- (Publius Terentius Afer; c. 190 - 159 BC) Romanplaywright. He is believed to have been a Carthaginian slave educated andfreed by his Roman master. Six of his plays, all based on works of the GreekNew comedy, have survived: Andria (166 BC),Hecyra (165 BC), Heauton Timoroumenos (163BC), Eunuchus (161 BC), Phormio (161BC), and Adelphi (160 BC). They show Terence'scomedy to be more original and subtle with thoughtful characterizationand a graceful style. His plotting and characterization influencedmany Renaissance playwrights, amongst them Molière and Shakespeare.
In his own day Terence was always overshadowed by Plautus,who produced more topical and less refined comedies. Julius Caesarcriticized Terence's plays for lacking the true comic spirit. Theplaywright's later prologues sharply answer these attacks and alsocomplain of the fickleness of the public, which was developing a preferencefor circuses and gladiatorial combats.