The author of The Deipnosophists was an Egyptian, born in Naucratis, a town on the left side of the Canopic Mouth of the Nile. The age in which he lived is somewhat uncertain, but his work, at least the latter portion of it, must have been written after the death of Ulpian the lawyer, which happened A.D. 228.
Athenaeus appears to have been imbued with a great love of learning, in the pursuit of which he indulged in the most extensive and multifarious reading; and the principal value of his work is, that by its copious quotations it preserves to us large fragments from the ancient poets, which would otherwise have perished. There are also one or two curious and interesting extracts in prose; such, for instance, as the account of the gigantic ship built by Ptolemmus Philopator, extracted from a lost work of Callixenus of Rhodes.
The work commences, in imitation of Plato’s Phaedo, with a dialogue, in which Athenaeus and Timocrates supply the place of Phaedo and Echecrates. The former relates to his friend the conversation which passed at a banquet given at the house of Laurentius, a noble Roman, between some of the guests, the best known of whom are Galen and Ulpian.
Athenaeus was also the author of a book entitled, On the Kings of Syria, of which no portion has come down to us.
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