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Lost in barbarian translation: The anchoring function of the Greek models and the poetics of innovation in Plautine comedy

woensdag 18 december 2019
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


This dissertation reassesses the function of the Greek models mentioned or implied by the Roman playwright Plautus (c.255-184 BC) in some of his comedies. The research presented in this work questions traditional approaches to Plautus’ plays as extant Latin (un)faithful translations of some lost Greek originals. New light is shed instead on the discursive function of the mentions of or allusions to Greek models in Plautus’ oeuvre. This reassessment shows that the claimed or implied presence of Greek models in Plautine comedy works better as a persuasive means aiming to meet the expectations of an audience concerned with the Greekness of literary genres. Plautus’ fabulae palliatae feature a strong Italic indigenous taste, thus they could sound as extremely innovative, or, as Plautus himself ironically admits, ‘barbarian’, to a philhellenic spectator. Greek literary genres formed an established canonical system whose generic features applied also to Roman literature. Therefore, in order to promote his ‘barbarian’ plays and make them look more Greek, Plautus needed to dress them in a Greek ‘cloak’ (this is what fabula palliata means) by anchoring them in the established Greek tradition. Claiming or implying the presence of Greek models proves to be the strategy chosen by Plautus. 



  • Prof. dr. A. Wessels


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