Terence, 195/185–159 BC

Portrait

Biographical note

Publius Terentius Afer (195/185–159 BC), better known in English as Terence, was a playwright of the Roman Republic. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC, and he died young, probably in Greece or on his way back to Rome. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on, impressed by his abilities, freed him. All of the six plays Terence wrote have survived.

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 convincingly 'Greek' setting rather than Romanizing the characters and situations. 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.

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