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132 Miscellanea / R.

Maltby / Mnemosyne 65 (2012) 132-134

A Play on mutuus amor at Plautus Amphitruo 542


and Terence Eunuchus 196

After a night of passion with Alcmena, Jupiter, disguised as her husband Amphi-
tryo, takes leave of her with the conventional formula numquid uis?, anything else
you want?1) As often in Plautus, Alcmena here takes the formula in a literal sense
and replies that she would like him to continue to love her during his absence:

IVP. numquid uis? ALC. ut quom absim me ames, me tuam te absenti tamen.
(Amph. 542)

There is humour, as Christenson points out,2) in hearing this profession of undying


love, a commonplace more appropriate to a love-sick adulescens (e.g. Phaedria at
Ter. Eun. 191-6), being spoken by a heavily pregnant matrona, to a partner with
whom she is unwittingly committing adultery. The unusual word-order me... me
tuam te and the delaying of tamen which syntactically goes with tuam deserve
some explanation. The anaphora of the pronoun me and the juxtaposition of the
pronouns me and te referring to the pair of lovers is typical of the language of love,
and both features can be illustrated from Phaedrias speech mentioned above:

me speres, me te oblectes, mecum tota sis. (Eun. 195)

Final emphatic tamen is not unusual in Plautus either in colloquial contexts or in


passages full of pathos, e.g. Epid. 426 sine tuo labore quod uelis actumst tamen.
There is, however, perhaps more to the juxtaposition of me with tuam in Amph.
542 than has been recognised. A consistent financial image running through the
play is that of Alcmena as Jupiters uxor usuraria borrowed wife.3) The image is
first used by Mercury in the prologue:

MERC. is amare occepit Alcumenam clam uirum


usuramque eius corporis cepit sibi. (Amph. 107-8)

1)
On this polite formula for leave-taking see Hough 1945. It is found mainly in comedy, but
not exclusively so. Its occurrence at Hor. Sat. 1.9.6 suggests it was current in everyday
conversation.
2)
Christenson 2000, 239.
3)
Cf. Christenson 2000, 39-40.
Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI: 10.1163/156852511X548108
Miscellanea / R. Maltby / Mnemosyne 65 (2012) 132-134 133

and is picked up again by Mercury, just before Jupiters first appearance on stage:

MERC. Amphitruo subditiuos eccum exit foras


cum Alcumena uxore usuraria. (Amph. 497-8)

Jupiter himself refers to his relationship in the same terms:

IVP. uolo deludi illunc, dum cum hac usuraria


uxore nunc mihi morigero. (Amph. 980-1)

IVP. primum omnium Alcumenae usuram corporis / cepi. (Amph. 1135-6)

An oblique reference to this image may also be heard in Amphitryos words to his
wife later in the play where he complains that if she has no shame of her own she
should at least borrow some:

AMPH. saltem, tute si pudoris egeas, sumas mutuom. (Amph. 819)

Here Amphitryo uses the technical phrase for borrow, sumere mutuom. The ety-
mology of mutuus in Roman legal writers is derived from the idea that in a borrow-
ing transaction what was mine (meus) becomes yours (tuus):

mutuum appellatum est, quia quod ita tibi a me datum est, ex meo tuum fit.
(Gaius Inst. 3.90)

It is possible then that in the juxtaposition of me and tuam at Amph. 542 Alcmenas
words could allude to this etymology and suggest mutuam, unwittingly emphasis-
ing her position as a borrowed wife. The wordplay gains even more efffect from the
fact that in the language of love mutuus amor is used not for borrowed love but for
a love which is fully mutual or reciprocated, e.g. in a similar context of parting
lovers:

nec saeuo sis iusta metu, sed mente fideli,


mutuus absenti te mihi seruet amor. (Tib. 1.6.75-6)4)

4)
Other examples at Tib. 1.2.65, Ov. Am. 2.3.2, 2.10.29, 3.6.87.
134 Miscellanea / R. Maltby / Mnemosyne 65 (2012) 132-134

At the beginning of this paper it was pointed out that Alcmenas words at 542
would be more appropriate for a young man in love, as illustrated by the words of
Phaedria to the meretrix Thais at Eun. 191 fff. A look at the whole of this Eunuchus
passage suggests that similarities with Amph. 542 may be more than superficial:

...THAIS. numquid uis aliud? PH. egone quid uelim?


cum milite istoc praesens absens ut sies;
dies noctesque me ames, me desideres,
me somnies, me exspectes, de me cogites,
me speres, me te oblectes, mecum tota sis: 195
meus fac sis postremo animus quando ego sum tuos. (Eun. 191-6)

There is the same joke in this exchange, with Thais numquid uis? formula being
taken literally by Phaedria. Alcmenas theme of love in absence, ut quom absim me
ames, me tuam te absenti tamen is transformed here to the wish that while Thais is
in the presence of Phaedrias rival, the soldier, she should act as if she were absent
(192). Finally, in 196, the theme of mutuus amor is here emphasised by meus and
tuos being placed in emphatic first and last position in the line. Framing a line in
this way with words connected etymologically is a well recognised way of empha-
sising etymological play in Latin poetry.5) Once again it is diffficult to resist the idea
that Terence is playing on the legal etymology of mutuus. But here of course the
surface reference is to mutual rather than borrowed love, though the existence of
a paying rival for Thais afffections could make both senses relevant.

University of Leeds, Department of Classics Robert Maltby


Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
r.maltby@leeds.ac.uk

Received: December 2009; accepted: January 2010

Bibliography
Christenson, D. 2000. Plautus, Amphitruo (Cambridge)
Hough, J.N. 1945. The numquid vis formula in Roman Comedy, AJP 66, 282-302
OHara, J.J. 1996. True Names: Vergil and the Alexandrian Tradition of Etymological Wordplay
(Ann Arbor)

5)
See OHara 1996, 82-3.