Known works of early Roman playwrights (3rd – 1st c. BCE)

Terence’s Andria – Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal MS 644 – 15th c.
Literary fragments are not easy to access, and are often difficult to make much sense of. But for those who are interested in Roman Republican literature, the majority of the works of which we know are fragmentary. In this blog post I list the known titles of the following Roman playwrights from the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE: Livius Andronicus, Gnaeus Naevius, Plautus, Caecilius Statius, Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius, Terence, Lucius Accius, Trabea, Atilius, Sextus Turpilius, Titinius, Lucius Afranius, T. Quinctius Atta.

If I give no English equivalent for a title, the title is the name of a character in a play (e.g. Andromacha = “Andromacha”, like “Hamlet”), or sometimes a place (Naevius’ Clastidium, named after the victory over the Celts at Clastidium by M. Marcellus in 222 B.C.E).

Lucius Livius Andronicus
3rd century BCE; b. 290?

Tarentum Pleiades
source: Pleiades Project

Odusia, “Odyssey,” in Saturnians. Latin translation of the Odyssey. Warmington II:24-43.

Titles of Livius Andronicus’ tragedies (10 or 11?): Achilles, Aegisthus, Ajax Mastigophorus (“Ajax the Whip-Bearer”), Andromeda, Danae, Equos Troianus (“Trojan Horse”), Hermiona, Ino, TereusTeucer (Varro LL 7.2). Warmington II:2-21. Schauer 2012.

Titles of Livius Andronicus’ comedies: Gladiolus (“The Dagger”), Ludius (“The Gamester”). Warmington II:20-21.

Gnaeus Naevius
3rd century BCE; d. 204 or 201

Campania Pleiades
source: Pleiades Project

Bellum Poenicum, “The song of the Punic War,” in Saturnians. Warmington II:47-73.

Titles of Naevius’ tragedies (6 or 7 titles; c. 50 verse frgs): Aesione, Danae, Equos Troianus (“Trojan Horse”), Hector Proficiscens (“Hector Leaving”), Iphigenia, Lycurgus, (Andromacha? less secure – cf. Boyle 2006:37). Warmington II:110-135. Schauer 2012.

Titles of Naevius’ praetextaeClastidium, Romulus (or Lupus, “The Wolf”). Warmington II:136-139.

Titles of Naevius’ comedies (c. 30 titles; c. 125 verse frgs):
Acontizomenos, Agitatoria, Agrypnuntes, Appella, Ariolus, Carbonaria, Clamidaria, Colax (“The Flatterer”), Corollaria, Dementes (“The Madmen”), Demetrius, Dolus (“The Trick”), Figulus, Glaucoma, Gymnasticus, Lampadio, Leon, Nagido, Nautae, Pellex, Personata, Proiectus, Quadrigemini, Stalagmus, Stigmatias, Tarentilla, Technicus, Testicularia, Triphallus, Tunicularia. Warmington II:74-109.

254–184 BCE 

Sarsina Pleiades
Sarsina in Umbria
source: Pleiades Project

During the period when Plautus was writing for the stage, his works were not yet circulated as book copies which could be read by the public. By the time this started to happen, dozens of comedies were attached to his name. In the 1st c. BCE, Varro named 21 plays which he considered genuine without a doubt. Only 21 plays have come down to us – the same 21 which took on Varro’s stamp as authentic (so-called fabulae Varronianae, Gell. 3.3). On Varro’s 21 plays being identical with our 21, cf. Reynolds 1983: 303.

Titles of 21 “authentic” Plautine comedies: Amphitruo, Asinaria (“The Comedy of Asses”), Aulularia (“The Comedy of the Pot”), Bacchides, Captivi (“The Prisoners”), Casina, Cistellaria, Curculio, Epidicus, Menaechmi, Mercator, Mostellaria (“The Haunted House”), Persa (“The Persian”), Poenulus, Pseudolus, Rudens (“The Cable”), Stichus, Trinummus (“The Three Coins”), Truculentus, Vidularia (“The Comedy of the Satchel”). The end position of Vidularia exposed it to damage during its transmission, as a result we have only fragments of it.

The following 35 titles of plays attributed to Plautus are also known: AcharistioAddictusAgroecusAnusArtemoAstrabaBacariaBis CompressaBoeotiaCaecus vel PraedonesCalceolusCarbonariaCesistio?Colax, Commorientes, Condalium, Cophinus, Cornicula, Dyscolus, Faeneratrix, Fretum (“The Straight”), FrivolariaFugitiviGemini Lenones, Hortulus, Lipargus, Nervolaria, Pago (=Phago), Parasitus MedicusParasitus Piger, Plocinus, Saturio, Scematicus, Sitellitergus, Trigemini. The fragments of these are collected alongside those of the Vidularia by Monda 2004. For an English translation, consult the LOEB by De Melo 2013.

Caecilius Statius
Mediolanum (Milan)
230/220-168 BCE

Mediolanum Pleiades
source: Pleiades Project

42 titles of comedy (palliatae) are known, c. 300 fragmentary verses:
Aethrio (“The Ethereal”), Andria (“The woman of Andros), Androgynos (“The man-woman”), Asotus (“The Debauchee”), Chalcia (“The Coppersmiths’ Holiday”), ChrysionDardanus, Davos, Demandati (“The Wards”), Ephesio, Epicleros (“The Heiress”), Epistathmos (“The Quartermaster”), Epistula (“The Letter”), Exhautuhestos (“Wise in his own conceit”), Exul (“The Exile”), Fallacia (“The Fraud”), Gamos (“The Marriage”), Harpazomene (“The Abducted Maiden”), HymnisHypobolimaeus (Subditivos) vel Hypobolimaeus Chaerestratus vel Hypobolimaeus Rastraria (“The Changeling” or “The Changeling Chaerestratus” or “The Changeling: A play of the hoe”), Aeschinus sive Hypobolimaeus Aeschinus (“Aeschinus” or “The Changeling Aeschinus”), Imbrii (“The Imbrians”), Karine (“The Keener”), Kratinus? (“Cratinus”?), Meretrix (“The Harlot”), Nauclerus (“The Shipmaster”), Nothus Nicasio (“The Bastard Nicasio”), Obolostates vel Faenerator (“The Money-lender”), Pausimachus (“Makepeace”), Philumena (“The Fiancée”), Plocium (“The Little Necklace”), Polumeni (“Men for Sale”), Portitor (“The Carrier”), Progamos (“Wedding-Preliminaries”), Pugil (“The Boxer”), Symbolum (“The Token”), Synaristosae (“Ladies at lunch”), Synephebi (“Comrades in youth”), Syracusii (“The Syracusans”), Titthe (“The Wet-nurse”), Triumphus (“The Triumph”), Venator? (“The Hunter”?). Warmington I:468-564.

The Obolostates sive Faenerator was thought by Knut Kleve to be among the papyrological fragments found at the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum (P.Herc. 78), but many scholars are now sceptical of Kleve’s identifications (cf. Houston 2014:98).

Quintus Ennius
239-169 BCE

Rudiae Pleiades
source: Pleiades Project

Titles of Ennius’ tragedies, 20 or 21: Achilles, Ajax, Alcmeo, Alexander, Andromacha, Andromeda, Athamas, Cresphontes, Erechtheus, Eumenides, Hectoris Lytra (“Ransom of Hector”), HecubaIphigenia, *Medea (set at Corinth, like Euripides’), *Medea Exul (“Medea Exiled”, set at Athens), MelanippaNemeaPhoenix, Telamo, Telephus, Thyestes. Jocelyn 1969, Warmington I:218-357, Manuwald 2012.

*Jocelyn 1969: 343: “There is further and stronger evidence both that Ennius adapted the Medea of Euripides and that he wrote another tragedy about Medea. This second tragedy was set in Athens.”

