TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

PUBLIUS TERENTIUS AFER, [Comoediae], Phormio, Hecyra

In Latin, manuscript on paper
Southern Germany, Württemberg or Western Bavaria?, c. 1460-1470

TM 278


40 ff. [20 bifolia], unbound although holes for stitching still visible, quires of 10 (i-iv10, with one bifolium in quire “i” most certainly missing) on paper (watermark close to Picard (1970), Die Turm-Wasserzeichen, p. 91, Abteilung II, 382 or 384, dating from 1461-1468: Augsburg, Ellwangen, Klingenberg, Pappenheim, Wertheim, Nordlingen, Schechingen, Herrenberg; see also Briquet, no. 15876, Klingenberg, dated 1464, also Werdenberg, 1464 and Constance, 1464), written in a German bastarda script, in brown ink, on up to 16 long lines per page, ruled in brown ink (justification:  over 250 x 130 mm; cropped at the bottom or at the top, thus complete measurement of ruling impracticable), first capital of each verse in a larger font, names of characters signaled in the text in red, some capitals stroked in red, spaces left blank for decorated initials never executed, some guide letters, depending on bifolia lower or upper margin cropped with punctual loss of text (Some minor wormholes, some foxing, but overall in very legible condition, wearing perhaps due to the fact that these bifolia might have served as binder’s waste). Dimensions 255 x 195 mm.

Substantial fragment of Terence’s comedies, likely recovered as binding waste, the present bifolia preserve an interesting layout, intended for glosses, suggesting their use in the schools for pedagogical purposes. They attest to the continuing reception of Terence in the later Middle Ages and the interest his plays held for a study of the Latin language not only in the schools but also in monasteries.


1.Script and single watermark suggest a Southwestern German origin for these bifolia, with watermarks indicating towns in Northern Bavaria such as Klingenberg-am-Main and Wertheim near Würzburg, but also towns such as Ellwangen, Nordlingen and Pappenheim further south bordering Bavaria and Württemberg, East of Stuttgart and North of the Swabian Alb.  Fruitful comparisons with manuscripts copied in this region should allow for a better identification of the present bifolia. The disassembled quires were likely saved from binder’s waste.


