Marcus Terentius Varro

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An imagined portrait of an elderly Varro. Before 1923, artist unknown Marco Terenzio Varrone.jpg
An imagined portrait of an elderly Varro. Before 1923, artist unknown

Marcus Terentius Varro ( Latin:  [ˈmarkʊs tɛˈrɛntɪʊs ˈwarːo] ; 116–27 BC) was one of ancient Rome's greatest scholars and a prolific author. He is sometimes called Varro Reatinus ( Latin:  ['warːo rɛaˈtiːnʊs]) to distinguish him from his younger contemporary Varro Atacinus.

Contents

Biography

Varro was born in or near Reate (now Rieti) [1] to a family thought to be of equestrian 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, [2] until his old age. He supported Pompey, reaching the office of praetor, after having been tribune of the people, quaestor and curule aedile . [3] He was one of the commission of twenty that carried out the great agrarian scheme of Caesar for the resettlement of Capua and Campania (59 BC). [3]

Statue of Marcus Terentius Varro in Rieti Statua di Marco Terenzio Varrone (Rieti) 02.jpg
Statue of Marcus Terentius Varro in Rieti

During Caesar's civil war he commanded one of Pompey's armies in the Ilerda campaign. [4] He escaped the penalties of being on the losing side in the civil war through two pardons granted by Julius Caesar, before and after the Battle of Pharsalus. [5] Caesar later appointed him to oversee the public library of Rome in 47 BC, but following Caesar's death Mark Antony 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, 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 under the Academic philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon. 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 . His Nine Books of Disciplines became a model for later encyclopedists, especially Pliny the Elder. The most noteworthy portion of the Nine Books of Disciplines is its use of the liberal arts as organizing principles. [6] Varro decided to focus on identifying nine of these arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, musical theory, medicine, and architecture. Using Varro's list, subsequent writers defined the seven classical "liberal arts of the medieval schools". [6]

In 37 BC, [7] 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's similar work De agri cultura—on the management of large slave-run estates. [8]

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 Roman-calendar.png
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 was an attempt to determine an exact year-by-year timeline of Roman history up to his time. It is based on the traditional sequence of the consuls of the Roman Republic—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.

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, [9] and also recognized by Plutarch as "a man deeply read in Roman history". [10]

Varro was recognized as an important source by many other ancient authors, among them Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Virgil in the Georgics, Columella, Aulus Gellius, Macrobius, Augustine, and Vitruvius, who credits him (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." [11]

One noteworthy aspect of the work is his anticipation of microbiology and epidemiology. 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. [12] [13] [14]

Extant works

Plan of the birdhouse at Casinum designed and built by Varro Birdhouse at Casinum.jpg
Plan of the birdhouse at Casinum designed and built by Varro

Known lost works

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.

See Also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. "Marcus Terentius Varro | Roman author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  2. "LacusCurtius • Varro On Agriculture – Book I". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  3. 1 2 Baynes, Thomas Spencer (1891). The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. C. Scribner's sons.
  4. Caesar; Damon, Cynthia (2016). Civil War. Harvard University Press. ISBN   978-0674997035.
  5. Prioreschi, Plinio (1996). A History of Medicine: Roman medicine. Horatius Press. ISBN   978-1888456035.
  6. 1 2 Lindberg, David (2007). The Beginnings of Western Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 137. ISBN   978-0-226-48205-7 . Retrieved 6 March 2010.
  7. Flower, Harriet I., director de la publicación. (2014). The Cambridge companion to the Roman Republic. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN   978-1-107-66942-0. OCLC   904729745.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Flower, Harriet I., director de la publicación. (2014). The Cambridge companion to the Roman Republic. Cambridge University Press. p. 193. ISBN   978-1-107-66942-0. OCLC   904729745.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. Quintilian. "Chapter 1". Institutio Oratoria. Book X. Verse 95.
  10. Plutarch. Life of Romulus. New York: Modern Library. p. 31.
  11. Harrison, Fairfax (1918). "Note Upon the Roman Agronomists". Roman Farm Management. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 1–14 [10].
  12. Varro, Marcus Terentius (2014) [1934]. De Re Rustica. Loeb Classical Library. I.12.2 via Bill Thayer's Website.
  13. Thompson, Sue (March 2014). "From Ground to Tap" (PDF). The Mole: 3 (sidebar). Archived from the original on 12 October 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  14. Hempelmann, Ernst; Krafts, Kristine (October 2013). "Bad Air, Amulets and Mosquitoes: 2,000 Years of Changing Perspectives on Malaria". Malaria Journal. 12: 232. doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-232. ISSN   1475-2875. PMC   3723432 . PMID   23835014.
  15. "Marcus Terentius Varro | Roman author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  16. Wilmanns, Augustus (1864). "II:97". De M. Terenti Varronis Libris Grammaticis. Gutenberg . Berlin: Weidmann. Marcellus autem ad quem haec uolumina misit quis fuerit nescio.
  17. Several people called Marcellus lived during Varro's time. The identity of this one is unclear. [16]

Further reading