Varro, Marcus Terentius

Varro, Marcus Terentius a learned Roman antiquarian, was barn in the Sabine town of Reate, B.C. 116. He was descended from an ancient family of senatorial rank, and was first instructed by L. AElius, afterwards by Antiochus, an Academic philosopher. Varro was very prominent in the political history of his time, adhering to the cause of Pompey, and performing the duties of general in Spain. He withdrew from public life after the defeat of Pompey, and was reconciled to Caesar. He was one of the most extraordinary men that ever lived; said to be the most learned of the Romans. His learning extended to almost every department of knowledge. His writings embraced grammar, rhetoric, poetry, geography, history, philosophy, jurisprudence, and husbandry, amounting in all to 74 different works, containing 620 books, 170-of which were in metrical form. Only two of his works remain, De Lingua Latina and Rerum Rusticarum Libri III. Augustine (De Civitate Dei, lib. 7) gives an account of his book on Antiquities, with copious extracts. Varro distinguished three kinds of religion-mythical, which the poets chiefly use; physical, which the philosophers use; and civil, which peoples use. He spoke in positive disapproval of the myths and legends of the popular faith. Augustine says he went as far as he dared in that direction. The natural philosophy in the various schools he describes without censure. Civil theology, or that ordained by the State, is minutely described and commended. Varro died B.C. 27. See Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. 1, 189; Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity (N.Y. 1877), p. 128; Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v.

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