previous next

Varro, P. Tere'ntius or Tere'ntius Atacinus

a Latin poet of considerable celebrity, surnamed ATACINUS, from the Atax, a river of Gallia Narbonensis, his native province, was born, according to Hieronymus, B. C. 82, and in the thirty-fifth year of his age applied himself with the greatest zeal to the study of Greek literature. Of his personal history nothing further is known.


Varro is believed to have been the composer of the following works, of which a few inconsiderable fragments only have come down to us, but it must be remarked that considerable doubt prevails with regard to several of the pieces commonly ascribed to this writer in consequence of the difficulty experienced in distinguishing between P. Terentius Varro Atacinus and his illustrious contemporary M. Terentius Varro Reatinus, when the cognomen alone is mentioned without the characteristic epithet. Hence it is highly probable that several relics assigned to the latter may in reality belong to the former and vice versa.


Or, as it is termed by Probus (ad Virg. Georg. 1.4), Corpus Argonautarum, a free translation, it would seem, with, perhaps, additions and variations, of the well-known poem by Apollonius Rhodius. Upon this piece the fame of Varro chiefly rested, as we may gather from the criticism of Quintilian (10.1.87). " Atacinus Varro in iis, per quae nomen est assecutus, interpres operis alieni, non spernendus quidem, verum ad augendam facultatem dicendi parum locuples." It is referred to by Propertius (2.25. 85), by Ovid (Amor. 1.15. 21, Art. Am. 3.335, Trist. 2.439), and by Statius (Stat. Silv. 2.7. 77). Seven lines and a half, in all, have been preserved in five fragments (Serv. ad Virg. Ecl. 1.66, Aen. 10.396 ; Senec. Controv. xvi.; comp. Senec. Ep. lvi.; Charis. p. 70, ed. Putsch.; Quint. Inst. 1.5.18).


s. Cosmographia, the same probably with what is sometimes termed Varronis Iter, appears to have been a metrical system of astronomy and geography. Hence Varro Atacinus is named by Pliny as one of his authorities in Books iii--vi. of the Historia Naturalis. About twenty lines, supposed to belong to this poem, have been preserved in six fragments. (Marius Victorin. p. 2503, ed. Putsch.; Isidorus, Orig. 17.7.58 ; Priscian. pp. 609, 709, ed. Putsch.; Charis. p. 45, ed. Putsch.; Philargyr. et Serv. ad Virg. Georg. 3.175; Burmann, Anthol. Lat. 5.48, foll.)


Vegetius (de Re Mil. 5.11), when speaking of the prognostics of the weather afforded by animals, gives as one of his authorities, " Varro in Navalibus Libris," and John of Salisbury (Policrat. 2.2) employs almost the same words. Wernsdorf endeavours to prove that the work spoken of was a voluminous poem upon navigation, including a description of various coasts and islands, and that the Varro here indicated was not, as has been generally supposed, M. Terentius Varro, but Varro Atacinus. He believes, moreover, that we must interpret the couplet in Ovid (ex Pont. 4.16. 21),

" Velivolique maris vates, cui credere possis
Carmina coeruleos composuisse deos,"

as an allusion to this production, and that Solinus (Polyhist. 11), when he quotes " Varro de Litoralibus," had in his eye either the Chorographia or the Libri Navales. Eight lines adduced by Servius (ad Virg. Georg, 1.375, 2.404), as the words of " Varro," he supposes to be extracted from these hooks. (Anthol. Lat. 5.48, 49, ed. Burmann, or No. 78, ed. Meyer.)

IV. A. Gellius (10.7) notices a book in which " Varro " descanted upon Europe, and Festus cites from " Varro in Europa," the expression tutum sub sede fuissent, which lead us to conclude that it was in verse. If we admit that Varro Atacinus is the individual here designated, we may conjecture that the Europa formed a portion either of the Chorographia or of the Libri Navales.


an heroic poem in not less than two books (Priscian. p. 377, ed. Putsch.) on the campaign of Julius Caesar against the league formed by Vercingetorix, the details of which are given in the seventh book of the Gallic War. One line remains. (See Priscian. l.c.

VI. Amatory elegies, the title of the collection being, it has been conjectured, Leucadia. Thus Propertius has (2.25. 85)

" Haec quoque perfecto ludebat Jasone Varro,
Varro Leucadiae maxima fama suae."

(al. leg. max. cura al. max. flamma), and Ovid (Ov. Tr. 2.439),

" Is quoque, Phasiacas Argo qui duxit in undas,
Non potuit Veneris furta tacere suae."


One of these survives, an epitaph on Licinus, the freedman of Augustus. See Anthol. Lat. 2.37, ed. Burmann, or No. 77, ed. Meyer.


These, we are assured by Horace (Sat. 1.10. 46), were a failure.

" Hoc erat, experto frustra Varrone Atacino."

If we can trust the old commentators on this passage, Varro was sensible of his own deficiencies, and never formally published his essays in this department, so that we need feel no surprise that no trace of them should have remained.

Influence on Virgil

We may observe that several of the fragments of this author have been quoted by the grammarians, in consequence of the phraseology having been imitated by Virgil, who has appropriated some lines entire without change.

Further Information

Hieron. Chron. Euseb. Olymp. 174.3; Porphyr. ad Hor. Sat. 1.10. 46; Ruhnken. in Hom. hymn. in Cerer. &c., epist. crit. ii.; Wernsdorf, Poetae Lat. Min. vol. v. pt. iii. p. 1385, foll. 7; Wüllner, Commentatio de P. Terentii Varronis Vita et Scriptis, 4to. Monster. 1829. See also the notes of Meyer, in his edition of the Anthologia Latina, No. 77, 78.


hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
82 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: