*Athens. Ancient Greek city that was the center of Greek culture. Although Athens provides the setting for the play, the play might have been set in any Greek city or Rome itself. Plautus adapts—and adds elements to—the New Comedy, as represented by the work of the Greek poet Menander. At the turn of the second century b.c.e., Rome was militarily and economically powerful, in transition from city-state to world empire. Plautus’s models are Greek, but he uses them comically to reflect the social and cultural changes that are producing strains in traditional Roman life.
House of Simo
House of Simo (SIH-moh). Middle of three adjacent houses in Athens that is the residence of the stern old father of Calidorus, a teenager madly in love with the young courtesan Phoenicium. Pseudolus, the protagonist, is Simo’s quick-witted, crafty slave. In Plautine comedy, raised stages generally represented city streets with temporary wooden scenery supplying the background facades of several houses.
House of Ballio
House of Ballio (BA-lee-oh). Residence of a slave dealer and pimp. Ballio owns Phoenicium and has sold her to a Macedonian captain. However, before he can complete the deal, Pseudolus swindles him out of both the girl and his fee. Ballio’s house is stage left of Simo’s. His proximity to his very proper neighbors illustrates the intrusion of sordid materialism into respectable Roman life.
House of Callipho
House of Callipho (KAL-lee-foh). Residence of a tolerant old man, who is a foil to the inflexible Simo. His house is stage right of Simo’s.