Auctoritas: Personal Authority in the Plays of Plautus and Terence

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Justin Paul Philbeck (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Lisa Holliday

Abstract: This project explores the Roman social construction of auctoritas and how a Roman male achieves it. Auctoritas translates to personal authority, but the concept behind the word is more complicated. Authority, both legal and personal, could rest in any man assuming that man was respected enough in his community. A man gained that standing and auctoritas through the competent administration of his property as judged by the community. Administering a man’s property included maintaining his material possessions, competently handling business dealings, controlling spending habits, and tightly controlling his family’s conduct. All these things contributed to a man’s worthiness in the eyes of his community and correlated to his right to auctoritas within the community. This project utilizes the comedic plays of Plautus and Terence as primary sources. These were chosen because they depict the every-day lives of the Roman people. The plays themselves always depicted private exchanges in public places, which makes them perfect for examining the personal aspect of auctoritas. Also, these plays were written with the average Roman citizen in mind. By scouring the pages of Roman comedies and focusing on the personal interactions between characters, much can be learned about the conventions of Roman society, including auctoritas.

Additional Information

Philbeck, J.P. (2010). Auctoritas: Personal Authority in the Plays of Plautus and Terence. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010
Authority, Auctoritas, Roman Gender Study, Plautus and Terence, Comedy

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