|Characters||Bacchis I (a prostitute)
Slave (of Bacchis)
Pistoclerus (son of Philoxenus)
Boy (of Cleomachus)
Bacchis II (sister of Bacchis I)
Lydus (tutor to Pistoclerus)
Chrysalus (slave of Nicobulus)
Mnesilochus (son of Nicobulus)
Parasite (of Cleomachus)
Artamo (slave of Nicobulus)
|Setting||a street in Athens, before the houses of Bacchis I and Nicobulus|
Bacchides is a Latin play by the early Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. The title has been translated as The Bacchises, and the plot revolves around the misunderstandings surrounding two sisters, each called Bacchis, who work in a local house of ill-repute. It includes Plautus' frequent theme of clever servants outwitting their supposed superiors.
The play was likely an adaptation of the play Δὶς Ἐξαπατῶν (Dis Exapaton), meaning Twice Deceiving but more commonly known as The Double Deceiver, by the Greek New Comedy playwright Menander. The beginning of it is lost to history, and so is often reconstructed in modern day adaptations using contextual clues as well as twenty surviving fragments.
Two young friends, Mnesilochus and Pistoclerus, have fallen in love with two sisters, and both are prostitutes named Bacchis. Mnesilochus's Bacchis has been hired for a year by Cleomachus. In order to get the money to buy her release Mnesilochus asks Chrysalus, the clever slave, to extort money from Nicobulus (a common recipe in Greek and Roman comedies). Chrysalus succeeds in getting two hundred coins from the old man but then Pistoclerus announces his love for Bacchis. Mnesilochus, not knowing that there is more than one Bacchis, hands back the money to his father and reveals the whole deception and Chrysalus's part in it. Then the truth comes out – There are two Bacchises and Pistoclerus loves the other Bacchis! In despair Mnesilochus returns to Chrysalus and begs him to try to get money from Nicobulus again. Chrysalus agrees and tricks Nicobulus out of his money by saying that Mnesilochus is in trouble because he has fallen in love with a soldier's wife. He claims that the only way to get Mnesilochus out of trouble is to pay the soldier. Nicobulus falls for the trick and gives over the money. Soon he finds out that he has been deceived, and with Philoxenus he storms the brothel. Nicobulus demands his son and gold back. Bacchis offers the old man half of his gold back if he comes in. Philoxenus and Nicobulus soon give into Bacchis and her sister. They enter the brothel.
Several of the characters names are significant. Nicobulus ironically means Victorious in counsel, Chrysalus means Goldie, Cleomachus means Glorious fighter, and Bacchis means Bacchant, a female worshipper of Bacchus, god of wine.
- Feder, Lillian. 1964. Crowell's Handbook of Classical Literature. New York: Lippincott & Crowell.
- James, Tatum. 1983. Plautus: The Darker Comedies. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Jones, P.V., and Sidwell, K.C. 1986. Reading Latin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28623-9 (paperback)
- Henry Thomas Riley, 1912: Bacchides full text
- Paul Nixon, 1916-38: Bacchides full text
- Edward Holdsworth Sugden, 1942
- James Tatum, 1983
- John Barsby, 1986
- Deena and Douglass Parker Berg, 1999