Drama in the Roman Republic: Getting Started

Prepared by Timothy J. Moore

Department of Classics, Washington University in St. Louis


General Discussions

  • Beacham, Richard C. The Roman Theatre and Its Audience. Cambridge, MA, Harvard Univ. Press, 1992.
  • Beare, William. The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic. 3d ed., London: Methuen, 1964.
  • Bieber, Margarete. The History of the Greek and Roman Theater. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961. Dated, but still useful guide to the archaeological evidence for theatrical practice.
  • Lefèvre, Eckard (ed.). Das römische Drama. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978. Collection of essays.
  • Csapo, Eric and William J. Slater. The Context of Ancient Drama. Ann Arbor, MI, Univ. of Michigan Press, 1995. Source book of Realia for both Greek and Roman theater.
  • Duncan, Anne. Performance and Identity in the Classical World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Includes chapters on the parasite and the meretrix as actors, and on Roscius.
  • Dupont, Florence. L’acteur-roi: Le théatre à Rome. Collection Realia. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1985.
  • Garton, Charles. Personal Aspects of the Roman Theatre. Toronto: Hakkert, 1972.
  • Gratwick, Adrian. “Drama,” in Cambridge History of Classical Literature I: Latin Literature, ed. by E. J. Kenney and W. Clausen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 77-137.
  • Gruen, Erich S. “The Theater and Aristocratic Culture,” in Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992. 183-222.
  • Manuwald, Gesine, Roman Republican Theatre. Cambridge: Cabriedge University Press, 2011.  History of Roman theatre until the end of the Republic.
  • Jory, E.J. “Continuity and Change in the Roman Theatre,” in Betts, Hooker, and Oren, edd., Studies in Honour of T.B.L. Webster (Bristol, 1986) 143-52. “The heydey of the Roman theatre was not in the Republic but in the Empire.”
  • Rawson, Elizabeth. “Theatrical Life in Republican Rome and Italy.” Proceedings of the British School at Rome 53 (1985) 97-113.
  • Traina, A. Vortit barbare. Le traduzioni poetiche da Livio Andronico a Cicerone. Chapters on Naevius, Caecilius, Ennius’ tragedies, Terence, and Accius.


  • Arnott, W. Geoffrey. Menander, Plautus, Terence. G&R New Surveys in the Classics, N0. 9. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975. Excellent short introduction to the three playwrights.
  • Duckworth, George Eckel. The Nature of Roman Comedy,: A Study in Popular Entertainment. Princeton 1952. Excellent synthesis of work on Roman comedy through 1950.
  • Dutsch, Dorota. Feminine Discourse in Roman Comedy: On Echoes and Voices. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Gaiser, K. “Zur Eigenart der römischen Komödie: Plautus und Terenz gegenüber ihren griechischen Vorbildern,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 1.2 (Berlin, 1972) pp. 1027-1113. Good way to start considering the controversies about how Plautus and Terence changed their Greek originals.
  • Goldberg, Sander M. “Roman Comedy Gets Back to Basics,” Journal of Roman Studies 101 (2011): 206-21.  Review of recent scholarship.
  • Hunter, Richard L. The New Comedy of Greece and Rome. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  • Konstan, David. Roman Comedy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.
  • Leffingwell, Georgia Williams. Social and Private Life at Rome in the Time of Plautus and Terence. Columbia University: Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, Vol. 81, No. 1. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1918. Dated and sometimes naive, but still a good place to start for thoughts about the social background to Plautus and Terence.
  • Leigh, Matthew. Comedy and the Rise of Rome. London, 2004.
  • López Gregoris, Rosario. El amor en la comedia latina. Análisis léxico y semántico. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 2002.
  • Marshall, C.W.  The Stagecraft and Performance of Roman Comedy.  Cambridge, Eng., 2006.  Replaces Beare as the best guide to the performance of Plautus and (to a lesser extent) Terence.
  • Ritschl, Friedrich. Parerga zu Plautus und Terenz. Berlin, 1845; repr. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1965. Collection of writings by the foremost Plautine scholar of the 19th century.
  • Sharrock, Alison. Reading Roman Comedy: Poetics and Playfulness in Plautus and Terence. W.B. Stanford Memorial Lectures. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Segal, Erich (ed.). Oxford Readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Various essays reprinted.
  • Spranger, Peter P. Historische Untersuchungen zu den Sklavenfiguren des Plautus und Terenz. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1984.
  • Sutton, Dana F. Ancient Comedy: The War of the Generations. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Includes arguments that Plautus and Terence challenged contemporary social mores.
  • Wiles, David. The Masks of Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. (includes chapters on Plautus and Terence). Explains New and Roman Comedy in terms of Aristotelian and semiotic theory.
  • Wright, John. Dancing in Chains: the Stylistic Unity of the Comoedia Palliata. Rome 1974. Best study of all the writers of palliata together; argues that all writers of palliata except Terence followed very similar rules of style, characterization, and plot.

