XIV[14arg] That Marcus Varro and Publius Nigidius, the most learned Romans of their time, were contemporaries of Caesar and Cicero, and that the commentaries of Nigidius, because of their obscurity and subtlety, did not become popular.
THE time of Marcus Cicero and Gaius Caesar had few men of surpassing eloquence, but in encyclopaedic learning and in the varied sciences by which humanity is enobled it possesses two towering figures in Marcus Varro and Publius Nigidius. Now the records of knowledge and learning left in written form by Varro are familiar and in general use, the observations of Nigidius, however, are not so widely known, but their obscurity and subtlety have caused them to be neglected, as of little practical value. As a specimen I may cite what I read a short time ago in his work entitled Grammatical Notes; from this book I have made a few extracts, as an example of the nature of his writings. When discussing the nature and order of the letters 1 which the grammarians call vocales, or [p. 403] “vowels,” he wrote the following, which I leave unexplained, in order to test my readers' powers of application: 2 “A and o,” he says, “always stand first in diphthongs, i and u always second, e both follows and precedes; it precedes in Euripus, follows in Aemilius. If anyone supposes that u precedes in the words Valeriuis, Vannonis, and Volusius, or that i precedes in iampridem (long ago), iecur (liver), iocis (joke), and iucundus (agreeable), he will be wrong, for when these letters precede, they are in fact not vowels.” 3 These words also are from the same book: 4 “Between the letters n and g another element is introduced, as in the words aguis (snake), angari, 5 ancora (anchor), increpat (chides), incurrit (runs upon), and ingenuus (free-born). In all these we have, not a true n, but a so-called n adullerinum. 6 For the tongue shows that it is not an ordinary n; since if it were that sound, the tongue would touch the palate in making it.” Then in another place we find this: 7 “I do not charge those Greeks with so great ignorance in writing ou (-ū) with o and v, as I do those 8 who wrote ei (=ī) with e and i; for the former the Greeks lid from necessity, in the latter case there was no compulsion.” 9