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Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 33 ,   sections 1-94

   

Translated by H.Rackham (1952), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.    


{1.} L   [1] Our topic now will be metals, and the actual resources employed to pay for commodities - resources diligently sought for in the bowels of the earth in a variety of ways. For in some places the earth is dug into for riches, when life demands gold, silver, silver-gold and copper, and in other places for luxury, when gems and colours for tinting walls and beams are demanded, and in other places for rash valour, when the demand is for iron, which amid warfare and slaughter is even more prized than gold. We trace out all the fibres of the earth, and live above the hollows we have made in her, marvelling that occasionally she gapes open or begins to tremble - as if forsooth it were not possible that this may be an expression of the indignation of our holy parent. [2] We penetrate her inner parts and seek for riches in the abode of the spirits of the departed, as though the part where we tread upon her were not sufficiently bounteous and fertile. And amid all this the smallest object of our searching is for the sake of remedies for illness, for with what fraction of mankind is medicine the object of this delving? Although medicines also earth bestows upon us on her surface, as she bestows corn, bountiful and generous as she is in all things for our benefit! [3] The things that she has concealed and hidden underground, those that do not quickly come to birth, are the things that destroy us and drive us to the depths below; so that suddenly the mind soars aloft into the void and ponders what finally will be the end of draining her dry in all the ages, what will be the point to which avarice will penetrate. How innocent, how blissful, nay even how luxurious life might be, if it coveted nothing from any source but the surface of the earth, and, to speak briefly, nothing but what lies ready to her hand!

{2.} L   [4] Gold is dug out of the earth and in proximity to it gold-solder, which still retains in Greek a name derived from gold, so as to make it appear more precious. It was not enough to have discovered one bane to plague life, without setting value even on the corrupt humours of gold! Avarice was seeking for silver, but counted it a gain to have discovered cinnabar by the way, and devised a use to make of red earth. Alas for the prodigality of our inventiveness! In how many ways have we raised the prices of objects! The art of painting has come in addition, and we have made gold and silver dearer by means of engraving! Man has learnt to challenge nature in competition! The enticements of the vices have augmented even art: it has pleased us to engrave scenes of licence upon our goblets, and to drink through the midst of obscenities. [5] Afterwards these were flung aside and began to be held of no account, when there was an excess of gold and silver. Out of the same earth we dug supplies of fluorspar and crystal, things which their mere fragility rendered costly. It came to be deemed the proof of wealth, the true glory of luxury, to possess something that might be absolutely destroyed in a moment. Nor was this enough: we drink out of a crowd of precious stones, and set our cups with emeralds, we take delight in holding India for the purpose of tippling, and gold is now a mere accessory.

{3.} L   [6] And would that it could be entirely banished from life, reviled and abused as it is by all the worthiest people, and only discovered for the ruin of human life - how far happier was the period when goods themselves were interchanged by barter, as it is agreed we must take it from Homer to have been the custom even in the days of Troy. That in my view was the way in which trade was discovered, to procure the necessities of life. [7] Homer relates how some people used to make their purchases with ox-hides, others with iron and captives, and consequently, although even Homer himself was already an admirer of gold, he reckoned the value of goods in cattle { Il_6.234 }, saying that Glaucus exchanged gold armour worth 100 oxen with that of Diomedes worth 9 oxen. And as a result of this custom even at Rome a fine under the old laws is priced in cattle.

{4.} L   [8] The worst crime against man's life was committed by the person who first put gold on his fingers, though it is not recorded who did this, for I deem the whole story of Prometheus mythical, although antiquity assigned to him also an iron ring, and intended this to be understood as a fetter, not an ornament. As for the story of Midas's ring, which when turned round made its wearer invisible, who would not admit this to be more mythical still? [9] It was the hand and what is more the left a hand, that first won for gold such high esteem; not indeed a Roman hand, whose custom it was to wear an iron ring as an emblem of warlike valour.

As to the Roman kings I find it hard to make a statement. The statue of Romulus in the Capitol has nothing, nor has any other king's statue excepting those of Numa and Servius Tullius, and not even that of Lucius Brutus. I am especially surprised at this in the case of the Tarquins, who came originally from Greece, the country from which this fashion in rings came, although an iron ring is worn in Sparta even at the present day. [10] But of all, Tarquinius Priscus, it is well known, first presented his son with a golden amulet when while still of an age to wear the bordered robe he had killed an enemy in battle; and from that time on the custom of the amulet has continued as a distinction to be worn by the sons of those who have served in the cavalry, the sons of all others only wearing a leather strap. Owing to this I am surprised that the statue of that Tarquinius has no ring. All the same, I notice that there is a difference of opinion even about the actual word for a ring. The Greek name for it is derived from the word meaning a finger; with ourselves, in early days it was called 'ungulus,' but afterwards both our people and the Greeks give it the name of 'symbolum.' [11] For a long period indeed, it is quite clear, not even members of the Roman senate had gold rings, inasmuch as rings were bestowed officially on men about to go as envoys to foreign nations, and on them only, the reason no doubt being that the most highly honoured foreigners were recognized in this way. Nor was it the custom for any others to wear a gold ring than those on whom one had been officially bestowed for the reason stated; and customarily Roman generals went in triumph without one, and although a Tuscan crown of gold was held over the victor's head from behind, nevertheless he wore an iron ring on his finger when going in triumph, just the same as the slave holding the crown in front of himself. [12] This was the way in which Gaius Marius celebrated his triumph over Jugurtha, and it is recorded that he did not assume a gold ring till his third tenure of the consulship {103 BC} . Those moreover who had been given gold rings because they were going on an embassy only wore them in public, but in their homes wore iron rings; this is the reason why even now an iron ring and what is more a ring without any stone in it is sent a as a gift to a woman when betrothed. Indeed I do not find that any rings were worn in the Trojan period; at all events Homer nowhere mentions them, although he shows that tablets used to be sent to and fro in place of letters, and that clothes and gold and silver vessels were stored away in chests and were tied up with signet-knots, not sealed with signet-rings. Also he records the chiefs as casting lots about meeting a challenge from the enemy without using signet-rings; and he also says that the god of handicraft in the original period frequently made brooches and other articles of feminine finery like earrings - without mentioning finger-rings. [13] And whoever first introduced them did so with hesitation, and put them on the left hand, which is generally hidden by the clothes, whereas it would have been shown off on the right hand if it had been an assured distinction. And if this might possibly have been thought to involve some interference with the use of the right hand, there is the proof of more modern custom; it would have also been more inconvenient to wear it on the left hand, which holds the shield. Indeed it is also stated, by Homer again { Il_17.52 }, that men wore gold plaited in their hair and consequently I cannot say whether the use of gold originated from women.

