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CHAPTER I. VARRO.

The period embraced by the present book contains the culmination of all kinds of literature, the drama alone excepted. It falls naturally into two divisions, each marked by special and clearly-defined characteristics. The first begins with the recognition of Cicero as the chief man of letters at Rome, and ends with the battle of Philippi, a year after his death. It extends over a period of two and twenty years (about 63-42 B.C.), though many of Cicero's orations are anterior, and some of Varro's works posterior, to the extreme dates. In this period Latin prose writing attained its perfection. The storms which shook and finally overthrew the Republic turned the attention of all minds to political questions. Oratory and history were the prevailing forms of intellectual activity. It was not until the close of the period that philosophy was treated by Cicero during his compulsory absence from public life; and poetry rose once more into prominence in the works of Lucretius and Catullus. The chief characteristics of the literature of this period are freedom and vigour. In every author the bold spirit of the Republic breathes forth; and in the greatest is happily combined with an extensive and elegant scholarship, equally removed from pedantry and dullness.

The second division (42 B.C.-14 A.D.) begins shortly after the battle of Philippi, with the earliest poems of Varius and Virgil, and closes with the death of Augustus. It is pre-eminently an era of poets, Livy alone being a prose writer of the first rank, and is marked by all the characteristics of an imperial age. The transition from the last poems of Catullus to the first of Virgil is complete. Nevertheless, many republican authors lived on into this period, as Varro, Pollio, and Bibaculus. But their character and genius belong to the Republic, and, with the exception of Pollio, they will be noticed under the republican writers. The entire period represents the full maturity and perfection of the Latin language, and the epithet classical is by many restricted to the authors who wrote in it. It is best, however, not to narrow unnecessarily the sphere of classicality; to exclude Terence on the one hand or Tacitus and Pliny on the other, would savour of artificial restriction rather than that of a natural classification.

The first writer that comes before us is M. TERENTIUS VARRO, 116-28 B.C. He is at once the earliest and the latest of the series. His birth took place ten years before that of Cicero, and his death fifteen years after Cicero's murder, in the third year of the reign of Augustus. His long life was devoted almost entirely to study, and he became known even in his lifetime as the most learned of the Romans. This did not, however, prevent him from offering his services to the state when the state required them. He served more than once under Pompey, acquitting himself with distinction, so that in the civil war the important post of legatus was intrusted to him in company with Petreius and Afranius in Spain. But Varro felt from the first his inability to cope with his adversary. Caesar speaks of him as acting coolly in Pompey's interest until the successes of Afranius at Ilerda roused him to more vigorous measures; but the triumph of the Pompeians was shortlived; and when Caesar convened the delegates at Corduba, Varro found himself shut out from all the fortified towns, and in danger of being deserted by his army. [1] He therefore surrendered at discretion, returned to Italy, and took no more part in public affairs. We hear of him occasionally in Cicero's letters as studying in his country seats at Tusculum, Cumae, or Casinum, indifferent to politics, and preparing those great works of antiquarian research which have immortalised his name. Caesar's victorious return brought him out of his retreat. He was placed over the library which Caesar built for public use, an appointment equally complimentary to Varro and honourable to Caesar. Antony, however, incapable of the generosity of his chief, placed Varro's name on the list of the proscribed, at a time when the old man was over seventy years of age, and had long ceased to have any weight in politics. Nothing more clearly shows the abominable motives that swayed the triumvirs than this attempt to murder an aged and peaceful citizen for the sake of possessing his wealth. For Varro had the good or bad fortune to be extremely rich. His Casine villa, alluded to by Cicero, and partly described by himself, was sumptuously decorated, and his other estates were large and productive. The Casine villa was made the scene of Antony's revelry; he and his fellow-rioters plundered the rooms, emptied the cellar, burned the library, and carried on every kind of debauchery and excess. Few passages in all eloquence are more telling than that in which Cicero with terrible power contrasts the conduct of the two successive occupants. [2] Varro, through the zeal of his friends, managed to escape Antony's fury, and for a time lay concealed in the villa of Galenas, at which Antony was a frequent visitor, little suspecting that his enemy was within his grasp. An edict was soon issued, however, exempting the old man from the effect of the proscription, so that he was enabled to live in peace at Rome until his death. But deprived of his wealth (which Augustus afterwards restored), deprived of his friends, and above all, deprived of his library, he must have felt a deep shadow cast over his declining years. Nevertheless, he remained cheerful, and to all appearance contented, and charmed those who knew him by the vigour of his conversation and his varied antiquarian lore. He is never mentioned by any of the Augustan writers.

