Like so many ancient playwrights, the life of Publius Terentius Afer (also known as "Terence") is largely a mystery. His birth and early life are uncertain: Was he born in 185 BCE? Or was it 195 BCE? Was he born in Carthage? Or was it Southern Italy? With the designation of "Afer" in his name--meaning "from Africa"--many contemporary historians consider Terence to be one of the first African diaspora writers.
What is known is that he was born a slave and sold to a Roman senator, P. Terentius Lucanus. As a youth, Terence's intelligence and skill inspired his master to free him. Terence joined intellectual circles, and at the age of 25 traveled to Greece. No more is known about him--most historians agree that he likely died on the journey.
Terence's plays, while he had only six, were entertaining and often conversational in style. He wrote adaptations of late Greek comedy (fabula palliata), which were then often studied in the medieval era by scholars as diverse as Hroswitha of Gendersheim to Martin Luther to Giovanni Boccaccio. His plays, like other classical Roman authors, were foundational to a neoclassical education.
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