In the period 608–606 BC a war was conducted by Athens against Mytilene over control of Sigeum. Phrynon was the general of the Athenians. In order to end the conflict quickly, Phrynon accepted the invitation to duel made by the Mytilenean general Pittacus (one of the Seven Sages of Greece). Phrynon was defeated at the duel, because Pittacus had a hidden net beneath his shield and with it caught and killed him. Pittacus thus won the war for his homeland. The aristocrat and poet Alcaeus of Mytilene wrote several poems about this conflict.
The Athenian soldiers received the corpse of their general, and withdrawing from Mytilene carried it back to Athens, where Phrynon was buried with honors.