Terentius Afer, Publius
, usually called in English Terence. Our principal source of information regarding the life of P. Terentius Afer is an extract from Suetonius's work De Viris Illustribus, preserved by Donatus in the introduction to his commentary on Terence (see Suet. p. 291, Roth). Some of the statements contained in this life are confirmed by later writers, and light is thrown on the literary and personal relations of the poet by the prologues to the different plays. From these sources, chiefly, the facts of his life, so far as they are known, have been gleaned, and are in brief as follows: Terence was a native of Carthage (though his cognomen, Afer, suggests that he was of African [Libyan], not Phnician, parentage). He came to Rome as a slave, where he became the property of the senator Terentius Lucanus, who, impressed by the natural gifts of the young African, had him educated, and afterwards gave him his freedom. How he came to Rome is uncertain. The suggestion that he was a captive taken in war is discredited by the fact that he lived within the period beginning with the close of the Second Punic War (B.C. 201), and ending with the commencement of the Third (B.C. 149)a fact noted by Fenestella ( Suet. p. 292, Roth). It is possible, however, that he was purchased by Lucanus from a slave-dealer who either caught him or bought him in Africa (see Teuffel-Schwabe, Rom. Lit. 102, 3). According to the custom of the day he took the nomen of his former master; but his praenomen may have been received from another patron, who, it has been thought, was Scipio Africanus the Younger. He is described as of medium stature, graceful in person, and of dark complexion ( Suet. p. 294, Roth). His personal attractions and the fact of his African birth won for him the esteem and confidence of Scipio Aemilianus, through whom and the comic poet Caecilius he became intimate with Gaius Laelius, Furius Philus, and other members of the younger circle of literary men at Romemen who loved Greek literature for its own sake and lent the weight of their influence against the sentiment, prevalent at Rome since the days of Cato , that the pursuit of Greek culture and learning tended to luxury and the corruption of morals. Sulpicius Gallus, Quintus Fabius Labeo , and Marcus Popilius, men of consular rank, and distinguished for their literary attainments, were also among his friends and admirers. [figure in text: P. Terentius Afer.]
A pretty but apocryphal story is told by Suetonius (p. 292, Roth) in reference to his first play, the Andria, or Maid of Andros. On presenting it to the aediles for acceptance he was bidden by them to take it for judgment to Caecilius, then an old man. Terence entered the presence of Caecilius when the latter was at dinner, and being in mean attire was not received with very marked demonstrations of respect. Accordingly he proceeded to read his play, seated on a subsellium or stool placed at the foot of the festal couch, but had not gone far with his recitation when he was invited by the literary veteran to recline with him at table. The reading continued until the play was finished, when Caecilius again expressed his approval and delight. As Caecilius died in 168, and the Andria was first exhibited in 166, this story is regarded by some critics as doubtful; but the substance of it is given in the Eusebian Chronicle, and it may easily have happened that the Andria was ready for representation two years before its actual appearance on the stage. Now it was more particularly to please such men as Caecilius and Scipio, and others already named, who favoured a strict adherence to Greek models, that Terence wrote his comedies, and it would have been natural that before publishing his compositions he should read them in the presence of his noble friends and avail himself of their observations and suggestions. Such a practice would account in part for the genuine Roman character of Terence's style and language. But that his plays were actually written for him by Scipio and Laeliusa charge brought against him by his rivals is not fully sustained by anything that we know. The charge was asserted by one Luscius Lanuvinus, who is referred to in Terence's prologues as malivolus vetus poeta. This malignant old poet was at the head of the opposite party, which contended vigorously for a close imitation of the earlier Latin comedians, and resented the innovations of what may be called the Greek school. His enmity, however, was largely ignored by Terence, who refused either to confirm or deny the charge of plagiarism (see Prol. to Adel. 15 foll.). This ret [p. 1539]
icence has had the effect of lending an air of probability to the charge. It was no doubt owing, however, to a disinclination openly to avow that which might give offence to men whose good will he could not afford to lose; or else to an unwillingness to make public denial of what he considered to be unworthy of serious notice. Another sin laid at the door of our poet by his enemies was the practice of contaminatio. Contamination was the process of combining parts of two or more plays in one. It afforded opportunity to work up a more elaborate plot, and to introduce greater variety of incident and character, than a strict adherence to a single original would have done; but the practice was a dangerous one, as it often led to accidental contradictions and inconsistencies in the plot. Terence readily admits the charge, and defends it in his prologues.
