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Publius Terentius Afer, comic playwright of the Roman Republic. His comedies were performed for the first time c. 170 - 160 BC, and he died young in 159 BC. He wrote 6 plays, all of which survive. His predecessor Plautus wrote 21 extant plays.

Terence was a slave, later manumitted. He is commonly supposed - based on his approximate age and cognomen, Afer, or "African" - to have been born in Carthage.

Like Plautus, Terence adapted Greek plays from the late phases of Attic comedy. He was more than a translator, as modern discoveries of ancient Greek plays have confirmed. However, Terence's plays use a more convincingly 'Greek' setting rather than Romanizing the characters and the situation.

Terence worked hard to write natural conversational Latin, and most students who persevere long enough to be able to read him in the vernacular find his style particularly pleasant and direct. Aelius Donatus, Jerome's teacher, is but the earliest surviving commentator on Terence's work. His popularity throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is attested by the numerous manuscripts containing part or all of his plays; the scholar Claudia Villa has estimated 650 manuscripts containing his work date from after AD 800. The mediaeval playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim claims to have written her plays so that her nuns would spend less time reading Terence.

The first printed edition of Terence appeared in Strasbourg in 1470, while the first post-antiquity performance of Andria took place in Florence in 1476.


"I am human, and let nothing human be alien to me." - from Heauton timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor)

see also:

Latin literature

External link

The six plays of Terence at The Latin Library: