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Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman
polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific prob ...

polymath
and a prolific author. He is regarded as
ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC ...
's greatest scholar, and was described by
Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to ...

Petrarch
as "the third great light of Rome" (after
Vergil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 70 BC21 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Roman In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in devel ...
and
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold republican principles during crisis of th ...

Cicero
). He is sometimes called Varro Reatinus to distinguish him from his younger contemporary
Varro Atacinus Publius Terentius Varro Atacinus (; 82 BC – c. 35 BC) was a Latin poetry, Roman poet, more polished in his style than the more famous and learned Marcus Terentius Varro, Varro Reatinus, his contemporary, and therefore more widely read by the Augu ...
.


Biography

Varro was born in or near Reate (now
Rieti Rieti (; lat, Reate, Sabino: ) is an ancient town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a local administrative division of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country ...

Rieti
) to a family thought to be of
equestrian The word equestrian is a reference to Equestrianism, horseback riding, derived from Latin ' and ', "horse". Horseback riding (or Riding in British English) Notable examples of this are: *List of equestrian sports, Equestrian sports *Equestrianism, ...
rank, and always remained close to his roots in the area, owning a large farm in the Reatine plain, reported as near Lago di Ripa Sottile, until his old age. He supported
Pompey Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (; 29 September 106 BC – 28 September 48 BC), known in English as Pompey or Pompey the Great, was a leading Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civ ...
, reaching the office of
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some langua ...
, after having been tribune of the people, ''
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, ' (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. ...
'' and ''
curule aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome#Monarchy.2C republic.2C empire, Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings () and regulation of public festiv ...
''. He was one of the commission of twenty that carried out the great agrarian scheme of
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Marcus Licin ...

Caesar
for the resettlement of
Capua Capua (, ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a local administrative division of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Ital ...

Capua
and
Campania (man), it, Campana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = , demographics1_info1 = , demog ...
(59 BC). During
Caesar's civil war Caesar's Civil War (49–45 BC) was one of the last politico-military conflicts of the Roman Republic before its reorganization into the Roman Empire. It began as a series of political and military confrontations between Julius Caesar, Gaius Jul ...
he commanded one of Pompey's armies in the Ilerda campaign. He escaped the penalties of being on the losing side in the civil war through two
pardons A pardon is a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislat ...
granted by
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of anc ...

Julius Caesar
, before and after the
Battle of Pharsalus The Battle of Pharsalus was the decisive battle of Caesar's Civil War Caesar's Civil War (49–45 BC) was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire. It began as a series ...

Battle of Pharsalus
. Caesar later appointed him to oversee the public library of Rome in 47 BC, but following Caesar's death
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic fr ...
proscribed him, resulting in the loss of much of his property, including his library. As the Republic gave way to Empire, Varro gained the favour of
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles througho ...

Augustus
, under whose protection he found the security and quiet to devote himself to study and writing. Varro studied under the Roman philologist Lucius Aelius Stilo, and later at
Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica (region), Attica region and is one of the List of oldest ...

Athens
under the
Academic An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the w ...

Academic
philosopher
Antiochus of AscalonAntiochus of Ascalon (; grc-gre, Άντίοχος ὁ Ἀσκαλώνιος; c. 125 – c. 68 BC) was an Academic philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφο ...
. Varro proved to be a highly productive writer and turned out more than 74 Latin works on a variety of topics. Among his many works, two stand out for historians; ''Nine Books of Disciplines'' and his compilation of the ''
Varronian chronology This is a list of Roman consul, consuls known to have held office, from the beginning of the Roman Republic to the latest use of the title in Roman Empire, Imperial times, together with those magistrates of the Republic who were appointed in place ...
''. His ''Nine Books of Disciplines'' became a model for later encyclopedists, especially
Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natu ...

Pliny the Elder
. The most noteworthy portion of the ''Nine Books of Disciplines'' is its use of the
liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art (skill), art'' in the sense of a learned skill rather than spec ...
as organizing principles. Varro decided to focus on identifying nine of these arts:
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
,
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definition ...
,
logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit ...

logic
,
arithmetic Arithmetic (from the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:en:ἀριθμός#Ancient Greek, ἀριθμός ''arithmos'', 'number' and wikt:en:τική#Ancient Greek, τική wikt:en:τέχνη#Ancient Greek, έχνη ''tiké échne', 'art' or 'cra ...
,
geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space that are related ...

geometry
,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, physi ...
, musical theory, medicine, and
architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Architecture (Latin ''archit ...

architecture
. Using Varro's list, subsequent writers defined the seven classical "liberal arts of the medieval schools". In 37 BC, in his old age, he also wrote on agriculture for his wife Fundania, writing a "voluminous" work ''De re rustica'' (also called ''Res rusticae'')—similar to
Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia ...
's similar work ''De agri cultura''—on the management of large slave-run estates.


