Terence, Eunuchus [The Eunuch]

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(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.


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its themes of transvestitism, gender-bending, and sexuality in general also continues to attract considerable critical attention today (there is an excellent commentary on the play by…

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Citation: Christenson, David M.. "Eunuchus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 May 2009 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13478, accessed 05 March 2024.]

13478 Eunuchus 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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