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Language and Authority in De Lingua Latina
Varro's Guide to Being Roman

Wisconsin Studies in Classics
Laura McClure, Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell, and Matthew Roller, Series Editors

“Spencer takes on De Lingua Latina anew, and rather than mining it for late Republican thoughts on Latin and its etymologies, she views it as a kind of ‘guide’ to Varro’s Roman world, as told through a complex dance with that which the man loved most—his language.”
—Sarah Culpepper Stroup, University of Washington

Diana Spencer, known for her scholarly focus on how ancient Romans conceptualized themselves as a people and how they responded to and helped shape the world they lived in, brings her expertise to an examination of the Roman scholar Varro and his treatise De Lingua Latina. This commentary on the origin and relationships of Latin words is an intriguing, but often puzzling, fragmentary work for classicists.

Since Varro was engaged in defining how Romans saw themselves and how they talked about their world, Spencer reads along with Varro, following his themes and arcs, his poetic sparks, his political and cultural seams. Few scholars have accepted the challenge of tackling Varro and his work, and in this pioneering volume, Spencer provides a roadmap for considering these topics more thoroughly.


portrait of author Diana Spencer Diana Spencer is a professor of classics and the dean of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences at the University of Birmingham (UK). Recent publications include contributions to The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Early Medieval Worlds and the Cambridge Classical Journal Supplement 39, Varro Varius: The Polymath of the Roman World.




“Spencer’s work hooks Varro back into the dominant threads of Latin studies over the past couple of decades and in so doing fills in a major gap in our understanding of the intellectual life of the Late Republic.”
—Erik Gunderson, University of Toronto


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May 2019
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424 pp. 6 x 9
1 map

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Casebound $119.95 s
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