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Marcus Terentius Varro Reatinus (i.e. a native of Reate in the Sabine territory). The most learned of the Romans; born 116 B.C. of an ancient senatorial family. He devoted himself to study at an early age, under the direction chiefly of the learned antiquarian and philologist Aelius Stilo, without however withdrawing from public life either in time of peace or war. He held the public offices of tribune, curule aedile, and praetor. In 67 he was lieutenant to Pompey in the war against the pirates; in 49 he again held a command under Pompey in the province of Spain beyond the Iberus, but was taken prisoner by Caesar after the capitulation of Ilerda. Although he afterwards rejoined Pompey, Caesar received him into favour, and he returned to Rome in 46 B.C., where he is said to have had the superintendence of the great library which Caesar destined for the public use. In spite of his abstaining henceforward from taking any active part in public affairs, he was prescribed by Antony in 43, and only narrowly escaped with his life. Pardoned by Octavianus, he lived till the year 27, full of vigour and literary activity to the last. Varro's learning comprised all the provinces of literature known at that time, and in productivity he was equalled by no Romans, and only a few Greeks. According to his own statement, he had composed 490 books before his 78th year; the total number of his works, either in prose or verse, theoretical or practical, exceeded 70, in more than 600 books. Of these, the three books on agriculture (Rerum Rusticarum Libri), written in the form of a dialogue in his 80th year, in which he treats the subject exhaustively, drawing from his own experience as well as from more ancient sources, are the only ones that have been completely preserved. Further, of the original 25 books on the Latin language (De Lingua Latina) dedicated to Caesar, in which he systematically treats, under the head of etymology, inflexions and syntax, only books v-x exist, in a mutilated condition. This work was followed by a number of other grammatical writings. It is only through a series of extant titles of his works that we know of his literary and historical studies, which were especially directed to dramatic poetry, and in particular to the comedies of Plautus, as well as of his researches into the history and antiquities of his own nation. His principal work, of which much use has been made by later writers, the Antiquitatas Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum, in 41 books. This was the most important of his writings on these subjects, as it gave a complete account of the political and religious life of the Romans from the earliest times. The 15 books, entitled Imagines or Hebdomades, published about B.C. 39, contained 700 portraits of celebrated Greeks and Romans, in sets of seven in each group, with epigrams written beneath them. His nine Disciplinarum Libri gave an encyclopaedia of the arts pertaining to general culture (grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music, architecture, medicine). His 76 Libri Logistorici included shorter popular treatises of a historical and philosophical nature, described by titles appropriate to their contents, borrowed from the names of well-known persons (e.g. Sisenna de Historia). Among Varro's numerous and varied poetical works we will only mention, as the most original, the 150 books of Menippean Satires (Saturoe Menippeoe), which were completed before 45 B.C., a species of composition which he introduced into Roman literature in imitation of the Cynic Menippus of Gadara. In these Satires, written alternately in prose and different kinds of verse, he treats of philosophical questions, especially those relating to morality, science, etc., chiefly with the view of exposing the failings of the age. Only a number of titles and fragments of this work have been preserved.
Type: Standard
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