Terence and His Background

Most of our information about the life and background of Publius Terentius Afer comes from the biography written by Suetonius in the second century a.d., preserved for us (with an additional paragraph) by the fourth-century commentator Donatus. This tells us that Terence was born at Carthage and became the slave at Rome of the senator Terentius Lucanus, by whom on account of his intelligence and good looks he was given not only a liberal education but also his freedom. He enjoyed the friendship of many of the nobility, especially Scipio Aemilianus and Laelius; he also gained the approval of Caecilius, the leading comic dramatist of the day, to whom he read the script of his first play, The Woman of Andros, before it was approved for performance. After writing six comedies, allegedly with the help of his noble friends, Terence left Rome for Greece, still not yet twenty-five years of age, and died on the return journey. He left a daughter, who married into an equestrian family, and a small estate near the temple of Mars.