Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Off Limits: A Friend's Advice on Love, Plautus Curculio 35-38

 In the play Curculio, Palinurus sees that Phaedromus is in love with a slave and offers advice on navigating dating in the ancient Roman world. This advice offers insight into Roman mores on who are eligible for romance (i.e., single adult citizens) and who are off limits (i.e., married people and children). Earlier in his speech, he uses neutral, not gendered terms (quod amas amato, "love whomever you want," line 32), when referring to Phaedromus' love object.  It must be grimly noted, however, that Palinurus does not mention that slaves are "off limits" in his list because they lacked bodily autonomy and could be abused at their masters' whim (not pursued consensually).

 Nemo ire quemquam publica prohibet via;
dum ne per fundum saeptum facias semitam,
dum ted abstineas nupta, vidua, virgine,
iuventute et pueris liberis, ama quid lubet.

--Plautus, Curculio 35 - 38

 Nobody’s going to stop you from walking down a public street, 

but don’t step on anybody else’s metaphorical lawn.

As long as you stay away from a bride, a widow, a young woman,

A young man, and freeborn children, you can love whomever you’d like.





Name:  Titus Maccius Plautus

Date:  3rd century BCE

Works:  Pot of Gold




Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Plautus was one of the earliest Roman authors that remain extant. He was born in northern Italy in the 3rd century, and spent the entirety of his life in and around the stage. Although many of his works are lost, we have nearly two dozen of his comedies to this day. The impact of Plautus is still seen today; his works were the basis for the famous musical A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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