Meter and Music

  • Lindsay, W.M. Early Latin Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922. Has been largely replaced by Questa, but still a good start in English.
  • Maurach, Gregor. Untersuchungen zum Aufbau plautinischer Lieder. Hypomnemata 10. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1964.
  • Moore, Timothy J. Music in Roman Comedy.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Questa, Cesare. La metrica di Plauto e di Terenzio. Urbino: QuattroVenti, 2007. Best introduction to Plautus’ and Terence’s meter.
  • Ritschl, F. “Canticum und diverbium bei Plautus,” Rheinisches Museum 26 (1871) 599-637. Nachtrag zu “Canticum und diverbium bei Plautus,” Rheinisches Museum 27 (1872) 186-192, Rheinisches Museum 27 (1872) 352ff, repr. in Opuscula Philologica 3 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1877), 1-54. The important discovery that all passages not in iambic senarii were probably accompanied.
  • Soubiran, Jean. Essai sur la versification dramatique des Romains : senaire iambique et septenaire trochaique. (Paris: Editions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1988)


On the Web

  • Centro Internazionale di Studi Plautini
  • Recordings of PlautineCantica


  • Bertini, Ferruccio. “Venti’ anni di studi plautini in Italia (1950-1970),” Bollettino di Studi Latini 1 (1971) 23-41.
  • Bubel, Frank. Bibliographie zu Plautus, 1976-1989. Bonn 1992
  • Fogazza, Donatella. “Plauto 1935-1975,” Lustrum 19 (1976 [1978]) 79-295.
  • Hanson, J.A. “Scholarship on Plautus Since 1950,” Classical World 59 (1965-1966) 103-107, 126-129, 141-148.
  • Hughes, J. David. A Bibliography of Scholarship on Plautus. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1975.
  • Segal, Erich. “Scholarship on Plautus, 1965-1976,” Classical World 74 (1981) 353ff.


  • Ussing, Johan Louis, 1820-1905. Commentarius in Plauti comoedias. Denuo edendum curavit indicibus auxit Andreas Thierfelder. Hildesheim 1972.
  • Brix, Julius and Niemeyer, May, edd. Ausgewählte Komödien des T. Maccius Plautus. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1907.


  • Lodge, Gonzalez. Lexicon Plautinum. Leipzig: Teubner, 1904-1938.
    • Nice if you want a book to supplement Pandora.


  • Buck, Charles Henry, Jr. A Chronology of the Plays of Plautus. Baltimore, 1940 (no publisher named).
    • Rather daring.
  • Schutter, Klaas Herman Eltjo. Quibus annis comoediae Plautinae primum actae sint quaeritur. Groningae 1952.
    • Excellent synthesis of scholarship on chronology, with sound proposals of his own.
  • Sedgewick, W. B. “Plautine Chronology,” American Journal of Philology 70 (1949) 376-383.
    • Good on methodology.

Plautus and His Greek Originals

  • Bain, D. “Plautus vortit barbare. Plautus Bacchides 526-61 and Menander Dis Exapaton 102-12,” in Creative Imitation and Latin Literature. (Cambridge 1979), pp. 17-34.
  • Fraenkel, Eduard. Plautinisches im Plautus. Berlin 1922.
  • Fraenkel, Edward. Elementi plautini in Plauto. Firenze 1960 (Italian translation with addenda of Plautinisches im Plautus).
    • Arguably the most important book on Plautus still; careful analysis of just how Plautus added comic elements to his originals.
  • Fraenkel, Edward. Plautine Elements in Plautus, transl. T. Drevikovsky and F. Muecke.  Oxford, 2007.
    • Long awaited English translation of the above.
  • Handley, Eric Walter. “Menander and Plautus,.” Inaugural Lecture, University College, London, 5 Feb, 1968. London: Levis, 1968.
    • 1st publication of our only extant passage of Menander adapted by Plautus.
  • Lefèvre, Eckard, Ekkehard Stärk, and Gregor Vogt-Spira. Plautus barbarus: Sechs Kapitel zur Originalität des Plautus. ScriptOralia 25. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 1991.
    • Radical attribution of originality to Plautus arguing that the Italian folk tradition is more important than the Greek originals in determining the nature of Plautus’ plays.
  • Leo, Friedrich. Plautinische Forschungen zur Kritik und Geschichte der Komödie. Berlin, 1912.
    • Summation of work of probably the most influential Plautine scholar before Fraenkel.
  • Zagagi, Netta. Tradition and Originality in Plautus: Studies of the Amatory Motifs in Plautine Comedy. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980.
    • Rebuttal, sometimes persuasive, of some of Fraenkel’s theses.

