Marcus Terentius Varro (c. 116-27 BCE)

Satirist, historian, author of six or seven hundred volumes, nearly all lost. Surviving are six books on the Latin language (De Lingua Latina) and one treatise, On Country Matters (De Re Rustica). These works are tedious and lacking in descriptive and dramatic power, but valuable as source material. The lost Portraits (Imagines) (of famous Greeks and Romans) is said to be the world's first illustrated volume. About six hundred lines of Menippean Satire (Saturae Menippeae) survive.

Varro was born at Reate in the Sabine country. His chief teacher was L. Aelius Stilo, the first systematic student, critic and teacher of Latin philology and literature, and of the antiquities of Rome and Italy. Varro also studied at Athens under the philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon, whose influence is clearly to be seen in many remains of Varro’s writings. After a praetorship, he served as Pompey’s legate in Spain and fought at Pharsalus, but was later reconciled with Caesar who made him director of the proposed public library. In his Civil War, Caesar curiously intimates that, though Varro did his best for Pompey from a sense of duty, his heart was really with the other leader. At the time of the Second Triumvirate his villa was plundered by Antony's men and Antony put Varro on the list of those to be proscribed. He fled, but was pardoned by Augustus.

St. Augustine, in Civitas Dei (The City of G-d) examines and counters the existentialism of paganism and studies Varro's assertion that before "divine things" can exist, first "human things" must. Augustine provides much of our knowledge of Varro in Civitas, including Varro's idea that in matters of religion much is true that the people ought not to know and much false that the people ought not to suspect. Much of Augustine's work revolves around Varro's quote that
"As the painter is prior to the painting, and the architect prior to the building, so are the cities prior to the institutions of the cities {religion}."
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