Terence: Wikis


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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.

One famous quotation by Terence reads: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." This appeared in his play Heauton Timorumenos.



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;[1] Fenestella, on the other hand, states that he was born ten years earlier, in 195 BC.[2]

He may have been born in or near Carthage or in Greek Italy to a woman taken to Carthage as a slave. Terence's ethnonym 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.[3] 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 anyone from the land of the Afri (Africa, meaning Northern Tunisia including Carthage); later, after the destruction of Carthage in 146, it was used to refer to non-Carthaginian Berbero-Libyans, with the term Punicus reserved for the Carthaginians.[4] It is therefore possible that Terence was of Libyan[5] descent, considered ancestors to the modern-day Berber peoples.[6]

In any case, he was sold to Terentius Lucanus, 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.

When he was 25, Terence left Rome and he never returned, after having exhibited the six comedies which are still in existence. According to some ancient writers, he died at sea.

Terence's plays

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. Aelius Donatus, Jerome's teacher, is the earliest surviving commentator on Terence's work. Terence's popularity throughout the 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 800 AD. 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 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.[7]

Terence's six plays are:

The first printed edition of Terence appeared in Strasbourg in 1470, while the first certain post-antiquity 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 ninth century (possibly earlier).

A phrase by his musical collaborator Flaccus for Terence's comedy Hecyra is all that remains of the entire body of ancient Roman music. This has recently been shown to be unauthentic.


  1. ^ Aeli Donati Commentum Terenti, accedunt Eugraphi Commentum et Scholia Bembina, ed. Paul Wessner, 3 Volumes, Leipzig, 1902, 1905, 1908.
  2. ^ G. D' Anna, Sulla vita suetoniana di Terenzio, RIL, 1956, pp. 31-46, 89-90.
  3. ^ Tenney Frank, "On Suetonius' Life of Terence." The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 54, No. 3 (1933), pp. 269-273.
  4. ^ H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Latin Literature, 1954.
  5. ^ Michael von Albrecht, Geschichte der römischen Literatur, Volume 1, Bern, 1992.
  6. ^ "...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 0415081505.
  7. ^ See, e.g., in Luther's Works: American Edition, vol. 40:317; 47:228.

See also

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Publius Terentius Afer, better known as Terence, was a comic playwright of the Roman Republic. His date of birth is -184 in Carthage, he was a berber, but his comedies were performed for the first time ca. 170 BC-160 BC, and he died young in 159 BC.



Andria (The Lady of Andros)

  • Ne quid nimis.
    • Translation: Moderation in all things.
    • Line 61
  • Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit.
    • Translation: Obsequiousness begets friends, truth hatred.
    • Line 68
  • Hinc illae lacrimae.
    • Translation: Hence these tears.
    • Line 126
  • Amantium irae amoris integratio est.
    • Translation: Lovers' quarrels are the renewal of love.
    • Line 555

Heauton Timoroumenos (The Self-Tormentor)

  • Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.
    • Translation: I am human, I consider nothing human is alien to me.
    • Line 77
  • Periclum ex aliis facito tibi quod ex usu siet.
    • Translation: Draw from others the lesson that may profit yourself.
    • Line 221
  • Diem adimere aegritudinem hominibus.
    • Translation: Time removes distress. (Also known as: Time heals all wounds.)
    • Line 421
  • Nil tam difficile est quin quaerendo investigari possiet.
    • Translation: Nothing is so difficult but that it may be found out by seeking.
    • Line 675
  • Ius summum saepe summa est malitia.
    • Translation: Extreme law is often extreme injustice.
    • Alternate: The highest law is often the greatest wrong.
    • Alternate: Extreme justice is often extreme malice.
    • Line 796
  • There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.
    • Line 805
  • Modo liceat vivere, est spes.
    • Translation: While there's life, there's hope.
    • Line 981


  • In fact, nothing is said that has not been said before.
    • Line 41 (Prologue)
  • He is wise who tries everything before arms.
    • Line 789
  • I know the disposition of women: when you will, they won't; when you won't, they set their hearts upon you of their own inclination.
    • Line 812
  • I took to my heels as fast as I could.
    • Line 844
  • Many a time...from a bad beginning great friendships have sprung up.
    • Line 873
  • Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus
    • "Without Ceres (bread) and Bacchus (wine) Venus freezes"
    • Act IV, line 5.