Varro belongs to the genuine type of old Roman, improved but not altered by Greek learning, with his heart fixed in the past, deeply conservative of everything national, and even in his style of speech protesting against the innovations of the day. If we reflect that when Varro wrote his treatise on husbandry, Virgil was at work on the Georgics, and then compare the diction of the two, it seems almost incredible that they should have been contemporaries. In all literature there is probably no such instance of rock-like impenetrability to fashion; for him Alexandria might never have existed. He recalls the age of Cato rather than that of Cicero. His versatility was as great as his industry. There was scarcely any department of prose or poetry, provided it was national, in which he did not excel. His early life well fitted him for severe application. Born at Reate, in the Sabine territory, which was the nurse of all manly virtues, [3] Varro, as he himself tells us, had to rough it as a boy; he went barefoot over the mountain side, rode without saddle or bridle, and wore but a single tunic. [4] Bold, frank, and sarcastic, he had all the qualities of the old-fashioned country gentleman. At Rome he became intimate with Aelius Stilo, whose opinion of his pupil is shown by the inscription of his grammatical treatise to him. Stilo's mantle descended on Varro, but with sevenfold virtue. Not only grammar, by which term we must understand philology and etymology as well as syntax, but antiquities secular and religious, and almost all the liberal arts, were passed under review by his encyclopaedic mind.

At the same time lighter themes had strong attraction for him. He possessed in a high degree that racy and caustic wit which was a special Italian product, and had been conspicuous in Cato and Lucilius. But while Cato studied to be oracular, and Lucilius to be critical, Varro seems to have indulged his vein without any special object. Though by no means a born poet, he had the faculty of writing terse and elegant verse when he chose, and in his younger days composed a long list of metrical works. There were among them Pseudotragoediae, which Teuffel thinks were the same as the Hilarotragoediae, orRhinthonicae, so called from their inventor Rhinthon; though others class them with the Komodotragodiai, of which Plautus's Amphitruo is the best known instance. However this may be, they were mock-heroic compositions in which the subjects consecrated by tragic usage were travestied or burlesqued. It is probable that they were mere literary exercises designed to beguile leisure or to facilitate the labour of composition, like the closet tragedies composed by Cicero and his brother Quintus; and Varro certainly owed none of his fame to them. Other poems of his are referred to by Cicero, and perhaps by Quintilian; [5] but in the absence of definite allusions we can hardly characterize them. There was one class of semi-poetical composition which Varro made peculiarly his own, the Satura Menippea, a medley of prose and verse, treating of all kinds of subjects just as they came to hand in the plebeian style, often with much grossness, but with sparkling point. Of these Saturae he wrote no less than 150 books, of which fragments have been preserved amounting to near 600 lines. Menippus of Gadara, the originator of this style of composition, lived about 280 B.C.; he interspersed jocular and commonplace topics with moral maxims and philosophical doctrines, and may have added contemporary pictures, though this is uncertain.

