Terence: Eunuchus [The Eunuch]

(1425 words)

Eunuchus (161 BCE) was said to be Terence's most successful play and earned him (or its producer) unprecedented revenues. The play debuted at the annual Megalensian festival in honor of Cybele or the Magna Mater (“The Great Mother”), an eastern goddess worshipped in Rome beginning in 204 BCE. Cybele's exotic cult featured ecstatic rites and eunuch priests who wore women's clothing. A play such as Terence's, in which a character (Chaerea) impersonates a eunuch in a “flashy outfit” (683) to gain access to a girl (Pamphila), thus held special relevance in its original festival context. Eunuchus, with its themes of transvestitism, gender-bending, and sexuality in general also continues to attract …

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Citation:
Christenson, David M.. "Eunuchus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 May 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13478, accessed 28 November 2014.]