  • Fortis fortuna adiuvat.
    • Translation: Fortune favours the brave.
    • Line 203
  • Quot homines tot sententiae: suo quoique mos.
    • Translation: There are as many opinions as there are people: everyone has their own way of doing things. (literal trans.: So many men, so many opinions: to each his own way)
    • Line 454

Adelphoe (The Brothers)

  • I bid him look into the lives of men as though into a mirror, and from others to take an example for himself.
    • Line 415
  • According as the man is, so must you humor him.
    • Line 431
  • It is the common vice of all, in old age, to be too intent upon our interests.
    • Line 833

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TERENCE. Our knowledge of the life of the celebrated Latin playwright, Publius Terentius Afer, is derived chiefly from a fragment of the lost work of Suetonius, De viris illustribus, preserved in the commentary of Donatus, who adds a few words of his own. The prologues to the comedies were among the original sources of Suetonius; but he quotes or refers to the works of various grammarians and antiquaries - Porcius Licinus, Volcacius Sedigitus, Q. Cosconius, Nepos, Santra, Fenestella. There is uncertainty as to both the date of the poet's birth and the manner of his death. His last play was exhibited in 160 B.C., and shortly after its production he went abroad, "when he had not yet completed his twenty-fifth year." Cornelius Nepos is quoted for the statement that he was about the same age as Scipio Africanus the younger (born in 185 or 184 B.C.) and Laelius; while Fenestella, an antiquary of the later Augustan period, represented him as older than either. If Terence was born in 185, he published his six plays between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Even in an imitative artist such precocity of talent is remarkable, and the date is therefore open to legitimate doubt.

He is said to have been born in Carthage, and brought to Rome as a slave. At Rome he was educated like a free man in the house of Terentius Lucanus, a senator, by whom he was soon emancipated; whereupon he took his master's nomen Terentius, and thenceforward his name was Publius Terentius Afer, of which the last member seems to imply that he was not a Phoenician (Poenus) by blood. He was admitted into the intimacy of young men of the best families, such as Scipio, Laelius and Furius Philus; and he enjoyed the favour of older men of literary distinction and official position. In the circle of Scipio he doubtless met the historian Polybius, who was brought to Italy in 167. He is said to have owed the favour of the great as much to his personal gifts and graces as to his literary eminence; and in one of his prologues he declares it to be his ambition, while not offending the many, to please the "boni." Terence's earliest play was the Andria, exhibited in 166 B.C. A pretty, but perhaps apocryphal, story is told of his having read the play, before its exhibition, to Caecilius (who, after the death of Plautus, ranked as the foremost comic poet), and of the generous admiration of it manifested by Caecilius. A similar instance of the recognition of rising genius by a poet whose own day was past is found in the account given of the visit of Accius to the veteran Pacuvius. The next play was the Hecyra, first produced in 165, but withdrawn in consequence of its bad reception, and reproduced in 160. The Heauton Timorumenos appeared in 163, the Eunuchus in 161, the Phormio in 161, and the Adelphoe in 160 at the funeral games of L. Aemilius Paullus. Of these six plays the Phormio and probably the Hecyra were drawn from Apollodorus, the rest from Menander. After bringing out these plays Terence sailed from Greek parts, either to escape from the suspicion of publishing the works of others as his own, or from the desire to obtain a more intimate knowledge of that Greek life which had hitherto been known to him only in literature and which it was his professed aim to reproduce in his comedies. The latter is the more probable motive, and we recognize in this the first instance of that impulse to visit the scenes familiar to them through literature which afterwards acted on many of the great writers of Rome. From this voyage Terence never returned. According to one account he was lost at sea, according to another he died at Stymphalus in Arcadia, and according to a third at Leucas, from grief at the loss by shipwreck of his baggage, containing a number of new plays which he had translated from Menander. An old poet quoted by Suetonius states that he was ruined in fortune through his intimacy with his noble friends. Another account speaks of him as having left behind him gardens, to the extent of about twelve acres, close to the Appian Way. It is further stated that his daughter married a Roman knight.

