The fragments of Varro's Menippean satires have been unjustly neglected by both literary scholars and historians. This chapter demonstrates that Roman satire had been from its inception a performance genre, and that Varro's satires were written for the stage; ‘Menippean’ satire evidently exploited the Cynic philosophers, who made a performance of their own life, and ‘Marcus’, the protagonist of many of the Varronian satires, is shown to have similar opinions to those held by his creator. For over twenty years, from the 80s to the 60s BC, Varro entertained the Romans by showing them how their present conduct fell short of the standards of their ancestors; those he attacked were evidently the wealthy, luxurious, and corrupt — the same aristocrats whose villas he was still criticising in the Res rusticae thirty years later.
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