In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Latin Drama

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Roman Festivals and Spectacles
  • Roman Theaters
  • Roman Actors
  • Specific Aspects of Roman Drama
  • Collected Texts
  • Translations

Classics Latin Drama
Susanna Braund
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0052


Latin drama comprises several genres, serious and humorous, and extends chronologically from the beginnings of Latin literature in the 3rd century BCE down into the imperial period. Unfortunately, much of what survives is fragmentary, and many significant works of Latin drama have not survived at all. This makes generalizations and reconstructions very problematic. In particular, the republican era yields twenty-six complete comedies but only fragments of tragedies, historical dramas, mimes, and native Italian comedies, while the imperial era yields eight complete tragedies and one incomplete one and one historical drama but little else; pantomime, a kind of performance by a nonspeaking dancer, leaves very little trace. The circumstances of some dramatic performances changed through time, from public occasions, such as festivals and triumphs, during the republic to more limited audiences under the principate.

Introductory Works

Brief overviews of the range of genres are available in Gratwick 1982 and Wiles 2001.

  • Gratwick, A. S. 1982. Drama. In The Cambridge history of classical literature. Vol. 2, Latin literature. Edited by E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen, 77–137. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Valuable introduction to Roman drama discussing origins and form including meter, light drama, and serious drama.

  • Wiles, David. 2001. Theatre in Roman and Christian Europe. In The Oxford illustrated history of theatre. Edited by John Russell Brown, 49–92. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Valuable introduction giving the big picture, with illustrations.

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