{5.} L   [14] At Rome for a long time gold was actually not to be found at all except in very small amounts. At all events when peace had to be purchased after the capture of the City by the Gauls, not more than a thousand pounds' weight of gold could be produced. I am aware of the fact that in Pompeius' third consulship {52 BC} there was lost from the throne of Jupiter of the Capitol two thousand pounds' weight of gold that had been stored there by Camillus, which led to a general belief that 2000 pounds was the amount that had been accumulated. But really the additional sum was part of the booty taken from the Gauls, and it had been stripped by them from the temples in the part of the city which they had captured - [15] the case of Torquatus shows that the Gauls were in the habit of wearing gold ornaments in battle; therefore it appears that the gold belonging to the Gauls and that belonging to the temples did not amount to more than that total; and this in fact was taken to be the meaning contained in the augury, when Jupiter the God of the Capitol had repaid twofold.

Also, as we began on this topic from the subject of rings, it is suitable incidentally to point out that the official in charge of the temple of Jupiter of the Capitol when he was arrested broke the stone of his ring between his teeth and at once expired, so putting an end to any possibility of proving the theft. [16] It follows that there was only 2,000 pounds weight of gold at the outside when Rome was captured in its 364th year {390 BC} , although the census showed there were already 152,573 free citizens. From the same city 307 years later the gold that Gaius Marius the younger had conveyed to Praeneste from the conflagration of the temple of the Capitol and from all the other shrines amounted to 14,000 pounds, which with a placard above it to that effect was carried along in his triumphal procession by Sulla {81 BC} , as well as 6,000 pounds weight of silver. Sulla had likewise on the previous day carried in procession 15,000 pounds of gold and 115,000 pounds of silver as the proceeds of all the rest of his victories.

{6.} L   [17] It does not appear that rings were in more common use before the time of Gnaeus Flavius son of Annius. It was he who first published the dates for legal proceedings, which it had been customary for the general public to ascertain by daily enquiry from a few of the leading citizens; and this won him such great popularity with the common people - he was also the son of a liberated slave and himself a clerk to Appius Caecus, at whose request he had by dint of natural shrewdness through continual observation picked out those days and published them - that he was appointed a curule aedile as a colleague of Quintus Anicius of Praeneste, who a few years previously had been an enemy at war with Rome, while Gaius Poetilius and Domitius, whose fathers had been consuls, were passed over. [18] Flavius had the additional advantage of being tribune of the plebs at the same time. This caused such an outburst of blazing indignation that we find in the oldest annals 'rings were laid aside.' The common belief that the order of knighthood also did the same on this occasion is erroneous, inasmuch as the following words were also added: 'but also harness-bosses were put aside as well'; and it is because of this clause that the name of the knights has been added; and the entry in the annals is that the rings were laid aside by the nobility, not by the entire Senate. This occurrence took place in the consulship of Publius Sempronius and Lucius Sulpicius {305 BC}. [19] Flavius made a vow to erect a temple to Concord if he succeeded in effecting a reconciliation between the privileged orders and the people; and as money was not allotted for this purpose from public funds, he drew on the fine-money collected from persons convicted of practising usury to erect a small shrine made of bronze on the Graecostasis which at that date stood above the Assembly-place, and put on it an inscription engraved on a bronze tablet that the shrine had been constructed 204 years after the consecration of the Capitoline temple. [20] This event took place in the 449th year from the foundation of the city {305 BC}, and is the earliest evidence to be found of the use of rings. There is however a second piece of evidence for their being commonly worn at the time of the Second Punic War, as had this not been the ease it would not have been possible for the three peeks of rings as recorded to have been sent by Hannibal to Carthage. Also it was from a ring put up for sale by auction that the quarrel between Caepio and Drusus began which was the primary cause of the war with the allies and the disasters that sprang from it. [21] Not even at that period did all members of the senate possess gold rings, seeing that in the memory of our grandfathers many men who had even held the office of praetor wore an iron ring to the end of their lives - for instance, as recorded by Fenestella, Calpurnius and Manilius, the latter having been legate under Gaius Marius in the war with Jugurtha, and, according to many authorities, the Lucius Fufidius to whom Scaurus dedicated his Autobiography - while another piece of evidence is that in the family of the Quintii it was not even customary for the women to have a gold ring, and that the greater part of the races of mankind, and even of the people who live under our empire and at the present day, possess no gold rings at all. The East and Egypt do not seal documents even now, but are content with a written signature.

[22] This fashion like everything else luxury has diversified in numerous ways, by adding to rings gems of exquisite brilliance, and by loading the fingers with a wealthy revenue (as we shall mention in our book on gems { 37.2 }) and then by engraving on them a variety of devices, so that in one case the craftsmanship and in another the material constitutes the value. Then again with other gems luxury has deemed it sacrilege for them to undergo violation, and has caused them to be worn whole, to prevent anybody's imagining that people's finger-rings were intended for sealing documents! [23] Some gems indeed luxury has left showing in the gold even of the side of the ring that is hidden by the finger, and has cheapened the gold with collars of little pebbles. But on the contrary many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Caesar was emperor. Moreover even slaves nowadays encircle the iron of their rings with gold (other articles all over them they decorate with pure gold), an extravagance the origin of which is shown by its actual name to have been instituted in Samothrace.

