The Info List - Terence

--- Advertisement ---

Publius Terentius Afer (/təˈrɛnʃiəs, -ʃəs/; c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC), better known in English as Terence
(/ˈtɛrəns/), was a Roman playwright during the Roman Republic, of Berber descent. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence
to Rome
as a slave, educated him and later on, impressed by his abilities, freed him. Terence
apparently died young, probably in Greece
or on his way back to Rome. All of the six plays Terence
wrote have survived. One famous quotation by Terence
reads: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am human, and I think nothing of which is human is alien to me." This appeared in his play Heauton Timorumenos.[1]


1 Biography 2 Plays 3 Cultural legacy 4 Further reading 5 See also 6 External links 7 References

Biography[edit] Terence's date of birth is disputed; Aelius Donatus, in his incomplete Commentum Terenti, considers the year 185 BC to be the year Terentius was born;[2] Fenestella, on the other hand, states that he was born ten years earlier, in 195 BC.[3] He may have been born in or near Carthage
or in Greek Italy
Greek Italy
to a woman taken to Carthage
as a slave. Terence's 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.[4] This inference is based on the fact that the term was used in two different ways during the republican era: during Terence's lifetime, it was used to refer to non-Carthaginian Libyco-Berbers, with the term Punicus reserved for the Carthaginians.[5] Later, after the destruction of Carthage
in 146 BC, it was used to refer to anyone from the land of the Afri
( Tunisia
and its surroundings). It is therefore most likely that Terence
was of Libyan[6] descent, considered ancestors to the modern-day Berber peoples.[7] In any case, he was sold to P. Terentius Lucanus,[8] a Roman senator, who educated him and later on, impressed by Terence's abilities, freed him. Terence
then took the nomen "Terentius," which is the origin of the present form. He was a member of the so-called Scipionic Circle. When he was 25, Terence
travelled to Greece
and never returned. It is mostly believed that Terence
died during the journey, but this cannot be confirmed. Before his disappearance he exhibited six comedies which are still in existence. According to some ancient writers, he died at sea. Plays[edit]

1496 edition of Terence's Works

Like Plautus, Terence
adapted Greek plays from the late phases of Attic comedy. Terence
wrote in a simple conversational Latin, pleasant and direct. Aelius Donatus, Jerome's teacher, is the earliest surviving commentator on Terence's work. Terence's popularity throughout the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
and the Renaissance
is attested to by the numerous manuscripts containing part or all of his plays; the scholar Claudia Villa has estimated that 650 manuscripts containing Terence's work date from after AD 800. The mediaeval playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim claims to have written her plays so that learned men had a Christian alternative to reading the pagan plays of Terence, while the reformer Martin Luther
Martin Luther
not only quoted Terence
frequently to tap into his insights into all things human but also recommended his comedies for the instruction of children in school.[9] Terence's six plays are:

Andria (The Girl from Andros) (166 BC) Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law) (165 BC) Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor) (163 BC) Phormio (161 BC) Eunuchus
(161 BC) Adelphoe
(The Brothers) (160 BC)

The first printed edition of Terence
appeared in Strasbourg
in 1470, while the first certain post-antique performance of one of Terence's plays, Andria, took place in Florence
in 1476. There is evidence, however, that Terence
was performed much earlier. The short dialogue Terentius et delusor was probably written to be performed as an introduction to a Terentian performance in the 9th century (possibly earlier). Cultural legacy[edit]

Mid-12th century illustrated Latin
manuscript of Terence's Comedies from St Albans Abbey, now held at the Bodleian Library

Due to his clear and entertaining language, Terence's works were heavily used by monasteries and convents during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
and The Renaissance. Scribes often learned Latin
through the meticulous copying of Terence's texts. Priests and nuns often learned to speak Latin
through reenactment of Terence's plays, thereby learning both Latin
and Gregorian chants. Although Terence's plays often dealt with pagan material, the quality of his language promoted the copying and preserving of his text by the church. The preservation of Terence through the church enabled his work to influence much of later Western drama.[10] Terence's plays were a standard part of the Latin
curriculum of the neoclassical period. US President John Adams
John Adams
once wrote to his son, " Terence
is remarkable, for good morals, good taste, and good Latin... His language has simplicity and an elegance that make him proper to be accurately studied as a model."[11] Two of the earliest English comedies, Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer Gurton's Needle, are thought to parody Terence's plays. Due to his cognomen Afer, Terence
has long been identified with Africa and heralded as the first poet of the African diaspora by generations of writers, including Juan Latino, Phyllis Wheatley, Alexandre Dumas, Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
and Maya Angelou. American playwright Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder
based his novel The Woman of Andros on Terence's Andria. Questions as to whether Terence
received assistance in writing or was not the actual author have been debated over the ages, as described in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica:

