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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2022

T.H.M. Gellar-Goad*
Wake Forest University
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This note argues for a previously unnoticed allusion in Terence's Andria to Odysseus and the Sirens, in a wish expressed by the play's old man that his son will escape the alluring clutches of the sex-labourer next door.

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The grouchy old man Simo proposes to his friend Chremes a fast-tracked wedding between Chremes’ daughter Philumena and his own son Pamphilus, who Simo has heard is currently estranged from his beloved Glycerium, at this point not recognized as an Athenian citizen, believed instead to be the sister of the Andrian meretrix Chrysis, recently deceased. Part of Simo's reasoning for wanting the wedding is to advance the development of Pamphilus’ moral fibre (560–2):

spero consuetudine et
coniugio liberali deuinctum, Chreme,
de(h)inc facile ex illis sese emersurum malis.

Chremes, I hope that he, bound by familiarity and citizen marriage, will then easily surface out of these ills.Footnote 1

The ills (malis) here are the supposed wiles of the girl next door, whom Simo views with the same suspicion he had for her sex-labourer sister.Footnote 2 A typical wish for a father in Terence: for the son to grow up, get married, make babies and leave the meretricious dalliances of adolescence behind. But with these lines Simo also, I suggest, portrays Pamphilus as a latter-day Odysseus, tied (deuinctum) to his ship's mast (perhaps suggested by mălis, close to mālus, mast)Footnote 3 in order to withstand the allures of the Sirens (here Glycerium and Chrysis)Footnote 4 and survive his shipwreck (emersurum, come out of the waters alive) to make it into marriage, as Odysseus with Penelope—a marriage of mutual regard and support that survives the husband's trysts with charming women whose pull on men, to Simo's mind, can be magnetic.Footnote 5 In Simo's vision, Pamphilus’ marriage will be a homecoming, as he brings his attention and affection back down the street to his family's house. By the play's end, Simo's hopes will be borne out, though not as he anticipated: Glycerium turns out to be Chremes’ long-lost other daughter, and Pamphilus brings her (and their newborn child) home with him in matrimony, in a nostos perhaps worthy of the man of many turns himself.


I thank the anonymous reader for CQ for helpful comments. I owe thanks also to Babette Gäskeby-Mars.


1 Translation mine; text of Kauer, R. and Lindsay, W.M. (edd.), P. Terenti Afri comoediae (Oxford, 1963)Google Scholar.

2 For ‘sex-labourer’ as the most accurate translation of meretrix, see Witzke, S.S., ‘Harlots, tarts, and hussies? A problem of terminology for sex labor in Roman comedy’, Helios 42 (2015), 721CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 For a defence of puns in Roman comedy obtaining despite differing vowel quantities, see, for example, Welsh, J.T., ‘The splenetic leno: Plautus, Curculio 216–45’, CQ 55 (2005), 306–9, at 307CrossRefGoogle Scholar and n. 5.

4 For consideration of New Comedy's sex-labourers as Sirens to the young lovers’ Odysseus—without reference to Andria—see Dutsch, D.M., Feminine Discourse in Roman Comedy: On Echoes and Voices (Oxford, 2008), 6971CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 The image of Pamphilus as Odysseus may be activated in these lines, but does not have to be, since both deuinctus and emergere are commonly used in transferred senses; indeed, this instance of deuinctus is classified as ‘a standard figurative use of the verb’ by Fantham, E., Comparative Studies in Republican Latin Imagery (Toronto, 1972), 50CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Donatus’ commentary has nothing to say on these lines. The connection to Odysseus and the Sirens goes unremarked upon by, for example, Shipp, G.P., P. Terenti Afri Andria (Salem, MA, 1984)Google Scholar; R.C. Monti, Terence Andria, vol. 2 (Bryn Mawr, 1986); R. Germany, ‘Andria’, in A. Augoustakis and A. Traill (edd.), A Companion to Terence (Malden, MA, 2013), 225–42; Brown, P., Terence: The Girl from Andros (Liverpool, 2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goldberg, S.M., Terence: Andria (London, 2020)Google Scholar.