[24] It had originally been the custom to wear rings on one finger only, the one next the little finger; that is how we see them on the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius. Afterwards people put them on the finger next the thumb, even in the case of statues of the gods, and next it pleased them to give the little finger also a ring. The Gallic Provinces and the British Islands are said to have used the middle finger. At the present day this is the only finger exempted, while all the others bear the burden, and even each finger-joint has another smaller ring of its own. [25] Some people put all their rings on their little finger only, while others wear only one ring even on that finger, and use it to seal up their signet ring, which is kept stored away as a rarity not deserving the insult of common use, and is brought out from its cabinet as from a sanctuary; thus even wearing a single ring on the little finger may advertise the possession of a costlier piece of apparatus put away in store. Some again show off the weight of their rings; others count it hard work to wear more than one; and others consider that filling the gold tinsel of the circle with a lighter material, in case of their dropping, is a safer precaution for their anxiety about their gems; others enclose poisons underneath the stones in their rings, as did Demosthenes, the greatest orator of Greece, and they wear their rings as a means of taking their own lives. [26] Finally, a very great number of the crimes connected with money are carried out by means of rings. To think what life was in the days of old, and what innocence existed when nothing was sealed! Whereas nowadays even articles of food and drink have to be protected against theft by means of a ring: this is the progress achieved by our legions of slaves - a foreign rabble in one's home, so that an attendant to tell people's names now has to be employed even in the case of one's slaves! This was not the way with bygone generations, when a single servant for each master, a member of his master's clan, Marcius's boy or Lucius's boy, took all his meals with the family in common, nor was there any need of precautions in the home to keep watch on the domestics. [27] Nowadays we acquire sumptuous viands only to be pilfered and at the same time acquire people to pilfer them, and it is not enough to keep our keys themselves under seal: while we are fast asleep or on our death-beds, our rings are slipped off our fingers; and the prevailing system of our lives has begun to centre round that portable chattel, though when this began is doubtful. Still it seems we can realize the importance this article possesses abroad in the case of the tyrant of Samos, Polycrates, who flung his favourite ring into the sea and had it brought back to him inside a fish which had been caught: Polycrates himself was put to death about the 230th year of the city of Rome {524 BC}. [28] Still the employment of a signet-ring must have begun to be much more frequent with the introduction of usury. This is proved by the custom of the lower classes, among whom even at the present day a ring is whipped out when a contract is being made; the habit comes down from the time when there was as yet no speedier method of guaranteeing a bargain, so we can safely assert that with us money began first and signet-rings came in afterwards. About money we shall speak rather later.

{7.} L   [29] As soon as rings began to be commonly worn, they distinguished the second order from the commons, just as a tunic distinguished the senate from those who wore the ring, although this distinction also was only introduced at a late date, and we find that a wider purple stripe on the tunic was commonly worn even by heralds, for instance the father of Lucius Aelius Stilo Praeconinus, who received his surname from his father's office. But wearing rings clearly introduced a third order, intermediate between the commons and the senate, and the title that had previously been conferred by the possession of a war-horse is now assigned by money rates. This however is only a recent introduction: [30] when the deified Augustus made regulations for the judicial panels the majority of the judges belonged to the iron ring class, and these used to be designated not knights but Justices; the title of knights remained with the cavalry squadrons mounted at the public charge. Of the Justices also there were at the first only four panels, and in each panel scarcely a thousand names were to be found, as the provinces had not yet been admitted to this duty; and the regulation has survived to the present day that nobody newly admitted to citizenship shall serve as a justice on one of the panels. [31] The panels themselves also were distinguished by various designations, as consisting of Tribunes of the Money, Selected Members and Justices. Moreover beside these there were those styled the Nine Hundred, selected from the whole body as keepers of the ballot-boxes at elections. And the proud adoption of titles had made divisions in this order also, one person styling himself a member of the Nine Hundred, another one of the Select, another a Tribune.

{8.} L   [32] Finally in the ninth year in office of the Emperor Tiberius the order of knights was united into a single body; and in the consulship of Gaius Asinius Pollio and Gaius Antistius Vetus {22 AD}, in the 775th year since the foundation of Rome, a regulation was established authorizing who should wear rings; the motive for this, a thing that may surprise us, was virtually the futile reason that Gaius Sulpicius Galba had made a youthful effort to curry favour with the emperor by enacting penalties for keeping eating-houses and had made a complaint in the senate that peddling tradesmen when charged with that offence commonly protected themselves by means of their rings. Consequently a rule was made that nobody should have this right except one who was himself a free-born man whose father and father's father had been free-born also, and who had been rated as the owner of 400,000 sesterces and had been entitled under the Julian law as to the theatre to sit in the fourteen front rows of seats. [33] Subsequently people began to apply in crowds for this mark of rank; and in consequence of the disputes thus occasioned the Emperor Gaius Caligula added a fifth panel, and so much conceit has this occasioned that the panels which under the deified Augustus it had not been possible to fill will not hold that order, and there are frequent cases of men who are actually liberated slaves making a leap over to these distinctions, a thing that previously never occurred, since the iron ring was the distinguishing mark even of knights and judges.

And the thing began to be so common that during the censorship of the Emperor Claudius {48 AD} a member of the order of knighthood named Flavius Proculus laid before him information against 400 persons on this ground, so that an order intended to distinguish the holder from other men of free birth has been shared with slaves. [34] It was the Gracchi who first instituted the name of Justices or Judges as the distinguishing name of that order of knights - seditiously currying favour with the people in order to humiliate the senate; but subsequently the importance of the title of knight was swamped by the shifting currents of faction, and came down to be attached to the farmers of public revenues, and for some time these revenue officers constituted the third rank in the state. Finally Marcus Cicero, thanks to the Catilinarian affair, during his consulship {63 BC} put the title of knighthood on a firm footing, boasting that he himself sprang from that order, and winning its powerful support by methods of securing popularity that were entirely his own. From that time onward the knighthood definitely became a third element in the state, and the name of the Equestrian Order came to be added to the formula 'The Senate and People of Rome.' This is the reason why it is even now written after 'People,' because it was the latest addition introduced.