[In a prologue to one of his plays, Terence] meets the charge of receiving assistance in the composition of his plays by claiming as a great honour the favour which he enjoyed with those who were the favorites of the Roman people. But the gossip, not discouraged by Terence, lived and throve; it crops up in Cicero
and Quintilian, and the ascription of the plays to Scipio had the honour to be accepted by Montaigne
and rejected by Diderot.[12]

Further reading[edit]

Augoustakis, A. and Ariana Traill eds. (2013). A Companion to Terence. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Malden/Oxford/Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Boyle, A. J., ed. (2004). Special
Issue: Rethinking Terence. Ramus 33:1–2. Büchner, K. (1974). Das Theater des Terenz. Heidelberg: C. Winter. Davis, J. E. (2014). Terence
Interrupted: Literary Biography and the Reception of the Terentian Canon. American Journal of Philology 135(3), 387-409. Forehand, W. E. (1985). Terence. Boston: Twayne. Goldberg, S. M. (1986). Understanding Terence. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Karakasis, E. (2005). Terence
and the Language of Roman Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Papaioannou, S., ed. (2014). Terence
and Interpretation. Pierides, 4. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Pezzini, G. (2015). Terence
and the Verb ‘To Be’ in Latin. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. Sharrock, A. (2009). Reading Roman Comedy: Poetics and Playfulness in Plautus
and Terence. W.B. Stanford Memorial Lectures. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.

Library resources about Terence

Online books Resources in your library Resources in other libraries

By Terence

Online books Resources in your library Resources in other libraries

See also[edit]

Translation Metres of Roman comedy Codex Vaticanus 3868 List of slaves Roman Africans

Portals Access related topics

Ancient Rome
portal Biography portal Literature portal Theatre portal Africa portal

Find out more on's Sister projects

Media from Commons Quotations from Wikiquote Source texts from Wikisource

External links[edit]

The six plays of Terence
at The Latin
Library (in Latin). Works by Terence
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Terence
at Internet Archive At Perseus Digital Library:

Andria. Hecyra. Heautontimorumenos. The Eunuch. Phormio. The Brothers.

15th-century scripts from Hecyra and Eunuchus, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Libraries. Terence's works: text, concordances and frequency list (in Latin). The Life of Terence, part of Suetonius's De Viris Illustribus, translated by John C. Rolfe. P. Terenti comoediae cum scholi Aeli Donati et Eugraphi commentariis, Reinhold Klotz (ed.), Lipsiae, sumptum fecitE. B. Schwickert, 1838, vol. 1, vol. 2. SORGLL: Terence, Eunuch 232-264, read in Latin
by Matthew Dillon. Latin
with Laughter: Terence
through Time.


^ Ricord, Frederick W. (1885). The Self-Tormentor (Heautontimorumenos) from the Latin
of Publius Terentius Afer with More English Songs from Foreign Tongues. New York: Charles Scribner's. p. 25. Retrieved 22 January 2018 – via Internet Archive.  ^ Aeli Donati Commentum Terenti, accedunt Eugraphi Commentum et Scholia Bembina, ed. Paul Wessner, 3 Volumes, Leipzig, 1902, 1905, 1908. ^ G. D' Anna, Sulla vita suetoniana di Terenzio, RIL, 1956, pp. 31-46, 89-90. ^ Tenney Frank, "On Suetonius' Life of Terence." The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 54, No. 3 (1933), pp. 269-273. ^ H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Latin
Literature, 1954. ^ Michael von Albrecht, Geschichte der römischen Literatur, Volume 1, Bern, 1992. ^ "...the playwright Terence, who reached Rome
as the slave of a senator in the second century BC, was a Berber", Suzan Raven, Rome
in Africa, Routledge, 1993, p.122; ISBN 0-415-08150-5. ^ Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Lucanus, Terentius" Archived 2011-04-20 at the Wayback Machine., Boston, 1870. ^ See, e.g., in Luther's Works: American Edition, vol. 40:317; 47:228. ^ Holloway, Julia Bolton (1993). Sweet New Style: Brunetto Latino, Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, Essays, 1981-2005. Retrieved 22 October 2014.  ^ John Adams
John Adams
by David McCullough, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2001. Pg 259. ISBN 978-0-684-81363-9 ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Sellar, William Young; Harrison, Ernest (1911). "Terence". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 640. 

