PLAU'TUS; M. Aeolus, or, more correctly, T. MAccfus, the great comic poet of Rome, was b. about 254 B.C. at Sarsina, a village of Umbria. We have no knowledge of his early life and education; but it is probable that he came to Rome while still a youth, and there acquired a complete mastery of the Latin language in its most idiomatic form, as well as an extensive familiarity with Greek literature. It is uncertain whether he ever obtained the Roman franchise. His first employment was with the actors, in whose service he saved an amount of money sufficient to enable him to leave Rome and commence business on his own account. What the nature of this business was, or where he carried it on, we are not informed; we know, however, that he failed in it, and returned to Rome, where Ire had to earn his livelihood in the service of a baker, with whom he was engaged in turning a hand-mill. At this time—a few years before the outbreak of the 'second Punic war—lie was probably about 30 years of age; and while employed in his humble occu pation, he composed three plays, which he sold to the managers of the'public games, and from the proceeds of which he was enabled to leave the mill, and turn his hand to more congenial work. The commencement of his literary career may, therefore, be fixed about 224 B.C., from which date he continued to produce comedies with wonderful fertility, till 184, when lie died in his 70th year. He was at first contemporary with Livius Andronieus and Nievins: subsequently with Earth's and Caicilius.
Of his numerous plays-130 of which bore his name in the last century of the repub lic—only 20 have collie down to us. Many of them, however, were regarded as spurious by the Roman critics, among whom Varro in his treatise (Quastiones Planting) limits ite genuine comedies of the poet to 21. With the exception of the 21st, these Vanoni: n comedies are the same as those we now possess. Their titles, arranged (with the exo p lion of the Bacebide4) in alphabetical order, are as follows: 1, Antphitra;o; 2, As.inoritr;
3, Adularia; 4, Captivi; Oirculio; 6, Casina; 7, Cistellaria; 8, Epidicus; 9. Barellidn; 10, .11ostellaria; 11, 1lfencecloti; 12, Miles; 13, Mercator; 13, Pseudobts; 15, Pamnlr...-• 1G, Pena; 17, lindens; 18, Backus; 09, Trinummus; 20, T'ueulentus; 21, Villulatirr. As a comic writer, Plautus enjoyed immense popularity among the Romans, end held po-session of the stage down to the time of Diocletian. The vivacity, the humor, aril the rapid action of his plays, as well as his skill in constructing plots, commanded the iihniration of the educated no les-, than of the unlettered Romans; while the fact that he was a national poet prepossessed his audiences in his favor. Although he laid she Greek comic drama under heavy contributions, and "adapted" the plots of Menander, Diphilus, and Philemon with all the license of a modern playwright, he always preserved the style nail character native to the Romans, and reproduced the life and intellectual tone of the people in a way that at once conciliated their sympathies.' The admiration in which he was held by his contemporaries descended to Cicero and St. Jerome; while he has found imitators in Shakespeare, Moliiire, Dryden, Addison, and Lessing, and translators in most European countries. The only complete translation of his winks into is that by Thornton and Warner (5 vols., 1767-74). Unfortunately the text of his plays, as they have come down to us, is in such a very corrupt state, so defec tive from lacuna., and so filled with interpolations. that much yet remains to be done by the grammarian and the commentator before they can be read with full appreciation or comfort. The editio princeps was printed at Venice in 1742. Weise and Fleckeisen have given us good modern editions; but that of Ritschl (1st ed. 1848-54; 2d ed. 1871) shows /Melt admirable acuteness and learning as to have superseded all others.