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Philoxenus of Cythera (435-380 BC) was a Greek dithyrambic poet.

On the conquest of the island by the Athenians he was taken as a prisoner of war 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 Suidas, Philoxenus composed twenty-four dithyrambs and a lyric poem on the genealogy of the Aeacidae. 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 (290).

Another work of Philoxenus (sometimes attributed to Philoxenus of Leucas, a notorious parasite and glutton) is the Aeiirvov (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. The comic poet 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 acted by the Arcadian youth.

Fragments, with life, by G Bippart (1843); T Bergk, Poetae lyrici graeci.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.


Another Philoxenus is mentioned by Plutarch in his works concerning Alexander the Great as an officer of the Macedonian army who had followed Alexander in his campaign and become satrap of Cilicia. According to Plutarch, Philoxenus had sent a letter to Alexander, informing him of the presence of a slave-merchant from Tarentum called Theodorus, who had two extremely handsome boys for sale and was asking Alexander if he was interested in buying them. Plutarch narrates that this caused Alexander's anger, who reprimanded Philoxenus (calling him "most foul among men") for trying to "flatter him with such vile pleasures".

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