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Manuel Philes

Born: c. 1275
Died: 1345
Location of death: Constantinople
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Poet

Nationality: Byzantium
Executive summary: Byzantine poet and flatterer

Manuel Philes, of Ephesus, a Byzantine poet. At an early age he removed to Constantinople, where he was the pupil of Georgius Pachymeres, in whose honor he composed a memorial poem. Philes appears to have travelled extensively, and his writings contain much information concerning the imperial court and distinguished Byzantines. Having offended one of the emperors by indiscreet remarks published in a chronography, he was thrown into prison and only released after an abject apology. Philes is the counterpart of Theodoras Prodromus in the time of the Comneni; his character, as shown in his poems, is that of a begging poet, always pleading poverty, and ready to descend to the grossest flattery to obtain the favorable notice of the great. With one unimportant exception, his productions are in verse, the greater part in dodecasyllabic iambic trimeters, the remainder in the fifteen-syllable "political" measure.

Philes was the author of poems on a great variety of subjects: on the characteristics of animals, chiefly based upon Aelian and Oppian, a didactic poem of some 2000 lines, dedicated to Michael Palaeologus; on the elephant; on plants; a necrological poem, probably written on the death of one of the sons of the imperial house; a panegyric on John Cantacuzene, in the form of a dialogue; a conversation between a man and his soul; on ecclesiastical subjects, such as church festivals, Christian beliefs, the saints and fathers of the church; on works of art, perhaps the most valuable of all his pieces for their bearing on Byzantine iconography, since the writer had before him the works he describes, and also the most successful from a literary point of view; occasional poems, many of which are simply begging letters in verse.

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