Philemon (Greek: Φιλήμων; c. 362 BC – c. 262 BC) was an Athenian poet and playwright of the New Comedy. He was born either at Soli in Cilicia or at Syracuse in Sicily but moved to Athens some time before 330 BC, when he is known to have been producing plays.
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.
Surviving titles and fragments
Of his ninety-seven works, fifty-seven are known to us by titles and fragments. Two of his plays were the basis for two Latin adaptations of Plautus (Mercator being adapted from Emporos, and Trinummus from Thesauros).
- William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, v. 3 (1870), p. 261.
- Text adapted from Harry Thurston Peck (1898). Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York: Harper and Brothers.