Philoxenus of Cythera

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Philoxenus of Cythera (Greek: Φιλόξενος ὁ Κυθήριος; c. 435 – 380 BC) was a Greek dithyrambic poet, an exponent of the "new music."


On the conquest of the island by the Athenians Philoxenus was taken as a slave to Athens, where he came into the possession of the dithyrambic poet Melanippides, who educated him and set him free. Philoxenus afterwards resided in Sicily, at the court of Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, whose bad verses he declined to praise, and was in consequence sent to work in the quarries. After leaving Sicily he travelled in Greece, Italy and Asia, reciting his poems, and died at Ephesus.

According to the Suda, Philoxenus composed twenty-four dithyrambs and a lyric poem on the descendants of Aeacus.[1] In his hands the dithyramb seems to have been a sort of comic opera, and the music, composed by himself, of a debased character, his masterpiece was the Cyclops, a pastoral burlesque on the love of the Cyclops for the fair Galatea, written to avenge himself upon Dionysius, who was wholly or partially blind of one eye. It was parodied by Aristophanes in the Plutus (388 BC).

Another work of Philoxenus (sometimes attributed to Philoxenus of Leucas, a notorious glutton) is the Deipnon ("Dinner"), of which considerable fragments have been preserved by Athenaeus; this is an elaborate bill of fare in verse, probably intended as a satire on the luxury of the Sicilian court.

The great popularity of Philoxenus is attested by a complimentary resolution passed by the Athenian Senate in 393 BC. A character in a comedy by Antiphanes spoke of him as "a god among men"; Alexander the Great had his poems sent to him in Asia; the Alexandrian grammarians received him into the canon; and down to the time of Polybius his works were regularly learned and annually performed by the young men of Arcadia.


  1. ^ Suda φ 393
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Philoxenus of Cythera". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.