Calendars

Fasti Antiates Maiores, an inscription containing the Roman calendar. This calendar predates the Julian reform of the calendar; it contains the months ''Quintilis'' and ''Sextilis'', and allows for the insertion of an intercalary month The compilation of the ''
Varronian chronology This is a list of Roman consul, consuls known to have held office, from the beginning of the Roman Republic to the latest use of the title in Roman Empire, Imperial times, together with those magistrates of the Republic who were appointed in place ...
'' was an attempt to determine an exact year-by-year timeline of
Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilisation of ancient Rome. Roman history has been influential on the modern world, especially in the history of the Catholic Church, and Roman law ...
up to his time. It is based on the traditional sequence of the consuls of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization, run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman people. Beginning with the Overthrow of the ...
—supplemented, where necessary, by inserting "dictatorial" and "anarchic" years. It has been demonstrated to be somewhat erroneous but has become the widely accepted standard chronology, in large part because it was inscribed on the arch of Augustus in Rome; though that arch no longer stands, a large portion of the chronology has survived under the name of ''
Fasti Capitolini The ''Fasti Capitolini'', or Capitoline Fasti, are a list of the chief magistrates of the Roman Republic, extending from the early fifth century BC down to the reign of Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the ...
.''


Works

Varro's literary output was prolific; Ritschl estimated it at 74 works in some 620 books, of which only one work survives complete, although we possess many fragments of the others, mostly in Gellius' '' Attic Nights''. He was called "the most learned of the Romans" by
Quintilian Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (; 35 – 100 AD) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome ...

Quintilian
, and also recognized by
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (Delphi), Temple of ...

Plutarch
as "a man deeply read in Roman history". Varro was recognized as an important source by many other ancient authors, among them
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold republican principles during crisis of th ...

Cicero
,
Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natu ...

Pliny the Elder
,
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three o ...

Virgil
in the ''Georgics'',
Columella Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (; Arabic: Yunius, 4 – c. 70 AD) was a prominent writer on agriculture in the Roman empire. His ''De re rustica'' in twelve volumes has been completely preserved and forms an important source on Roman agri ...
,
Aulus Gellius Aulus Gellius (c. 125after 180 AD) was a Roman author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map ...
,
Macrobius Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, usually referred to as Macrobius (fl. AD 400), was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, during Late Antiquity, the period of time corresponding to the late Roman Empire The history of the ...

Macrobius
, , and
Vitruvius Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (; c. 80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC), commonly known as Vitruvius, was a Roman Republic, Roman author, architect, and civil engineer, civil and military engineering, military engineer during the 1st century BC, known ...

Vitruvius
, who credits hi
(VII.Intr.14)
with a book on architecture. His only complete work extant, ''Rerum rusticarum libri tres'' (''Three Books on Agriculture''), has been described as "the well digested system of an experienced and successful farmer who has seen and practised all that he records." One noteworthy aspect of the work is his anticipation of
microbiology Microbiology (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...

microbiology
and
epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and determinants In mathematics, the determinant is a Scalar (mathematics), scalar value that is a function (mathematics), function of the entries of a s ...
. Varro warned his contemporaries to avoid swamps and marshland, since in such areas
...there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, but which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and cause serious diseases.


Extant works

* ''De lingua latina libri XXV'' (or ''On the Latin Language in 25 Books'', of which six books (V–X) survive, partly mutilated) * ''Rerum rusticarum libri III'' (or ''Agricultural Topics in Three Books'')


