The Ancient Library

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On this page: Plebiscitum – Plebs – Plectrum – Pleiades or Pleiades



" Varronian plays " we still possess 20 more or less complete, and of the last, the Vldu-l&rM, considerable fragments. These extant plays (in addition to which there are a number of fragments of lost plays), are the oldest complete monuments of Roman lite­rature. They have not come down to us quite in their original form, but bear mani­fold traces of having undergone revision on the occasion of representations after the poet's death, especially in the latter half of th« 2nd century b.c. This is particularly the case with the prologues, which are pre­fixed to most of the pieces.

The plays have been handed down in the following order: Amphltruo, Asmaria (comedy of asses), Aululdria (comedy of a pot), Captivi (the prisoners), Curculio, Casina, Cistelldria (comedy of a chest), Epldlcus, Bacchides, Mostelldria (comedy of ghosts), Mf.ncechmi, Miles glOrlOsus (the braggart), Mercdtor (trader), Pseudolus, Pce-nulus (the Carthaginian),Persa (the Persian), Rudens (the cable), Stlclms, Trlnummus (the three coins), Truculentus (the grumbler), Vldularta (Comedy of a trunk). The titles refer sometimes to characters, sometimes to the action of the piece. If several of them are comparatively weak in plot and character-drawing, still not a few belong to the first rank. Such are the Aulularia, Mencechmi (the former the model of lloliere's Avare, the latter of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors), Captivi, Bacchides, Mostellaria, Miles gloriosus, Pseudolus, Rudens, and Trinummus. The Amphitruo is remark­able as an instance of comic treatment of a mythical subject. The Miles is one of the oldest pieces; the Stichus was brought out in 200, the Pseudolus in 192, the Tri­nummus about 190; the Truculentus also dates from the extreme old age of the poet. Though Plautus followed Greek models, such as Philemon, Diphilus, and Menander, he did not simply translate his originals, but worked them up with great freedom and nationalised them by additions of his own. He is a master in the use of lan­guage, metre, and material, and possesses an inexhaustible and pungent, if often coarse, wit. That he understood how to handle serious and moral subjects is proved by the Captivi and Trinummus. He must be reckoned among the greatest geniuses of his nation.—The name of the Aulularia of Plautus was once erroneously given to a play with the alternative title of the Querolus, a wretched production of the 4th century a.d.

Plebiscitum. The Eoman name for a decree of the cOmitla tributa. For more see comitia (3).

Flebs. A part of the population of Rome, which derived its origin mainly from the conquered Latins settled on Roman terri­tory by the kings Tullus Hostllius and Ancus Martius. At first these possessed only the passive rights of citizenship, being excluded from all its privileges as well as from service in war, and forming a com­munity sharply separated from the old citizens, the patricians. In particular, they did not possess the right of concluding valid marriages with patricians, although they were otherwise equal in matters of private law. When, by the constitution of Servius Tullius, they were compelled to

i serve in war and to pay war-taxes, they obtained the right of voting with the patricians in the comitia centuriMa. After the establishment of the Republic in 510 B.C., the plebeians began the struggle with

j the patricians, who were then in sole pos-

1 session of the secular and priestly offices. The aim of the plebeians was to secure complete equality of rights, answering to their equality of duties. An important engine in this struggle was the tribunate of the people (see tribuni plebis) estab-

! lished in 491, as well as the comitia tributa. (See comitia, 3.) The plebeians had the chief weight in that assembly, and after 448 it was invested with the right of pass­ing decrees binding on the whole people. Among their first acquisitions was the right of entering into valid marriages with the patricians (445 b.c.). One after another, the plebeians gained admittance to the most

1 important offices of State and the priest-

j hoods, down to the year 300, so that only insignificant offices remained reserved for the patricians (q.v.). When the struggle of the orders was thus settled, the opposition between patricians and plebeians lost its practical importance. The two orders were completely blended together, and the place of the aristocracy of birth was taken by the aristocracy of office, the members of which were called noblles. From this time the name plebs passed to the lower ranks of the people, as contrasted with this

I "nobility."

i Plectrum. See lyre.

Pleiades or Pleiades (Greek). The seven daughters of Atlas and the Ocean-nymph

\ PleiSne, born on the Arcadian mountain Cyllene, sisters of the HyadSs. The eldest

i and most beautiful, Maia, became the mother

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.