The Pot of Gold

by Plautus

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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

Household Deity

The Pot of Gold begins as the household deity explains how Euclio's grandfather entrusted him with a pot of gold. He tells readers that he has kept the gold hidden ever since but plans to reveal its location to Euclio to help the family cope with their circumstances. Phaedria, Euclio's devout daughter who has endeared herself to their household deity for her piety, has fallen pregnant while unwed. The spirit wishes to help her and believes that revealing the gold is his sole resource to aid the family member he so deeply values.


Euclio is a miserly Athenian man driven half-mad by his paranoid protection of the newly revealed gold. Motivated by money and status, Euclio willingly permits Megadorus to marry his much younger daughter so long as he does not have to pay him a dowry. When the marriage dissolves, Euclio is stunned that his daughter does not wish to marry the older man, for he is wealthy and holds a high social standing. Readers see that Euclio is motivated by little other than his obsessive desire for wealth and are surprised when, at the end of the play, he offers the gold he so desperately protected to his daughter and her new husband, Lyconides.


Euclio's daughter, Phaedria, is a devout young woman who, unknown to her father, has fallen pregnant. The play revolves around her marital status, as both Megadorus and the father of her unborn child, Lyconides, jockey for her hand. She is a passive character and has little hand in the events of the play. Rather than making choices for herself, her father, distracted by his obsessive protection of the gold, and the men who wish to marry her make choices for her. As such, readers get a very limited image of who Phaedria is beyond how she is perceived by the men in her life.


An elderly woman who acts as a servant to Euclio's family, Staphyla is the first to know of Phaedria's pregnancy. Though Euclio initially suspects her of coveting his pot of gold, readers quickly realize that Staphyla is a good and loyal servant, for she worries over Phaedria, treats her kindly, and bemoans her situation. When Euclio tells her that he accepted Megadorus's offer of marriage, Staphyla panics, for she sees her young mistress as something akin to a daughter and wishes only the best for her. 


A young Athenian man and the son of Eunomia, Lyconides is the father of Phaedria's unborn child. He confesses that he wronged her while drunk, so her less-than-desirable circumstances are entirely his fault. Though he eventually takes action, Lyconides does not take responsibility for his actions until the object of his affections is set to marry his uncle. Lyconides is characterized as an honorable man for his willingness to atone for his actions, marry the woman he wronged, and legitimize their child, but he waits until the last minute to do right by Phaedria. 


A slave of Lyconides, Strobilus facilitates the theft of Euclio's pot of gold, outwitting the paranoid old man and stealing his treasure from its hiding spot in the Grove of Silvanus. Strobilus acts the part of the "cunning slave," a recurring character trope in Roman playwriting. He cares first for his master's wishes and only then his own.


Megadorus is an elderly Athenian man who wishes to marry. He is immensely wealthy; as such, he chooses to marry Phaedria despite her nonexistent dowry. Ironically, he is Lyconides's uncle, and Plautus focuses on Megadorus's age to satirize the older man's misplaced desire for a woman who is so significantly younger than him. 


Eunomia is Megadorus's sister and Lyconides's mother. She plants the idea of marriage in her brother's head, leading him to realize that he wishes to marry Phaedria. Though Eunomia is not a major character, she is present during the play's major scenes of conflict. Ultimately, she has a hand in settling the tumult and convinces her brother to relinquish his claim and allow his nephew to marry Phaedria.

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