Plautine “Metatheatre”

  • Barchiesi, Marino. “Plauto e il ‘metateatro’ antico,” Il Verri 31 (1969) 113-130.
  • Chiarini, Gioachino. La recita: Plauto, la farsa, la festa. Bologna: Patròn Editore, 1979.
  • Moore, Timothy J. The Theater of Plautus: Playing to the Audience. Austin, University of Texas Press, 1998.
  • Muecke, Francis. “Plautus and the Theatre of Disguise,” Classical Antiquity 5 (1986) 216-229.
  • Petrone, Gianna. Morale e antimorale nelle commedie di Plauto: Ricerche sullo Stichus. Palermo: Palumbo Editore, 1977.
  • Petrone, Gianna. Teatro antico e inganno: Finzioni Plautine. Palermo: G. B. Palumbo & Co., 1983.
  • Slater, Niall W. Plautus in Performance: The Theatre of the Mind. Princeton, N.J. 1985.
    • Argues that what makes Plautine theater work is its awareness of its own theatricality.


  • Abel, Karlhans. Die Plautusprologe. Diss. Frankfurt, 1955.
  • Anderson, William S., Barbarian Play: Plautus’ Roman Comedy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.
  • Benz, Lore, Ekkehard Stärk, and Gregor Vogt-Spira (edd.). Plautus und die Tradition des Stegreifspiels. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 1995.
    • A number of useful essays on the influence of popular farce on Plautus.
  • della Corte, Francesco. Da Sarsina a Roma: Ricerche Plautine. Genova: Instituto Universitario di Magistero, 1952.
  • Earl, D. C. “Political Terminology in Plautus,” Historia 9 (1960) 235-243.
  • Dorey, T. A. and Dudley, Donald K. (edd.). Roman Drama. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.
    • Several essays on Plautus and the Plautine tradition.
  • Fontaine, Michael. Funny Words in Plautine Comedy. New York, Oxford University Press, 2009.
    • Provocative argument that Plautus wrote for an upper-class, learned audience.
  • Gratwick, A. S. “Titus Maccius Plautus,” Classical Quarterly 23 (1973) 78-84. (on Plautus’ names)
  • Gruen, Erich S. “Plautus and the Public Stage,” in Studies in Greek Culture and Roman Policy. Leiden: Brill, 1990. 124-57.
  • Langen, Peter. Beiträge zur Kritik und Erklärung des Plautus. Leipzig: Teubner, 1880, repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1973. Very useful on some basic philological questions.
  • Lindsay, W. M. An Introduction to Latin Textual Emendation Based on the Text of Plautus. New York and London: MacMillan & Co., 1896. Also on line at http://perseus.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0071
  • Lindsay, W. M. The Syntax of Plautus. Oxford, 1907, repr. New York: G. E. Stechert, 1936. Also on line at http://perseus.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0070
  • McCarthy, Kathleen. Slaves, Masters, and the Art of Authority in Plautine Comedy. Princeton, 2000.
  • Segal, Erich. Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus. 2nd edition, London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.
    • An overstated but nevertheless important argument using the Freudian “pleasure principle” to explain Plautus’ “Saturnalian” comedy.
  • Taladoire, Barthélémy A. Essai sur le comique de Plaute. Monte Carlo: L’Imprimerie Nationale de Monaco, 1956. PCL 878 PS . YT.
  • Thierfelder, Andreas. De rationibus interpolationum Plautinarum. Leipzig: Teubner, 1929. Repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1971.
  • Wiles, David. “Taking Farce Seriously: Recent Critical Approaches to Plautus,” in Themes in Drama, 10: Farce, ed. James Redmond. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1988. 261-71.
  • Wright, John. “Plautus,” in Ancient Writers: Greece and Rome, ed. T. James Luce. Volume I: Homer to Caesar. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982, pp. 501-23.
    • Excellent introduction to Plautus as a whole and to each of the plays.
  • Zwierlein, Otto. Zur Kritik und Exegese des Plautus. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, Abhandlungen der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse. Stuttgart, Franz Steiner.
    • The extreme opposite of Lefèvre et al.; argues that Plautus stayed very close to his originals, and much of what looks “unGreek” (sometimes over 1/3 of a given play) is later interpolation by actors.
      • I: Poenulus und Curculio. Jahrgang 1990, Nr. 4.
      • II: Miles gloriosus. Jahrgang 1991, Nr. 3.
      • III: Pseudolus. Jahrgang 1991, Nr. 14.
      • IV: Bacchides. Jahrgang 1992, Nr. 4.



