Terence's date of birth is disputed; Aelius Donatus, in his incomplete Commentum Terenti, considers the year 185 BC to be the year Terentius was born; Fenestella, on the other hand, states that he was born ten years earlier, in 195 BC.
He may have been born in or near Carthage or in Greek Italy to a woman taken to Carthage as a slave. Terence's cognomen Afer suggests he lived in the territory of the Libyan tribe called by the Romans Afri near Carthage prior to being brought to Rome as a slave. This inference is based on the fact that the term was used in two different ways during the republican era: during Terence's lifetime, it was used to refer to non-Carthaginian Libyco-Berbers, with the term Punicus reserved for the Carthaginians. Later, after the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, it was used to refer to anyone from the land of the Afri (Tunisia and its surroundings). It is therefore most likely that Terence was of Libyan descent, considered ancestors to the modern-day Berber peoples.
In any case, he was sold to P. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, who educated him and later on, impressed by Terence's abilities, freed him. Terence then took the nomen "Terentius," which is the origin of the present form.
He was a member of the so-called Scipionic Circle.
When he was 25, Terence travelled to Greece and never returned. It is mostly believed that Terence died during the journey, but this cannot be confirmed. Before his disappearance he exhibited six comedies which are still in existence. According to some ancient writers, he died at sea.
Like Plautus, Terence adapted Greek plays from the late phases of Attic comedy. Terence wrote in a simple conversational Latin, pleasant and direct. Aelius Donatus, Jerome's teacher, is the earliest surviving commentator on Terence's work. Terence's popularity throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is attested to by the numerous manuscripts containing part or all of his plays; the scholar Claudia Villa has estimated that 650 manuscripts containing Terence's work date from after AD 800. The mediaeval playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim claims to have written her plays so that learned men had a Christian alternative to reading the pagan plays of Terence, while the reformer Martin Luther not only quoted Terence frequently to tap into his insights into all things human but also recommended his comedies for the instruction of children in school.