Varro followed him; we find him in the Academicae Quaestiones of Cicero, [6] saying that he adopted this method in the hope of enticing the unlearned to read something that might profit them. In thesesaturae topics were handled with the greatest freedom. They were not satires in the modern sense. They are rather to be considered as lineal descendants of the old saturae which existed before any regular literature. They nevertheless embodied with unmistakable clearness Varro's sentiments with regard to the prevailing luxury, and combined his thorough knowledge of all that best befitted a Roman to know with a racy freshness which we miss in his later works. The titles of many are preserved, and give some index to the character of the contents. We have some in Greek, e.g. Marco_polis or peri archaes, a sort of Varro's Republic, after the manner of Plato; Hippokyon, Kynoppaetor, and others, satirizing the cynic philosophy. Some both in Greek and Latin, as Columnae Herculis, peri doxaes; est modus matulae, peri methaes; others in Latin only, as Marcipor the slave of Marcus (i.e. Varro himself). Many are in the shape of proverbs, e.g. Longe fugit qui suos fugit, gnothi seauton, nescis quid vesper serus vehat. Only two fragments are of any length; one from the Marcipor, in graceful iambic verse, [7] the other in prose from the nescis quid vesper. [8] It consists of directions for a convivial meeting: “Nam multos convivas esse non convenit, quod turba plerumque est turbulenta; et Romae quidem constat: sed et Athenis; nusquam enim plures cubabant. [9] Ipsum deinde convivium constat ex rebus quatuor, et tum denique omnibus suis numeris absolutum est; si belli homuculi collecti sunt, si lectus locus, si tempus lectum, si apparatus non neglectus. Nec loquaces autem convivas nec mutos legere oportet; quia eloquentia in foro et apud subsellia; silentium vero non in convivio sed in cubiculo esse debet. Quod profecto eveniet, si de id genus rebus ad communem vitae usum pertinentibus confabulemur, de quibus in foro atque in negotiis agendis loqui non est otium. Dominum autem convivii esse oportet non tam tautum quam sine sordibus. Et in convivio legi non omnia debent, sed ea potissimum quae simul suntbiophelae, [10] et delectent potius, ut id quoque videatur non superfuisse. Bellaria ea maxime sunt mellita, quae mellita non sunt, pemmasin entra et pepsei societas infida.” In this piece we see the fondness for punning, which even in his eightieth year had not left him. The last pun is not at first obvious; the meaning is that the nicest sweetmeats are those which are not too sweet, for made dishes are hostile to digestion; or, as we may say, paraphrasing his diction, “Delicacies are conducive to delicacy.” It was from this satura the celebrated rule was taken that guests should be neither fewer than the graces, nor more than the muses. The whole subject of the Menippean satires is brilliantly treated in Mommsen's History of Rome, and Riese's edition of the satires, to both which, if he desire further information, we refer the reader. [11]

The genius of Varro, however, more and more inclined him to prose. The next series of works that issued from his pen were probably those known as Logistorici (about 56-50 B.C.). The model for these was furnished by Heraclides Ponticus, a friend and pupil of Plato, and after his death, of Aristotle. He was a voluminous and encyclopaedic writer, but too indolent to apply the vigorous method of his master. Hence his works, being discursive and easily understood, were well fitted for the comprehension of the Romans. Varro's histories were short, mostly taken from his own or his friends' experience, and centred round some principle of ethics or economics. Catus de liberis educandis, Marius de Fortuna, &c. are titles which remind us of Cicero's Laelius de Amicitia and Cato Major de Senectute, of which it is extremely probable they were the suggesting causes.

Varro in his saturae is very severe upon philosophers. He had almost as great a contempt for them as his archetype Cato. And yet Varro was deeply read in the philosophy of Greece. He did not yield to Cicero in admiration of her illustrious thinkers. It is probable that with his keen appreciation of the Roman character he saw that it was unfitted for speculative thought; that in most cases its cultivation would only bring forth pedants or hypocrites. When asked by Cicero why he had not written a great philosophical work, he replied that those who had a real interest in the study would go direct to the fountain head, those who had not would be none the better for reading a Latin compendium. Hence he preferred to turn his labours into a more productive channel, and to instruct the people in their own antiquities, which had never been adequately studied, and, now that Stilo was dead, seemed likely to pass into oblivion. [12] His researches occupied three main fields, that of law and religion, that of civil history and biography, and that of philology.

Of these the first was the one for which he was most highly qualified, and in which he gained his highest renown. His crowning work in this department was the Antiquities Divine and Human, in 41 books. [13] This was the greatest monument of Roman learning, the reference book for all subsequent writers. It is quoted continually by Pliny, Gellius, and Priscian; and, what is more interesting to us, by St Augustine in the fifth and seventh books of his Civitas Dei, as the one authoritative work on the subject of the national religion. [14] He thus describes the plan of the work. It consisted of 41 books; 25 of human antiquities, 16 of divine. In the human part, 6 books were given to each of the four divisions; viz. of Agents, of Places, of Times, of Things. [15] To these 24 one prefatory chapter was prefixed of a general character, thus completing the number. In the divine part a similar method was followed. Three books were allotted to each of the five divisions of the subject, viz. the Men who sacrifice, the Places, and Times of worship, [16] the Rites performed, and finally the Divine Beings themselves. To these was prefixed a book treating the subject comprehensively, and of a prefatory nature. The five triads were thus subdivided: the first into a book on Pontifices, one on Augurs, one on Quindecimviri Sacrorum; the second into books on shrines, temples, and sacred spots, respectively; the third into those on festivals and holidays, the games of the circus, and theatrical spectacles; the fourth treats of consecrations, private rites, and public sacrifices, while the fifth has one treatise on gods that certainly exist, one on gods that are doubtful, and one on the chief and select deities.

