Mercenaries and Latency: False Etymologies by the Road-Side with Varro

Varro is a veritable cornucopia of knowledge about Latin linguistics. But, sometimes, he is clearly just making stuff up. Can you spot any nonsense below?

“In the Helmet-Horn Tale* we find “A man who fought for wages [latrocinatus] for Ten years under King Demetrius”

Such men were called mercenaries [latrones] who were at the side [latus] of the king and who were in the custom of carrying a sword at their side [ad latera]. Later they were called ‘bodyguards’ from stipatio [“close-attendance”] and they were contracted for a wage.

For this wage [merces] in Greek is called latron [λάτρον]. But from this use, many of the old poets call soldiers latrones. But today we use the word latrones for highwaymen because they have swords like soldiers or because they are latent [“they lie in hiding”] for the purpose of laying traps.”

In Cornicularia:

Qui regi latrocinatus decem annos Demetrio.

Latrones dicti ab latere, qui circum latera erant regi atque ad latera habebant ferrum, quos postea a stipatione stipatores appellarunt, et qui conducebantur: ea enim merces Graece dicitur latron. Ab eo veteres poetae nonnunquam milites appellant latrones. At nunc viarum obsessores dicuntur latrones, quod item ut milites sunt cum ferro, aut quod latent ad insidias faciendas.