Fabula palliata

Terra cotta representation of two comic actors wearing masks with pallia slung over their shoulders


Fabula palliata is a genre of Roman drama that consists largely of Romanized versions of Greek plays.[1] Palliata comes from pallium, the Latin word for a Greek-style cloak. It is possible that the term fabula palliata indicates that the actors who performed wore such cloaks.[2] Another possibility is that the fabula itself is metaphorically "cloaked" in a Greek style.[3] As in all Roman drama, the actors wore masks that easily identified which of the stock characters they represented.[1]


The only complete, extant fabulae palliatae are the comedies of Terence and Plautus. Consequently, a common misconception is that the genre is inherently comedic. In fact, any Roman play that is based on Greek drama qualifies as a fabula palliata.[1] The extant fabulae palliatae adhere to the style of Greek New Comedy, but references to and fragments of the works of Livius Andronicus, Gnaeus Naevius, and Ennius indicate that all three wrote tragic fabulae palliatae.

Fabulae palliatae are usually set in Greece, feature mostly Greek characters, and, as far as we can tell, base their plots on Greek originals.[1] The Roman plays' greatest deviations from the Greek source material are the absence of a chorus and a willingness to have more than three characters on stage, simultaneously.[1]

Definition and history of the concept

Knowledge of the genre comes from a 1st-century BC literary critic named Volcacius Sedigitus, of whom nothing is known except his report in Aulus Gellius.[4] Of the writers whose works have survived at all Sedigitus identifies as well Naevius, Plautus, Ennius, Caecilius and Terence as contributors to the genre. In addition were Licinius, Atilius, Turpilius, Trabea and Luscius Lanuvinus.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 OCD, sv. palliata
  2. "Fabula palliata". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  3. OCD, sv palliata
  4. Smith, William; Anthon, Charles (July 9, 2006). A new classical dictionary of Greek and Roman biography, mythology and geography. 2. Kessinger. p. 794. ISBN 978-1-4286-4561-5. Sedigĭtus, Volcātĭus, from whose work De Poētis A. Gellius (xv., 24) has preserved iambic senarians, in which the principal Latin comics are enumerated in order of merit.


S. Hornblower, A. Spawforth, & E. Eidinow (eds.) (2012) The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.

Smith, William; Anton, Charles (July 9, 2006). A new classical dictionary of Greek and Roman biography, mythology, and geography. ISBN 978-1-4286-4561-5

External links

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