We have given the particulars of this division to show the almost pedantic love of system that Varro indulged. Nearly all his books were parcelled out on a similar methodical plan. He had no idea of following the natural divisions of a subject, but always imposed on his subject artificial categories drawn from his own prepossessions. [17] The remark has been made that of all Romans Varro was the most unphilosophical. Certainly if a true classification be the basis of a truly scientific treatment, Varro can lay no claim to it. His erudition, though, profound, is cumbrous. He never seems to move easily in it. His illustrations are far-fetched, often inopportune. What, for instance, can be more out of place than to bring to a close a discussion on farming by the sudden announcement of a hideous murder? [18] His style is as uncouth as his arrangement is unnatural. It abounds in constructions which cannot be justified by strict rules of syntax, e.g. hi qui pueros in ludum mittunt, idem barbatos ... non docebimus?” [19] “When we send our children to school to learn to speak correctly, shall we not also correct bearded men, when they make mistakes?” Slipshod constructions like this occur throughout the treatise on the Latin tongue, though, it is true, they are almost entirely absent from that on husbandry, which is a much more finished work. Obscurity in explaining what the author means, or in describing what he has seen, is so frequent an accompaniment of vast erudition that it need excite little surprise. And yet how different it is from the matchless clearness of Cicero or Caesar! In the treatise on husbandry, Varro is at great pains to describe a magnificent aviary in his villa at Casinum, but his auditors must have been clear-headed indeed if they could follow his description. [20] And in the De Lingua Latina, wishing to show how the elephant was called Luca bos from having been first seen in Lucania with the armies of Pyrrhus, and from the ox being the largest quadruped with which the Italians were then acquainted, he gives us the following involved note— In Virgilii commentario erat: Ab Lucanis Lucas; ab eo quod nostri, quom maximam quadrupedem, quam ipsi haberent, vocarent bovem, et in Lucanis Pyrrhi bello primum vidissent apud hostes elephantos, Lucanum bovem quod putabant Lucam bovem appellassent.

In fact Varro was no stylist. He was a master of facts, as Cicero of words. Studiosum rerum, says Augustine, tantum docet, quantum studiosum verborum Cicero delectat. Hence Cicero, with all his proneness to exaggerate the excellences of his friends, never speaks of him as eloquent. He calls him omnium facile acutissimus, et sine ulla dubitatione doctissimus. [21] The qualities that shone out conspicuously in his works were, besides learning, a genial though somewhat caustic humour, and a thorough contempt for effeminacy of all kinds. The fop, the epicure, the warbling poet who gargled his throat before murmuring his recondite ditty, the purist, and above all the mock-philosopher with his nostrum for purifying the world, these are all caricatured by Varro in his pithy, good-humoured way; the spirit of the Menippean satires remained, though the form was changed to one more befitting the grave old teacher of wisdom. The fragments of his works as well as the notices of his friends present him to us the very picture of a healthy-minded and healthy-bodied man.

To return to the consideration of his treatise on Antiquities, from which we have digressed. The great interest of the subject will be our excuse for dwelling longer upon it. There is no Latin book the recovery of which the present century would hail with so much pleasure as this. When antiquarianism is leading to such fruitful results, and the study of ancient religion is so earnestly pursued, the aid of Varro's research would be invaluable. And it is the more disappointing to lose it, since we have reason for believing that it was in existence during the lifetime of Petrarch. He declares that he saw it when a boy, and afterwards, when he knew its value, tried all means, but without success, to obtain it. This story has been doubted, chiefly on the ground that direct quotations from the work are not made after the sixth century. But this by itself is scarcely a sufficient reason, since the Church gathered all the knowledge of it she required from the writings of St Augustine. From him we learn that Varro feared the entire collapse of the old faith; that he attributed its decline in some measure to the outward representations of divine objects; and, observing that Rome had existed 170 years without any image in her temples, instanced Judea to prove “eos qui primi simulacra deorum populis posuerunt, eos civitatibus suis et metum dempsisse, et errorem addidisse.” [22] Other fragments of deep interest are preserved by Augustine. One, showing the conception of the state religion as a purely human institution, explains why human antiquities are placed before divine, “Sicut prior est pictor quam tabula picta, prior faber quam aedificium; ita priores sunt civitates, quam ea quae a civitatibus instituta sunt.” Another describes the different classes of theology, according to a division first made by the Pontifex Scaevola, [23] as poetical, philosophical, and political, or as mythical, physical, and civil. [24] Against the first of these Varro fulminated forth all the shafts of his satire: In eo multa sunt contra dignitatem et naturam immortalium ficta ... quae non modo in hominem, sed etiam quae in contemptissimum hominem cadere possunt. About the second he did not say much, except guardedly to imply that it was not fitted for a popular ceremonial. The third, which it was his strong desire to keep alive, as it was afterwards that of Virgil, seemed to him the chief glory of Rome. He did not scruple to say (and Polybius had said it before him) that the grandeur of the Republic was due to the piety of the Republic. It was reserved for the philosopher of a later age [25] to asperse with bitter ridicule ceremonies to which all before him had conformed while they disbelieved, and had respected while seeing through their object.