{9.} L   [35] Indeed the very name of the knights has itself frequently been altered, even in the case of those who derived the title from the fact of their serving as cavalry. Under Romulus and the kings they were called the Celeres, then the Flexuntes and afterwards the Trossuli, because of their having without any assistance from infantry captured a town of that name in the Tuscan region nine miles this side of Volsinii; and the name survived till after the time of Gaius Gracchus. [36] At all events in the writings left by Junius, who owing to his friendship with Gaius Gracchus was called Gracchanus, these words occur: 'So far as concerns the equestrian order, they were previously called the Trossuli, but are now simply designated the Cavalry, because people do not know what the word Trossuli means and many of them are ashamed of being called by that name.' He goes on to explain the reason above indicated, and says that they were even in his time still called Trossuli, though they did not wish to be.

{10.} L   [37] There are some additional particulars in regard to gold which must not be omitted. For instance our authorities actually bestowed gold necklaces on foreign soldiers, but only awarded silver ones to Roman citizens, and what is more they gave bracelets to citizens, which it was not their custom to give to foreigners.

{11.} L   [38] But at the same time, as is even more surprising, they gave crowns of gold even to citizens. Who was the first person to receive one I have not myself been able to ascertain, but Lucius Piso records who was the first person to bestow one, namely the dictator Aulus Postumius {497 BC}, who when the camp of the Latins at Lake Regillus had been taken by storm awarded a gold crown to the soldier who had been chiefly responsible for taking the place. In this case the crown which he bestowed was made of gold taken from the booty captured, and weighed two pounds. Also Lucius Lentulus as consul {275 BC} awarded a gold crown to Servius Cornelius Merenda after the taking of a town belonging to the Samnites, but Servius's crown weighed five pounds; while Piso Frugi bestowed on his son one weighing three pounds out of his personal resources, leaving it to him by will as a specific legacy.

{12.} L   [39] As a mark of honour to the gods at sacrifices no other means has been devised but to gild the horns of the victims to be immolated, at all events of full-grown animals. But in military service also this form of luxury has grown to such dimensions that we find a letter of Marcus Brutus sent from the Plains of Philippi expressing his indignation at the brooches made of gold that were worn by the tribunes. Really I must protest! Why, even you, Brutus, did not mention the gold worn on their feet by women, and we accuse of crime the man who first conferred dignity on gold by using gold rings! Let even men nowadays wear gold bracelets - called 'Dardania' because the fashion came from the Dardani - the Celtic name for them is 'viriolae' and the Celtiberian 'viriae'; [40] let women have gold in their bracelets and covering their fingers and on their neck, ears and tresses, let gold chains run at random round their waists; and let little bags of pearls hang invisible suspended by gold chains from their lady owners' neck, so that even in their sleep they may retain the consciousness of possessing gems: but are even their feet to be shod with gold, and shall gold create this female order of knighthood, intermediate between the matron's robe and the common people? Much more becomingly do we men bestow this on our page-boys, and the wealthy show these lads make has quite transformed the public baths! [41] But nowadays even men are beginning to wear on their fingers a representation of Harpocrates and figures of Egyptian deities. In the time of the Emperor Claudius there was also another unusual distinction, belonging to those whose rights of free access to the presence had given them the privilege of wearing a gold likeness of the emperor on a ring, this affording a great opportunity for informers; but all of this was however entirely abolished by the opportune rise to power of the Emperor Vespasian, by making the emperor equally accessible to all. Let this suffice for a discussion of the subject of gold rings and their employment.

{13.} L   [42] Next in degree was the crime committed by the person who first coined a gold denarius, a crime which itself also is hidden and its author unknown. The Roman nation did not even use a stamped silver coinage before the conquest of king Pyrrhus {275 BC}. The as weighed one pound - hence the term still in use, 'little pound' and 'two pounder'; this is the reason why a fine is specified in 'heavy bronze,' and why in book-keeping outlay is still designated as 'sums weighed out,' and likewise interest as 'weighed on account' and paying as 'weighing down,' [43] and moreover it explains the terms 'soldiers' stipend,' which means 'weights of heaped money,' and the words for accountants and paymasters that mean 'weighers' and 'pound-weighers,' and owing to this custom in purchases that deal with all larger personal property, even at the present day, an actual pair of 'pound'-scales is introduced. King Servius was the first to stamp a design on bronze; previously, according to Timaeus, at Rome they used raw metal. The design stamped on the metal was an ox or a sheep, 'pecus', which is the origin of the term 'pecunia.' The highest assessment of one man's property in the reign of Servius was 120,000 as-pieces, and consequently that amount of property was the standard of the first class of citizens.

[44] Silver was first coined in the 485th year of the city, in the consulship of Quintus Ogulnius and Gaius Fabius {269 BC}, five years before the first Punic War. It was decided that the value of a denarius should be ten pounds of bronze, that of a half-denarius five pounds, that of a sestertius two pounds and a half. The weight of a standard pound of bronze was however reduced during the first Punic War, when the state could not meet its expenditure, and it was enacted that the as should be struck weighing two ounces. This effected a saving of five-sixths, and the national debt was liquidated. [45] The design of this bronze coin was on one side a Janus facing both ways and on the other the ram of a battleship; the third of an as and the quarter as had a ship. The had previously been called a teruncius, as weighing three ounces. Subsequently when the presence of Hannibal was being felt, in the dictatorship of Quintus Fabius Maximus {217 BC}, asses of one ounce weight were coined, and it was enacted that the exchange-value of the denarius should be sixteen asses, of the half-denarius eight and of the quarter-denarius four; by this measure the state made a clear gain of one half. But nevertheless in the pay of soldiers one denarius has always been given for ten asses. [46] The designs on silver were a two-horse and a four-horse chariot, and consequently the coins were called a pair of horses and a four-in-hand.