  • Goldberg, S. M. “Scholarship on Terence and the Fragments of Roman Comedy, 1959-1980,” Classical World 75 (1981) 77-115.
  • Marti, H. “Terenz 1909-1959,” Lustrum 6 (1961) 114-238; 8 (1963) 5-101, 244-64.


  • Ashmore, Sidney Gillespie. P. Terenti Afri Comoediae . 2d ed. New York 1908(1910).
  • Donatus. Aeli Donati quod fertur Commentum Terenti. Ed. Wessner. 2 vols. Leipzig:Teubner, 1902, 1905.


  • McGlynn, Patrick. Lexicon Terentianum. London: Blackie and Son, 1963 and 1967.


  • Bagordo, Andreas. Beobachtungen zur Sprache des Terenz : mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der umgangssprachlichen Elemente.  Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001.
  • Karakasis, Evangelos. Terence and the Language of Roman Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

The Illustrated Manuscripts

  • Jones, L. W. and C. R. Morey. 1932. The Miniatures of the Manuscripts of Terence Prior to the Thirteenth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Wright, David H. 2006. The Lost Late Antique Illustrated Terence.  Città del Vaticano: Vatican Library.


  • Arnott, W. Geoffrey. “Terence’s Prologues,” in Papers of the Liverpool Latin Seminar, Fifth Volume 1985, ed. by Francis Cairns. Liverpool, Francis Cairns, 1986, pp. 1-7.
    • Argues for a Greek precedent for Terence’s polemic prologues.
  • Büchner, K. Das Theater des Terenz. Heidelberg, 1974.
  • Denzler, Bruno. Der Monolog bei Terenz. Zürich: P. G. Keller, 1908.
  • Forehand, W.G. Terence (Boston, 1985). Good introduction to plays.
  • Goldberg, Sander M. Understanding Terence. Princeton, N.J. 1986. Best book in English on Terence.
  • Haffter, Heinz. “Terenz und seine künstlerische Eigenart,” Museum Helveticum 10 (1953) 1-20, 73-102.
    • Translated as Terenzio e la sua personalità artistica. Rome: Edizione dell’ Ateneo, 1969. Best analysis of what makes Terence unique.
  • Ludwig, W. “The Originality of Terence and his Greek Models,” GRBS 9 (1968) 169-92.
  • Parker, Holt. “Plautus vs. Terence: Audience and Popularity Re-examined.” American Journal of Philology 117 (1996): 585-617.
    • Important counter to the traditional view that Terence was unsuccessful.
  • Sandbach, F.H.. “Terence,” in Ancient Writers: Greece and Rome, ed. T. James Luce. Volume I: Homer to Caesar. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982.
  • Umbrico, Alessio. Terenzio e i suoi ‘nobiles’. Invenzione e realtà di un controverso legame ( Pisa, 2010).

Lost Comedy


  • onaria, Mario. I mimi romani. (Rome 1965).
    • Text, introduction, Italian translation.
  • Davidault, André. Comoedia Togata: Fragments (Paris 1981).
    • Text, introduction, French translation, commentary.
  • Frassinetti, Paolo. Atellanae fabulae. (Rome 1967).
    • Text, introduction, Italian translation, commentary.
  • Ribbeck, Otto. Scaenicae Romanorum poesis fragmenta. Tertiis curis, Lipsiae 1897-1898. Volume 2: Comedy.
    • Remains standard text for comic fragments.