Varro dedicated his work to Caesar, who was then Pontifex Maximus, and well able to appreciate the chain of reasoning it contained. The acute mind of Varro had doubtless seen in Caesar a disposition to rehabilitate the fallen ceremonial, and foreseeing his supremacy in the state, had laid before him this great manual for his guidance. Caesar evinced the deepest respect for Varro, and must have carefully studied his views. At least it can be no mere coincidence that Augustus, in carrying out his predecessor's plans for the restoration of public worship, should have followed so closely on the lines which we see from Augustine Varro struck out. To consider Varro's labours as undirected to any practical object would be to misinterpret them altogether. No man was less of the mere savant or the mere litterateur than he.

Besides this larger work Varro seems to have written smaller ones, as introductions or pendants to it. Among these were the Aitia, or rationale of Roman manners and customs, and a work de gente populi Romani, the most noticeable feature of which was its chronological calculation, which fixed the building of Rome to the date now generally received, and called the Varronian Era (753 B.C.). It contained also computations and theories with regard to the early history of many other states with which Rome came in contact, e.g. Athens, Argos, etc., and is referred to more than once by St Augustine. [26] The names of many other treatises on this subject are preserved; and this is not surprising, when we learn that no less than 620 books belonging to 74 different works can be traced to his indefatigable pen, so that, as an ancient critic says, “so much has he written that it seems impossible he could have read anything, so much has he read that it seems incredible he could have written anything.”

In the domain of history and biography he was somewhat less active. He wrote, however, memoirs of his campaigns, and a short biography of Pompey. A work of his, first mentioned by Cicero, to which peculiar interest attaches, is the Imagines or Hebdomades, called by Cicero “Peplographia Varronis.” [27] It was a series of portraits—700 in all— of Greek and Roman celebrities, [28] with a short biography attached to each, and a metrical epigram as well. This was intended to be, and soon became, a popular work. An abridged edition was issued shortly after the first, 39 B.C. no doubt to meet the increased demand. This work is mentioned by Pliny as embodying a new and most acceptable process, [29] whereby the impressions of the portraits were multiplied, and the reading public could acquaint themselves with the physiognomy and features of great men. [30] What this process was has been the subject of much doubt. Some think it was merely an improved method of miniature drawing, others, dwelling on the general acceptableness of the invention, strongly contend that it was some method of multiplying the portraits like that of copper or wood engraving, and this seems by far the most probable view; but what the method was the notices are much too vague for us to determine.

