Places: The Menaechmi

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Menaechmi, second century b.c.e.

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Farce

Time of work: Third century b.c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Epidamnus

*Epidamnus Menaechmi, The (ihp-ah-DAHM-nahs). Roman port on Greece’s Macedonian coast (also known as Dyrrhachium). Epidamnus is home to the merchant who kidnapped Menaechmus, one of the twins, raised him as his son, bought him a suitable wife, made him his heir, and then suddenly died. As Plautus sets the stage in his prologue, he reveals that Menaechmus’s dwelling could be anybody’s house in the Roman world. Menaechmus himself prefers the house across the street, where his mistress lives; her house is the place where he entertains his guests. When the other twin, renamed by his grandfather “Menaechmus,” to honor the name of the stolen twin, arrives in Epidamnus on a quest to find his brother, the farce begins, hilarious encounters revolve around confusion over the two “Menaechmi.”


*Tarentum (tah-rehn-tahm). Roman port in southern Italy. In the prologue, Plautus uses cargo ships to move his characters from Syracuse to Tarentum to Epidamnus. It is to Tarentum that Moschus takes Menaechmus along with a shipload of merchandise. When the boy is lost, the father dies of grief and is buried in Tarentum. Plautus thus removes the scene of tragedy from both the family’s hometown and from the scene of the comedy in Epidamnus.


*Syracuse. Sicilian port city that is home of the merchant Moschus and his wife, to whom the Menaechmi are born. It is also of the grandfather who renames the remaining brother Menaechmus in honor of the one that is lost. That the brothers leave for Syracuse after they are reunited speaks to the tenuous hold that Roman society had on the hearts of its subjects, and the strong sense of place identified as home.

BibliographyBeare, William. The Roman Stage. 3d ed. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1965. This introduction to the history of Latin drama has three chapters on Plautus. Provides a quick overview of his life and work. Useful as background.Candido, Joseph. “Dining Out in Ephesus: Food in The Comedy of Errors.” Studies in English Literature 30, no. 2 (Spring, 1990): 217-241. Focused on the Shakespeare play based on The Menaechmi, this article explains the significance of food in both plays and sheds light on the Plautus play.Duckworth, George. The Nature of Roman Comedy: A Study in Popular Entertainment. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952. The classic study of Roman comedy. Provides a comprehensive introduction to Latin playwrights, including Plautus.Plautus. Menaechmi. Introduction by A. S. Gratwick. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. The English language introduction to the Latin language play is comprehensive. Information on Plautus, the play, and how to scan Latin verse.Segal, Erich. Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. Organized by topics, this book presents an argument about Plautus’ comedy as a whole: that it was meant to make the Romans laugh by reversing Roman values on stage. This study is often quoted in articles about Plautus.
Categories: Places