Phormio (play)

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Phormio is a Latin comic play by the early Roman playwright Terence, based on a now lost play by Apollodorus of Carystus entitled Epidikazomenos ("The Claimant"). It is generally believed to be Terence's fourth play. It was first performed at the Ludi Romani of 161 BC.[1] Structurally, Phormio is considered to be one of the best Roman comedies.[2]


  • Demipho – an Athenian nobleman
  • Chremes – Brother of Demipho
  • Antipho – Son of Demipho, in love with Phanium
  • Phaedria – Chremes' son, in love with Pamphila
  • Geta – Demipho's slave
  • Davos – Geta's friend and fellow slave.
  • Phormio – An adventurer
  • Hegio – Demipho's friend and legal advisor
  • Cratinus – Demipho's friend and legal advisor
  • Crito – Demipho's friend and legal advisor
  • Dorio – A slave-dealer
  • Nausistrata – Chremes's wife
  • Sophrona – Phanium's nurse.
  • Phanium – Chremes's daughter from his secret marriage on Lemnos. She does not appear on stage.
  • Pamphila – The music-girl belonging to Dorio. Like Phanium, she does not appear on stage.


The play is named after the character Phormio, who is a cunning "parasite" (that is, a person who makes a living by performing services for richer people). The plot is set in Athens, and revolves around the love affairs of two young men, Phaedria and Antipho, who are cousins. Phaedria is in love with a harp-player called Pamphila, but doesn't have the money to buy her from her owner Dorio; Antipho wishes to marry a free but poor girl called Phanium, unaware that she is in fact Phaedria's half sister as the result of an affair between Phaedria's father Chremes and a Lemnian woman. By clever legal wrangling, Phormio manages to help both young men to obtain their wishes, and in addition extracts a large sum of money from the two fathers.

Other characters in the play are Chremes' brother Demipho, who tries to get his son Antipho to dissolve his marriage to Phanium; Nausistrata, Chremes' wife, who punishes her husband when she discovers about his secret affair with Phanium's mother by making her son Phaedria master of the household; Sophrona, former nurse and guardian of Phanium; and Geta, an old slave who is given the task of looking after the two young men while their fathers are away.


  1. ^ Martin, R.H. (ed), Terence, Phormio, 1959, p. 23
  2. ^ Duckworth, George (1952). The Nature of Roman Comedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 156. ISBN 0-8061-2620-5.


External links[edit]

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article: Phormio
  • Latin text edited by Edward St. John Parry at Perseus: Phormio
  • Edward St. John Parry's summary of the plot of Phormio: [1]