Suetonius/Donatus, Life of Terence

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1 Publius Terentius After, Carthagine natus, seruiuit Romae Terentio Lucano senatori, a quo ob ingenium et formam non institutus modo liberaliter, sed et mature manu missus est. quidam captum esse existimant: quod fieri nullo modo potuisse Fenestella docet, cum inter finem secundi Punici belli et initium tertii <et> <et> Ritschl natus sit et mortuus: nec, si a Numidis uel Gaetulis captus sit, ad ducem ad ducem M: ad dominum Gronov Romanum peruenire potuisse nullo commercio inter Italicos et Afros nisi post deletam Carthaginem coepto.

1 Publius Terentius Afer, born at Carthage, was the slave at Rome of the senator Terentius Lucanus, who on account of Terence’s talent and good looks not only educated him in the liberal arts but also freed him early on. Some think that he was taken captive in war: Fenestella shows that this could not have happened, as he was born and died between the end of the Second Punic war and the beginning of the Third; and even if he had been captured by Numidians or Gaetulians, he could not have passed into the ownership of a Roman general, for trade between the Italic and African peoples did not begin until after the destruction of Carthage.

2 Hic cum multis nobilibus familiariter uixit, sed maxime cum Scipione Africano et C. C. m: cum m Laelio, quibus etiam corporis gratia conciliatus existimatur: quod et ipsum Fenestella arguit, contendens utroque maiorem natu fuisse, quamuis et et Roth: ex m: cor. m: cornelius m: et cornelius m Nepos aequales omnes fuisse tradat et Porcius suspicionem de consuetudine per haec faciat:

dum lasciuiam nobilium et laudes fucosas petit,
dum Africani uocem diuinam inhiat uocem diuinam inhiat Muretus: uoce diuina inhiat m: uocem dum et inhuius et m auidis auribus,
dum ad Philum Philum Roth: furium vel al. M se cenitare et Laelium pulchrum putat,
dum [se amari ab his credit] [se amari ab his credit] Ritschl in Albanum crebro rapitur ob florem aetatis suae:
post, sublatis post sublatis m: ipsus sublatis m: ipsis sublatis m: suis postlatis Ritschl rebus, ad summam inopiam redactus est.
itaque e conspectu omnium <ubi> <ubi> Bergk abit Graeciae in terram ultimam,
mortuust Stymphali mortuust Stymphali Wessner: mortuus est in falo vel sim. M, Arcadiae <in> <in> Roth oppido. nil P<ublio> P<ublio> Ritschl: P. M
Scipio <tum> <tum> Dziatzke profuit, nil Laelius, nil Furius,
tres per id tempus qui agitabant nobiles facillime:
eorum ille opera ne domum quidem habuit conducticiam,
saltem ut esset quo referret obitum domini seruulus.

2 Terence lived on intimate terms with many nobles, but especially Scipio Africanus and Caius Laelius. He is even thought to have won their favour through his bodily beauty: but Fenestella refutes this too, maintaining that he was older than either of them. However, Nepos reports that they were all of the same age, and Porcius raises the suspicion of excessive intimacy with the following:

“Though he cultivated the wantonness and sham praise of nobles, though he drank in the divine voice of Africanus with greedy ears, though he thought it splendid to dine with Philus and Laelius, though he was often carried off to the Alban villa because of his youthful beauty, he later lost everything and was reduced to utter destitution. And so when he withdrew from the sight of all men to a remote part of Greece, he died at Stymphalus, a town of Arcadia. Publius then received no help from Scipio, Laelius, or Furius, the three nobles who were living most comfortably at that time: their help did not even provide him with a rented house, so that at least there would be a place where his slave might announce the death of his master.”

3 Scripsit comoedias sex. ex quibus primam Andriam cum aedilibus daret, iussus ante Caecilio Caecilio Hieronymus: caerio m: cerio m: cenam m recitare ad cenantem cum uenisset, dicitur initium quidem fabulae, quod erat contemptiore uestitu, subsellio iuxta lectulum residens legisse, post paucos uero uersus inuitatus ut accumberet cenasse una, dein cetera percucurrisse non sine magna Caecilii Caecilii Hieronymus: caerii m: cerii vel sim. m: eorum m admiratione. et hanc autem et quinque reliquas aequaliter populo probauit, quamuis Vulcatius <in> dinumeratione <in> dinumeratione Schopen: de <Hecyra in e>numeratione Leo: denumeratione vel sim. M omnium omnium om. m: operum Bothius ita scribat:

sumetur sumetur m: simitur Ritschl: sumeretur m: submeret vel sim. m Hecyra sexta ex his ex his M: exilis Bergk: exclusast Ritschl fabula.

Eunuchus quidem bis die die m: deinceps Ritschl: om. m acta est meruitque pretium, quantum nulla antea cuiusquam comoedia, id est octo milia nummorum. propterea summa quoque titulo ascribitur. <…> lac. post ascribitur Wolf nam Adelphorum principium Varro etiam praefert principio Menandri.

