Peter G. M. Brown

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online December 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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Contaminatio, a word used by modern scholars to express the procedure of *Terence (and perhaps *Plautus) in incorporating material from another Greek play into the primary play which he was adapting. Terence tells us that he had done this in adapting *Menander (1)'s Andria (adding material from Menander's Perinthia), and that his critics had complained that he ought not to contaminare plays in this way (i.e. to ‘spoil’ them by adding alien material: An. prologue 9 ff.; at Haut. 17 he says he has been accused in a general way of ‘contaminating’ many Greek plays while writing few in Latin). Terence claims the precedent of *Naevius, Plautus, and *Ennius, we cannot tell how truthfully (though some have claimed to detect contaminatio in Plautus; the fragments of Naevius and Ennius are too meagre to judge). He followed the same procedure in Eunuchus and Adelphoe but was there accused of ‘theft’ (plagiarism from earlier Latin comedies), not contaminatio.

Article.  190 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature ; Classical Reception

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