ff. 1-10v, Terence, Phormio, End of Prologue and Act I, I, 61–Act, II, iii, 395, incipit, “[C]remetis frater aberat peregre Demipho relicto Athenis Antiphone filio…” [Synopsis by C. Sulpicius Apollinaris]; beginnining of Prologue to Phormio; incipit, “[P]ost quam poeta vetus poetam non potest…” [missing beginning of Act I, i, 35-60, likely due to a missing bifolium between ff. 1-2]; explicit, “[…] Progeniem vostram usque ab avo atque advenissem qui mihi….” [ends incomplete with Phormio, Act II, iii, 395; missing Act II, iii-iv, 396-463] (ed. R. Kauer and M. Lindsay, 1992, pp. 172-192);
ff. 11-20v, Terence, Phormio, Acts II, iv, 464–Act V, iii, 795, incipit, “[…] sed eccum ipsum video in tempore huc se recipere. [Act III, i, 465]: [E]nimvero Antipho multis modis cum istoc animo es…”; explicit: “[…] Sed meum virum ex te exire video. CH[REMES] Hem Demipho […]” [ends incomplete with Phormio, Act V, iii, 795; missing Act V, iii-ix, 796-1056] (ed. R. Kauer and M. Lindsay, 1992, pp. 194-213);
ff. 21-30v, Terence, Hecyra, End of Prologue II–Act III, iii, 373, incipit, “[…] Mea causa causam [accipite] et date silencium / Ut libeat scribere aliis mihi ut discere novas expediat / Post hac precio emptas meo” [end of Hecyra, Prologue II, 55-58; beginning of Hecyra, Act I, i]; rubric, PHI[LOTIS MERETRIX], incipit, “[P]er pol quam paucos reperias meretricibus fideles evenire…”; explicit, “[…] Postquam intro adveni extemplo eius morbum cognovi miser […]” [ends incomplete with Hecyra, Act III, iii, 373; missing Act III, iii-iv, 374-450] (ed. R. Kauer and M. Lindsay, 1992, pp. 231-247].
ff. 31-40v, Terence, Hecyra, Act III, v, 451–V, iii, 822, rubric, Laches Phidippus Pamphilus; incipit, “LA[CHES]. [D]ixtin dudum illam dixisse…”; explicit, “[…] Nam memini abhinc mensis decem fere ad me nocte prima” [ends incomplete with Hecyra, Act V, iii, 822; missing Act V, iii, 823-Act V, iv, 880] (ed. R. Kauer and M. Lindsay, 1992, pp. 250- 272).
The present twenty bifolia contain substantial excerpts from two comedies by Terence, respectively Phormio (The Scheming Parasite) and Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law). Although fully legible, there is a certain amount of foxing and spotting, suggesting the bifolia were luckily saved from use as binder’s waste. The present two Terentian plays are the only ones based on Greek originals by Apollodorus.  Phormio is a play of intrigue where a trickster outwits two fathers–Demipho and Chremes–in order to further the love affairs of their two sons–Antipho and Phaedria. Hecyra or The Mother-in-Law camps a young man (Pamphilus) and his wife (Philumena) whom he had earlier raped without knowing her identity. Pamphilus is outraged when Philumena bears an illegitimate child which is in fact his own, and the play revolves around the characters and their reaction to this situation.
Terence was read and studied throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance. Although he was rarely presented dramatically, he was studied and appreciated for the highly moralistic content (although not always approved) and as a model of Latin style. The Codex Bembinus (Vatican Library) is the oldest surviving manuscript containing all or portions of the six comedies of Terence, and the editio princeps appeared very early at Strasbourg in 1470 (Goff, T 64).  Extensively copied in monasteries, Terentian plays appealed to the learned and educated, and his comedies were used in schools for teaching. The tenth-century medieval playwright Hrotswitha von Gandersheim wrote her six plays in direct imitation of Terence’s plays, 'christianizing' them to make them acceptable for her charges at Gandersheim and to provide a Christian alternative to reading Terence.  When presented, the plays of Terence were often performed in academic settings, with the development of “Schuldrama” (dramas for schools), plays performed by schoolboy actors and university students so as to acquire rhetorical skill and Latin fluency (on the reception of Terence in Germany see Schade, 1988, and the excellent website “Latin with Laughter. Terence through Time” (see Online Resources below; on the reception of Terence in monasteries see L. Bolton Holloway in Fajardo-Acosta F., 1992: Holloway demonstrates 'the continuing reception, appropriation and subversion' of Terence in both monastery and court, to teach not only Latin but also 'humanity and humility.').
To quote L. Reynolds: “Terence, almost always read where Latin has been read, can boast a commentary of s. IV, one manuscript of s. IV/V and fragments of three more, and numerous quotations in grammarians. Had chance denied us these, 650 manuscripts written after AD 800 would still remain to encourage or discourage the history of transmission” (Reynolds, Texts and Transmission, 1983, p. 412). A very large number of these can be tracked in the Schoenberg Database.
Although we do not know exactly for whom this manuscript was copied, it presents a very interesting lay-out, suggesting that the manuscript was unfinished. Indeed there are spaces left blank for initials that have not been executed, the text is copied in a single column with ample space left in the margin and with double-spacing between the lines of text so as to allow for a planned (but never executed) marginal commentary and interlinear gloss, called “scholia.” These critical commentaries explicate a wide range of subjects, everything from Terence's meter to his word choice to the original Greek underlying the Latin. The Terence “scholia” date back to the time of Aelius Donatus, one of St. Jerome's teachers.


Dupont, Florence. Le théâtre latin, Paris, 1999.

Fajardo-Acosta F., ed. The Influence of the Classical World on Medieval Literature, Architecture, Music, and Culture: A Collection of Interdisciplinary Studies, Lewiston, E. Mellen Press, 1992; in particular, L. Bolton Holloway, “Slaves and Princes--Terence Through Time,” pp. 34-53.

Goldberg, S. M. Understanding Terence, Princeton, 1986.
Kauer, R. and W. M. Lindsay, ed. P. Terentii Afri comoediae…supplementa apparatus cur. Otto Skutsh, Oxford, 1992.
Kruschwitz, Peter et alia. Terentius Poeta. Zetemata Monographien zur klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 127, Munich, C.H. Beck, 2007.
Piccard, G. Veröffentlichungen der Staatlichen Archivverwaltung Baden-Württemberg. Die Turm-Wasserzeichen, Stuttgart, 1970.
Reynolds, L., ed. Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics, Oxford, 1983.

Schade, Richard E. Studies in Early Modern Comedy 1500–1650, Columbia, 1988.

Online resources

Terence, Phormio (The Scheming Parasite)
Terence, Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law)
On Roman Comedy
Terence through Time / Latin with Laughter
Bryn Mawr Review of Kruschwitz, Peter ed. Terentius Poeta. Zetemata Monographien zur klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 127 (2007)