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Salus publica.

The nation’s health

Phoebigena erectis Epidaurius insidet aris,[1]
Mitis & immani conditur angue deus.
Accurrunt aegri, veniatque salutifer orant:
Annuit, atque ratas efficit ille preces.

The Epidaurian scion of Phoebus broods on the altars built for him, and the god, all gentle, is concealed in a huge snake. The sick come running and beg him to draw near with healing. He consents and ratifies their prayers.

Notes:

1.  ‘The Epidaurian scion of Phoebus’, i.e. Aesculapius, son of Phoebus [Apollo] and god of medicine and healing. His main sanctuary and centre of healing was near Epidaurus in Greece. The god’s epiphany and symbol was a snake, and a number of sacred snakes were kept at the sanctuary. One of these was brought to Rome in 293 BC in hopes of stopping an outbreak of plague. The snake made its home on the Island in the Tiber, where a shrine and medical centre was subsequently built. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15.626ff.


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Litera occidit, spiritus vivificat.[1]

The letter kills but the spirit gives life

Vipereos Cadmus dentes ut credidit arvis,
Sevit & Aonio semina dira solo,
Terrigenum clypeata cohors extorta virorum est,
Hostili inter se qui cecidere manu.
Evasere quibus monitu Tritonidos armis
Abiectis data pax dextraque iuncta fuit.[2]
Primus Agenorides[3] elementa notasque magistris
Tradidit, iis suavem iunxit & harmoniam.[4]
Quorum discipulos contraria plurima vexant,
Non nisi Palladia quae dirimuntur ope.

When Cadmus entrusted the dragon’s teeth to the furrows and sowed the dread seed in Aonian [Theban] soil, there sprang up a shield-bearing band of earth-born men, who fell by fighting among themselves. Those escaped who at Tritonia’s [Athena’s] command threw down their arms, granted peace and joined right hands. Agenor’s son first gave to teachers letters and symbols and also put together for them sweet musical concord. Many adversities assail those who follow these disciplines, adversities which are resolved only by Pallas Athena’s aid.

Notes:

1.  II Corinthians 3:6.

2.  For the story of Cadmus, founder of Thebes (in Aonia, or less correctly in the French, in Thessaly), and the dragon’s teeth, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.99ff. Athena, goddess of wisdom - here called Tritonia, from the place of her birth in North Africa - brought the internecine struggle between the earth-born warriors to an end.

3.  Agenorides, ‘Agenor’s son’, i.e. Cadmus, who supposedly introduced writing to Greece. The scattering of the dragon’s teeth was interpreted as the invention of the alphabet.

4.  harmoniam, ‘musical concord’. Cadmus’ wife was called Harmonia.


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