1. C. Terentius
Varro, consul B. C. 216 with L. Aemilius Paulus. Varro is said to have been the son of a butcher, to have carried on business himself as a factor in his early years, and to have risen to eminence by pleading the causes of the lower classes in opposition to the opinion of all good men. (Liv. 22.25
, foll.; V. Max. 3.4.4
.) Whether these tales are true or exaggerated, cannot be ascertained ; but it may be regarded as certain that he sprung from the lower classes, and was looked upon as the leading champion of the popular party.
He cannot have been such a despicable person as Livy represents, for otherwise the senate would not have gone out to meet him after the battle of Cannae to return hint thanks because he had not despaired of his country; nor would he have been employed, as we shall find to have been the case, during the remainder of the war in important military commands. Varro is first mentioned in B. C. 217, when he supported the bill for giving to M. Minucius Rufus, the master of the horse, power equal to that of the dictator Q. Fabius Maximus. Varro had been praetor in the year before, and had previously filled the offices of quaestor and of plebeian and curule aedile.
The people now resolved to raise him to the consulship, thinking that it only needed a man of energy and decision at the head of an overwhelming force to bring the war to a close.
The aristocracy offered in vain the greatest opposition to his election; he was not only returned consul, but returned alone, in order that he might preside at the comitia for the election of his colleague.
The other consul chosen was L. Aemilius Paulus, one of the leaders of the aristocratical party.
The history of their campaign against Hannibal, which was terminated by the memorable defeat at Cannae, is related elsewhere. [HANNIBAL, p. 336.] The battle was fought by Varro against the advice of Paulus. The Roman army was all but annihilated. Paulus and almost all the officers perished. Varro was one of the few who escaped, and reached Venusia in safety, with about seventy horsemen. His conduct after the battle seems to have been deserving of high praise.
He proceeded to Canusium, where the remnant of the Roman army had taken refuge, and there, with great presence of mind, adopted every precaution which the exigencies of the case required. (Dio Cass. Fragm.
xlix. p. 24, Reim.) His conduct was appreciated by the senate and the people, and his defeat was forgotten in the services he had lately rendered. On his return to the city all classes went out to meet him, and the senate returned him thanks because he had not despaired of the commonwealth. (Liv. 22.25
; Plb. 3.106
; Plut. Fab. 14
; Appian, Annib.
17-26; Zonar. 9.1
; V. Max. 3.4.4
; Oros. 4.16
; Eutrop. 3.10
; Cie. Brut.
Varro continued to be employed in Italy for several successive years in important military commands till nearly the close of the Punic war. In B. C. 203, he was one of the three ambassadors sent to Philip in Macedonia, and three years afterwards (B. C. 200) was again sent on an embassy to Africa to arrange the terms of peace with Vermina, the son of Syphax. On his return in the course of the same year, Varro was appointed one of the triumvirs for settling new colonists at Venusia. (Liv. 23.32