. Magas treated him with contempt, and finally dismissed him with a present of toys. Various accounts of his death are given; a violent outburst of laughter, excess of joy at a dramatic victory, or a peaceful end while engaged in composing his last work. Of the ninety-seven plays which he is said to have composed, the titles of fifty-seven and considerable fragments have been preserved. Some of these may have been the work of his son, the younger Philemon, who is said to have composed fifty-four comedies. The Merchant and The Treasure of Philemon were the originals respectively of the Mercator and Trinummus of Plautus. The fragments preserved by Stobaeus, Athenaeus and other writers contain much wit and good sense. Quintilian assigned the second place among the poets of the New Comedy to Philemon, and Apuleius, who had a high opinion of him, has drawn a comparison between him and Menander.
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