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CHAPTER IV. ROMAN COMEDY—PLAUTUS TO TURPILIUS (254-103 B.C.).

Before entering upon any criticism of the comic authors, it will be well to make a few remarks on the general characteristics of the Roman theatre. Theatrical structures at Rome resembled on the whole those of Greece, from which they were derived at first through the medium of Etruria, [1] but afterwards directly from the great theatres which Magna Graecia possessed in abundance. Unlike the Greek theatres, however, those at Rome were of wood not of stone, and were mere temporary erections, taken down immediately after being used. On scaffoldings of this kind the plays of Plautus and Terence were performed. Even during the last period of the Republic, wooden theatres were set up, sometimes on a scale of profuse expenditure little consistent with their duration. [2] An attempt was made to build a permanent stone theatre, 135 B.C., but it was defeated by the Consul Scipio Nasica. [3]

The credit of building the first such edifice is due to Pompey (55 B.C.), who caused it to have accommodation for 40,000 spectators. Vitruvius in his fifth book explains the ground-plan of such buildings. They were almost always on the same model, differing in material and size. On one occasion two whole theatres of wood, placed back to back, were made to turn on a pivot, and so being united, to form a single amphitheatre. [4] In construction, the Roman theatre differed from the Greek in reserving an arc not exceeding a semicircle for the spectators. The stage itself was large and raised not more than five feet. But the orchestra, instead of containing the chorus, was filled by senators, magistrates, and distinguished guests. [5] This made it easier for the Romans to dispense with a chorus altogether, which we find, as a rule, they did. The rest of the people sat or stood in the great semicircle behind that which formed the orchestra. The order in which they placed themselves was not fixed by law until the later years of the Republic, and again, with additional safeguards, in the reign of Augustus. [6] But it is reasonable to suppose that the rules of precedence were for the most part voluntarily observed.

It would appear that in the earliest theatres there were no tiers of seats (cunei), but merely a semicircle of sloping soil, banked up for the occasion (cavea) on which those who had brought seats sat down, while the rest stood or reclined. The stage itself is called pulpitum or proscaenium, and the decorated background scaena. Women and children were allowed to be present from the earliest period; slaves were not, [7] though it is probable that many came by the permission of their masters. The position of poets and actors was anything but reputable. The manager of the company was generally at best a freedman; and the remuneration given by the Aediles, if the piece was successful, was very small; if it failed, even that was withheld. The behaviour of the audience was certainly none of the best. Accustomed at all times to the enjoyment of the eye rather than the ear, the Romans were always impatient of mere dialogue. Thus Terence tells us that contemporary poets resorted to various devices to produce some novel spectacle, and he feels it necessary to explain why he himself furnishes nothing of the kind. Fair criticism could hardly be expected from so motley an assembly; hence Terence begs the people in each case to listen carefully to his play and then, and not till then, if they disapprove, to hiss it off the stage. [8] In the times of Plautus and Ennius the spectators were probably more discriminating; but the steady depravation of the spectacles furnished for their amusement contributed afterwards to brutalise them with fearful rapidity, until at the close of the Republican period dramatic exhibitions were thought nothing of in comparison with a wild-beast fight or a gladiatorial show.

At first, however, comedy was decidedly a favourite with the people, and for one tragic poet whose name has reached us there are at least five comedians. Of the three kinds of poetry cultivated in this early period, comedy, which, according to Quintilian [9] was the least successful, has been much the most fortunate. For whereas we have to form our opinion of Roman tragedy chiefly from the testimony of ancient authors, we can estimate the value of Roman comedy from the ample remains of its two greatest masters. The plays of Plautus are the most important for this purpose. Independently of their greater talent, they give a truer picture of Roman manners, and reflect more accurately the popular taste and level of culture. It is from them, therefore, that any general remarks on Roman comedy would naturally be illustrated.

Comedy, being based on the fluctuating circumstances of real life, lends itself more easily than tragedy to a change of form. Hence, while tragic art after once passing its prime slowly but steadily declines, comedy seems endued with greater vitality, and when politics and religion are closed to it, readily contents itself with the less ambitious sphere of manners. Thus, at Athens, Menander raised the new comedy to a celebrity little if at all inferior to the old; while the form of art which he created has retained its place in modern literature as perhaps the most enduring which the drama has assumed. In Rome there was far too little liberty of speech for the Aristophanic comedy to be possible. Outspoken attacks in public on the leading statesmen did not accord with the senatorial idea of government. Hence such poets as possessed a comic vein were driven to the only style which could be cultivated with impunity, viz. that of Philemon and Menander. But a difficulty met them at the outset. The broad allusions and rough fun of Aristophanes were much more intelligible to a Roman public than the refined criticism and quiet satire of Menander, even supposing the poet able to reproduce these. The author who aspired to please the public had this problem before him,—while taking the Middle and New Comedy of Athens for his model, to adapt them to the coarser requirements of Roman taste and the national rather than cosmopolitan feeling of a Roman audience, without drawing down the wrath of the government by imprudent political allusions.

It was the success with which Plautus fulfilled these conditions that makes him pre-eminently the comic poet of Rome; and which, though purists affected to depreciate him, [10] excited the admiration of such men as Cicero, [11] Varro, and Sisenna, and secured the uninterrupted representation of his plays until the fourth century of the Empire.

The life of Plautus, which extended from 254 to 184 B.C. presents little of interest. His name used to be written M. ACCIUS, but is now, on the authority of the Ambrosian MS. changed to T. MACCIUS PLAUTUS. He was by birth an Umbrian from Sassina, of free parents, but poor. We are told by Gellius [12] that he made a small fortune by stage decorating, but lost it by rash investment; he was then reduced to labouring for some years in a corn mill, but having employed his spare time in writing, he established a sufficient reputation to be able to devote the rest of his life to the pursuit of his art. He did not, however, form a high conception of his responsibility. The drudgery of manual labour and the hardships under which he had begun his literary career were unfavourable to the finer susceptibilities of an enthusiastic nature. So long as the spectators applauded he was satisfied. He was a prolific writer; 130 plays are attributed to him, but their genuineness was the subject of discussion from a very early period. Varro finally decided in favour of only 21, to which he added 19 more as probably genuine, the rest he pronounced uncertain. We may join him in regarding it as very probable that the plays falsely attributed to Plautus were productions of his own and the next generation, which for business reasons the managers allowed to pass under the title of “Plautine.” Or, perhaps, Plautus may have given a few touches and the benefit of his great name to the plays of his less celebrated contemporaries, much as the great Italian painters used the services of their pupils to multiply their own works.

Of the 20 plays that we possess (the entire Varronian list, except the Vidularia, which was lost in the Middle Ages) all have the same general character, with the single exception of the Amphitruo. This is more of a burlesque than a comedy, and is full of humour. It is founded on the well- worn fable of Jupiter and Alcmena, and has been imitated by Moliere and Dryden. Its source is uncertain; but it is probably from Archippus, a writer of the old comedy (415 B.C.). Its form suggests rather a development of the Satyric drama.

The remaining plays are based on real life; the real life that is pourtrayed by Menander, and by no means yet established in Rome, though soon to take root there with far more disastrous consequences the life of imbecile fathers made only to be duped, and spendthrift sons; of jealous husbands, and dull wives; of witty, cunning, and wholly unscrupulous slaves; of parasites, lost to all self-respect; of traffickers in vice of both sexes, sometimes cringing, sometimes threatening, but almost always outwitted by a duplicity superior to their own; of members of the demi- monde, whose beauty is only equalled by their shameless venality, though some of them enlist our sympathies by constancy in love, others by unmerited sufferings (which, however, always end happily); and, finally, of an array of cooks, go-betweens, confidantes, and nondescripts, who will do any thing for a dinner—a life, in short, that suggests a gloomy idea of the state into which the once manly and high-minded Athenians had sunk.

It may, however, be questioned whether Plautus did not exceed his models in licentiousness, as he certainly fell below them in elegance. The drama has always been found to exercise a decided influence on public morals; and at Rome, where there was no authoritative teaching on the subject, and no independent investigation of the foundations of moral truth, a series of brilliant plays, in which life was regarded as at best a dull affair, rendered tolerable by coarse pleasures, practical jokes, and gossip, and then only as long as the power of enjoyment lasts, can have had no good effect on the susceptible minds of the audience. The want of respect for age, again, so alien to old Roman feeling, was an element imported from the Greeks, to whom at all times the contemplation of old age presented the gloomiest associations. But it must have struck at the root of all Roman traditions to represent the aged father in any but a venerable light; and inimitable as Plautus is as a humourist, we cannot regard him as one who either elevates his own art, or in any way represents the nobler aspect of the Roman mind.

The conventional refinement with which Menander invested his characters, and which was so happily reproduced by Terence, was not attempted by Plautus. His excellence lies rather in the bold and natural flow of his dialogue, fuller, perhaps, of spicy humour and broad fun than of wit, but of humour and fun so lighthearted and spontaneous that the soberest reader is carried away by it. In the construction of his plots he shows no great originality, though often much ingenuity. Sometimes they are adopted without change, as that of the Trinummus from the Thaesauros of Philemon; sometimes they are patched together [13] from two or more Greek plays, as is probably the case with the Epidicus and Captivi; sometimes they are so slight as to amount to little more than a peg on which to hang the witty speeches of the dialogue, as, for example, those of the Persa and Curculio.

The Menaechmi and Trinummus are the best known of his plays; the former would be hard to parallel for effective humour: the point on which the plot turns, viz. the resemblance between two pairs of brothers, which causes one to be mistaken for the other, and so leads to many ludicrous scenes, is familiar to all readers of Shakespeare from the Comedy of Errors. Of those plays which border on the sentimental the best is the Captivi, which the poet himself recommends to the audience on the score of its good moral lesson, adding with truth—

  “Huiusmodi paucas poetae reperiunt comoedias 
  Ubi boni meliores fiant.”

We are told [14] that Plautus took the greatest pleasure in his Pseudolus, which was also the work of his old age. The Epidicus also must have been a favourite with him. There is an allusion to it in theBacchides, [15] which shows that authors then were as much distressed by the incapacity of the actors as they are now.

  “Non herus sed actor mihi cor odio sauciat. 
  Etiam Epidicum quam ego fabulum aeque ac me ipsum amo 
  Nullam aeque invitus specto, si agit Pellio.”

The prologues prefixed to nearly all the plays are interesting from their fidelity to the Greek custom, whereas those of Terence are more personal, and so resemble the modern prologue. In the former we see the arch insinuating pleasantry of Plautus employed for the purpose of ingratiating himself with the spectators, a result which, we may be sure, he finds little difficulty in achieving. Among the other plays, thePoenulus possesses for the philologist this special attraction, that it contains a Phoenician passage, which, though rather carelessly transliterated, is the longest fragment we possess of that important Semitic language. [16] All the Plautine plays belong to the Palliatae, i.e. those of which the entire surroundings are Greek, the name being taken from the Pallium or Greek cloak worn by the actors. There was, however, in the Italian towns a species of comedy founded on Greek models but national in dress, manners, and tone, known as Comoedia Togata, of which Titinius was the greatest master. The Amphitruois somewhat difficult to class; if, as has been suggested above, it be assigned to the old comedy, it will be a Palliata. If, as others think, it be rather a specimen of the Hilaro- tragodia [17] or Rhinthonica (so called from Rhinthon of Tarentum), it would form the only existing specimen of another class, called by the Greeks Italikae komodia. Horace speaks of Plautus as a follower of Epicharmus, and his plots were frequently taken from mythological subjects. With regard, however, to the other plays of Plautus, as well as those of Caecilius, Trabea, Licinius Imbrex, Luscius Lavinius, Terence and Turpilius, there is no ground for supposing that they departed from the regular treatment of palliatae. [18]

Plautus is a complete master of the Latin language in its more colloquial forms. Whatever he wishes to say he finds no difficulty in expressing without the least shadow of obscurity. His full, flowing style, his inexhaustible wealth of words, the pliancy which in his skilful hands is given to the comparatively rude instrument with which he works, are remarkable in the highest degree. In the invention of new words, and the fertility of his combinations, [19] he reminds us of Shakespeare, and far exceeds any other Latin author. But perhaps this faculty is not so much absent from subsequent writers as kept in check by them. They felt that Latin gained more by terse arrangement and exact fitness in the choice of existing terms, than by coining new ones after the Greek manner. Plautus represents a tendency, which, after him, steadily declines; Lucretius is more sparing of new compounds than Ennius, Virgil than Lucretius, and after Virgil the age of creating them had ceased.

It must strike every reader of Plautus, as worthy of note, that he assumes a certain knowledge of the Greek tongue on the part of his audience. Not only are many (chiefly commercial) terms directly imported from the Greek, as dica, tarpessita, logi, sycophantia, agoranomus, but a large number of Greek adjectives and adverbs are used, which it is impossible to suppose formed part of the general speech—e.g.thalassicus, euscheme, dulice, dapsilis: Greek puns are introduced, as “opus est Chryso Chrysalo” in the Bacchides; and in the Persa we have the following hybrid title of a supposed Persian grandee, “Vaniloquidorus Virginisvendonides Nugipolyloquides Argentiexterebronides Tedigniloquides Nummorumexpalpouides Quodsemelarripides Nunquamposteareddides!”

Nevertheless, Plautus never uses Greek words in the way so justly condemned by Horace, viz. to avoid the trouble of thinking out the proper Latin equivalent. He is as free from this bad habit as Cato himself: all his Graecisms, when not technical terms, have some humourous point; and, as far as we can judge, the good example set by him was followed by all his successors in the comic drama. Their superiority in this respect may be appreciated by comparing them with the extant fragments of Lucilius.

In his metres he follows the Greek systems, but somewhat loosely. His iambics admit spondees, &c. into all places but the last; but some of his plays show much more care than others: the Persa and Stichusbeing the least accurate, the Menaechmi peculiarly smooth and harmonious. The Trochaic tetrameter and the Cretic are also favourite rhythms; the former is well suited to the Latin language, its beat being much more easily distinguishable in a rapid dialogue than that of the Iambic. His metre is regulated partly by quantity, partly by accent; but his quantities do not vary as much as has been supposed. The irregularities consist chiefly of neglect of the laws of position, of final long vowels, of inflexional endings, and of double letters, which last, according to some grammarians, were not used until the time of Ennius. His Lyric metres are few, and very imperfectly elaborated. Those which he prefers are the Cretic and Bacchiac, though Dactylic and Choriambic systems are not wholly unknown. His works form a most valuable storehouse of old Latin words, idioms, and inflexions; and now that the most ancient MSS. have been scientifically studied, the true spelling of these forms has been re-established, and throws the greatest light on many important questions of philology. [20]

After Plautus the most distinguished writer of comedy was STATIUS CAECILIUS (219-166? B.C.), a native of Insubria, brought as a prisoner to Rome, and subsequently (we know not exactly when) manumitted. He began writing about 200 B.C., when Plautus was at the height of his fame. He was, doubtless, influenced (as indeed could not but be the case) by the prestige of so great a master; but, as soon as he had formed his own style, he seems to have carried out a treatment of the originals much more nearly resembling that of Terence. For while in Plautus some of the oddest incongruities arise from the continual intrusion of Roman law-terms and other everyday home associations into the Athenian agora or dicasteries, in Terence this effective but very inartistic source of humour is altogether discarded, and the comic result gained solely by the legitimate methods of incident, character, and dialogue. That this stricter practice was inaugurated by Caecilius is probable, both from the praise bestowed on him in spite of his deficiency in purity of Latin style by Cicero, [21] and also from the evident admiration felt for him by Terence. The prologue to the Hecyra proves (what we might have well supposed) that the earlier plays of such a poet had a severe struggle to achieve success. [22] The actor, Ambivius Turpio, a tried servant of the public, maintains that his own perseverance had a great deal to do with the final victory of Caecilius; and he apologises for bringing forward a play which had once been rejected, by his former success in similar circumstances. Horace implies that he maintained during the Augustan age the reputation of a dignified writer. [23] Of the thirty-nine titles of his plays, by far the larger number are Greek, though a few are Latin, or exist in both languages. Those of Plautus and Naevius, it will be observed, are almost entirely Latin. This practice of retaining the Greek title, indicating, as it probably does, a closer adherence to the Greek style, seems afterwards to have become the regular custom. In his later years Caecilius enjoyed great reputation, and seems to have been almost dictator of the Roman stage, if we may judge from the story given by Suetonius in his life of Terence. One evening, he tells us, as Caecilius was at dinner, the young poet called on him, and begged for his opinion on the Andria, which he had just composed. Unknown to fame and meanly dressed, he was bidden to seat himself on a bench and read his work. Scarcely had he read a few verses, when Caecilius, struck by the excellence of the style, invited his visitor to join him at table; and having listened to the rest of the play with admiration, at once pronounced a verdict in his favour. This anecdote, whatever be its pretensions to historical accuracy, represents, at all events, the conception entertained of Caecilius's position and influence as introducer of dramatic poets to the Roman public. The date of his death is uncertain: he seems not to have attained any great age.