After producing six comedies, between B.C. 166 and 160, Terence went to Greece, in order, we are told, to escape suspicion of plagiarism, or, as is more credible, to study Greek life and institutions, with the object of representing them more accurately on the Roman stage (see Suet. pp. 293-294, Roth). The best manuscripts state that he set out in his twenty-fifth year; inferior manuscripts say in his thirty-fifth. If the former are to be relied on, Terence must have been born in B.C. 185, which was also the year of Scipio's birth. This would make Terence only nineteen years old in B.C. 166, the year in which his first play was brought out. Now it is highly improbable that a composition so finished in style, and so true in its delineation of human character, as the Andria should have been the work of so youthful a writer. It is extremely natural, on the other hand, that his well-known intimacy with Scipio should have led to the supposition that the two men were contemporaries, and Suetonius quotes Cornelius Nepos as affirming that Terence, Scipio, and Laelius were of the same age ( Suet. p. 292, Roth). On the contrary, Fenestella (an antiquarian of the Augustan period) is also cited by Suetonius as contending that the poet was older than his two friends. Everything considered, we are inclined to place the year of Terence's birth considerably earlier than B.C. 185, and it is not unlikely that the number XXXV, already alluded to as possibly representing his age at the time of the journey to Greece, gives the real clue to the situation, in spite of the fact that it occurs only in interpolated manuscripts. Terence never returned to Italy, but died abroad in B.C. 159. Accounts vary as to the place and manner of his death. Quintus Cosconius is authority for the statement that he perished at sea on his way back from Greece, and that his translations of one hundred and eight of Menander's comedies perished with him. This is in part confirmed by Vulcatius, whose lines on the death of Terence are given by Suetonius. Another account relates that he died at Stymphalus in Arcadia (or at Leucadia) from an illness induced by grief at the loss of his baggage and MSS., which he had sent on before him to the ship in which he was to sail for Italy. He died possessed, says Suetonius, of twenty iugera of cultivated land on the Appian Way, and his daughter subsequently was married to a Roman knight; but according to Porcius, whom also our biographer cites, he had not even a hired house whither a slave might report the news of his master's death; of so little profit to him had been his intimacy with Furius, Laelius, and Scipio.
The six comedies written and exhibited at Rome by Terence have been transmitted to us. The following enumeration gives them in the supposed order of their composition according to the Codex Bembinus:
I. The Andria, or Maid of Andros, based on the Ἀνδρία and Περινθία of Menander; first exhibited at the Ludi Megalenses, in B.C. 166.
II. The Eunuchus, based on the Εὐνοῦχος and Κόλαξ of Menander; first performed at the Ludi Megalenses, in B.C. 161.
III. The Heauton Timorumenos, or Self-tormentor, based on the Ἑαυτὸν Τιμορούμενος of Menander; first performed at the Ludi Megalenses, in B.C. 163.
IV. The Phormio (name of the parasite in the play), based on the Ἐπιδικαζόμενος of Apollodorus; first performed at the Ludi Romani, in B.C. 161.
V. The Hecyra, or Mother-in-law, based on the Ἑκυρά of Apollodorus, and (possibly) the Ἐπιτρέποντες of Menander; first brought out at the Ludi Megalenses, in B.C. 165.
VI. The Adelphoe, or Brothers, taken from the Ἀδελφοί of Menander, with one scene added from the Συναποθνῄσκοντες of Diphilus; first performed at the funeral games of Aemilius Paulus, in B.C. 160.
The first performance of the Hecyra was interrupted by the greater attractions of a rope-dancer, as we learn from the prologues to the play (1. 4 and 2. 26). A second attempt at exhibition was made, but without success, at the funeral games of Lucius Aemilius Paulusthe occasion on which the Adelphoe was presented; but it was not until it had been brought before the public for the third timeat the Ludi Romani of the same yearthat the Hecyra met with the desired recognition. (See Dziatzko, Rhein. Mus. 20, 576; 21, 72; Ritschl, Op.ii. 237; Teuffel, 110, 5, 3.)