The next works to be noticed are those on practical science. As far as we can judge he seems to have imitated Cato in bringing out a kind of encyclopaedia, adapted for general readers. Augustine speaks of him as having exhaustively treated the whole circle of the liberal, or as he prefers to call it, the secular arts. [31] Those to which most weight were attached would seem to have been grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, medicine, and geometry. From one or two passages that are preserved, we should be inclined to fancy that Varro attached a superstitious (almost a Pythagorean) importance to numbers. [32] He himself was not an adherent of any system, but as Mommsen quaintly expresses it, he led a blind dance between them all, veering now to one now to another, as he wished to avoid any unpleasant conclusion or to catch at some attractive idea. Not strictly connected with the Encyclopaedia, but going to some extent over the same ground though in a far more thorough and systematic way, was the great treatise De Lingua Latina, in twenty-five books, of which the first four were dedicated to Septimius, the last twenty-one (to the orator's infinite delight) to Cicero. Few things gave Cicero greater pleasure than this testimony of Varro's regard. With his insatiable appetite for praise, he could not but observe with regret that Varro, trusted by Pompey, courted by Caesar, and reverenced by all alike, had never made any confidential advances to him. Probably the deeply-read student and simple-natured man failed to appreciate the more brilliant, if less profound, scholarship of the orator, and the vacillation and complexity of his character. While Cicero loaded him with praises and protestations of friendship, Varro appears to have maintained a somewhat cool or distant attitude. At last, however, this reserve was broken through. In 47 B.C. he seems to have promised Cicero to dedicate a work to him, which by its magnitude and interest required careful labour. In the letter prefixed to the posterior Academica, 45 B.C., Cicero evinces much impatience at having been kept two years waiting for his promised boon, and inscribes his own treatise with Varro's name as a polite reminder which he hopes his friend will not think immodest. In the opening chapters Cicero extols Varro's learning with that warmth of heart and total absence of jealousy which form so pleasing a trait in his character. Their diffuseness amusingly contrasts with Varro's brevity in his dedication. When it appeared, there occurred not a word of compliment, nothing beyond the bare announcement In his ad te scribam. [33] Truly Varro was no “mutual admirationist.”

C. O. Muller, who has edited this treatise with great care, is of opinion that it was never completely finished. He argues partly from the words politius a me limantur, put into Varro's mouth by Cicero, partly from the civil troubles and the perils into which Varro's life was placed, partly from the loose unpolished character of the work, that it represents a first draught intended, but not ready for, publication. For example, the same thing is treated more than once; Jubar is twice illustrated by the same quotation, [34] Canis is twice derived from canere; [35] merces is differently explained in two places; [36] Lympha is derived both from lapsus aquae, and from Nympha; [37] valicinari from vesanus and versibus viendis. [38] Again marginal additions or corrections, which have been the means of destroying the syntactical connection, seemed to have been placed in the text by the author. [39] Other insertions of a more important character though they illustrate the point, yet break the thread of thought; and in one book, the seventh, the want of order is so apparent that its finished character could hardly be maintained. These facts lead him to conclude that the book was published without his knowledge, and perhaps against his will, by those who pillaged his library. It is obvious that this is a theory which can neither be proved nor disproved. It is an ingenious excuse for Varro's negligence in not putting his excellent materials together with more care. The plan of the work is as follows:—

Book I.—On the origin of the Latin language.

Books II.-VII. First Part.—On the imposition of names. Thus subdivided— a ii-iv. On etymology. ii. What can be said against it. 
                     iii. What can be said for it. 
                     iv. About its form and character. b v.-vii. Origin of words. v. Names of places and all that is in them. 
                     vi. Names of time, things that happen in time, &c. 
                     vii. Poetical words.

Books VIII.-XIII. Second Part.—On declension and inflection. Again subdivided— a viii.-x. The general method (disciplina) of declension. 
                     viii. Against a universal analogy obtaining. 
                     ix. In favour of it. 
                     x. On the theory of declension. b xi.-xiii. On the special declensions.

Books XIV.-XXV. Third Part.—On syntax (Quemadmodum verba inter se coniungantur).

Of this elaborate treatise only books V.-X. remain, and those in a mutilated and unsatisfactory condition, so that we are unable to form a clear idea of the value of the whole. Moreover, much of what we have is rendered useless, except for antiquarian purposes, by the extremely crude notions of etymology displayed. Caelum is from cavus, or from chaos; terra from teri, quia teritur; Sol from solus; lepus fromlevipes, &c. The seventh book must always be a repertory of interesting quotations, many of which are not found elsewhere; and the essay on Analogia in books IX. and X. is well worthy of study, as showing on what sort of premises the ancients formed their grammatical reasonings. The work on grammar was followed or preceded by another on philosophy on a precisely similar plan. This was studied, like so many of his other works, by Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine. Its store of facts was no doubt remarkable, but as a popular exposition of philosophical ideas, it must have been very inferior to the treatises of Cicero.