3 He wrote six comedies. When he offered the aediles the first of these, The Girl from Andros, he was asked to read it to Caecilius in advance. Having come to Caecilius’ house as he was dining, Terence is said to have read the beginning of the play sitting on a bench near his couch, because he was dressed inappropriately. But after a few verses he was invited to join the meal, and afterwards he ran through the rest of the play to Caecilius’ great admiration. Moreover, this play and the five others won equal acclaim from the people, although in enumerating them all Vulcatius wrote the following:

“The sixth play, The Mother-in-law, will not be included.”

The Eunuch was even acted twice in one day and earned more money than any previous comedy by anyone, that is, eight thousand sesterces. For this reason the sum is also written on the title page. <…> For Varro even rates the beginning of his The Brothers above that of Menander.

4 Non obscura fama est adiutum Terentium in scriptis a Laelio et Scipione, eamque ipse auxit numquam nisi leuiter refutare refutare m: se tutare m: se tutari m conatus, ut in prologo Adelphorum (15-21):

nam quod isti dicunt maleuoli, homines nobiles
hunc adiutare assidueque una scribere:
quod illi maledictum uehemens esse existimant,
eam laudem hic ducit maximam, quom illis placet
qui uobis uobis om. m uniuersis et populo placent,
quorum opera in bello, in otio, in negotio
suo quisque tempore usus est sine superbia.

uidetur autem leuius <se> <se> Ritschl defendisse, quia sciebat et Laelio et Scipioni non ingratam esse hanc opinionem, quae tum magis et usque ad posteriora tempora ualuit. C. Memmius in oratione pro se ait: “P. Africanus, qui a Terentio personam mutuatus, quae domi luserat ipse, nomine illius in scaenam detulit.” Nepos auctore certo comperisse se ait C. Laelium quondam in Puteolano kalendis Martiis admonitum ab uxore, temperius ut discumberet, petisse ab ea ne interpellaretur interpellaretur m: interpellaret m: interpolleretur m seroque seroque m: seruius m: seruis m: serius m tandem ingressum triclinium dixisse non saepe in scribendo magis sibi successisse; deinde rogatum ut scripta illa proferret, pronuntiasse uersus qui sunt in Heautontimorumeno heautontimerumeno m: eautentumerumenos vel sim. m (723):

Satis pol proterue me Syri promissa huc induxerunt.

Santra Santra Erasmus: satra m: sacra m Terentium existimat, si modo in scribendo adiutoribus indiguerit, non tam Scipione et Laelio uti potuisse, qui tunc adulescentuli fuerint, quam C. Sulpicio Gallo, homine docto et quo consule Megalensibus quo consule Megalensibus Ritschl: cuius consularibus vel sim. M ludis initium fabularum dandarum fecerit, uel Q. Fabio Labeone et M. Popillio, consulari utroque ac poeta. ideo ipsum non iuuenes designare, qui se adiuuare dicantur dicantur Roth: dicuntur m: designarentur m: dicerentur m, sed uiros quorum operam et in bello et in otio et in negotio populus sit expertus.

4 There is a widespread rumour that Terence was aided in his writings by Laelius and Scipio, and he himself stoked this rumour by never attempting to refute it, except weakly, as in the prologue to The Brothers (15-21):

“For as to what those malicious people say, that noblemen aid this poet and constantly write together with him: what they reckon to be a harsh insult, he considers the highest praise, since he pleases those who please you all and the people, whose assistance in war, in leisure, and in business, everyone has used in his own time without any disdain on their part.”

Now he seems to have made a weak defence because he knew that this gossip was not disagreeable to Laelius and Scipio; it nonetheless gained currency and even persisted until later times. In a speech in his own defence, Gaius Memmius says: “Publius Africanus, who borrowed a mask from Terence, presented on the stage under his name what he himself had written for recreation at home.”

Nepos says that he learned from a reliable source that once at his residence at Puteoli Gaius Laelius was urged by his wife to come to dinner earlier than usual on the Kalends of March, but he implored her not to interrupt him. And when at last he entered the dining-room at a late hour, he said that he had rarely been more satisfied with his writing; when he was asked to read out what he had written, he recited the verses of The Self-tormentor that begin (723):

“By Pollux, quite shamelessly did Syrus lure me here with his promises.”

Santra thinks that if Terence really needed people to help with his writing, he would not have been so likely to use Scipio and Laelius, who then were mere youths, as much as Gaius Sulpicius Gallus, a learned man, in whose consulship he brought out his first play during the Megalesian games, or Quintus Fabius Labeo and Marcus Popillius, both ex-consuls and poets. For this reason he did not speak of young men who were said to help him, but of men whose services the people had tried in war, in leisure, and in business.

