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serpo, psi, ptum, 3 (serpsit antiqui pro serpserit usi sunt, Fest. p. 348 Müll.), v. n. [root serp, kindr. with ἕρπω, repo], to creep, crawl (freq. and class.).

I. Lit. (only of animals; while repo is also used of persons who creep or go slowly; v. repo, I.): serpere anguiculos, nare anaticulas, evolare merulas, etc., Cic. Fin. 5, 15, 42: alia animalia gradiendo, alia serpendo ad pastum accedunt, id. N. D. 2, 47, 122: serpentes quasdam (bestias), quasdam esse gradientes, id. Tusc. 5, 13, 38: (anguis) per humum, Ov. M. 15, 689: vipera imā humo, id. P. 3, 3, 102: draco In platanum, id. M. 12, 13: serpentia secla ferarum, i. e. the serpents, Lucr. 6, 766.—In late Lat. pass.: cum terra nullo serpatur angue, was crawled over, Sol. 22, 10.—

B. Transf., of things, to move slowly or imperceptibly, to creep along, proceed gradually, etc. (mostly poet.): has (stellas) inter, torvus Draco serpit, Cic. poët. N. D. 2, 42, 106: sol serpens, Lucr. 5, 690.— Of streams: an te, Cydne, canam, qui leniter ... placidis per vada serpis aquis, creepest, windest along, Tib. 1, 7, 14: in freta vicina Numicius, Ov. M. 14, 598: Ister tectis in mare serpit aquis, id. Tr. 3, 10, 30: in sicco serpentem pulvere rivum, Luc. 9, 974: lacrimae serpunt per vulnera, Stat. Th. 11, 608: exsistit sacer ignis et urit corpore serpens, slowly spreading, Lucr. 6, 660; so, flamma per continua, Liv. 30, 6: aestus aetheris, Lucr. 5, 523; 6, 1120 (with repere): fallacem patriae serpere dixit equum (Trojanum), was creeping along, Prop. 3, 13 (4, 12), 64.—Of plants: vitis serpens multiplici lapsu et erratico, Cic. Sen. 15, 52; cf.: lithospermos (herba) jacet atque serpit humi, Plin. 27, 11, 74, 99; so, chamaeleon, id. 22, 18, 21, 45; cf.: liber per colla, Ov. M. 9, 389: caules per terram, Plin. 21, 16, 59, 99: rami in terram, id. 27, 9, 58, 82: radices inter se, id. 17, 20, 33, 144: sine tempora circum Inter victrices hederam tibi serpere lauros, Verg. E. 8, 13; Laber. ap Macr. S. 2, 7; Col. 10, 119.—Of the growth of the hair: per tua lanugo cum serpere coeperit ora, Claud. IV. Cons. Hon. 641.—Of fire: dein per continua serpens (flamma) omnia incendio hausit, Liv. 30, 6: sive ipsi (ignes) serpere possunt quo cibus vocat, Lucr. 5, 523; cf. id. 6, 660.—Of disease, etc.: si ulcus latius atque altius serpit, gradually spreads, Cels. 6, 18, 2 med.: dira contagia per vulgus, Verg. G. 3, 469: cancer, Ov. M. 2, 826: carcinoma, Plin. 29, 2, 10, 37: atra lues in vultus, Mart. 1, 79, 2 al.: per membra senectus, Lucr. 1, 415: quies, Verg. A. 2, 269: somnus, Plin. 7, 24, 24, 90.—

II. Trop., to creep, crawl; to extend gradually or imperceptibly; to spread abroad, increase, prevail (a favorite trope of Cic.): neque enim serpit, sed volat in optimum statum res publica, Cic. Rep. 2, 18, 33: serpere occulte coepisti nihil dum aliis suspicantibus, id. de Or. 2, 50, 203: (hoc malum) obscure serpens multas jam provincias occupavit, id. Cat. 4, 3, 6: malum longius, id. Rab. Post. 6, 15; id. Phil. 1, 2, 5; id. Att. 1, 13, 3; id. de Or. 3, 24, 94: serpit deinde res, id. Lael. 12, 41; cf.: ne latius serperet res, Liv. 28, 15 fin.; so, latius, id. 40, 19 fin.; cf. Plin. Ep. 5, 4, 3: serpit nescio quo modo per omnium vitas amicitia, Cic. Lael. 23, 87: si semel suscipimus genus hoc argumenti, attende quo serpat, id. N. D. 1, 35, 98; 3, 20, 52: quam facile serpat injuria et peccandi consuetudo, id. Verr. 2, 2, 22, 53; cf. id. Div. in Caecil. 21, 68: serpit hic rumor, id. Mur. 21, 45: fama per coloniam, Plin. Ep. 9, 33, 5: per agmina murmur, Verg. A. 12, 239: murmura plebis, Stat. Th. 1, 168: cura altius, Plin. 14, 11, 13, 87: serpente latius bello, Flor. 2, 2, 15; 2, 9, 4.—Of a low, grovelling poetic style: (poëta) Serpit humi tutus, crawls along the earth, Hor. A. P. 28 (cf.: sermones Repentes per humum, id. Ep. 2, 1, 251).—Hence, serpens, entis (gen. plur. serpentium, Vitr. 8, 4; 9, 6; Nep. Hann. 11, 5; Hor. Epod. 1, 20; Cels. 5, 27, 3; but also, mostly poet. and later, serpentum, Verg. A. 8, 436; 12, 848; Ov. M. 7, 534; Luc. 9, 608 al.), f. (sc. bestia); less freq. and mostly poet. and eccl. Lat., m. (sc. draco), a creeping thing, a creeper, crawler (cf. reptilis).

A. Κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, i. e. a snake, serpent (syn.: anguis, coluber); fem.: quaedam serpentes ortae extra aquam, etc., Cic. N. D. 2, 48, 124; Lucr. 4, 60; 4, 638; Ov. M. 1, 447; 1, 454; 2, 652; id. Am. 2, 13, 13; Hor. C. 1, 37, 27; Luc. 9, 397; Nep. Hann. 10, 4 al.Masc., Lucr. 5, 33; Verg. A. 2, 214; 5, 273; 11, 753; Ov. M. 3, 38; 3, 325; 4, 570; Hor. S. 1, 3, 27; Luc. 9, 324; cf. Sall. J. 89, 5, and Quint. 2, 4, 19: igniti, Vulg. Num. 21, 6.— In apposition with draco, Suet. Tib. 72.— Also neutr. plur. serpentia, Vulg. Act. 10, 12. —

2. Transf., the Serpent, as a constellation.

a. Between the Great and the Little Bear, = anguis and draco, Ov. M. 2, 173; Hyg. Astr. 3, 1.—

b. In the hand of Ophiuchus (Anguitenens, Anguifer), = anguis, Vitr. 9, 6; Hyg. Astr. 2, 14; 3, 13; cf. Plin. 2, 25, 23, 93.—

B. A creeping insect on the human body, a louse, Plin. 7, 51, 52, 172; App. Flor. p. 354, 4.