previous next

Varus, Alfe'nus

whose praenomen may have been Publius, was a pupil of Servius Sulpicius, and the only pupil of Servius from whom there are any excerpts in the Digest. Nothing is known about him except from a story preserved by the scholiast Acron, in his notes on the Satires of Horace. (Sat. 1.3. 130.) The scholiast assumes the " Alfenus Vafer " of Horace to be the lawyer, and says that he was a native of Cremona, where he carried on the trade of a barber or a botcher of shoes (for there are both readings, sutor and tonsor) ; that he came to Rome, where he became a pupil of Servius Sulpicius, attained the dignity of the consulship, and was honoured with a public funeral. Pomponius also states that Varus attained the consular dignity; but this will not prove the rest of the scholiast's story to be true. The P. Alfenius Varus, who was consul in A. D. 2, can hardly be the jurist who was the pupil of Servius ; and it is conjectured that he may have been the jurist's son. It is impossible to determine what credit is due to the scholiast on Horace : he must have found the story somewhere, or have invented it. Indeed he and other scholiasts do sometimes favour us with a commentary which tells us nothing more than the text. On this question, a note of Wieland (No. 12) to his translation of the Satires of Horace may be consulted. The fact of an Alfenus being a native of Cremona, and of an Alfenus having been a pupil of Servius, and a learned jurist, and of an Alfenus having been consul, is quite enough to enable a scholiast with the assistance of the passage in Horace to fabricate the whole story of Alfenus, as he has given it.

There are fifty-four excerpts in the Digest from the forty books of the Digesta of Alfenus; but it is conjectured that Alfenus may have acted only as the editor of a work of Servius. It appears from the fragments of Alfenus, that he was acquainted with the Greek language, and these fragments show that he wrote in a pure and perspicuous style. A passage which appears in the Digest (5. tit. 1. s. 76), shows that he was not a stranger to the speculations of the philosophers. According to Gellius (6.5), Alfenus was somewhat curious in matters of antiquity, and Gellius quotes a passage from the thirty-fourth book of his Digest in which Alfenus mentions one of the terms of a treaty between the Romans and the Carthaginians. Alfenus is often cited by the later jurists. The fragments in the Digest are taken from the second to the seventh book of the Digest, and there are fragments from the eighth book taken from the epitome by Paulus. The entire number of books appears from the Florentine Index; the passage in Gellius quotes the thirty-fourth book; and a passage of Paulus (Dig. 3. tit. 5. s. 21) cites the thirty-ninth book. Whether the epitome of Paulus went further than the eighth book or not, is uncertain. The epitome of Paulus is sometimes cited, " Libri epitomarum Alfeni Digestorum," sometimes with the omission of the word " Digestorum," and soetimes thus, " Libri Dig. Alfeni a Paulo epitomatorum."

The passage in Gellius (6.5), " Alfenus ... in libro Digestorum trigesimo et quarto, Conjectaneorum (Conlectaneorum is perhaps the better reading) autem secundo," &c., has given rise to some discussion. It is clear that the passage in the Conlectanea is attributed to Alfenus, for the words are " Alfenus says in the Digest and in the Conlectanea; " and it is also clear that only one passage is meant; or at most the same passage is referred to as being in two different works. But apparently only one work is meant, and therefore we must conclude that the Digesta, which consisted of forty books, contained a subdivision called the Collectanea. Some critics have conjectured that the Conlectanea is the compilation of Aufidius Namusa [NAMUSA], so that the passage cited by Gellius appeared both in the original work of Alfenus, and in the copious compilation of Namusa, which is made from Alfenus and other pupils of Servius. (Grotius, Vitae Jurisconsult.; Puchta, Inst. 1.428; Zimmern, Geschichte des Röm. Privattrechts, 1.295.)


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.
2 AD (1)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 6.5
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: