Adelphoe (The Brothers) by Terence (160 BC)

According to the production notes, which were preserved along with the text, this was Terence’s sixth and final play, performed in 160 BC. It certainly feels like a summation of the mature side of his style, what with the interest in character and situations for their own sake and hardly any comedy at all. It’s […]

Eunuchus (The Eunuch) by Terence (161 BC)

‘Whatever’s happened here, it wasn’t my fault.’ (The cowardly servant Parmeno to his master Demea, page 212) In her introduction, the editor and translator of the Penguin edition, Betty Radice, observes that The Eunuch was Terence’s most popular play and is also the most Plautine of his plays, as if these are coincidental facts. When […]

Phormio by Terence (161 BC)

Editor and translator Betty Radice says there is no other character in surviving Roman plays quite like Phormio, the central protagonist of this play. He is an entrepreneurial trickster supreme. He offers his services to the two young ‘heroes’ for the sheer pleasure of exercising his expertise. Phormio is a comedy of intrigue as light and fast-moving […]

Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor) by Terence (163 BC)

‘I can’t understand it all’ (Menedemus at the climax of the plot, page 148, and he isn’t the only one) The Self-Tormentor is based on an unnamed original by the Greek playwright Menander. As usual the stage is a bare minimum, showing the front doors of two houses. In this play, however, they are not […]

Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law) by Terence (165 BC)

As usual the set consists of a street in Athens showing the front doors of two houses belonging to the two old geezers of the story, Laches and Phidippus. Rather than a tale of two young men, this story concerns only one, Pamphilus, son of Laches. He has married Philumena, the daughter of his neighbour […]

Andria (The Girl from Andros) by Terence (166 BC)

‘There’s scarcely a man to be found who’ll stay faithful to a woman.’ (Mysis the servant) ‘A father shouldn’t be too hard on his children whatever their faults.’ (Chremes) The astonishingly detailed production notes, attached to the play in antiquity, tell us that Andria was first performed at the Megalensian Games in 166 BC. It […]

Terence

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto* Terence’s texts Publius Terentius Afer, generally known as Terence (185 to 160 BC), died at the very young age of 25, having written just 6 plays which, however, are preserved in numerous manuscripts. So, unlike Plautus (who wrote 120 plays of which only 20 survive) a) his […]

Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor by Adrian Goldsworthy (2014) – 1

Augustus was one of the most successful rulers of all time. He rescued Rome from the recurring collapse of its political institutions into civil war which dogged the years 100 to 30 BC, and established an entirely new form of government – what he called the ‘principate’ but which came to be called imperial rule […]

The Life of Augustus by Suetonius

Suetonius’s life of Augustus has 101 chapters compared with his life of Julius Caesar with 89. (1) Traditional connection of the Octavian family with the town of Velitrae. Tradition that a forebear was in the middle of sacrificing to Mars when a neighbouring tribe attacked so that he grabbed the innards out of the fire […]

Dictator by Robert Harris (2015)

‘My skill is statecraft and that requires me to be alive and in Rome.’ (Cicero talking to Tiro, Dictator, page 36) This is the third and concluding novel in the Robert Harris’s epic ‘Cicero trilogy’. Harris is a highly successful writer of intelligent thrillers and in the Cicero trilogy he has applied the style and […]