The judgment of Caecilius on TERENCE was ratified by the people. When the Andria was first presented at the Megalesian games (166 B.C.) it was evident that a new epoch had arisen in Roman art. The contempt displayed in it for all popular methods of acquiring applause is scarcely less wonderful than the formed style and mature view of life apparent in the poet of twenty-one years.

It was received with favour, and though occasional failures afterwards occurred, chiefly through the jealousy of a rival poet, the dramatic career of Terence may, nevertheless, be pronounced as brilliantly successful as it was shortlived. His fame increased with each succeeding play, till at the time of his early death, he found himself at the head of his profession, and, in spite of petty rivalries, enjoying a reputation almost equal to that of Plautus himself.

The elegance and purity of his diction is the more remarkable as he was a Carthaginian by birth, and therefore spoke an idiom as diverse as can be conceived from the Latin in syntax, arrangement, and expression. He came as a boy to Rome, where he lived as the slave of the senator Terentius Lucanus, by whom he was well educated and soon given his freedom. The best known fact about him is his intimate friendship with Scipio Africanus the younger, Laelius, and Furius, who were reported to have helped him in the composition of his plays. This rumour the poet touches on with great skill, neither admitting nor denying its truth, but handling it in such a way as reflected no discredit on himself and could not fail to be acceptable to the great men who were his patrons. [24] We learn from Suetonius that the belief strengthened with time. To us it appears most improbable that anything important was contributed by these eminent men. They might have given hints, and perhaps suggested occasional expressions, but the temptation to bring their names forward seems sufficiently to account for the lines in question, since the poet gained rather than lost by so doing. It has, however, been supposed that Scipio and his friends, desiring to elevate the popular taste, really employed Terence to effect this for them, their own position as statesmen preventing their coming forward in person as labourers in literature; and it is clear that Terence has a very different object before him from that of Plautus. The latter cares only to please; the former is not satisfied unless he instructs. And he is conscious that this endeavour gains him undeserved obloquy. All his prologues speak of bitter opposition, misrepresentation, and dislike; but he refuses to lower his high conception of his art. The people must hear his plays with attention, throw away their prejudices, and pronounce impartially on his merits. [25] He has such confidence in his own view that he does not doubt of the issue. It is only a question of time, and if his contemporaries refuse to appreciate him, posterity will not fail to do so. This confidence was fully justified. Not only his friends but the public amply recognised his genius; and if men like Cicero, Horace, and Caesar, do not grant him the highest creative power, they at least speak with admiration of his cultivated taste. The criticism of Cicero is as discriminating as it is friendly: [26]

  “Tu quoque, qui solus lecto sermone, Terenti, 
  Conversum espressumque Latina voce Menandrum 
  In medio populi sedatis vocibus effers; 
  Quidquid come loquens atque omnia dulcia dicens.”

Caesar, in a better known epigram, [27] is somewhat less complimentary, but calls him puri sermonis amator (“a well of English undefiled"). Varro praises his commencement of the Andria above its original in Menander; and if this indicates national partisanship, it is at least a testimony to the poet's posthumous fame.

