Mercator quidam fuit Syracusis senex,
ei sunt nati filii gemini duo,
ita forma simili pueri, ut mater sua
non internosse posset quae mammam dabat,
neque adeo mater ipsa quae illos pepererat—
ut quidem ille dixit mihi, qui pueros viderat:
ego illos non vidi, ne quis vostrum censeat.
postquam iam pueri septuennes sunt, pater
oneravit navim magnam multis mercibus;
imponit geminum alterum in navim pater,
Tarentum avexit secum ad mercatum simul,
illum reliquit alterum apud matrem domi.
Tarenti ludi forte erant quom illuc venit.
mortales multi, ut ad ludos, convenerant:
puer aberravit inter homines a patre.
Epidamniensis quidam ibi mercator fuit,
is puerum tollit avehitque Epidamnum eum.
pater eius autem postquam puerum perdidit,
animum despondit eaque is aegritudine
paucis diebus post Tarenti emortuost.
postquam Syracusas de ea re rediit nuntius
ad avom puerorum, puerum surruptum alterum
patremque pueri ess’ Tarenti emortuom,
immutat nomen avos huic gemino alteri;
ita illum dilexit qui surruptust alterum:
illius nomen indit illi qui domi est,
Menaechmo, idem quod alteri nomen fuit;
et ipsus eodem est avos vocatus nomine;
propterea illius nomen memini facilius,
quia illum clamore vidi flagitarier.
(Plautus, Menaechmi 17-46)
There was a certain old merchant in Syracuse. Two twin sons were born to him, boys of such similar looks that their wet nurse who gave them the breast could not tell them apart, nor for that matter the mother herself who’d given birth to them—at least someone who’d seen the boys told me so. I haven’t seen them, in case any of you supposes that I did. When the boys were now seven years old, their father loaded a large ship with much freight. The father put one twin onto the ship and took him with him to Tarentum to the market. He left the other one at home with his mother. In Tarentum there was by chance a festival when he arrived. Many people had gathered, as they do at festivals. The boy strayed from his father among the crowd. There was a certain merchant from Epidamnus there. He picked the boy up and carried him off to Epidamnus. But aftter his father lost the boy, he despaired and because of his grief for him died a few days later in Tarentum. After the news about this came back to Syracuse to the grandfather of the boys, that the one boy had been kidnapped and that the boy’s father had died in Tarentum, the grandfather changed the name of this other twin; so much did he love that other one who was snatched. He gave his name to the one who was at home, Menaechmus, the same name the other one had. And the grandfather himself was called by the same name. I remember his name more easily for the simple reason that I saw him being dunned loudly. (tr. Wolfgang De Melo)