Ludi Romani 2767 a.u.c./Plautus Play Exhibition

From NovaRoma
Jump to: navigation, search


About the Exhibition

Following the expansion of the Roman Republic (509–27 BC) into several Greek territories between 270–240 BC, Rome encountered Greek drama.[1] From the later years of the republic and by means of the Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD), theatre spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and reached England; Roman theatre was more varied, extensive and sophisticated than that of any culture before it.[2]

The Ludi Romani first introduced drama to Rome based on Greek drama. After the introduction of the drama in 364, plays were acted at the ludi Romani, and in 214 BC we know that ludi scenici took up four days of the festival.[3] In 161 BC the Phormio of Terence was acted at these games.

While Greek drama continued to be performed throughout the Roman period, the year 240 BC marks the beginning of regular Roman drama.[4] From the beginning of the empire, however, interest in full-length drama declined in favour of a broader variety of theatrical entertainments.[5] The first important works of Roman literature were the tragedies and comedies that Livius Andronicus wrote from 240 BC.[6] Five years later, Gnaeus Naevius also began to write drama.[7] No plays from either writer have survived. While both dramatists composed in both genres, Andronicus was most appreciated for his tragedies and Naevius for his comedies; their successors tended to specialise in one or the other, which led to a separation of the subsequent development of each type of drama.[8]

By the beginning of the 2nd century BC, drama was firmly established in Rome and a guild of writers (collegium poetarum) had been formed.[9] The Roman comedies that have survived are all fabula palliata (comedies based on Greek subjects) and come from two dramatists: Titus Maccius Plautus (Plautus) and Publius Terentius Afer (Terence).[10] In re-working the Greek originals, the Roman comic dramatists abolished the role of the chorus in dividing the drama into episodes and introduced musical accompaniment to its dialogue (between one-third of the dialogue in the comedies of Plautus and two-thirds in those of Terence).[11] The action of all scenes is set in the exterior location of a street and its complications often follow from eavesdropping.[12]

Plautus, the more popular of the two, wrote between 205 and 184 BC and twenty of his comedies survive, of which his farces are best known; he was admired for the wit of his dialogue and his use of a variety of poetic meters.[13] All of the six comedies that Terence wrote between 166 and 160 BC have survived; the complexity of his plots, in which he often combined several Greek originals, was sometimes denounced, but his double-plots enabled a sophisticated presentation of contrasting human behaviour.[14] No early Roman tragedy survives, though it was highly regarded in its day; historians know of three early tragedians—Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius.[15]

From the time of the empire, the work of two tragedians survives—one is an unknown author, while the other is the Stoic philosopher Seneca.[16] Nine of Seneca's tragedies survive, all of which are fabula crepidata (tragedies adapted from Greek originals); his Phaedra, for example, was based on Euripides' Hippolytus.[17] Historians do not know who wrote the only extant example of the fabula praetexta (tragedies based on Roman subjects), Octavia, but in former times it was mistakenly attributed to Seneca due to his appearance as a character in the tragedy.[18]

About the Playwright

Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BC), commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus. The word Plautine refers to both Plautus's own works and works similar to or influenced by his.

Not much is known about Titus Maccius Plautus' early life. It is believed that he was born in Sarsina, a small town in Emilia Romagna in central Italy, in around 254 BC.[19] According to Morris Marples, Plautus worked as a stage-carpenter or scene-shifter in his early years. It is from this work, perhaps, that his love of the theater originated. His acting talent was eventually discovered; and he adopted the names "Maccius" (a clownish stock-character in popular farces) and "Plautus" (a term meaning either "flat-footed" or "flat-eared," like the ears of a hound). Tradition holds that he made enough money to go into the nautical business, but that the venture collapsed. He is then said to have worked as a manual laborer and to have studied Greek drama—particularly the New Comedy of Menander—in his leisure. His studies allowed him to produce his plays, which were released between c. 205 and 184 BC. Plautus attained such a popularity that his name alone became a hallmark of theatrical success.

Plautus's comedies are mostly adapted from Greek models for a Roman audience, and are often based directly on the works of the Greek playwrights. He reworked the Greek texts to give them a flavour that would appeal to the local Roman audiences. They are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature.