The external history, so to speak, of the several plays was given in the didascaliae (διδασκαλίαι). These were prefatory notices inserted in the MSS., probably by Roman grammarians of the Augustan age, and when complete were indicative of the following particulars: (1) The name of the play and of the Latin poet;
(2) the name of the public games or festival at which the play was first brought out;
(3) the names of the managers or directors of the games;
(4) the name of the chief actor and director of the troop or grex;
(5) the name of the musical composer;
(6) the species of flute employed;
(7) the title of the Greek original, and the name of its author;
(8) the number indicating the place of the play in the order of composition of the works of the poet;
(9) the names of the consuls for the year in which the play was first exhibited. In examining the didascaliae of Terence we notice particularly that the principal actor and director of the troop for all the plays is Lucius Ambivius Turpio; that the composer of the flute-music is in every instance Flaccus, the slave of Claudius, and that two Greek poets only, Menander and Apollodorus, have been selected by Terence for imitationif we except the small part played by Diphilus in contributing to the Adelphoe.
It is evident that Terence selected as his models the most refined of the writers of the New Comedy of Athens. A comparison of the plays with the fragments of the Greek comic poets (ed. Meineke) sustains this view; and his efforts at refinement [p. 1540]
of speech and manners, together with his fondness in general for things Greek, are especially noticeable in reference to certain peculiarities of treatment. Of all the titles of his plays not one is a purely Latin name; and the same may be said of his dramatis personaeof those at least who speak on the stage. His allusions to Roman customs and institutions are rare as compared with those in Plautus; and his personages, whether rich or poor, slaves or free, speak much alike, their style being that in vogue in the cultivated circles at Athens. Where Plautus uses the language of the street Terence continues to employ that of the salon and the drawing-room. Exaggerated puns and plays on words, newly made forms and forced expressions, coarse humour and obscene talk which abounded in the plays of Plautus and rendered them highly acceptable to the Roman populace, whom Plautus wrote to pleasethese found slight favour with Terence, whose most appreciative audience, as has been already remarked, was of a different stamp. All six comedies are remarkable for their smoothness and moderate tone, as well as for the art with which the plot is unfolded, through the natural sequence of incidents and play of motives. Striking effects, sharp contrasts and incongruities, extravagance of speech and even creative fancy, which characterize the writings of the elder poet, are almost wholly absent. Terence did not aim at originality. His purpose was to present a true picture of Greek life and manners in the purest Latin at his command; and although the attempt was made with a loss to himself of the popularity enjoyed by Plautus, yet if the judgment of succeeding generations is a fair criterion he must be credited with having fully attained his object. The language which he received from Plautus he improved and rendered more artistic by shaping it carefully to the graceful rhythm and diction of the Greek dramatists, notably Menander. This is his great gift to Roman literaturea gift not wholly appreciated until the cultivation of letters, and in particular the study of Terence, had become fashionable in the time of Cicero.
Yet Terence had the faults of his qualities, and his defects are noticed by the literary critics of the century succeeding his own. He is called by Caesar a Menander cut-in-two (O dimidiate Menander, Suet. p. 294, Roth), since he reflects the refinement and finish of the Greek poet, but lacks his force and comic vigour; and Cicero in similar fashion credits him with having given Menander to the Romans, but in subdued tones (sedatis vocibus, Suet. p. 294, Roth). And in accordance with these criticisms we find the manners, habits, and customs of men correctly portrayed in his comedies, but their passions and desires suppressed and moderated. There is much ἦθος, but little πάθος. The lyrical element is much thrust into the background, and the whole metrical structure of the drama is less complex than in the comedies of Plautus. In short, while Plautus wrote always for the people, Terence never failed to keep in view the circle of noblemen and literati, whose encouragement and patronage were his mainstay, and whose culture and learning and breadth of view afforded him a standard and a guide.
While the comedies of Terence were occasionally exhibited after his death (see Dziatzko, Ueber die Terenz. Didaskalien in the Rh. Mus. xx. 570; xxi. 64), they became also a special subject for study with the learned. Suetonius's Life has transmitted to us the names of not a few historians, biographers, and antiquarians, who busied themselves with his writings. Such were Fenestella, Cornelius Nepos, Porcius Licinus, Volcacius Sedigitus, Varro, Santra, Q. Cosconius, Cicero, and Caesar. In the so-called Auctorium Aeli Donati also are the names of the critic Maecius (Tarpa) and the poet Vallegius or Vagellius. The first is reported as saying that there were two poets bearing the name of Terence, the other being a native of Fregellae and distinguished as Terentius Libo. The second is of interest to us as repeating the charge that Terence merely brought out the plays of Scipio. Cicero quotes Terence in his letters and orations (cf. Ad Fam. i. 9, 19; Phil.ii. 6Phil., 15), and Horace in his Satires and Epistles exhibits decided traces of the comic poet's influence and happy expression. This influence was not confined, however, to literature, but extended to the thought and speech of everyday life. Many of Terence's sayings became proverbs, and the oft-quoted verse homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto (Heaut. i. 1, 77) voices a spirit of tolerance and sympathy with human nature which was foreign to the old Roman austerity of character, and may be set down as the lesson taught the Romans by the comedy of Menander.