Next according to a law of Papirius {89 BC} asses weighing half an ounce were struck. Livius Drusus when holding the office of tribune# of the plebs alloyed the silver with one-eighth part of bronze. The coin now named the victory coin was struck under the law of Clodius; previously a coin of this name was imported from Illyria and was looked on as an article of trade. The design on it was a figure of Victory, which gives it its name. 

[47] The first gold coin was struck 51 years later than the silver coinage, a scruple of gold having the value of twenty sesterces; this was done at 400 to the pound of silver, at the then rating of the sestertius. It was afterwards decided to coin denarii at the rate of 40 from a pound of gold, and the emperors gradually reduced the weight of the gold denarius, and most recently Nero brought it down to 45 denarii to the pound.

{14.} L   [48] But from the invention of money came the original source of avarice when usury was devised, and a profitable life of idleness; by rapid stages what was no longer mere avarice but a positive hunger for gold flared up with a sort of frenzy, inasmuch as the friend of Gaius Graechus, Septumuleius, a price having been set on Gracchus's head to the amount of its weight in gold, when Gracchus's head had been cut off, brought it to Opimius {121 BC}, after adding to his unnatural murder by putting lead in the mouth of the corpse, and so cheated the state in addition. Nor was it now some Roman citizen, but king Mithridates who disgraced the whole name of Roman when he poured molten gold into the mouth of the general Aquilius whom he had taken prisoner? These are the things that the lust for possessions engenders! [49] One is ashamed to see the new-fangled names that are invented every now and then from the Greek to denote silver vessels filigreed or inlaid with gold, niceties which make gilded plate fetch a higher price than gold plate, when we know that Spartacus issued an order to his camp forbidding anybody to possess gold or silver: so much more spirit was there then in our runaway slaves! [50] The orator Messala has told us that the triumvir Antony used vessels of gold in satisfying all the indecent necessities, an enormity that even Cleopatra would have been so ashamed of. Till then the record in extravagance had lain with foreigners - king Philip sleeping with a gold goblet under his pillows and Alexander the Great's prefect Hagnon of Tees having his sandals soled with gold nails; but Antony alone cheapened gold by this contumely of nature. How he deserved to be proscribed! but proscribed by Spartacus!

{15.} L   [51] It does indeed surprise me that the Roman nation always imposed a tribute of silver, not of gold, on races that it conquered, for instance on Carthage when conquered together with Hannibal {202 BC}, 800,000 pounds weight of silver in yearly instalments of 16,000 pounds spread over 50 years, but no gold. Nor can it be considered that this was due to the world's poverty. Midas and Croesus had already possessed wealth without limit, and Cyrus had already on conquering Asia Minor {546 BC} found booty consisting of 24,000 pounds weight of gold, besides vessels and articles made of gold, including a throne, a plane-tree and a vine. And by this victory he carried off 500,000 talents of silver and the wine-bowl of Semiramis the weight of which came to 15 talents. [52] The Egyptian talent according to Marcus Varro amounts to 80 pounds of gold. Saulaces the descendant of Aeetes had already reigned in Colchis, who is said to have come on a tract of virgin soil in the country of the Suani and elsewhere and to have dug up from it a great quantity of gold and silver, his realm being moreover famous for golden fleeces. We are also told of his gold-vaulted ceilings and silver beams and columns and pilasters, belonging to Sesostris king of Egypt whom Saulaces conquered, so proud a monarch that he is reported to have been in the habit every year of harnessing to his chariot individual kings selected by lot from among his vassals and so going in triumphal procession.

{16.} L   [53] We too have done things to be deemed mythical by those who come after us. Caesar, the future dictator, was the first person in the office of aedile {65 BC} to use nothing but silver for the appointments of the arena - it was at the funeral games presented in honour of his father; and this was the first occasion on which criminals made to fight with wild animals had all their equipment made of silver, a practice nowadays rivalled even in our municipal towns. Gaius Antonius gave plays on a silver stage, and so did Lucius Murena; and the emperor Gaius Caligula brought on a scaffolding in the circus which had on it 124,000 pounds weight of silver. [54] His successor Claudius when celebrating a triumph after the conquest of Britain {43 AD}, advertised by placards that among the gold coronets there was one having a weight of 7000 pounds contributed by Hither Spain and one of 9000 from Gallia Comata. His immediate successor Nero covered the theatre of Pompeius with gold for one day's purpose, when he was to display it to Tiridates king of Armenia. Yet how small was the theatre in comparison with Nero's Golden Palace which goes all round the city!

{17.} L   [55] The gold contained in the national treasury of Rome in the consulship of Sextus Julius and Lucius Aurelius {156 BC}, seven years before the third Punic War, amounted to 17,410 pounds, the silver to 22,070 pounds, and in specie there was 6,135,400 sesterces; in the consulship of Sextus Julius and Lucius Marcius {91 BC}, that is to say, at the beginning of the war with the allies, there was ... pounds of gold and 1,620,831 pounds of silver. [56] Gaius Julius Caesar, on first entering Rome during the civil war that bears his name {49 BC}, drew from the treasury 15,000 gold ingots, 30,000 silver ingots, and 30,000,000 sesterces in coin; at no other periods was the state more wealthy. Aemilius Paulus also after the defeat of king Perseus paid in to the treasury from the booty won in Macedonia 300 million sesterces; and from that date onward the Roman nation left off paying the citizens' property-tax.

{18.} L   [57] At the present day we see ceilings covered with gold even in private houses, but they were first gilded in the Capitol during the censorship of Lucius Mummius {142 BC} after the fall of Carthage. From ceilings the use of gilding passed over also to vaulted roofs and walls, these too being now gilded like pieces of plate, whereas a variety of judgements were passed on Catulus by his contemporaries for having gilded the brass tilings of the Capitol.