The modern character of Terence, as contrasted with Plautus, is less apparent in his language than in his sentiments. His Latin is substantially the same as that of Plautus, though he makes immeasurably fewer experiments with language. He never resorts to strange words, uncouth compounds, puns, or Graecisms for producing effect; [28] his diction is smooth and chaste, and even indelicate subjects are alluded to without any violation of the proprieties; indeed it is at first surprising that with so few appeals to the humourous instinct and so little witty dialogue, Terence's comic style should have received from the first such high commendation. The reason is to be found in the circumstances of the time. The higher spirits at Rome were beginning to comprehend the drift of Greek culture, its subtle mastery over the passions, its humanitarian character, its subversive influence. The protest against traditional exclusiveness begun by the great Scipio, and powerfully enforced by Ennius, was continued in a less heroic but not less effective manner by the younger Scipio and his friends Lucilius and Terence. All the plays of Terence are written with a purpose; and the purpose is the same which animated the political leaders of free thought. To base conduct upon reason rather than tradition, and paternal authority upon kindness rather than fear; [29] to give up the vain attempt to coerce youth into the narrow path of age; to grapple with life as a whole by making the best of each difficulty when it arises; to live in comfort by means of mutual concession and not to plague ourselves with unnecessary troubles: such are some of the principles indicated in those plays of Menander which Terence so skilfully adapted, and whose lessons he set before a younger and more vigorous people. The elucidation of these principles in the action of the play, and the corresponding interchange of thought naturally awakened in the dialogue and expressed with studied moderation, [30] form the charm of the Terentian drama. In the bolder elements of dramatic excellence it must be pronounced deficient. There is not Menander's many-sided knowledge of the world, nor the racy drollery of Plautus, nor the rich humour of Moliere, nor the sparkling wit of Sheridan,—all is toned down with a severe self-restraint, creditable to the poet's sense of propriety, but injurious to comic effect. His characters also lack variety, though powerfully conceived. They are easily classified; indeed, Terence himself summarises them in his prologue to the Eanuchus, [31] and as a rule is true to the distinctions there laid down. Another defect is the great similarity of names. There is a Chremes in four plays who stands for an old man in three, for a youth in one; while the names Sostrata, Sophrona, Bacchis, Antipho, Hegio, Phaedria, Davus, and Dromo, all occur in more than one piece. Thus we lose that close association of a name with a character, which is a most important aid towards lively and definite recollection. The characters become not so much individuals as impersonations of social or domestic relationships, though drawn, it is true, with a life-like touch. This defect, which is shared to a great extent by Plautus, is doubtless due to the imitative nature of Latin comedy. Menander's characters were analysed and classified by the critics, and the translator felt bound to keep to the main outlines of his model. It is said that Terence was not satisfied with his delineation of Greek life, but that shortly before his death he started on a voyage to Greece, to acquaint himself at first hand with the manners he depicted. [32] This we can well believe, for even among Roman poets Terence is conspicuous for his striking realism. His scenes are fictitious, it is true, and his conversation is classical and refined, but both breathe the very spirit of real life. There is, at least, nothing either ideal or imaginative about them. The remark of Horace [33] that “Pomponius would have to listen to rebukes like those of Demea if his father were living; that if you broke up the elegant rhythmical language you would find only what every angry parent would say under the same circumstances,” is perfectly just, and constitutes one of the chief excellences of Terence,—one which has made him, like Horace, a favourite with experienced men of the world.

Terence as a rule does not base his play upon a single Greek original, but levies contributions from two or more, and exercises his talent in harmonising the different elements. This process is known ascontamination; a word that first occurs in the prologue to the Andria, and indicates an important and useful principle in imitative dramatic literature. The ground for this innovation is given by W. Wagner as the need felt by a Roman audience for a quick succession of action, and their impatience of those subtle dialogues which the Greeks had so much admired, and which in most Greek plays occupy a somewhat disproportionate length. The dramas in which “contamination” is most successfully used are, the Eunuchus, Andria, and Adelphoe; the last-mentioned being the only instance in which the two models are by different authors, viz. the Adelphoi of Menander and the Synapothnaeskontes of Diphilus. So far as the metre and language went, Terence seems to have followed the Greek much more closely than Plautus, as was to be expected from his smaller inventive power. Quintilian, in commending him, expresses a wish that he had confined himself to the trimeter iambic rhythm. To us this criticism is somewhat obscure. Did the Romans require a more forcible style when the long iambic or the trochaic was employed? or is it the weakness of his metrical treatment that Quintilian complains of? Certainly the trochaics of Terence are less clearly marked in their rhythm than those of Ennius or Plautus.

