Marcus Terentius Varro  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), also known as Varro Reatinus to distinguish him from his younger contemporary Varro Atacinus, was a Roman scholar and writer.


Varro's literary output was very large; 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' Noctes Atticae.

Called "the most learned of the Romans" by Quintilian, Varro was recognized as an important source by many other ancient authors, among them Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Vergil in the Georgics, Columella, Aulus Gellius, Augustine, and Vitruvius, who credits him with a book on architecture.

From a modern perspective, one noteworthy aspect of Varro's work is his anticipation of microbiology and epidemiology. Varro warned his contemporaries to avoid swamps and marshland, since such areas "breed 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 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
  • Logistoricon libri LXXVI
  • Hebdomades vel de imaginibus
  • Disciplinarum libri IX

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