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Annotated page of Terence's Adelphoe (act one, scene two)

Adelphoe (also Adelphoi and AdelphiThe Brothers) is a play by Roman playwright Terence, adapted partly from plays by Menander and Diphilus. It was first performed in 160 BC at the funeral games of Aemilius Paulus.[1] Exploring the best form of child-rearing, the play inspired Molière's The School for Husbands.[2]

Adelphoe is often considered Terence's masterpiece.[3][4]


Demea, father to Aeschinus and Ctesipho, decides to separate his children and raises Ctesipho while allowing his brother Micio to raise Aeschinus. Demea is a strict authoritarian father, and Micio is permissive and democratic. Ctesipho falls in love, but is afraid of exposing his romantic interest due to the strict and cold education he's received from Demea. Therefore, Aeschinus, in order to help his brother, decides to steal the girl away, accepting all blame for the affair. Demea and Micio spar over who did a better job at raising their sons.

After a long monologue comparing his methods with his brother's, Demea decides to emulate his brother's urbanity and openhandedness as a means of critique. In the last hundred lines of the play, Demea gives away a great deal of money and a large estate, convinces his brother to marry against his will and free two of his slaves, and then finally delivers a closing speech decrying all such liberality: "I will tell you: I did it to show you that what they think is your good nature and pleasantness did not happen from real goodness nor from justice and goodness, but from flattery, indulgence, and largess, Micio." ( dicam tibi: / ut id ostenderem, quod te isti facilem et festivom putant, / id non fieri ex vera vita neque adeo ex aequo et bono, / sed ex adsentando, indulgendo, largiendo, Micio. lines 985–988)

He then offers to his sons that he will be their strict father if they so desire him to be, but if they prefer to stay with Micio, they can. Both boys choose to submit to Demea, with Micio's approval. At the end of the play, Ctesipho is going to marry his loved one, Micio marries Sostrata and Aeschinus marries Pamphila, Sostrata's daughter.


  • Micio - Demea's brother and adopted father of Aeschinus
  • Demea - Micio's brother and father of Aeschinus and Ctesipho, raised Ctesipho
  • Sannio - A procurer, owner of the slave "Music Girl"
  • Aeschinus - son of Demea, raised by Micio
  • Syrus - slave of Micio
  • Ctesipho - son of Demea raised
  • Canthara - Sostrata's servant
  • Geta - Sostrata's slave
  • Hegio - close friend of Sostrata's late husband
  • Pamphila - daughter of Sostrata
  • Music Girl - slave of Sannio
  • Dromo - Demea's slave
  • Sostrata - widowed woman who lives next to Micio
  • Parmeno - a slave[5]


  1. ^ "Adelphi - a synopsis of the play by Terence". Theatre Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Damen, Mark (2012). "Chapter 14: Roman Comedy, Part 2 (Terence)". Retrieved August 29, 2016. "Terrence's consummate masterpiece"
  4. ^ Forehand, Walter (1973). "Syrus' Role in Terence's "Adelphoe"". The Classical Journal. 69 (1): 52–56. JSTOR 3295725.
  5. ^ Riley, Henry Thomas (ed.). "P. Terentius Afer, Adelphi: The Brothers". Perseus Digital Library. Retrieved November 20, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barsby, John A. 2002. "Terence and his Greek Models." In Due seminari Plautini. La tradizione del testo; modelli. Edited by C. Questa and R. Rafaelli, 251–277. Urbino, Italy: Quatro Venti.
  • Damen, Mark L. 1990. "Structure and Symmetry in Terence’s Adelphoe." Illinois Classical Studies 15:85–106.
  • Forehand, Walter E. 1985. Terence. Boston: Twayne.
  • Frauenfelder, D. W. 1996. "Respecting Terence. Adelphoe 155–175." Classical World 90:23–32.
  • Goldberg, Sander M. 1986. Understanding Terence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Grant, John N. 1980. "The Beginning of Menander,᾿Αδελφοί, β." Classical Quarterly 30:341–355.
  • Henderson, John. 1988. "Entertaining Arguments: Terence Adelphoe." In Post-Structuralist Classics. Edited by A. Benyamin, 192–226. London: Routledge.
  • Leigh, M. 2004. "Fatherhood and the Habit of Command: L. Aemilius Paullus and the Adelphoe." In Comedy and the Rise of Rome. By Matthew Leigh, 158–191. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Traill, Ariana. 2013. "Adelphoe." In A Companion to Terence. Edited by Anthony Augoustakis and Ariana Traill, 318–341. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Victor, Benjamin. 2012. "Terentius Orator an Poeta: The endings of Eunuch and Adelphoe." Classical Quarterly 62:671–791.

External links[edit]