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Varro

The Roman writer, historian and politician Marcius Terentius Varro (116-27 B.C.) was one of the most important and productive ancient authors. He was commander of troops under Pompey (106-48 BC), was captured by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) after the battle of Pharsalos (48 BC), but was then pardoned and appointed Imperial Librarian. His extensive works cover a wide spectrum such as grammar, geography, education, natural sciences, philosophy and law. The Roman rhetorician Marcus Fabius Quintilian (35-96) described him as the "most learned of all Romans". Of his complete works, only "De re rustica" (also Res rusticae = On Agriculture) has been preserved in its entirety. He wrote it at the high age of 80 and dedicated it to his wife, who owned a country estate. In the first of the three volumes, agriculture is described, which also deals with viticulture. The other volumes deal mainly with cattle breeding

Varro mentions the Carthaginian Mago (500 BC) as his main source and mentions the Greek translation of his work. As further sources he mentions Xenophon (426-355 BC), Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Cato (234-149 BC). Practical advice is given in polished style and in dialogue form, often referring to the "good old days", "when there were only honest, hard-working countrymen and no urban decadence yet". He writes, for example, that old wine must be at least one year old, with the Falernian in particular being capable of ageing. The later Roman authors Vergil (70-19 BC), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Columella (1st century) and Palladius (4th century) used his work as a source. Parts are also included in the famous 10th century agricultural compendium Geoponika. See also under Ancient wines.

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