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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The relationship between Roman comedy and the contemporary political and social scene has long been the subject of discussion and dispute. This essay avoids a search for one-to-one correspondences or direct references to events and persons. But it argues that comic writers were very much alive to current discourse on Roman attitudes, values, and practices. It illustrates this with reference to several Plautine plays and to Terence's Hecyra. The comedies dealt in subtle ways, sometimes mocking, sometimes serious, with matters like militarism, morals (and moralism), religious perspectives and sensibilities, political ambitions, hierarchical relationships, social and domestic institutions, and Rome's place in the Mediterranean. The playwrights were neither advocates nor activists. The comedies refrain from delivering opinions, but they explore individual and collective temperaments provoked by Rome's contemporary society.

Keywords: imperial power, moral decline, mos maiorum, religion, triumphs, gods, piety, Carthage, sumptuary laws, paterfamilias

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