No writer in any literature, who has contented himself with so limited a function, has gained so great a reputation as Terence. He lays no claim to the position of an original artist painting from life or commenting on the results of his own observation. His art has no relation to his own time or to the country in which he lived. The chief source of interest in the fragmentary remains of Naevius,. Ennius, Pacuvius, Accius and Lucilius is their relation to the national and moral spirit of the age in which they were written. Plautus, though, like Terence, he takes the first sketch of his plots, scenes and characters, from the Attic stage, is yet a true representative of his time, a genuine Italian, writing before the genius of Italy had learned the restraints of Greek art. The whole aim of Terence was to present a faithful copy of the life, manners, modes of thought and expression which had been drawn from reality a century before his time by the writers of the New Comedy of Athens. The nearest parallel to his literary position may be found in the aim which Virgil puts before himself in his Bucolics. He does not seek in that poem to draw Italian peasants from the life, but to bring back the shepherds of Theocritus on Italian scenes. Yet the result obtained by Virgil is different. The charm of his pastorals is the Italian sentiment which pervades them. His shepherds are not the shepherds of Theocritus, nor are they in any sense true to life. The extraordinary result obtained by Terence is that, while he has left no trace in any of his comedies of one sketching from the life by which he was surrounded, there is perhaps no more truthful, natural and delicate delineator of human nature, in its ordinary and more level moods, within the whole range of classical literature. His permanent position in literature is due, no doubt, to the art and genius of Menander, whose creations he has perpetuated, as a fine engraver may perpetuate the spirit of a great painter whose works have perished. But no mere copyist or verbal translator could have attained that result. Though without claims to creative originality, Terence must have had not only critical genius, to enable him fully to appreciate and identify himself with his originals, but artistic genius of a high and pure type. The importance of his position in Roman literature consists in this, that he was the first writer who set before himself a high ideal of artistic perfection, and was the first to realize that perfection in style, form, and consistency of conception and execution. Living in the interval between Ennius and Lucilius, whose original force and genius survive only in rude and inartistic fragments, he produced six plays, which have not only reached our time in the form in which they were given to the world, but have been read in the most critical and exacting literary epochs, and still may be read without any feeling of the need of making allowance for the rudeness of a new and undeveloped art.

While his great gift to Roman literature is that he first made it artistic, that he imparted to "rude Latium" the sense of elegance, consistency and ,moderation, his gift to the world is that through him it possesses a living image of the Greek society in the 3rd century B.C., presented in the purest Latin idiom. Yet Terence had no affinity by birth either with the Greek race or with the people of Latium. He was more distinctly a foreigner than any of the great classical writers of Rome. He lived at the meeting-point of three distinct civilizations - the mature, or rather decaying, civilization of Greece, of which Athens was still the centre; that of Carthage, which was so soon to pass away and leave scarcely any vestige of itself; and the nascent civilization of Italy, in which all other modes were soon to be absorbed. Terence was by birth an African, and was thus perhaps a fitter medium of connexion between the genius of Greece and that of Italy than if he had been a pure Greek or a pure Italian; just as in modern times the Jewish type of genius is sometimes found more detached from national peculiarities, and thus more capable of reproducing a cosmopolitan type of character than the genius of men belonging to other races.

The prologues to Terence's plays are of high interest. Their tone is for the most part apologetic, and indicates a great sensitiveness to criticism. He constantly speaks of the malevolence and detraction of an older poet, whose name is said to have been Luscius Lavinius or Lanuvinus. The chief charge which his detractor brings against him is that of contaminatio, the combining in one play of scenes out of different Greek plays. Terence justifies this practice by that of the older poets, Naevius, Plautus, Ennius, whose careless freedom he follows in preference to the "obscura diligentia" of his detractor. He recriminates upon his adversary as one who, by his close adherence to his original, had turned good Greek plays into bad Latin ones. He clears himself of the charge of plagiarizing from Plautus and Naevius. In another prologue he contrasts his own treatment of his subjects with the sensational extravagance of others. He 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 favourites 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.

We learn from these prologues that the best Roman literature was ceasing to be popular, and had come to rely on the patronage of the great. A consequence of this change of circumstances was that comedy was no longer national in character and sentiment, but had become imitative and artistic. The life which Terence represents is that of the well-to-do citizen class whose interests are commonplace, but whose modes of thought and speech are refined, humane and intelligent. His characters are finely delineated and discriminated rather than, like those of Plautus, boldly conceived. Delicate irony and pointed epigram take the place of broad humour. Love, in the form of pathetic sentiment rather than of irregular passion, is the chief motive of his pieces. His great characteristics are humanity and urbanity, and to this may be attributed the attraction which he had for the two chief representatives of these qualities in Roman literature - Cicero and Horace.

