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Terence

Terence Terence[1†]

Publius Terentius Afer, better known as Terence, was an African Roman playwright during the Roman Republic[1†]. His comedies were performed for the first time around 166–160 BC[1†]. Terence was born in or near Carthage or in Greek Italy to a woman taken to Carthage as a slave[1†]. His cognomen Afer suggests he lived in the territory of the Libyan tribe called by the Romans Afri near Carthage prior to being brought to Rome as a slave[1†].

Early Years and Education

Publius Terentius Afer, known as Terence, was born around 195 or 185 BC[1†][2†][3†][4†]. His exact birth date is disputed, with some sources suggesting 195 BC[1†][3†], while others propose 185 BC[1†][5†]. He was born in or near Carthage or in Greek Italy to a woman taken to Carthage as a slave[1†]. His cognomen Afer suggests he lived in the territory of the Libyan tribe called by the Romans Afri near Carthage prior to being brought to Rome as a slave[1†]. However, it is also possible that ancient biographers’ reports that Terence was born in Africa are an inference from his name and not independent biographical information[1†].

Terence was brought to Rome as a slave by Terentius Lucanus, an otherwise unknown Roman senator who was impressed by his ability[1†][2†][6†]. Lucanus provided Terence with a liberal education, which was unusual for a slave at the time[1†][2†][6†][4†]. This education likely included a comprehensive study of the Greek language and literature, as well as Roman law and philosophy[1†][2†]. Impressed by Terence’s abilities, Lucanus eventually granted him his freedom[1†][2†][6†][4†].

The early years of Terence’s life played a significant role in shaping his future career. His experiences as a slave, his exposure to diverse cultures, and his comprehensive education all contributed to his unique perspective and voice as a playwright[1†][2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Terence’s career as a dramatist was both prolific and influential. During his short life, he produced six plays, which were performed for the first time around 166–160 BC[2†][1†]. The plays are as follows:

Terence’s plays were long regarded as models of pure Latin and deeply influenced the development of Western comedy[2†][7†]. His works focused primarily on man, his personality, and reactions to entanglement in everyday and unusual problems[2†][8†]. His play, Eunuchus, was so successful that it achieved a repeat performance and record earnings for Terence[2†].

Despite his early death, Terence’s influence on literature and drama was profound. His plays were heavily used to learn to speak and write in Latin during the Middle Ages and Renaissance Period, and in some instances were imitated by William Shakespeare[2†][1†]. His comedies form the basis of the modern comedy of manners[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Terence’s body of work consists of six plays, all of which have survived to the present day[1†][2†][3†][8†][9†]. These plays were first performed between 166 and 160 BC[1†][2†][3†]. Here is a summary of his main works:

Each of these plays showcases Terence’s ability to create complex characters and humorous situations, while also exploring deeper themes of human nature and societal norms[1†][2†][3†][8†][9†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Terence’s work is characterized by its focus on the comedy of manners[3†][10†]. His plays are known for their complex characters and humorous situations, while also exploring deeper themes of human nature and societal norms[3†][10†][11†][6†][12†].

While Terence is often compared to his predecessor Plautus, he is considered to have a different style. Terence is seen as less boisterous than Plautus, with a greater focus on consistency of plot and characterization[3†][6†]. His work is often described as giving near-perfect form and expression in Latin to the comedy of manners[3†][11†].

Terence’s plays were heavily used to learn to speak and write in Latin during the Middle Ages and Renaissance Period, and in some instances were imitated by William Shakespeare[3†]. His work has had a lasting impact, forming the basis of the modern comedy of manners[3†][10†].

Despite his early death, Terence’s influence on Roman literature and drama was significant[3†][10†]. His plays have survived intact, providing valuable insight into Roman comedy and theatre[3†][10†].

Personal Life

Terence was brought to Rome as a slave, where he was educated and then freed on account of his learning[3†]. After writing six comedies, Terence left Rome for Greece, still not yet twenty-five years of age[3†][13†]. He died on the return journey[3†][13†]. It is thought that he died due to shipwreck or disease[3†][1†].

He left a daughter, who married into an equestrian family[3†][13†]. He also left a small estate near the temple of Mars[3†][13†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Terence’s work was not only popular in ancient Rome but also in the Middle Ages and later[8†]. His comedies were long regarded as models of pure Latin and deeply influenced the development of Western comedy[8†][7†]. His plays were heavily used to learn to speak and write in Latin during the Middle Ages and Renaissance Period, and in some instances were imitated by William Shakespeare[8†][1†]. Terence used elegant Latin, and in his works, he focused primarily on man, his personality, and reactions to entanglement in everyday and unusual problems[8†].

One famous quotation by Terence reads: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”, or “I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.” This appeared in his play Heauton Timorumenos[8†][1†]. This quote encapsulates the humanistic values that Terence’s plays espouse, and it continues to resonate today.

Terence’s plays form the basis of the modern comedy of manners[8†][2†]. His ability to depict human characters and dilemmas with truth and insight has ensured the enduring popularity of his plays. Despite his early death, Terence left a significant legacy in the world of literature.

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Terence [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Terence: Roman dramatist [website] - link
  3. Oxford Bibliographies - Terence - Classics [website] - link
  4. University of Reading - Research at Reading - Terence - Curiosi [website] - link
  5. Encyclopedia.com - Publius Terentius After (Terence) [website] - link
  6. TheatreHistory.com - Publius Terentius Afer ("Terence") [website] - link
  7. HyperHistory.com - TERENCE [website] - link
  8. IMPERIUM ROMANUM - Publius Terence Afer [website] - link
  9. Encyclopedia.com - Terence [website] - link
  10. Utha State University - Mark Damen - Department of History - 414 Roman Comedy II (Terence) [website] - link
  11. Oxford Scholarly Editions - Oxford Classical Texts: P. Terenti Afri: Comoediae - Terence [Publius Terentius Afer] [website] - link
  12. Oxford Scholarly Editions - Andria - Terence [Publius Terentius Afer] [website] - link
  13. Cambridge University Press - Terence: Eunuchus - Chapter: Introduction [website] - link
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