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date: 04 March 2021


  • Peter G. M. Brown


Terence (Publius Terentius Afer), the Roman playwright, author of fabulae palliatae in the 160s bce. The Life by *Suetonius records that he was born at Carthage, came to Rome as a slave in the household of a senator called Terentius Lucanus, was soon freed, but died still young on a visit to Greece in 159. As usual, we have no way to check this information; his Carthaginian birth (see carthage) may have been an incorrect deduction from his cognomen (Afer, ‘the African’; see names, personal, roman). He was patronized by prominent Romans, and his last play, Adelphoe, was commissioned by P. *Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus and his brother for performance at the funeral games for their father L. *Aemilius Paullus(2) in 160. The previous year, his Eunuchus had been an outstanding success, marked by a repeat performance and an unprecedentedly large financial reward. His one known failure was Hecyra, which twice had to be abandoned in the face of competition from rival attractions (first a tightrope walker and boxers, then a gladiatorial show); Terence's account of these misfortunes in his prologue for the third production is exceptional evidence for conditions of performance at the time.

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