The Hecyra was a failure at its first two stagings. The first in 165 BC was disrupted, when a rumor spread that a tightrope-walker and boxers were about to perform. In 160 BC the production was cancelled when the theater was stormed by a group of rowdy gladiator fans. It was presented successfully only at its third attempt later that same year.
A musical phrase accompanying a single line of Hecyra was copied in the 18th century by Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli from a 10th century manuscript and was for a long time believed to be all that remains of the entire body of ancient Roman music. However, musicologist Thomas J. Mathiesen comments that it is no longer believed to be authentic.
- Hecyra, prologue by Lucius Ambivius
- Warren Anderson and Thomas J. Mathiesen. "Terence", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001), xxv, 296.
- Latin text edited by Edward St. John Parry at Perseus: 'Hecyra' in Latin
The play begins with Pamphilus, the son of Laches by Sostra, who is enamored with Bacchis. In a drunken fit one night, he decides to debauch Philumena, the daughter of Phidippus and Myrrhina. After a struggle, he takes a ring from her which he afterwards gives to Bacchis. Later, he consents to marriage. By chance, his chosen wife is Philumena, and she alone knows what happened and hopes that her disgrace is concealed. On the contrary, as Bacchis rejects Pamphilius, he becomes more and more affiliated with his wife. In the meantime, Pamphilius has been called away, and Philumena finds herself pregnant due to premarital misfortune. She fears detection, and especially avoids her mother-in-law Sostra (hence, the name). She returns to her parents' home. There, Sostra looks for her, but Philumena claims illness and will not allow Sostra inside. Laches blames his wife for Philumena's sudden confinement. Pamphilius returns home during the birth of the baby, and the situation brings him great distress. Myrrhina then begs him to keep it secret, but he declines to take back his wife. Laches then decides that Pamphilius is still enamored with Bacchis, but this is proven untrue. He then talks to the mother-in-law, and during this conversation they find the ring that was stolen from Philumena on Bacchis's finger. Pamphilius then realizes the baby is his, and happily takes back his wife and son.