He must have enjoyed remarkable popularity, for he repeatedly won victories over his younger contemporary and rival Menander, whose delicate wit was apparently less to the taste of the Athenians of the time than Philemon's more showy comedy. To later times his successes over Menander were so unintelligible as to be ascribed to the influence of malice and intrigue.
Except for a short sojourn in Egypt with Ptolemy II Philadelphus, he passed his life at Athens. He there died, nearly a hundred years old, but with mental vigour unimpaired, about the year 262 BC, according to the story, at the moment of his being crowned on the stage.
Of his ninety-seven works, fifty-seven are known to us by titles and fragments, and two are preserved in the Latin version of Plautus (Mercator being adapted from Emporos, and Trinummus from Thesauros).