The last or nearly the last book he wrote was the treatise on agriculture, De Re Rustica, which has fortunately come down to us entire; and with the kindred works of Cato and Columella, forms one of the most deeply interesting products of the Roman mind. It is in three books: the first dedicated to his wife Fundania, the second to Turanius Niger, the third to Pinnius. Varro was in his 81st year when he drew upon his memory and experience for this congenial work, 36 B.C. The destruction of his library had thrown him on his own resources to a great extent; nevertheless, the amount of book-lore which he displays in this dialogue is enormous. The design is mapped out, as in his other treatises, with stately precision. He meets some friends at the temple of Tellus by appointment with the sacristan, “ab aeditimo, ut dicere didicimus a patribus nostris; ut corrigimur ab recentibus urbanis, ab aedituo.” These friends' names, Fundanius, Agrius, and Agrasius, suggest the nature of the conversation, which turns mainly on the purchase and cultivation of land and stock. They are soon joined by Licinius Stolo and Tremellius Scrofa, the last- mentioned being the highest living authority on agricultural matters. The conversation is carried on with zest, and somewhat more naturally than in Cicero's dialogues. A warm eulogy is passed on the soil, climate, and cultivation of Italy, the whole party agreeing that it exceeds in natural blessings all other lands. The first book contains directions for raising crops of all kinds as well as vegetables and flowers, and is brought to an abrupt termination by the arrival of the priest's freedman who narrates the murder of his master. The party promise to attend the funeral, and with the sarcastic reflection de casu humano magis querentes quam admirantes id Romae factum, the book ends. The next treats of stock (de re pecuaria), and one or two new personages are introduced, as Mennas, Murius, and Vaccius (the last, of course, taking on himself to speak of kine), and ends with an account of the dairy and sheep-shearing. The third is devoted to an account of the preserves (de villicis pastionibus) which includes aviaries, whether for pleasure or profit, fish-tanks, deer- forests, rabbit-warrens, and all such luxuries of a country house as are independent of tillage or pasturage—and a most brilliant catalogue it is. As Varro and his friends, most of whom are called by the names of birds (Merula, Pavo, Pica, and Passer), discourse to one another of their various country seats, and as they mention those of other senators, more or less splendid than their own, we recognise the pride and grandeur of those few Roman families who at this time parcelled out between them the riches of the world. Varro, whose life had been peaceful and unambitious, had realized enough to possess three princely villas, in one of which there was a marble aviary, with a duck-pond, bosquet, rosary, and two spacious colonnades attached, in which were kept, solely for the master's pleasure, 3000 of the choicest songsters of the wood. That grosser taste which fattened these beautiful beings for the table or the market was foreign to him; as also was the affectation which had made Hortensius sacrifice his career to the enjoyment of his pets. There is something almost terrible in the thought that the costly luxuries of which these haughty nobles talk with so much urbanity, were wrung from the wretched provincials by every kind of extortion and excess; that bribes of untold value passed from the hands of cringing monarchs into those of violent proconsuls, to minister to the lust and greed, or at best to the wanton luxury, of a small governing class. In Varro's pleasant dialogue we see the bright side of the picture; in the speeches of Cicero the dark side. Doubtless there is a charm about the lofty pride that brooks no superior on earth, and almost without knowing it, treats other nations as mere ministers to its comfort: but the nemesis was close at hand; those who could not stoop to assist as seconds in the work of government must lie as victims beneath the assassin's knife or the heel of the upstart freedman.

The style of this work is much more pleasing than that of the Latin Language. It is brisk and pointed, and shows none of the signs of old age. It abounds with proverbs, [40] patriotic reflections, and ancient lore, [41] but is nevertheless disfigured with occasional faults, especially the uncritical acceptance of marvels, such as the impregnation of mares by the wind [42] (“an incredible thing but nevertheless true“); the production of bees from dead meat (both of which puerilities are repeated unquestioningly by Virgil), the custom of wolves plunging swine into cold water to cool their flesh which is so hot as to be otherwise quite uneatable, and of shrew mice occasionally gnawing a nest for themselves and rearing their young in the hide of a fat sow, &c. [43] He also attempts one or two etymologies; the best is viawhich he tells us is for veha, and villa for vehula; capra from capere is less plausible. Altogether this must be placed at the head of the Roman treatises on husbandry as being at once the work of a man of practical experience, which Cato was, and Columella was not, and of elegant and varied learning, to which Columella might, but Cato could not, pretend. There is, indeed, rather too great a parade of erudition, so much so as occasionally to encumber the work; but the general effect is very pleasing, and more particularly the third book, which shows us the calm and innocent life of one, who, during the turbulent and bloody climax of political strife, sought in the great recollections of the past a solace for evils which he was powerless to cure, and whose end he could not foresee.