LYCOPHRON was a Greek poet who flourished at Alexandria in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-47 n.c.). He was born at Chalcis in Eubcea, and was the son of Lycus. He wrote a number of tragedies, forty-six or sixty-four, and Suidas gives the title of twenty of them. Only a few lines arc preserved of these works, which gained him a place in the Pleiad of Alexandrian tragedians. lie was entrusted by Ptolemy with the task of arranging the comedies in the Alexandrian library, and out of this work grew his treatise 71-epi, Kwia,01.as, in at least eleven books. It seems to have treated of the history of comedy, of the lives of the comic poets, and of various topics subsidiary to the proper understanding of their poems, but nothing has been preserved of the work. One of his poems called Cassandra, containing 1474 lines of iambic, has been preserved entire. It is in the form of a prophecy uttered by Cassandra, and relates the later fortunes of Troy and of the Greek and Trojan heroes. References to various events of mythic and of later time are introduced, and the poem ends with a reference to Alexander the Great, who was to unite Asia and Europe in his world-wide empire. The style, as befits a prophecy, is so enigmatical as to have procured for Lycophron, even among the ancients, the title of the." obscure " (6 crKoretvOs). The poem is evidently intended to display the writer's knowledge of obscure names and uncommon myths ; it . is full of unusual words of doubtful meaning gathered from the older poets, along with many long-winded compounds coined by the author. It has none of the qualities of poetry, and was probably written not for the enjoyment of the public but as a showpiece for the Alexandrian school. It was very popular in the Byzantine period, and was read and commented on very frequently ; the collection of scholia by I. and J. Tzetzes is very valuable, and the MSS. of the Cassandra are numerous. A few neat and well-turned lines which have been preserved from Lycophron's tragedies show a much better style ; they are said to have been. much admired by Menedemus of Eretria, although the poet had ridiculed him in a satyric drama. Lycophron is also said to have been a skilful writer of anagrams, a reputation which does not speak highly for his poetical character.
Two passages of the Cassandra, 1446-50 and 1226-82, in which the career of the Roman people and their universal empire are spoken of, could evidently not have been written by an Alexandrian poet of 250 B. C. Hence it has been maintained by Niebuhr and others that the poem was written by a later poet mentioned by Tzetzes, but the opinion of Welcker is generally counted more probable, that these paragraphs are a later interpolation : a prophetic poem is peculiarly liable to have additions inserted, and the Roman rule was the most natural subject to add. • See Wacker, Griech. Trag. ; Konze, Dc Lyeophronis Dietione, ; and Bernhardy's and other histories of Greek literature.