  • Goldberg (see under Terence bibliography above)
  • J.H. Waszink, “Zum Anfangsstadium der römischen Literatur,” ANRW I.2 (1972) 869-927. Good critical bibliography on Livius Andronicus and Naevius.


  • Suerbaum, W. Untersuchungen zur Selbstdarstellung älterer römischer Dichter: Livius Andronicus, Naevius, Ennius. (Hildesheim, 1968).
    • Mostly on epic, but includes discussion of Livius’ and Naevius’ plays.


  • Jocelyn, H.D., “The Poet Cn. Naevius, P. Cornelius Scipio and Q. Caecilius Metellus,” Antichthon 3 (1969) 32-47.
    • Sceptical treatment of traditions surrounding Naevius’ life.
  • Marmorale, E.V., Naevius Poeta (3rd ed., Florence 1953).
    • Text of all of Naevius’ works with useful introduction and commentary.
  • von Albrecht, M. “Zur Tarentilla des Naevius,” Museum Helveticum 32 (1975) 230-39.


  • Rychlewska, Turpilii comici fragmenta. (Leipzig 1971).
    • Text


  • Guardi, Tommaso. Cecilio Stazio: I frammenti (Palermo 1974).
    • Text, introduction, Italian translation, commentary

Tragedy and Praetextae

See also lost comedy and Naevius above


  • Klotz, Alfred. Scaenicorum romanorum fragmenta, I: Tragicorum Fragmenta (Munich, 1953).
    • Supplements but does not replace Ribbeck.
  • Ribbeck, Otto. Scaenicae Romanorum poesis fragmenta. Tertiis curis, Lipsiae 1897-1898. Volume 1: Tragedy .
    • Remains the standard text. except for Ennius.


  • De Rosalia, Antonino. “Rassegna degli studi sulla tragedia latina arcaica (1965-1986),” Bolletino di Studi Latini 19 (1989) 76-144.
  • Mette, Hans Joachim. “Die Römische Tragödie und die Neufunde zur Griechischen Tragödie (insbesondere für die Jahre 1945-1964),” Lustrum 9 (1964) 5-200 .
    • Extensive bibliographical survey.
  • Manuwald, Gesine. “Römische Tragödien und Praetexten republikanischer Zeit: 1964-2002,” Lustrum 43 (2001) 11-237.
    • Extensive bibliographical survey.


  • A.J. Boyle.  An Introduction to Roman Tragedy.  London and New York, 2006.
  • Flower, Harriet I. “Fabulae praetextae in Context: When Were Plays on Contemporary Subjects Performed in Republican Rome?” Classical Quarterly 45 (1995) 170-190.
    • Proposes that praetextae on contemporary subjects are designed to explain a general’s vow and were performed at ludi votivi or dedications of temples.
  • Gildenhard, Ingo, “Buskins & SPQR: Roman receptions of Greek tragedy,” in Ingo Gildenhard and Martin Revermann (edd.), Beyond the Fifth Century: Interactions with Greek Tragedy from the Fourth Century BCE to the Middle Ages (Berlin, 2010).
  • Manuwald, Gesine. Fabulae praetextae : Spuren einer literarischen Gattung der Romer (Munich, 2001).
  • Manuwald, Gesine (ed.). Identität und Alterität in der frührömischen Tragödie (Würzburg, 2000).
  • Manuwald, Gesine. Pacuvius, summus tragicus poeta: Zum dramatischen Profil seiner Tragödien (Munich, 2003).
  • Ribbeck, Otto. Die römischen Tragödie im Zeitalter der Republik (Leipzig, 1870, repr. Hildesheim, 1968).



  • Jocelyn, H.D., The Tragedies of Ennius (Cambridge, 1967).
    • Text, introduction, commentary.
  • Vahlen, Johannes. Ennianae poesis reliquiae iteratis curis. (Lipsiae 1928).
    • Long the standard text for all of Ennius; now replaced by Jocelyn on the tragedies.


  • Brooks, R.A.B., Ennius and Roman Tragedy (New York, 1981).
  • Drabkin, Norma L. The Medea Exul of Ennius. 1937.
  • Jocelyn, H.D., “Ennius as a Dramatic Poet,” in Ennius (Fondation Hardt, Entretiens XVII, Geneve 1972), pp. 41-95.
  • Jocelyn, H.D., “The Poems of Quintus Ennius,” ANRW 1.2 (1972) 987-1026.
    • Good introduction to all of Ennius.

Last modified June 16, 2014 by tmoore26@wustl.edu