Plautus's epitaph read:

postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, Comoedia luget,
scaena est deserta, dein Risus, Ludus Iocusque
et Numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt.
Since Plautus is dead, Comedy mourns,'
Deserted is the stage; then Laughter, Jest and Wit,'
And Melody's countless numbers all together wept.'

Plautus wrote around 130 plays,[20] of which 20 have survived, making him the most prolific ancient dramatist in terms of surviving work. Despite this, the manuscript tradition of Plautus is poorer than that of any other ancient dramatist, something not helped by the failure of scholia on Plautus to survive. The chief manuscript of Plautus is a palimpsest, in which Plautus' plays had been scrubbed out to make way for Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms. The monk who performed this was more successful in some places than others. He seems to have begun furiously, scrubbing out Plautus' alphabetically arranged plays with zest before growing lazy, then finally regaining his vigour at the end of the manuscript to ensure not a word of Plautus was legible. Although modern technology has allowed classicists to view much of the effaced material, plays beginning in letters early in the alphabet have very poor texts (e.g. the end of Aulularia and start of Bacchides are lost), plays with letters in the middle of the alphabet have decent texts, while only traces survive of the play Vidularia.

About the play, Pseudolus

Pseudolus is a play by the ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. It is one of the earliest examples of Roman literature. The play begins with the shortest prologue of any of the known plays of Plautus, though it is not known whether Plautus wrote this prologue himself or if it was added later.

Calidorus, the young son of the Athenian nobleman Simo, laments to his clever slave Pseudolus about how his love, Phoenicium, has just been sold as a slave. The Macedonian general Polymachaeroplagides has bought her from her pimp, Ballio, for 2000 drachmae, and 500 of them are to be delivered that day by messenger. Pseudolus promises his young master Calidorus that he will solve his problem.

An interaction between Ballio, Pseudolus, and Calidorus makes Ballio suspicious of Pseudolus' machinations. Afterwards, Pseudolus asks Calidorus to produce a loyal friend who would be able to help in his plan.

Pseudolus then runs into Simo and one of Simo's friends. Simo has heard that his son has fallen for a prostitute and is trying to raise the money to buy her freedom. Simo bets Pseudolus 2000 drachmae that Calidorus will not successfully save Phoenicium from servitude to the tune of 2000 drachmae.

Meanwhile, Ballio is running around town making birthday preparations (today is his birthday), and he is talking to a cook whom he has just hired. While Ballio is away from home, Pseudolus intercepts the messenger, Harpax, who was sent to deliver the last 500 drachmae and retrieve Phoenicium.

Pseudolus claims to be Ballio's slave, Syrus, and tries to receive the money on his behalf, but Harpax refuses, having been ordered to deliver the money to Ballio alone. Nevertheless, Pseudolus successfully deflects the messenger to a nearby inn where he is instructed to await word from Ballio.

Later, Calidorus produces Charinus, a loyal and wealthy friend, who loans Pseudolus the 500 drachmae that he needs. Charinus further reveals that there is a new foreigner slave in Athens that very few people in Athens know about, and he is reportedly incredibly intelligent.

Pseudolus then finds the slave and instructs him to impersonate Harpax and meet with Ballio. After this meeting, Ballio runs into Simo and they talk about how Calidorus must be crushed and that Phoenicium is on her way to the Macedonian General. Ballio then meets the real Harpax, whom he takes to be an imposter sent by Pseudolus. Ballio and Simo proceed to ridicule Harpax until they realize that he is, in fact, the real messenger and that Pseudolus has already fooled them and obtained Phoenicium.

In the end, Calidorus gets the girl, Ballio has to repay the real Harpax, and Pseudolus wins the bet with Simo. Simo and Pseudolus go out drinking together in the end.

The Presentation of Pseudolus




  1. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 43).
  2. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 36, 47).
  3. Liv. xxiv. 43, 7.
  4. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 43).
  5. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 46–47).
  6. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47).
  7. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47).
  8. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47).
  9. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47–48).
  10. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 48–49).
  11. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49).
  12. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49).
  13. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 48).
  14. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 48).
  15. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49).
  16. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 50)
  17. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49–50).
  18. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 50).
  19. The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (1996) Ed. M.C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers, Oxford University Press, Oxford Reference Online
  20. "FJCL Latin Literature Study Guide". Florida Junior Classical League. Retrieved 2 March 2014.

Personal tools