Terence's pre-eminence in art was recognized in the Augustan age; and Horace expresses this opinion, though not as his own, in these words (Epistles II. i. 59): "Vincere Caecilius gravitate, Terentius arte." The art of his comedies consists in the clearness and simplicity with which the situation is presented and developed, and in the consistency and moderation with which his various characters play their parts. But his greatest attraction to both ancient and modern writers has been the purity and charm of his style. He makes no claim to the creative exuberance of Plautus, but he is entirely free from his extravagance and mannerisms. The superiority of his style over that of Lucilius, who wrote his satires a generation later, is immeasurable. The best judges and the greatest masters of style in the best period of Roman literature were his chief admirers in ancient times. Cicero frequently reproduces his expressions, applies passages in his plays to his own circumstances, and refers to his personages as typical representations of character.' Julius Caesar's lines on Terence, the "dimidiatus Menander," while they complain of lack of comic power, characterize him as "puri sermonis amator." Horace, so depreciatory in general of the older literature, shows his appreciation of Terence by the frequent reproduction in his Satires and Odes of his language and his philosophy of life. Quintilian applies to his writings the word elegantissima. His works were studied and _learned by heart by the great Latin writers of the Renaissance, such as Erasmus and Melanchthon; and Casaubon, in his anxiety that his son should write a pure Latin style, inculcates on him the constant study of Terence. Montaigne 2 applies to him the phrase of Horace: "Liquidus puroque simillimus amni." He speaks of "his fine expression, elegancy and quaintness," and adds, "he does so possess the soul with his graces that we forget those of his fable." Sainte-Beuve devotes to him two papers of delicate and admiring criticism. He quotes Fenelon and Addison, "deux esprits polis et doux, de la meme famille litteraire," as expressing their admiration for the inimitable beauty and naturalness of one of his scenes. Fenelon is said to have preferred him even to Moliere. Sainte-Beuve calls Terence the bond of union between Roman urbanity and the Atticism of the Greeks, and adds that it was in the r 7th century, when French literature was most truly Attic, that he was most appreciated. M. Joubert 3 applies to him the words; "Le miel attique est sur ses levres; on croirait aisement qu'il naquit sur le mont Hymette." The chief manuscript of Terence is the famous Codex Bembinus, of the 4th or 5th century, in the Vatican. Another Vatican MS. of the 10th century contains illustrations based on an old tradition. Each play has an argument in metre by Sulpicius Apollinaris (2nd century of our era). We have also a valuable commentary (newly edited by P. Wessner) on five of the plays, derived chiefly from Euanthius and Donatus (both of the 4th century), and another of less importance by one Eugraphius.

The editio princeps was published at Strassburg in 1470. The most famous edition is that of Bentley, published at Cambridge in 1726. At present the best texts are those by K. Dziatzko (Leipzig, 2884), and A. Fleckeisen (Teubner, 2nd ed., 1898). Each of the plays has recently been edited with English notes.

For a conspectus of Terentian studies see Teuffel-Schwabe-Warr, History of Roman Literature, and Schanz's Geschichte der romischen Litteratur (3rd ed., 1907). Among critical estimates of Terence may be mentioned Sainte-Beuve's in Nouveaux lundis (3rd and 10th of August 1863), and Mommsen's in the History of Rome, book iv., chapter xiii.

Moliere made large use of the Phormio in Les Fourberies de scapin, and the subject of l'Ecole des marts is taken from the Adelphoe. Terence was translated into English verse by George Colman (2765).

(W. Y. S.; E. H.*)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Alternative spellings


Latin Terentius, a Roman family name of obscure origin, borne by a Roman playwright and by early Christian saints.

  • In Ireland it has been used to represent Turlough.

Proper noun




  1. A male given name. Popular in the U.K. in the mid-twentieth century.


  • 1867 Bret Harte: Condensed Novels: Terence Denville: Chapter I:
    "Very likely the ragged scion of one of those Irish gentry, who has taken naturally to 'the road'. He should be at school - though I warrant me his knowledge of Terence will not extend beyond his own name," said Lord Henry Somerset, aid-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant.
  • 1967 King Skills: Condensed Novels: Terence Ng: Chapter 1337:
    "Never have I seen someone as skilled as this one, this man, whose name was Terence Ng. He had insane skills, with power as strong as an elephant. He was able to take me down in one strike, leaving me breathless." replied Clement Ng, brother of Terence.


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