1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rufus, Lucius Varius

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RUFUS, LUCIUS VARIUS (c 74–14 B.C.), Roman poet of the Augustan age. He was the friend of Virgil, after whose death he and Plotius Tucca prepared the Aeneid for publication, and of Horace, for whom he and Virgil obtained an introduction to Maecenas. Horace speaks of him as a master of epic and the only poet capable of celebrating the achievements of Vipsanius Agrippa (Odes, i. 6); Virgil (under the name of Lycidas, Ecl. ix. 35) regrets that he had hitherto produced nothing comparable to the work of Varius or Helvius Cinna. From Macrobius (Saturnalia, vi. 1, 39; 2, 19) we learn that Varius composed an epic poem De Morte, some lines of which are quoted as having been imitated or appropriated by Virgil; Horace (Sat. i. 10, 43) probably alludes to another epic, and, according to the scholiast on Epistles, i. 16, 27–29, these three lines are taken bodily from a panegyric of Varius on Augustus. But his most famous literary production was the tragedy Thyestes, which Quintilian (Inst. Oral. x. 1, 98) declares fit to rank with any of the Greek tragedies. The didascalia (which is preserved in a Paris MS.) informs us that it was produced at the games celebrated (29 B.C.) by Augustus in honour of the victory at Actium, and that Varius received a present of a million sesterces from the emperor.

Fragments in E. Bährens, Frag. Poetarum Romanorum (1886); monographs by A. Weichert (1836) and R. Unger (1870, 1878, 1898); M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur (1899), ii. I; Teuffel, Hist. of Roman Literature (Eng. trans., 1900), 223.