Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson
Moreover, besides a number of monographs-- e. g. on the descent of the Roman people, on the Roman gentes descended from Troy, on the tribes--there was added, as a larger and more independent supplement, the treatise "Of the Life of the Roman People"--a remarkable attempt at a history of Roman manners, which sketched a picture of the state of domestic life, finance, and culture in the regal, the early republican, the Hannibalic, and the most recent period. These labours of Varro were based on an empiric knowledge of the Roman world and its adjacent Greek domain more various and greater in its kind than any other Roman either before or after him possessed--a knowledge to which living observation and the study of literature alike contributed.
The eulogy of his contemporaries was well deserved, that Varro had enabled his countrymen--strangers in their own world--to know their position in their native land, and had taught the Romans who and where they were. But criticism and system will be sought for in vain. His Greek information seems to have come from somewhat confused sources, and there are traces that even in the Roman field the writer was not free from the influence of the historical romance of his time. The matter is doubtless inserted in a convenient and symmetrical framework, but not classified or treated methodically; and with all his efforts to bring tradition and personal observation into harmony, the scientific labours of Varro are not to be acquitted of a certain implicit faith in tradition or of an unpractical scholasticism.(38)
38. A remarkable example is the general exposition regarding cattle in the treatise on Husbandry (ii. 1) with the nine times nine subdivisions of the doctrine of cattle-rearing, with the "incredible but true" fact that the mares at Olisipo (Lisbon) become pregnant by the wind, and generally with its singular mixture of philosophical, historical, and agricultural notices.
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