{19.} L   [58] We have already said in Book VII { 7.97 }who were the people who first discovered gold, and almost all of the metals likewise. I think that the chief popularity of this substance has been won not by its colour, that of silver being brighter and more like daylight, which is the reason why it is in more common use for military ensigns because its brilliance is visible at a greater distance; those persons who think that it is the colour of starlight in gold that has won it favour being clearly mistaken because in the case of gems and other things with the same tint it does not hold an outstanding place. [59] Nor is it its weight or its malleability that has led to its being preferred to all the rest of the metals, since in both qualities it yields the first place to lead, but because gold is the only thing that loses no substance by the action of fire, but even in conflagrations and on funeral pyres receives no damage. Indeed as a matter of fact it improves in quality the more often it is fired, and fire serves as a test of its goodness, making it assume a similar red hue and itself becomes the colour of fire; this process is called assaying. [60] The first proof of quality in gold is however its being affected by fire with extreme difficulty; beside that, it is remarkable that though invincible to live coal made of the hardest wood it is very quickly made red hot by a fire of chaff, and that for the purpose of purifying it it is roasted with lead.

Another more important reason for its value is that it gets extremely little worn by use; whereas, with silver, copper and lead, lines may be drawn, and stuff that comes off them dirties the hand. [61] Nor is any other material more malleable or able to be divided into more portions, seeing that an ounce of gold can be beaten out into 750 or more leaves 4 inches square. The thickest kind of gold leaf is called Praeneste leaf, still bearing the name taken from the faithfully gilded statue of Fortune in that place. [62] The foil next in thickness is styled Quaestorian leaf. In Spain tiny pieces of gold are called scrapers. Gold more than all other metals is found unalloyed in nuggets or in the form of detritus. Whereas all other metals when found in the mines are brought into a finished condition by means of fire, gold is gold straight away and has its substance in a perfect state at once, when it is obtained by mining. This is the natural way of getting it, while another which we shall describe is artificial. More than any other substance gold is immune from rust or verdigris or anything else emanating from it that wastes its goodness or reduces its weight. Moreover in steady resistance to the overpowering effect of the juices of salt and vinegar it surpasses all things, and over and above that it can be spun into thread and woven into a fabric like wool, even without an addition of wool. [63] Verrius informs us that Tarquinius Priscus celebrated a triumph wearing a golden tunic. We have in our own times seen the Emperor Claudius's wife Agrippina, at a show at which he was exhibiting a naval battle, seated at his side wearing a military cloak made entirely of cloth of gold. For a long period gold has been woven into the fabric called cloth of Attalus, an invention of kings of Asia.

{20.} L   [64] On marble and other materials incapable of being raised to a white heat gold is laid with white of egg; on wood it is laid with glue according to a formula; it is called leucophorum, white-bearing; what this is and how it is made we will explain in its proper place { 35.36 }. The regular way to gild copper would be to use natural or at all events artificial quicksilver, concerning which a method of adulteration has been devised, as we shall relate in describing the nature of those substances { 33.100 }. [65] The copper is first subjected to the violence of fire; then, when it is red hot, it is quenched with a mixture of brine, vinegar, and alum, and afterwards put to a test, its brilliance of colour showing whether it has been sufficiently heated; then it is again dried in the fire, so that, after a thorough polishing with a mixture of pumice and alum, it is able to take the gold-leaf laid on with quicksilver. Alum has the same cleansing property here that we said is found in lead.

{21.} L   [66] Gold in our part of the world - not to speak of the Indian gold obtained from ants or the gold dug up by griffins in Scythia -, is obtained in three ways: in the detritus of rivers, for instance in the Tagus in Spain, the Po in Italy, the Maritza in Thrace, the Sarabat in Asia Minor and the Ganges in India; and there is no gold that is in a more perfect state, as it is thoroughly polished by the mere friction of the current. Another method is by sinking shafts; or it is sought for in the fallen debris of mountains. Each of these methods must be described.

[67] People seeking for gold begin by getting up segellum - that is the name for earth that indicates the presence of gold. This is a pocket of sand, which is washed, and from the sediment left an estimate of the vein is made. Sometimes by a rare piece of luck a pocket is found immediately, on the surface of the earth, as occurred recently in Dalmatia when Nero was emperor, one yielding fifty pounds weight of gold a day. Gold found in this way in the surface crust is called talutium if there is also auriferous earth underneath. The otherwise dry, barren mountains of the Spanish provinces which produce nothing else whatever are forced into fertility in regard to this commodity.

[68] Gold dug up from shafts is called 'channelled' or 'trenched' gold; it is found sticking to the grit of marble, not in the way in which it gleams in the lapis lazuli of the East and the stone of Thebes and in other precious stones, but sparkling in the folds of the marble. These channels of veins wander to and fro along the sides of the shafts, which gives the gold its name; and the earth is held up by wooden props. [69] The substance dug out is crushed, washed, fired and pound to a soft powder. The powder from the mortar is called the 'scudes' and the silver that comes out from the furnace the 'sweat'; the dirt thrown out of the smelting-furnace in the case of every metal is called 'scoria,' slag. In the case of gold the scoria is pounded and fired a second time; the crucibles for this are made of tasconium, which is a white earth resembling clay. No other earth can stand the blast of air, the fire, or the intensely hot material.

[70] The third method will have outdone the achievements of the Giants. By means of galleries driven for long distances the mountains are mined by the light of lamps - the spells of work are also measured by lamps, and the miners do not see daylight for many months.