In later times also the writings of Terence have been pointed to as models of good style and poetic finish. Petrarch speaks of both him and Plautus in terms of unlimited eulogy. The great Latin writers of the Renaissance, such as Erasmus and Melanchthon, made a careful study of his works; and in modern literature the French especially have been his ardent admirers and most frequent imitators. He is described by Montaigne (in the words of Horace) as liquidus puroque simillimus amni, and the same writer adds, he does so possess the soul with his graces that we forget those of his fable (Essays of Montaigne, trans. by Cotton, chap. lxvii.). He is praised by Fnelon above Molire, while Sainte-Beuve accords him unstinted eulogy in his Nouveaux Lundis; and M. Joubert says of Terence: Le miel attique est sur ses lvres; on croirait aisment qu'il naquit sur le mont Hymette. (See Histoire de la Littrature Latine, by E. Neqrette; and Sellar, Roman Poets of the Republic, p. 220.) Michael Baron's L'Andrienne is a reflection of the Andria; Bruey's Le Muet and La Fontaine's L'Eunuque are based on the Eunuchus, and Molire's Le Mariage Forc and Les Fourberies de Scapin remind us of the Phormio. Baron's L'cole des Pres, and Fagan's La Pupille are more than suggested by the Adelphoe, which has also contributed largely to the cole des Maris of Molire. In England the Andria has been imitated in Steele's Conscious Lovers, the Adelphoe in Garrick's Guardian, and the Eunuchus in Sir Charles Sedley's Bellamira; and the Adelphoe has furnished the leading characters in Cumberland's Choleric Man, and Shadwell's Squire of Alsatia. Indeed, dramatic literature in general owes much to Terence, and his influence upon the literary style of later ages has been both marked and extensive.
The farther the language of Terence became removed through time from the speech of everyday life the greater became the demand for exegetical commentaries on the text. Among the names of early commentators is that of M. Valerius Probus of Berytus, who is known to have revised and an [p. 1541]
notated editions of Lucretius, Vergil, Horace, Persius, and Terence in the first century of the Christian era. The commentary of Aelius Donatus, who taught at Rome about the middle of the fourth century A.D., relates to all the plays except the Heauton Timorumenos, and consists in reality of his own work united with that of an elder contemporary named Euanthius. That part which related to the Heauton Timorumenos has been lost, but its place is indifferently supplied by J. Calphurnius, who wrote in the fifteenth century. The commentary of Eugraphius, who is believed to have lived in the sixth century A.D., is of less value to us than that of Donatus. Its main purpose was to lay down for school children the laws of rhetoric as they applied to the study of Terence. The grammarians Servius (who wrote at Rome in the fourth century A.D.) and Priscianus (who wrote in Latin at Constantinople in the latter part of the fifth or the beginning of the sixth century) furnish important information. Other commentators were Aemilius Asper, Helenius Acro, and perhaps Arruntius Celsus the grammarian. Under the head of commentary should fall also the periochae of Sulpicius Apollinaris of the second century A.D., one of which is prefixed to each play and consists of twelve verseseach verse being an iambic senarius. The periochae contain brief summaries of the plots, and, like the didascaliae and the praefationes of Donatus (or Euanthius) connected with them, are of value in determining the meaning of the text.
To our list of early commentaries should be added the scholia of the Codex Bembinus. These are accessible in the special articles of Umpfenbach in Hermes, ii., and Studemund in Neue Jahrb. 97. The scholia of the other manuscripts were thought by Umpfenbach to be unworthy of particular study, but their importance has been demonstrated by Frid. Schlee, whose edition of the Scholia Terentiana existing in MSS. other than the Bembine was published at Leipzig in 1893. See an analysis of the same by S. G. Ashmore in the Class. Rev. vol. viii. No. 8.
