Vergilius, Moretum








ac primum leviter digitis tellure refossa
quattuor educit cum spissis alia fibris,
inde comas apii graciles rutamque rigentem
vellit et exiguo coriandra trementia filo. 90
haec ubi collegit, laetum consedit ad ignem
et clara famulam poscit mortaria voce.
singula tum capitum nodoso corpore nudat
et summis spoliat coriis contemptaque passim
spargit humi atque abicit; servatum ÝgramineÝ bulbum 95
tinguit aqua lapidisque cavum demittit in orbem.
his salis inspargit micas, sale durus adeso
caseus adicitur, dictas super ingerit herbas,
et laeva ÝvestemÝ saetosa sub inguina fulcit,
dextera pistillo primum fragrantia mollit 100
alia, tum pariter mixto terit omnia suco.
it manus in gyrum: paulatim singula vires
deperdunt proprias, color est e pluribus unus,
nec totus viridis, quia lactea frusta repugnant,
nec de lacte nitens, quia tot variatur ab herbis. 105
saepe viri nares acer iaculatur apertas
spiritus et simo damnat sua prandia vultu,
saepe manu summa lacrimantia lumina terget
immeritoque furens dicit convicia fumo.
procedebat opus; nec iam salebrosus, ut ante, 110
sed gravior lentos ibat pistillus in orbis.
ergo Palladii guttas instillat olivi
exiguique super vires infundit aceti
atque iterum commiscet opus mixtumque retractat.
tum demum digitis mortaria tota duobus 115
circuit inque globum distantia contrahit unum,
constet ut effecti species nomenque moreti.




First with his fingers he gently brushes aside the earth and takes out four galic plants with strong stalks, then he cuts some of celery's gracefull foliage and woody rue and coriander, trembling on its tender stalk. As soon as he has got these things together, he sits down near the joyfully crackling fire and loudly asks his servant for the mortar. Then he removes the peelings from the garlic bulbs and strows them round about on the floor; the cloves that emain, he washes with a little water and puts them in the hollowed rock. he sprinkles coarse salt on top, adds dried salted cheese and lays the herbs on top. With his left hand he ties his tunic under his hairy belly and with his right he crushes the fragrant garlic with the pestle, then he grinds the rest equally fine and mixes it with the oozing sap. Little by little the ingredients lose their own characteristics, the colours all flow into one: not entirely green, because the milky white lumps resist that, nor white as the milky origin, because it is altered by the green herbs. Often the sharp smell attacks the man's nostrills and while pulling his nose up he curses his lunch, every once in a while he wipes his running eyes with the back of his hand and in a rage he flins his curses at the innoccent fire. Meanwhile the work advances; no longer jolting and jerking as before, but quite heavily the pestle turns its slow rounds. At last he sprinkles on a few drops of olive oil and pours on a little of vinegar's tang. He mixes the lot anew and takes it out of the mortar, what looks like and may justly be called a moretum.




Many of my predecessors have taken the quantities of garlich that the poet speaks of litterally. Some came to the conclusion that one can actually use fourty or more cloves of garlic, since past ten cloves our sense of taste is immune to the remaining thirty. As far as I'm concerned all this is not necessary. The poem is about a comical picture of rural life and is therefor likely to indulge in exaggeration: garlic is something rustic, lots of garlic is very rustic.
If you take about 5 oz. of pecorino, one clove of garlic will do, maybe two if they are smallish. A fistfull of chopped celery and the same of fresh coriander, of rue just a spoonfull is enough. A teaspoon if dried.
Grind the herbs thoroughly in the mortar, grate the cheese and mix with the herbs, while adding a few drops of vinegar and enough olive oil to make it into a smooth paste.
Eat it with unleavened bread, just as the farmer in this poem.