Terence makes no allusion by name to any of his contemporaries; [34] but a line in the Andria [35] is generally supposed to refer to Caecilius, and to indicate his friendly feeling, somewhat as Virgil indicates his admiration for Ennius in the opening of the third Georgic. [36] And the “vetus poeta,” (Luscius Lavinius) or “ quidam malevoli,” are alluded to in all the prologues as trying to injure his fame. His first play was produced in the year that Caecilius died, 166 B.C.; the Hecyra next year; the Hauton Timorumenos in 163; the Eunuchus and Phormio in 161; the Adelphoe in 160; and in the following year the poet died at the age of twenty-six, while sailing round the coast of Greece. The maturity of mind shown by so young a man is very remarkable. It must be remembered that he belonged to a race whose faculties developed earlier than among the Romans, that he had been a slave, and was therefore familiar with more than one aspect of life, and that he had enjoyed the society of the greatest in Rome, who reflected profoundly on social and political questions. His influence, though imperfectly exercised in his lifetime, increased after his death, not so much through the representation as the reading of his plays. His language became one of the chief standards of classical Latin, and is regarded by Mr. Munro as standing on the very highest level—the same as that of Cicero, Caesar, and Lucretius. His moral character was assailed soon after his death by Porcius Licinius, but probably without good grounds. More might be said against the morality of his plays—the morality of accommodation, as it is called by Mommsen. There is no strong grasp of the moral principle, but decency and propriety should be respected; if an error has been committed, the best way is, if possible, to find out that it was no error after all, or at least to treat it as such. In no point does ancient comedy stand further apart from modern ideas than in its view of married life; the wile is invariably the dull legal partner, love for whom is hardly thought of, while the sentiment of love (if indeed it be worthy of the name) is reserved for the Bacchis and Thais, who, in the most popular plays turn out to be Attic citizens, and so are finally united to the fortunate lover.

But defective and erroneous as these views are, we must not suppose that Terence tries to make vice attractive. On the contrary, he distinctly says that it is useful to know things as they really are for the purpose of learning to choose the good and reject the evil. [37] Moreover, his lover is never a mere profligate, but proves the reality of his affection for the victim of his wrong-doing by his readiness and anxiety in all cases to become her husband.

Terence has suggested many modern subjects. The Eunuchus is reflected in the Bellamira of Sir Charles Sedley and Le Muet of Brueys; the Adelphi in Moliere's Ecole des Maris and Baron's L'Ecole des Peres; and the Phormio in Moliere's Les Fourberies de Scapin.

We need do no more than just notice the names of LUSCIUS LAVINIUS, [38] the older rival and detractor of Terence; ATILIUS, whose style is characterised by Cicero [39] as extremely harsh; TRABEA, who, like ATILIUS, was a contemporary of Caecilius, and LICINIUS IMBREX, who belonged to the older generation; TURPILIUS, JUVENTIUS, and VALERIUS, [40] who lived to a considerably later period. The former died as late as 103 B.C., having thus quite outlived the productiveness of the legitimate dramatic art. He seems to have been livelier and more popular in his diction than Terence; it is to be regretted that so little of him remains.

The earliest cultivation of the national comedy (togata) [41] seems to date from after the death of Terence. Its first representative is TITINIUS, about whom we know little or nothing, except that he based his plays on the Attic comedy, changing, however, the scene and the costumes. The pieces, according to Mommsen, were laid in Southern Latium, e.g. Setia, Ferentinum, or Velitrae, and delineated with peculiar freshness the life of these busy little towns. The titles of his comedies are—Coccus, Fullones, Hortensius, Quintius, Varus, Gemina, Iurisperita, Prilia, Privigna, Psaltria, Setina, Tibicina, Velitema, Ulubrana. From these we should infer that his peculiar excellence lay in satirizing the weaknesses of the other sex. As we have before implied, this type of comedy originally arose in the country towns and maintained a certain antagonism with the Graecized comedy of Rome. In a few years, however, we find it established in the city, under T. QUINTIUS ATTA and L. AFRANIUS. Of the former little is known; of the latter we know that he was esteemed the chief poet of togatae, and long retained his hold on the public. Quintilian [42] recognises his talent, but condemns the morality of his plays. Horace speaks of him as wearing a gown which would have fitted Menander, but this is popular estimation, not his own judgment. Nevertheless, we may safely assert that the comedies of Afranius and Titinius, though often grossly indecent, had a thoroughly rich vein of native humour, which would have made them very valuable indications of the average popular culture of their day.