The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

APPENDIX C
THE ANGIPORTUM AND ROMAN DRAMA

( Hermathena, Vol. xxviii. pp. 88-99.)

THE word angiportum is commonly taken to mean 'alley', or even 'blind alley', 'cul-de-sac'. As to its use on the Roman stage, the conventional view is given by Professor Mary Johnston ( Exits and Entrances in Roman Comedy, 1933, page 15): -- 'An alley or passage (angiportum) was supposed to lead back from the street between two houses'. But Mr. P. W. Harsh ( Classical Philology, vol. XXXII, No. 1, pages 45 ff.) argues that 'alley' is a misleading translation; that the word simply means 'street', and may be used in comedy even of the street upon which the houses front (Pseud. 961), though elsewhere it is 'sometimes a more secretive place than the stage itself', and is 'apparently thought of as running behind the houses portrayed on stage', and that even in Terence, Adelphi 578, the sense 'cul-de-sac' is entirely dependent on the additional words non peruium. The discrepancy between these views seems to justify some attempt to review the evidence so far as stage usage is concerned.

The usual word in comedy for the street on which the houses front is platea, of which Harsh lists ten examples; uia is also used 'in a general way for the thoroughfare on which the characters stand (cf. Cas. 856; St. 606, etc.)'. In Ps. 1234-5 we find uia apparently opposed to angiporta; Ballio, leaving for the forum, remarks to the spectators:

nunc ne exspectetis dum hac domum redearn uia; ita res gestast: angiporta haec certum est consectarie

Ballio does not, in fact, appear again, and we must suppose that he returned to his house by the back entrance. Here, then, angiportum would be the back street upon which the back entrance opened; the plural may be used merely as an equivalent of the singular, or may include the other streets through which Ballio would pass on his way from the forum to the back of his house. Perhaps, however, uia depends on the addition of hac for its meaning here, and would not by itself bear the same meaning as platea. To quote Harsh (page 49, note 10): 'uia is also used in a general way for the thoroughfare on which the characters stand (cf. Cas. 856; Stich. 606, etc.)'. Turning to the passages here cited, we find

acceptae belle et commode eximus intus ludos uisere huc in uiam nuptialis (Cas. 855-6)

-248-

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