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On this page: Plautius – Plautius Lateranus – Plautius Quintillus – Plautius Rufus


Frag. § 74, 82 ; and § 77, which is a testimony

to the merits of Plautius ; Wieling, Jurispru-

dentia Restituta, p. 338.) [G. L.]



PLAUTIUS, NO'VIUS,a Roman artist, in the department of ornamental metal-work (caelatura). He was the maker of one of the most admired of those cylindrical bronze caskets (cistae mysticae), which are found in tombs in Italy, containing pa­ terae, mirrors, and utensils of the bath, such as strigils. The greatest number of such caskets have been found at Praeneste, where some of them seem to have been laid up in the temple of Fortune, as votive offerings from women. The one which bears the name of Plautius is beautifully engraved with subjects from the Argonautic expedition ; a hunt is engraved round the lid, which is surmounted by three figures in bronze ; and on the lid is the fol­ lowing inscription : on the one side, dindia . ma- colina . filea . debit,—on the other, novios . plautios. med . (me) romai . FECiD. From the style of the workmanship and of the inscription, the date of the artist is supposed to be about A. u. 500, b. c. 254. (Winckelmann, Gesch. d. Kunst, b. viii. c. 4. § 7 ; Miiller, Arch. d. Kunst^ § 173, n. 4.) [P. S.]



PLAUTIUS RUFUS. [Rurus.] PLAUTUS, the most celebrated comic poet of Rome, was a native of Sarsina, a small village in Umbria. Almost the only particulars, which we possess respecting his life, are contained in a pas­sage of A. Gellius (iii. 3), which is quoted from Varro. According to this account it would appear that Plautus was of humble origin (compare Plau-tinae prosapiae homo, Minuc. Felix, Oct. 14), and that he came to Rome at an early age. Varro re­lated that the poet was first employed as a work­man or a menial for the actors on the stage (in operis artiftcum scenicorum\ and that with the money which he earned in this way, he embarked in some business, but that having lost all his money in trade, he returned to Rome, and, in order to gain a living, was obliged to work at a hand-mill, grinding corn for a baker. Varro further adds that while employed in this work (in pistrino\ he wrote three comedies, the Saturio, Addictus, and a third, of which the name is not mentioned. Hiero-nymus, in the Chronicon of Eusebius, gives almost the same account, which he probably also derived from Varro. It would seem that it was only for the sake of varying the narrative that he wrote " that as often as Plautus had leisure, he was ac­customed to write plays and sell them."

This is all that we know for certain respecting the life of Plautus ; but even this little has not been correctly stated by most authors of his life. Thus Lessing, in his life of the poet, relates that Plautus early commenced writing plays for the aediles, and acquired thereby a sufficient sum of money to enable him to embark in business. It is the more necessary to call attention to this error, since, from the great authority of Lessing, it has been repeated in most subsequent biographies of the poet. The words of Gellius, in operis artiftcum scenicorum, have no reference to the composition of plays. The artifices scenici are the actors, who employed servants to attend to various things which they needed for the stage, and a servant of



such a kind was called an operarius> as we see from funeral inscriptions. Moreover, if Plautus had previously written plays for the stage, which must have already gained him some reputation, it is not likely that he should have been compelled on his return to Rome to engage in the menial office of a grinder at a mill for the sake of obtaining a livelihood. On the contrary, it is much more pro­bable that the comedies which he composed in the mifl, were the first that he ever wrote, and that the reputation and money which he acquired by them enabled him to abandon his menial mode of life.

The age of Plautus has been a subject of no small controversy. Cicero says (Brut. 15) that he died in the consulship of P. Claudius and L. Por-cius, when Cato was censor, that is, in b. c. 184; and there is no reason to doubt this express state­ment. It is true that Hieronymus, in the Chro­nicon of Eusebius, places his death in the 145th Olympiad, fourteen years earlier (b. c. 200) ; but the dates of Hieronymus are frequently erroneous, and this one in particular deserves all the less credit, since we know that the Pseudolus was not repre­sented till b. c. 191, and the Bacchides somewhat later, according to the probable supposition of Ritschl. But though the date of Plautus's death seems certain, the time of his birth is a more doubtful point. Ritschl, who has examined thd subject with great diligence and acumen in his essay J)e Aetate Plauti, supposes that he was born about the beginning of the sixth century of the city (about b. c. 254), and that he commenced his career as a comic poet about b. c. 224, when he was thirty years of age. This supposition is con­firmed by the fact that Cicero speaks (Cato, 14) of the Pseudolus, which was acted in b.c. 191, as written by Plautus when he was an old man, an epi­thet which Cicero would certainly have given to no one under thirty years of age ; and also by the circumstance that in another passage of Cicero (quoted by Augustine, De Civ. Dei, ii. 9), Plautus and Naevius are spoken of as the contemporaries of P. and Cn. Scipio, of whom the former was consul in b.c. 222, and the latter in b. c. 218. The principal objection to the above-mentioned date for the birth of Plautus, arises from a passage of Cicero, in his Tusculan Disputations (i. 1), according to which it would appear that Plautus and Naevius were younger than Ennius, who was born in b. c. 239. But we know that this cannot be true of Naevius ; and Ritschl has shown that the passage, when rightly interpreted, refers to Livius, and not to Ennius, being older than Naevius and Plautus. Indeed, Cicero, in another of his works (Brut. \ 8. § 23),* makes Plautus somewhat (aliquanto] older bhan Ennius, and states that Naevius and Plautus bad exhibited many plays before the consulship of C. Cornelius and Q. Minucius, that is, before b. c. 197. Moreover, from the way in which Naevius and Plautus are mentioned together, we may con­clude that the latter was older than Ennius. Te­rence, therefore, in his Prologue to the Andria (v. 18), has preserved the chronological order, when ae speaks of " Naevium, Plautum, Ennium." We may safely assign the second Punic war and a few years subsequently, as the flourishing period of the Literary life of Plautus. It is a curious fact that the full name of the

* Read " cui si aequalis fuerit," and not " ciii quum aequalis fuerit."

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