v t e

Terence's plays

The Girl from Andros (166 BC) The Mother-in-Law (165 BC) The Self-Tormentor (163 BC) Phormio (161 BC) The Eunuch (161 BC) The Brothers (160 BC)

v t e

Ancient Rome

Outline Timeline


Foundation Kingdom




Pax Romana Principate Dominate Western Empire

fall historiography of the fall

Byzantine Empire

decline fall


History Kingdom Republic Empire Late Empire Senate Legislative assemblies

Curiate Centuriate Tribal Plebeian

Executive magistrates SPQR


Curia Forum Cursus honorum Collegiality Emperor Legatus Dux Officium Prefect Vicarius Vigintisexviri Lictor Magister militum Imperator Princeps senatus Pontifex Maximus Augustus Caesar Tetrarch Optimates Populares Province



Consul Censor Praetor Tribune Tribune
of the Plebs Military tribune Quaestor Aedile Promagistrate Governor


Rex Interrex Dictator Magister Equitum Decemviri Consular Tribune Triumvir


Twelve Tables Mos maiorum Citizenship Auctoritas Imperium Status Litigation


Borders Establishment Structure Campaigns Political control Strategy Engineering Frontiers and fortifications


Technology Army

Legion Infantry tactics Personal equipment Siege engines

Navy Auxiliaries Decorations and punishments Hippika gymnasia


Agriculture Deforestation Commerce Finance Currency Republican currency Imperial currency


Abacus Numerals Civil engineering Military engineering Military technology Aqueducts Bridges Circus Concrete Domes Forum Metallurgy Roads Sanitation Thermae


Architecture Art Bathing Calendar Clothing Cosmetics Cuisine Hairstyles Education Literature Music Mythology Religion Romanization Sexuality Theatre Wine


Patricians Plebs Conflict of the Orders Secessio plebis Equites Gens Tribes Naming conventions Demography Women Marriage Adoption Slavery Bagaudae


History Alphabet Versions

Old Classical Vulgar Late Medieval Renaissance New Contemporary Ecclesiastical

Romance languages



Ammianus Marcellinus Appian Appuleius Asconius Pedianus Augustine Aurelius Victor Ausonius Boëthius Caesar Catullus Cassiodorus Censorinus Cicero Claudian Columella Ennius Eutropius Fabius Pictor Festus Florus Frontinus Fulgentius Gellius Horace Jerome Juvenal Livy Lucan Lucretius Macrobius Marcus Aurelius Martial Orosius Ovid Petronius Phaedrus Plautus Pliny the Elder Pliny the Younger Priscian Propertius Quintilian Quintus Curtius Rufus Sallust Seneca the Elder Seneca the Younger Servius Sidonius Apollinaris Statius Suetonius Symmachus Tacitus Terence Tertullian Tibullus Valerius Antias Valerius Maximus Varro Velleius Paterculus Verrius Flaccus Virgil Vitruvius


Arrian Cassius Dio Diodorus Siculus Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dioscorides Eusebius of Caesaria Galen Herodian Josephus Pausanias Philostratus Phlegon of Tralles Photius Plutarch Polybius Porphyrius Procopius Strabo Zonaras Zosimus

Major cities

Alexandria Antioch Aquileia Berytus Bononia Carthage Constantinopolis Eboracum Leptis Magna Londinium Lutetia Mediolanum Pompeii Ravenna Roma Smyrna Vindobona Volubilis

Lists and other topics

Cities and towns Climate Consuls Distinguished women Emperors Generals Gentes Geographers Institutions Laws Legacy Legions Nomina Tribunes Wars and battles

Fiction Films

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 213181445 LCCN: n79066715 ISNI: 0000 0001 2137 1407 GND: 118621335 SELIBR: 96383 SUDOC: 026672588 BNF: cb118876898 (data) NLA: 35543748 NDL: 00458485 NKC: jn19981002199 ICCU: ITICCUCFIV69531 BNE: XX994147 SN