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Gramineam Fabio patres tribuÍre corollam,[1]
Fregerat ut Poenos Hannibalemque mora.
Occulit inflexo nidum sibi gramine alauda,
VulgÚ aiunt, pullos sic fovet illa suos.
Saturno Martique sacrum, quo Glaucus adeso
Polybides,[2] factus creditur esse Deus.
His meritÚ arguitur nodis tutela salusque:
Herbaque tot vires haec digitalis habet.[3]

The Roman Senate bestowed on Fabius a crown of grass, when he had by his delaying tactics broken the Carthaginians and Hannibal. The lark hides its nest among the bent grass, as they say, and so it protects its young. This grass is sacred to Saturn and to Mars, and Glaucus, son of Polybus, is believed to have become a god by eating it. - Rightly is protection and safety indicated by these knotted stems: this plant, the finger-grass, has so many powers.


1.Quintus Fabius Maximus was nicknamed Cunctator, ‘the Delayer’, for his strategy of avoiding pitched battles with Hannibal’s triumphant army in the Second Punic War. This contributed to Hannibal’s eventual withdrawal from Italy. Cf. Ennius’ famous line, Annals, 370: unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem: ‘one man by his delaying tactics saved the day for us’. A crown of fresh grass plucked from the spot was given to its general by a whole army if delivered from a state of siege. Fabius was awarded such a crown by general consent for saving all Italy from the threat of Hannibal. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 5.6.10; Pliny, Natural History, 22.4.6ff.

2.Some of the divine herb sown by Cronos (a Greek divinity equated with the Roman Saturn) was eaten by Glaucus the fisherman, who then became a sea-god; see Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 7.296e; 15.679a; Ovid, Metamorphoses, 13.917ff.

3.tot vires habet, ‘has so many powers’. See Pliny, Natural History, 24.118.178-83 for the medicinal uses of grass. The finger-grass (ib.183) is common in Mediterranean areas.

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