|Setting||Athens, near Demaenetus's home|
Asinaria, which has been translated as The One with the Asses, is a comic play written in Latin by the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus and is known as one of the great works of ancient Roman comedy. It is famous for containing the lines "Lupus est homo homini, non homo, quom qualis sit non novit," which has been translated as "A man is a wolf rather than a man to another man, when he hasn't yet found out what he's like." and "Facias ipse quod faciamus nobis suades," which has been translated as "Practice yourself what you preach."
The play takes place in Athens, near the homes of the old man Demaenetus and the procuress Cleareta. Demaenetus is submissive to his wife Artemona, but wishes to help his son Argyrippus gain money to free his lover, Cleareta's hetaera Philenium. Demaenetus conspires with his slaves Libanus and Leonida to cheat his wealthy wife of the money. The trick succeeds, but Diabolus, Philenium's jealous lover, acts to have it revealed to Artemona, who confronts her son and husband at a banquet held by Cleareta.
Asinaria belongs to the genre called fabula palliata, of Greek plays adapted for a Roman audience. This has caused a debate over Plautus' originality and creativity arguing contamination, while others point out that neither is redundant, or conflictual with Plautus' dramatic intentions.
The initial reversal of roles comes from Demenetus and his wife Artemona, as he is the dependent on her dowry and she implicitly plays the strict paterfamilias. Classically, the paterfamilias is the obstacle in his dependent son's relationship, while Plautus makes Artemona the obstacle in front of Demenetus' desire for Philenium. Moreover, by introducing Demenetus in the role of a rival, Plautus disturbs the classical paradigm of the love triangle present in Miles Gloriosus (play) and Pseudolus.
Plautus takes great care to enrich his characters beyond their obvious roles. In this play, Demenetus is ostensibly cast as a senex, but he denies both the audience and his slave Libanus in their expectations to get angry over his son's affair with a prostitute. The play takes an unexpected turn with his stipulation to spend one night with Philenium. Thus Demenetus goes beyond both the strict father and the avuncular role of senex and becomes involved in a love triangle.
The role of parents in their children's lives is represented through various perspectives in the play. With Artemona as the obstacle, Demaenetus as the dependent is cast in a traditionally adolescent role. His relation with Argyrippus is then set against Cleareta's with her daughter, both having lost the respect traditionally due to this position, one by a lack of funds and the second by her occupation. They are comparable in their appeal of filial piety to indulge their vices of lust and greed, respectively. The result is a materialistic abuse of conventional rules.
The power of money is apparent in the now familiar theme of moral corruption as Demaenetus is further infantilized by his lack of moral strength. Moreover, Argyrippus and Philenium are humiliated and made to beg and offer favours to Leonida and Libanus for the twenty minae. The theme of materialism pervades the play, turning Asinaria into a defense of the ethical structure of the ancient patriarchal family than against money and passion.
- Translation by Henry Thomas Riley, published in 1852
- Translation by Paul Nixon, published in 1916
- Translation by John Henderson, published in 2006
- Translation by Wolfang de Melo, published in 2011
- Konstan, D. (1978). Plot and Theme in Plautus' Asinaria. The Classical Journal, 73(3), pp.215-221.
- Titus Maccius Plautus; Henry Thomas Riley, translator (1852). The Comedies of Plautus, Vol. I. London: Henry G. Bohn. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- Titus Maccius Plautus; Paul Nixon, translator (1916). Plautus, Vol. I: Amphitryon; The Comedy of Asses; The Pot of Gold; The Two Bacchises; The Captives. Loeb Classical Library. London: William Heinemann. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- Titus Maccius Plautus; John Henderson, translator (2006). Asinaria: The One about the Asses. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21990-9.
- Titus Maccius Plautus; Wolfgang de Melo, translator (2011). Plautus, Vol. I: Amphitryon; The Comedy of Asses; The Pot of Gold; The Two Bacchises; The Captives. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-99653-3.