Titles of Ennius’ praetextaeAmbraciaSabinae (“Sabine Women”). Warmington I:3578ff.

Titles of Ennius’ comedies (palliata): Caupuncula (“The Little Hostess”), Pancratiastes (“The Champion of Everything”). Warmington I:360-363.

Annales: Rome’s first epic poem written in hexameters, covering Roman history from its beginnings to the 2nd c. BCE. Originally 15 bks, expanded to 18bks. For text & commentary, Skutsch 1985. Warmington I: 2-215.

Hedyphagetica (“Eating Well”/”Delikatessen”): didactic work on gastronomy following Archestratus of Gela (c.350 BCE). Warmington I:406-411.

Epicharmus:  poem in  Warmington I:410-415.

Euhemerus: perhaps a prose work, following Euhemerus of Messina (4th-3rd c. BCE), who thought that belief in gods came from the traditions of ancient heroes who were later deified. Warmington I:414-430.

Epigrams: Warmington I:398-403.

Protrepticus (“Speech of Exhortation”): Warmington I:406-407.

Saturae: Warmington I:382-395.

Scipio: a work celebrating Scipio Africanus, Warmington I:394-399.

Sota: Warmington I:402-405.

Marcus Pacuvius

c. 220-c. 130 BCE

source: Pleiades Project

Nephew of Ennius, painter and poet. Titles of 1 praetextaPaulus – after 168 BCE, and 13 tragedies, c. 450 lines: Antiope, Armorum Iudicium (“The Award of the Arms”), Atalanta, Chryses, Dulorestes (“Orestes the Slave”), Hermiona, Iliona, Medus, Niptra (“The Washing”), Pentheus, Periboea, Protesilaus, Teucer – Warmington II:158ff. Aulus Gellius (1.24.4) quotes an epitaph supposed to have been written by Pacuvius. Like his uncle, Ennius, Pacuvius also wrote satires. Boyle 2006:87-108.


185/4-159 BCE

source: Pleiades project

6 comedies (palliatae): Andria – 166 BCE; Adelphoe – 160 BCE; Hecyra – 1st performance 165 BCE, 2nd + 3rd 160 BCE; Heautontimoroumenos – 163 BCE; Eunuchus – 161 BCE; Phormio – 161 BCE. For a conspectus metrorum of all Terence’s plays, see Kauer and Lindsay’s OCT (1926)Barsby’s 1999 commentary on Eunuchus gives its metres in the margins of the Latin text.

Lucius Accius
170-c. 86 BCE

source: Pleiades project

Poet and scholar. Dramatic output seems to have equaled Ennius and Pacuvius combined (Duckworth 1952: 44). Varro dedicated his work on the Latin alphabet to him (De Antiquitate Litterarum). Works on stage history (Didascalia), stage practice (Pragmatica); Annales on Roman festivals, Parerga on agriculture (?), Praxidica on practical advice; love poems/Sotadici. Accius and the satirist Lucilius disagreed on spelling issues (Bonner 1977: 209). Accius held a prominent position in the collegium poetarum c. 120 BCE (Boyle 2006: 111). 2 titles of praetextaeAeneadae sive Decius (“Children of Aeneas” or “Decius”), Brutus. 45 titles of tragedies known, c. 700 extant lines: Achilles, Aegisthus, Agamemnonidae (“Children of Agamemnon”), Alcestis, Alcmeo, Alphesiboea, Amphitryo, Andromeda, Antenoridae (“Children of Antenor”), Antigona, Armorum Iudicium (“The Award of the Arms”), Astyanax, Athamas, Atreus, Bacchae (“The Bacchanals”), ChrysippusClytaemnestra, Deiphobus, Diomedes, Epigoni (“The After-Born”), Epinausimache (“The Battle at the Ships”), Erigona, Eriphyla, Eurysaces, Hecuba, Hellenes (“The Greeks”), Io, Medea sive Argonautae (“Medea” or “The Argonauts”), Melanippus, Meleager, Minos sive Minotaurus (“Minos” or “The Minotaur”), Myrmidones (“The Myrmidons”), NeoptolemusNyctegresia (“The Night Alarm”), OenomausPelopidae (“Children of Pelops”), Philocteta sive Philocteta Lemnius (“Philocteta” or “Philocteta on Lemnos”), Phinidae (“The Children oF Phineus”), Phoenissae (“The Phoenician Women”), PrometheusStasiastae sive Tropaeum Liberi (“The Rebels” or “Liber’s Trophy”), TelephusTereusThebais (“A Tale of Thebes”), Troades (“Women of Troy”). His dramatic output seems to have equaled Ennius and Pacuvius combined. Boyle 2006:109-142.

