Fabula Atellana was an early type of dramatic entertainment in the Italic peninsula. Atellana witnesses an origin in the town of Atella, located in an Oscan town south of Rome, in Campania. Fabula, as used by Livy, refers to a story with a plot. In English, the fabula Atellana is called the Atellan Farce. This name gives a clue to the nature of the dramatic performance. Fabulae Atellanae (the plural of fabula Atellana) relied on stock characters, masks, earthy humor, and simple plots. They were performed by actors improvising. We know little about fabula Atellana, but judging from the titles, rural life was a popular topic, especially popular with the common folk of Rome. The farces evidently used riddles, based on a comment by Quintilian, although the comment may refer to double entendres.
When the fabula Atellana first made its way to Rome, its language was Oscan. Originally simply a performed comedy, fabula Atellana became a Roman literary form, at the time of Sulla, written by Pomponius and Novius.
Livy describes Atellan Farce in section 7.2. of his History of Rome.
- "On the Origin of Roman Satire"
Robert Henning Webb;
Classical Philology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Apr., 1912), pp. 177-189
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H. MacL. Currie;
Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 29, Fasc. 4 (1976), pp. 411-420
- "Plautus and the Fabula Atellana"
The Classical Review, Vol. 44, No. 5 (Nov., 1930), pp. 165-168