The manuscripts of Terence have been separated into three classes. The Codex Bembinus (A) constitutes in itself Class I. The remaining codices have been divided by Umpfenbach into two groups, according to their supposed merit. To the first group, or Class II., belong the Victorianus (D), the Decurtatus (G), and Fragmentum Vindobonense (V). This is the D family. The second group, or Class III., contains the Parisinus (P), Vaticanus (C), Basilicanus (B), Ambrosianus (F), and Riccardianus (E). These are known as the P family. These nine codices are all that were considered by Umpfenbach to be worthy of collation. The most ancient of them is the Bembinus, so called from its owner, Cardinal Pietro Bembo, who lived from A.D. 1470 to 1547. It is also the most trustworthy, because it is the only MS. certainly free from the arbitrary alterations of the unknown grammarian Calliopius, who made an effort to settle the text of Terence in the fourth or fifth century A.D. The MSS. of Class III. contain marginal paintings or miniatures illustrating the scenes in the different plays. Those of the Codex Vaticanus are especially notable (see Frid. Leo, Rh. Mus. xxviii. 335). Twenty-six of them, comprising the complete set for the Phormio, have been reproduced in this country from photographs taken in the Vatican library expressly for the Classical Department of Harvard University, and with the permission of the Cardinal Librarian and the Pope. They are said never before (1893) to have been accurately reproduced. The illustrations in the Codex Parisinus are also very fine, and for this reason the MS. is kept on exhibition in the Salle d'Exposition des Imprims et des Manuscrits in the Bibliothque Nationale at Paris. A description of it is given by Umpfenbach in his preface. As to which of the two groups, Class II. or Class III., is the more authoritative, there is much dispute. For a discussion of the question see Ashmore's review of Schlee's work on the scholia, cited above, and an article by Professor E. M. Pease in the Transactions of the American Philological Association for 1887, vol. xviii. (See also Ashmore's edition of the Adelphoe, pp. li. and lii., Macmillan & Co.) On the whole, it is most probable that the Parisinus (P) and Vaticanus (C) have suffered less from errors creeping into the individual MSS. than the Victorianus (D) and the Decurtatus (G), and that more changes have been made in the archetype of the D family than in the archetype of the P family.
For references to special monographs and articles on the Terentian MSS. see Teuffel-Schwabe, Rom. Lit. 109, 2.
Among modern editors of Terence, Gabriel Faernus (Florence, 1565) is well known for his careful examination of the Bembine Codex, and Guyet (Strassburg, 1657) for his scholarship and readiness to condemn as spurious difficult passages in the text. Richard Bentley is famous for the excellence of his critical commentary, and for the attention he gave to the metres. His editions (London, 1726; Amsterdam, 1727) mark an era in Terentian criticism. Bentley's English manuscripts of Terence are discussed by Umpfenbach ( Phil.xxxii. 442), and by Minton Warren (Amer. Jour. of Philol. iii. 59). For more than a century after Bentley no edition of Terence appeared which could be mentioned as presenting a decided improvement of the text. That by E. St. John Parry (London, 1857) is lacking in critical discernment. That of Fleckeisen (Leipzig, 1857) presents a text which is in advance of that of Parry, for Fleckeisen made good use of a collation of the Bembine Codex by Petrus Victorius, now in the Royal Library at Munich. The critical value of Wagner's edition (London, 1869) is somewhat impaired by carelessuess; but the text contains some improvements upon that of Fleckeisen. The edition of Umpfenbach (Berlin, 1870) was far in advance of all that had gone before it, and is based almost exclusively on the text of the Codex Bembinus. But the latest and most trustworthy text of the six plays is that of Dziatzko (Leipzig, 1884). In this the editor makes full recognition of the labours of Umpfenbach, and attaches due importance to the readings of the Bembine manuscript. Separate annotated editions of the Phormio (1874, revised 1884) and the Adelphoe (1881) have been published by the same scholar; and A. Spengel has edited the Adelphoe and Andria (Berlin, 1879 and 1888 respectively) with considerable critical acumen. Other (collective) editions are the editio princeps (Strassburg, 1470), and those of Muretus (Venice, 1555), F. Lindenbrog (c. Donati et Eugraphii Comm., Paris, 1602; Frankfort, 1623), Pareus (Neap. 1619), Boecler (Strassburg, 1657), Westerhovius (Haag. 1732; reprint by G. Stallbaum, Leipzig, 1830), Lemaire (Paris, 1827), Klotz [p. 1542]
(c. Schol. Donati et Eugraphii, Leipzig, 1838). The editions of Westerhovius and Stallbaum contain also the commentaries of Donatus and Calphurnius.
See Hayley, The Metres of Terence (New York and Boston, 1895); and for references to works on Terentian metres, see Bond and Walpole's ed. of the Phormio, p. xxx., and Ashmore's Adelphoe, p. lvi., besides Teuffel-Schwabe. 111, 7.