5 Post editas comoedias, nondum quintum atque uicesimum uicesimum m: uigessimum m: trigessimum m: trigesimum m: XXX m egressus egressus M: ingressus Ritschl annum, animi animi om. m causa et uitandae opinionis, qua uidebatur aliena pro suis edere, seu percipiendi Graecorum instituta moresque, quos non perinde exprimeret in scriptis, egressus <urbe> <urbe> Muretus est neque amplius rediit. de morte eius Vulcatius sic tradit:

sed ut Afer populo sex dedit comoedias,
iter hinc in Asiam fecit, <et> <et> Roth nauem ut semel
conscendit, uisus numquam est: sic uita uacat.

Q. Cosconius redeuntem e Graecia perisse in mari dicit cum C et VIII C. et VIII. m: centum et octo vel sim. m: om. Ritschl fabulis conuersis a Menandro. ceteri mortuum esse in Arcadia Stymphali siue Leucadiae siue Leucadiae m: sinu Leucadiae m tradunt, Cn. Cornelio Dolabella M. Fulvio Nobiliore consulibus, morbo implicitum ex dolore ac taedio amissarum sarcinarum sarcinarum m: satirarum m: satyrarum m: fabularum m, quas in naue praemiserat, ac simul fabularum quas nouas fecerat.

5 After publishing these comedies, when he had not yet passed his twenty-fifth year, for his own gratification and to avoid the gossip, according to which he seemed to be publishing the work of others as his own, or else to familiarise himself with the habits and customs of the Greeks, which he felt that he had not presented adequately in his works, he left Rome and never returned. Of his death Vulcatius writes this:

“But when Afer had given six comedies to the people, he travelled from here to Asia, and from the moment that he boarded the ship he was never seen again: thus he lost his life.”

Quintus Cosconius says that he perished at sea as he was returning from Greece with one-hundred-and-eight plays adapted from Menander. The rest of our sources report that he died at Stymphalus in Arcadia or at Leucadia during the consulship of Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, after falling ill from grief and despair at the loss of his baggage, which he had sent ahead in a ship, and along with it the new plays that he had written.

6 Fuisse dicitur mediocri statura, gracili corpore, colore fusco. reliquit filiam, quae post equiti Romano nupsit, item hortulos XX iugerum uia Appia ad Martis Martis Schopen: martis uillam M. quo magis miror Porcium scribere:

Scipio nihil profuit, nihil Laelius, nihil Furius,
tres per id tempus qui agitabant nobiles facillime: tres…facillime om. Ritschl
eorum ille opera ne domum quidem habuit conducticiam,
saltem ut esset quo referret obitum domini seruulus. saltem…seruulus om. Ritschl

6 He is said to have been of moderate height, slender build, and dark complexion. He left a daughter, who later married a Roman knight, as well as gardens of twenty acres on the Appian Way, near the villa of Mars. I am therefore all the more surprised that Porcius should write:

“He received no help from Scipio, Laelius, or Furius, the three nobles who were living most comfortably at that time: their help did not even provide him with a rented house, so that at least there would be a place where his slave might announce the death of his master.”

7 Hunc Afranius quidem omnibus comicis praefert, scribens in Compitalibus:

Terenti num num Buecheler: non m: om. m similem dicetis dicetis Buecheler: dicens M quempiam.

Vulcatius autem non solum Naeuio et Plauto et Caecilio, sed Licinio quoque et Atilio postponit. Cicero in Limone hactenus laudat:

tu quoque, qui solus lecto sermone, Terenti,
conuersum expressumque Latina uoce Menandrum
in medium nobis sedatis uocibus uocibus M: motibus Barth effers,
quiddam come loquens atque omnia dulcia dicens dicens M: miscens Ritschl.

item C. Caesar:

tu quoque, tu in summis, o dimidiate Menander,
poneris, et merito, puri sermonis amator.
lenibus atque utinam scriptis adiuncta foret uis,
comica ut aequato uirtus polleret honore
cum Graecis neue hac despectus parte iaceres!
unum hoc maceror ac doleo tibi desse, Terenti.

7 Afranius in fact ranks Terence above all other comic authors, writing in his Compitalia:

“Surely you will not say that anyone else is the equal of Terence?”

But Vulcatius regards him as inferior not only to Naevius and Plautus and Caecilius, but also to Licinius and Atilius. Cicero in his Meadow praises him to this extent:

“You too, Terence, who alone rendered Menander in choice speech and translated him into Latin, present him on stage before us with your quiet utterance, speaking with a certain elegance and saying everything sweetly.”

Caesar as well:

“You too are ranked among the highest, you demi-Menander, and deservedly so, you lover of pure speech. But if only your gentle verses also had force, so that your comic excellence may be held in equal honour with that of the Greeks, and you may not be scorned in this respect and overlooked! It hurts and pains me, Terence, that you lack this one attribute.”
Relevant guides Terence