The name for this class of mines is arrugiae; also cracks give way suddenly and crush the men who have been at work, so that it actually seems less venturesome to try to get pearls and purple-fishes out of the depth of the sea: so much more dangerous have we made the earth! Consequently arches are left at frequent intervals to support the weight of the mountain above. [71] In both kinds of mining masses of flint are encountered, which are burst asunder by means of fire and vinegar, though more often, as this method makes the tunnels suffocating through heat and smoke, they are broken to pieces with crushing-machines carrying 150 pounds of iron, and the men carry the stuff out on their shoulders, working night and day, each man passing them on to the next man in the dark, while only those at the end of the hue see daylight. If the bed of flint seems too long, the miner follows along the side of it and goes round it. And yet flint is considered to involve comparatively easy work, [72] as there is a kind of earth consisting of a sort of potter's clay mixed with gravel, called gangadict, which it is almost impossible to overcome. They attack it with iron wedges and the hammer-machines mentioned above; and it is thought to be the hardest thing that exists, except greed for gold, which is the most stubborn of all things. When the work is completely finished, beginning with the last, they cut through, at the tops, the supports of the arched roofs. A crack gives warning of a crash, and the only person who notices it is the sentinel on a pinnacle of the mountain. [73] He by shout and gesture gives the order for the workmen to be called out and himself at the same moment flies down from his pinnacle. The fractured mountain falls asunder in a wide gap, with a crash which it is impossible for human imagination to conceive, and likewise with an incredibly violent blast of air. The miners gaze as conquerors upon the collapse of Nature. And nevertheless even now there is no gold so far, nor did they positively know there was any when they began to dig; the mere hope of obtaining their coveted object was a sufficient inducement for encountering such great dangers and expenses.

[74] Another equally laborious task involving even greater expense is the incidental operation of previously bringing streams along mountain-heights frequently a distance of 100 miles for the purpose of washing away the debris of this collapse; the channels made for this purpose are called corrugi, a term derived I believe from coarivatio, a uniting of streams of water. This also involves a thousand tasks; the dip of the fall must be steep, to cause a rush rather than a flow of water, and consequently it is brought from very high altitudes. Gorges and crevasses are bridged by aqueducts carried on masonry; at other places impassable rocks are hewn away and compelled to provide a position for hollowed troughs of timber. [75] The workman hewing the rock hangs suspended with ropes, so that spectators viewing the operations from a distance seem to see not so much a swarm of strange animals as a flight of birds. In the majority of cases they hang suspended in this way while taking the levels and marking out the lines for the route, and rivers are led by man's agency to run where there is no place for a man to plant his footsteps. It spoils the operation of washing if the current of the stream carries mud along with it: an earthy sediment of this kind is called urium. Consequently they guide the flow over flint stones and pebbles, and avoid urium. At the head of the waterfall on the brow of the mountains reservoirs are excavated measuring 200 feet each way and 10 feet deep. In these there are left five sluices with apertures measuring about three feet each way, in order that when the reservoir is full the stopping-barriers may be struck away and the torrent may burst out with such violence as to sweep forward the broken rock. [76] There is also yet another task to perform on the level ground. Trenches are excavated for the water to flow through - the Greek name for them means 'leads'; and these, which descend by steps, are floored with gorse - this is a plant resembling rosemary, which is rough and holds back the gold. The sides are closed in with planks, and the channels are carried on arches over steep pitches. Thus the earth carried along in the stream slides down into the sea and the shattered mountain is washed away; and by this time the land of Spain owing to these causes has encroached a long way into the sea. [77] The material drawn out at such enormous labour in the former kind of mining is in this latter process washed out, so as not to fill up the shafts. The gold obtained by means of an arrugia does not have to be melted, but is pure gold straight away. In this process nuggets are found and also in the shafts, even weighing more than ten pounds. They are called palagae or else palacurnae, and also the gold in very small grains baluce. The gorse is dried and burnt and its ash is washed on a bed of grassy turf so that the gold is deposited on it. [78] According to some accounts Asturia and Callaecia and Lusitania produce in this way 20,000 pounds weight of gold a year, Asturia supplying the largest amount. Nor has there been in any other part of the world such a continuous production of gold for so many centuries. We have stated that by an old prohibiting decree of the senate Italy is protected from exploitation; otherwise no country would have been more productive in metals, as well as in crops. There is extant a ruling of the censors relating to the gold mines of Victumulae in the territory of Vercellae which prohibited the farmers of public revenues from having more than 5000 men engaged in the work.

{22.} L   [79] There is moreover one method of making gold out of orpiment which is dug up in Syria for use by painters; it is found on the surface of the earth, and is of a gold colour, but is easily broken, like looking-glass stone. Hopes inspired by it had attracted the Emperor Gaius Caligula, who was extremely covetous for gold, and who consequently gave orders for a great weight of it to be smelted; and as a matter of fact it did produce excellent gold, but so small a weight of it that he found himself a loser by his experiment that was prompted by avarice, although orpiment sold for 4 denarii a pound; and no one afterwards has repeated the experiment.

{23.} L   [80] All gold contains silver in various proportions, a tenth part in some cases, an eighth in others. In one mine only, that of Callaecia called the Albuerara mine, the proportion of silver found is one thirty-sixth, and consequently this one is more valuable than all the others. Wherever the proportion of silver is one-fifth, the ore is called electrum; grains of this are found in 'channelled' gold. An artificial electrum is also made by adding silver to gold. If the proportion of silver exceeds one-fifth, the metal produced offers no resistance on the anvil. [81] Electrum also held a high position in old times, as is evidenced by Homer { Od_4.71 } who represents the palace of Menelaus as resplendent with gold, electrum, silver and ivory. There is a temple of Athena at Lindus of the island of Rhodes in which there is a goblet made of electrum, dedicated by Helen; history further relates that it has the same measurement as her breast. A quality of electrum is that it shines more brightly than silver in lamplight. Natural electrum also has the property of detecting poisons; for semicircles resembling rainbows run over the surface in poisoned goblets and emit a crackling noise like fire, and so advertise the presence of poison in a twofold manner.

{24.} L   [82] The first gold statue of all that was made of solid metal and even before any was made of bronze, of the kind called 'made of solid beaten metal,' is said to have been erected in the temple of Anaitis, in the region of the earth where we have designated this name { 5.83 }, that goddess' deity being held in the highest reverence by those races. [83] This statue was taken as booty during the campaigns of Antonius in Parthia, and a story is told of a witty saying of one of the veterans of our army who was being entertained as a guest at dinner by the deified Augustus at Bononia. He was asked whether it was true that the man who was the first to commit this sacrilege against that deity was struck blind and paralysed and so expired. His answer was that the emperor was at that very moment eating his dinner off one of the goddess's legs, and that he himself was the perpetrator of the sacrilege and owed his entire fortune to that piece of plunder. The first solid gold statue of a human being was one of himself set up by Gorgias of Leontini in the temple at Delphi about the (?) 70th Olympiad {500-497 BC}. So great were the profits to be made by teaching the art of oratory!

