Terence’s Eunuchus

Terence (c. 195 – c. 159? BC), translated by Kelk, Christopher (contributor-contact-email)

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Terence’s Eunuchus, based on a work by Menander, was his most successful play during his lifetime. In this complex story of rape and reconciliation Thais, a courtesan, manipulates two lovers: Thraso, an army officer, and Phaedria, a wealthy neighbour. She convinces Phaedria to temporarily leave for the country in order to obtain a young slave girl, Pamphila, from Thraso. Pamphila, originally from Athens, is Thais’s quasi-sibling. Phaedria leaves gifts of two slaves for Thais — a girl and a eunuch - with his slave Parmeno. Chaerea, Phaedria’s brother, falls for Pamphila and infiltrates Thais’s house, posing as the eunuch. While Thais is absent, Chaerea rapes Pamphila - fleeing in shame when discovered by Pythias, Thais’s maid. Upon Phaedria’s return, chaos ensues. Ultimately, Chaerea marries Pamphila, reconciling with her Athenian family, while Phaedria and Thais make amends. Thraso and Phaedria agree to share Thais. The play was notably successful, staged twice in one day and earning Terence 8,000 sesterces.

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Kelk, Christopher

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