138. Aulularia (The Pot of Gold) by Plautus (c.195 BC)

Plot:  The old miser Euclio has found a pot of gold buried under his house, and spends all his days in a perpetual fear of being found out and robbed. His daughter Phaedria has been seduced by his neighbour’s nephew Lyconides, who now wants to marry her, but his uncle has already proposed. Then the pot gets stolen ….

My copy is the Penguin Black Classic The Pot of Gold and other plays, translated by E. F. Watling (ISBN 0140441492)

My thoughts:  This play has not survived the centuries intact, with the ending lost. Based on some later Latin commentary, the editor Watling has written a quite satisfactory ending for the play which is in keeping with the tone and known resolution of the plot.

The rantings of the miser are great entertainment and although there is not a lot more to the story, they keep the play bubbling along and great fun to read. This is the best of Plautus so far. Not too sure about a cook named Anthrax though!!

Favourite lines/passages:

Discussing just how tightfisted old Euclio is

Strobilus : I am telling you, if he loses so much as a grain of salt he thinks he’s being robbed. He raises heaven and hell if he sees a puff of smoke escaping from his roof. Do you know, when he goes to sleep he ties a balloon on his mouth?

Anthrax : What does he do that for?

Strobilus : So as not to lose his wind while sleeping.

Anthrax : Does he stuff up the other end too? He might lose some wind that way.

Strobilus : And I’ll tell you something else. It makes him weep to see the water pouring away when he washes himself. …. He wouldn’t lend you the price of a day’s starvation.

But Euclio is quick to see the parsimony of others, as he complains about the condition of the sheep provided for his share of his daughter’s wedding feast

Euclio : It was nothing but skin and bone. It must have been worried to death. You could inspect its entrails by simply holding it up to the daylight.

Personal rating:  A strong 8/10

Also in that year:  In 195 BC, Antiochus III of Syria defeats Ptomely V of Egypt in the Fifth Syrian War, reducing the latter’s ‘Asian’ holdings to Cyprus.

Next : Another Plautus comedy : Trinummus (A Three-dollar Day)

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