?1st ½ 2nd c. BCE

Only two fragments of comedy (palliata) known – both come from Cicero.

?1st ½ 2nd c. BCE

Composer of comedy (palliata) and tragedy. Only 2 titles are known: Misogynos (comedy), Electra (tragedy).

Sextus Turpilius
d. 103 BCE
(Duckworth 1952:68)

13 titles of comedy (palliata) known: Boethuntes, Canephorus (“The Basket Bearer”), Demetrius, Demiurgus (“The Craftsman”), Epiclerus, Hetaera, Lemniae, Leucadia, Linda, Paedium, Paraterusa, Philopator, Thrasyleon.

2nd ½ 3rd
c. BCE or late 2nd c. BCE

Composer of fabula togata – comedy in Roman dress. Majority of scholars make Titinius a contemporary of Plautus. Depending on this dating, either he or L. Afranius is credited with inventing the fabula togata. Titles of 15 togata known, c. 190 lines: Barbatus, Caecus, Fullonia, Gemina, Hortensius, Iurisperita, Privigna, Prilia, Psaltria sive Ferentinatis, Quintus, Setina, Tibicina, Varus, Veliterna, Insubra*. 

Lucius Afranius
?2nd ½ 2nd c. BCE

Composer of fabula togata – comedy in Roman dress. Abducta, Aequales, Auctio, Augur, Brundisinae, Cinerarius, Compitalia, Consobrini, Crimen, Deditio, Depositum, Divortium, Emancipatus, Epistula, Exceptus, Fratriae, Ida(?), Incendium, Inimici, Libertus, Mariti, Materterae, Megalensia, Omen, Pantelius, Pompa, Privignus, Prodigus, Proditus, Promus, Prosa(?), Purgamentum, Repudiatus, Sella, Simulans, Sorores, Suspecta, Talio, Temerarius, Thais, Titulus, Virgo, Vopsicus. 

T. Quinctius Atta
1st c. BCE

According to Jerome, b. 77 BCE. Composer of fabula togata – comedy in Roman dress. Titles of 12 togata known: Aedilicia, Aquae Caldae, Conciliatrix, Gratulatio, Lucubratio, Materterae, Megalensia, Nurus, Satura, Socrus, Supplicatio, Tiro Profiscens. Grammarians also cite his epigrams.

Bibliography: Beare 1968, The Roman Stage; Bonner 1977, Education in Ancient Rome; Boyle 2006, Roman Tragedy; Conte 1999, Latin Literature: A History; Duckworth 1952, The Nature of Roman Comedy; Houston 2014, Inside Roman Libraries; Jocelyn 1969, The Tragedies of Ennius; Manuwald 2011, Roman republican theatre; Manuwald ed. 2012, Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta. Vol. II – Ennius; Reynolds ed. 1983, Texts and Transmission; Schauer ed. 2012, Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta. Vol. I – Livius Andronicus. Naevius. Tragici Minores. Fragmenta Adespota; Warmington 1936, Remains of Old Latin, Vol. I: Ennius and Caecilius, Vol. II: Livius Andronicus, Naevius, Pacuvius, Accius. 

One thought on “Known works of early Roman playwrights (3rd – 1st c. BCE)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s