Known lost works

* ''Saturarum Menippearum libri CL'' or ''Menippean Satires in 150 books'' * '' Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum libri XLI'' (''Antiquities of Human and Divine Things'') * ''Logistoricon libri LXXVI'' * ''Hebdomades vel de imaginibus'' * ''Disciplinarum libri IX'' (An encyclopedia on the liberal arts, of which the first book dealt with grammar) * ''De rebus urbanis libri III'' (or ''On Urban Topics in Three Books'') * ''De gente populi Romani libri IIII'' (cf. Augustine, '
De civitate dei ''On the city of God against the pagans'' ( la, De civitate Dei contra paganos), often called ''The City of God'', is a book of Christian philosophy Christian philosophy is the set of philosophical ideas initiated by Christians from the 2nd ...
' xxi. 8.) * ''De sua vita libri III'' (or ''On His Own Life in Three Books'') * ''De familiis troianis'' (or ''On the Families of Troy'') * ''De Antiquitate Litterarum libri II'' (addressed to the tragic poet
Lucius Accius Lucius Accius (; 170 – c. 86 BC), or Lucius Attius, was a Roman Republic, Roman tragic poet and literary scholar. The son of a freedman#Ancient Rome, freedman and a freedwoman, Accius was born at Pisaurum in Umbria, in 170 BC. The year of his ...
; it is therefore one of his earliest writings) * ''De Origine Linguae Latinae libri III'' (addressed to
Pompey Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (; 29 September 106 BC – 28 September 48 BC), known in English as Pompey or Pompey the Great, was a leading Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civ ...
; cf. Augustine, '
De civitate dei ''On the city of God against the pagans'' ( la, De civitate Dei contra paganos), often called ''The City of God'', is a book of Christian philosophy Christian philosophy is the set of philosophical ideas initiated by Christians from the 2nd ...
' xxii. 28.) * ''Περί Χαρακτήρων'' (in at least three books, on the formation of words) * ''Quaestiones Plautinae libri V'' (containing interpretations of rare words found in the comedies of
Plautus Titus Maccius Plautus (; c. 254 – 184 BC), commonly known as Plautus, was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the ...

Plautus
) * ''De Similitudine Verborum libri III'' (on regularity in forms and words) * ''De Utilitate Sermonis libri IIII'' (on the principle of anomaly or irregularity) * '' libri V (?)'' (addressed to Marcellus, on orthography and the metres of poetry) * ''De philosophia'' (cf. Augustine, '
De civitate dei ''On the city of God against the pagans'' ( la, De civitate Dei contra paganos), often called ''The City of God'', is a book of Christian philosophy Christian philosophy is the set of philosophical ideas initiated by Christians from the 2nd ...
' xix. 1.) Most of the extant fragments of these works (mostly the grammatical works) can be found in the Goetz–Schoell edition of ''De Lingua Latina'', pp. 199–242; in the collection of Wilmanns, pp. 170–223; and in that of Funaioli, pp. 179–371.


References


Further reading

* Cardauns, B. ''Marcus Terentius Varro: Einführung in sein Werk''. Heidelberger Studienhefte zur Altertumswissenschaft. Heidelberg, Germany: C. Winter, 2001. * d’Alessandro, P. “Varrone e la tradizione metrica antica”. ''Spudasmata'', volume 143. Hildesheim; Zürich; New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2012. * Dahlmann, H.M. “Terentius Varro. Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft”. Supplement 6, ''Abretten bis Thunudromon''. Edited by Wilhelm Kroll, 1172–1277. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1935. * Ferriss-Hill, J. “Varro’s Intuition of Cognate Relationships.” ''Illinois Classical Studies'', volume 39, 2014, pp. 81–108. * Freudenburg, K. "The Afterlife of Varro in Horace's ''Sermones'': Generic Issues in Roman Satire." ''Generic Interfaces in Latin Literature: Encounters, Interactions and Transformations'', edited by Stavros Frangoulidis, De Gruyter, 2013, pp. 297–336. * Kronenberg, L. ''Allegories of Farming from Greece and Rome: Philosophical Satire in Xenophon, Varro and Virgil''. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. * Nelsestuen, G. ''Varro the Agronomist: Political Philosophy, Satire, and Agriculture in the Late Republic''. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2015. * Richardson, J.S. “The Triumph of Metellus Scipio and the Dramatic Date of Varro, RR 3.” ''The Classical Quarterly'', volume 33, no. 2, 1983, pp. 456–463. * Taylor, D.J.. ''Declinatio : A Study of the Linguistic Theory of Marcus Terentius Varro''. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1974. * Van Nuffelen, P. “Varro’s Divine Antiquities: Roman Religion as an Image of Truth.” ''Classical Philology'', volume 105, no. 2, 2010, pp. 162–188.


External links

* * *
de Re Rustica
(Latin and English at
LacusCurtius:''For the ancient landmark in the Roman Forum, see Lacus Curtius.'' LacusCurtius is a website A website (also written as web site) is a collection of web pages and related content that is identified by a common domain name and published on a ...
)
Links to translation of ''De Linga Latina'' by R.G.Kent





Oxford Classical Dictionary

Oxford Bibliographies
{{DEFAULTSORT:Varro, Marcus Terentius 116 BC births 27 BC deaths 2nd-century BC Romans 1st-century BC Roman praetors 1st-century BC writers Ancient linguists Ancient Roman antiquarians Ancient Roman scholars of religion Ancient Roman soldiers Ancient Roman writers Encyclopedias in classical antiquity Encyclopedists Geoponici Golden Age Latin writers Latin-language writers People from Rieti Recipients of ancient Roman pardons Roman-era students in Athens Terentii, Varro, Marcus Latinists