{25.} L   [84] Gold is efficacious as a remedy in a variety of ways, and is used as an amulet for wounded people and for infants to render less harmful poisonous charms that may be directed against them. Gold has itself however a maleficent effect if carried over the head, in the case of chickens and the young of cattle as well as human beings. As a remedy it is smeared on, then washed off and sprinkled on the persons you wish to cure. Gold is also heated with twice its weight of salt and three times its weight of copper pyrites, and again with two portions of salt and one of the stone called splittable. Treated in this way it draws poison out, when the other substances have been burnt up with it in an earthenware crucible while it remains pure and uncorrupted itself. [85] The ash remaining is kept in an earthenware jar, and eruptions on the face may well be cleansed away by being smeared with this lotion from the jar. It also cures fistulas and what are called haemorrhoids. With the addition of ground pumice-stone it relieves putrid and foul-smelling ulcers, while boiled down in honey and git, and applied as a liniment to the navel it acts as a gentle aperient. According to Marcus Varro gold is a cure for warts.

{26.} L   [86] Gold-solder is a liquid found in the shafts we spoke of, flowing down along a vein of gold, with a slime that is solidified by the cold of winter even to the hardness of pumice-stone. A more highly spoken of variety of the same metal has been ascertained to be formed in copper mines, and the next best in silver-mines. A less valuable sort also with an element of gold is also found in lead mines. In all these mines however an artificial variety is produced that is much inferior to the natural kind referred to; the method is to introduce a gentle flow of water into the vein all winter and go on till the beginning of June and then to dry it off in June and July, clearly showing that gold-solder is nothing else than the putrefaction of a vein of metal. [87] Natural gold-solder, known as 'grape,' differs very greatly from the artificial in hardness, and nevertheless it also takes a dye from the plant called yellow-weed. It is of a substance that absorbs moisture, like flax or wool. It is pounded in a mortar and then passed through a fine sieve, and afterwards milled and then sifted again with a finer sieve, everything that does not pass through the sieve being again treated in the mortar and then milled again. [88] The powder is all along separated off into bowls and steeped in vinegar so as to dissolve all hardness, and then is pounded again and then rinsed in shells and left to dry. Then it is dyed by means of splittable alum and the plant above mentioned and so given a colour before it serves as a colour itself. It is important how absorbent it is and ready to take the dye; for if it does not at once catch the colour, scytanum and turbistum must be added as well - those being the names of two drugs producing absorption.

{27.} L   [89] When painters have dyed gold-solder, they call it orobitis, vetch-like, and distinguish two kinds, the purified which is kept for a cosmetic, and the liquid, in which the little balls are made into a paste with a liquid. Both of these kinds are made in Cyprus, but the most highly valued is in Armenia and the second best in Macedonia, while the greatest quantity is produced in Spain, the highest recommendation in the latter being the quality of reproducing as closely as possible the colour in a bright green blade of corn. [90] We have before now seen at the shows given by the emperor Nero the sand of the circus sprinkled with gold-solder when the emperor in person was going to give an exhibition of chariot-driving wearing a coat of that colour. The unlearned multitude of artisans distinguish three varieties of the substance, the rough, which is valued at 7 denarii a pound, the middling, which is 5 denarii, and the crushed, also called the grass-green kind, 3 denarii. Before applying the sandy variety they put on a preliminary coating of black dye and pure white chalk: [91] these serve to hold the gold-solder and give a softness of colour. As the pure chalk is of a very unctuous consistency and extremely tenacious owing to its smoothness, it is sprinkled with a coat of black, to prevent the extreme whiteness of the chalk from imparting a pale hue to the gold-solder. The yellow gold-solder is thought to derive its name from the plant yellow-weed, which is itself often pounded up with steel-blue and applied for painting instead of' gold-solder, making a very inferior and counterfeit kind of colour.

{28.} L   [92] Gold-solder is also used in medicine, mixed with wax and olive oil, for cleansing wounds; likewise applied dry by itself it dries wounds and draws them together. It is also given in cases of quinsy or asthma, to be taken as an electuary with honey. It acts as an emetic, and also is used as an ingredient in salves for sores in the eyes and in green plasters for relieving pains, and drawing together scars. This kind of gold-solder is called by medical men remedial solder, and is not the same as orobitis.

{29.} L   [93] The goldsmiths also use a special gold-solder of their own for soldering gold, and according to them it is from this that all the other substances with a similar green colour take the name. The mixture is made with Cyprian copper verdigris and the urine of a boy who has not reached puberty with the addition of soda; this is ground with a pestle made of Cyprian copper in mortars of the same metal, and the Latin name for the mixture is santerna. It is in this way used in soldering the gold called silvery-gold; a sign of its having been so treated is if the application of borax gives it brilliance. On the other hand coppery gold shrinks in size and becomes dull, and is difficult to solder; for this purpose a solder is made by adding some gold and one seventh as much silver to the materials above specified, and grinding them up together.

{30.} L   [94] While speaking of this it will be well to annex the remaining particulars, so as to occasion all-round admiration for Nature. The proper solder for gold is the one described; for iron, potter's clay; for copper in masses, cadmea; for copper in sheets, alum; for lead and marble, resin. Black lead, however, is joined by means of white lead, and white lead to white lead by using oil; stagnum likewise with copper filings, and silver with stagnnm. For smelting copper and iron pine-wood makes the best fuel, though Egyptian papyrus can also be used; gold is best smelted with a fire made of chaff. Water sets fire to quicklime and Thracian stone, and olive-oil puts it out; fire however is most readily quenched by vinegar, mistletoe and eggs. Earth it is quite impossible to ignite, but charcoal gives a more powerful heat if it is burned till it goes out and then catches fire again.

Following sections (95-164)



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