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Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 37 ,   sections 1-106


Translated by D.E.Eichholz (1962), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.


  ← Book 36

{1.} L   [1] In order that the work that I have undertaken may be complete, it remains for me to discuss gemstones. Here Nature's grandeur is gathered together within the narrowest limits; and in no domain of hers evokes more wonder in the minds of many who set such store by the variety, the colours, the texture and the elegance of gems that they think it a crime to tamper with certain kinds by engraving them as signets, although this is the prime reason for their use; while some they consider to be beyond price and to defy evaluation in terms of human wealth. Hence very many people find that a single gemstone alone is enough to provide them with a supreme and perfect aesthetic experience of the wonders of Nature.

[2] The origin of the use of gemstones and the beginning of our present enthusiasm for them, which has blazed into so violent a passion, I have already discussed to some extent in my references to gold and to rings. According to the myths, which offer a pernicious misinterpretation of Prometheus' fetters, the wearing of rings originated on the crags of the Caucasus. It was of this rock that a fragment was for the first time enclosed in an iron bezel and placed on a finger; and this, we are told, was the first ring, and this the first gemstone.

{2.} L   [3] Hence arose the esteem in which gemstones are held; and this soared into such a passion that to Polycrates of Samos {c. 540 BC}, the overlord of islands and coasts, the voluntary sacrifice of a single gemstone seemed a sufficient atonement for his prosperity, which even he himself, the happy recipient, owned to he excessive. Thereby he hoped to settle his account with the fickleness of Fortune. Clearly he supposed that he would be fully indemnified against her ill-will if he, who was weary of unremitting happiness, suffered this one unhappy experience. Accordingly, he put out in a boat and threw the ring into deep water. [4] The ring, however, was seized as bait by a huge fish, fit for a king, which restored the ring as an evil omen to its owner in his own kitchen, thanks to Fortune's treacherous intervention. The gem, it is agreed, was a sardonyx and is displayed in Rome (if we can believe that this is the original stone) in the temple of Concord, set in a golden horn. It was presented by the empress and is ranked almost last in a collection containing many gems that are valued more highly.

{3.} L   [5] After this ring, the most renowned gemstone is that of another king, the famous Pyrrhus who fought a war against Rome. He is said to have possessed an agate on which could be seen the Nine Muses with Apollo holding his lyre. This was due not to any artistic intention, but to nature unaided; and the markings spread in such a way that even the individual Muses had their appropriate emblems allotted to them. [6] Apart from these stones, my authorities can produce no gems famous enough to be specially recorded. They merely state that Ismenias the pipe-player was in the habit of wearing a large number of brilliant stones and that there is a story associated with his vanity. In Cyprus a 'smaragdus' with the figure of Amymone engraved upon it was offered for sale at a price of six gold pieces. Ismenias ordered the sum to be paid and, when two of the pieces were returned to him, he exclaimed, 'Heavens! I've been done. The stone has been robbed of much of its value.' [7] It is Ismenias who appears to have brought in the fashion whereby all musical accomplishments came to be assessed partly in terms of this kind of lavish display. This was the case with his contemporary and rival Dionysodorus. Consequently, Ismenias seemed to be equalled through this very circumstance by a man who was only third among the musicians of the time. As for Nicomachus, he is said to have possessed merely large numbers of stones chosen without any discrimination.

[8] But it is more or less accidentally that in prefacing the present volume I have quoted these instances as a criticism of those despicable people who in making such a display of their gems claim the right to show the world that their vanity and conceit is that of a piper.

{4.} L   And now to resume: the gemstone displayed as that of Polycrates is in its natural state, unmarked by engravings. In the time of Ismenias, many years later, it seems evident that it had become customary to engrave even 'smaragdi.' This impression is supported, moreover, by an edict of Alexander the Great forbidding his likeness to be engraved on this stone by anyone except Pyrgoteles, who was undoubtedly the most brilliant artist in this field. Next to him in fame have been Apollonides, Cronius and the man who made the excellent likeness of the deified Augustus which his successors have used as their seal, namely Dioscurides. [9] Sulla as dictator always used a signet representing the surrender of Jugurtha. We learn from our authorities also that the native of Intercatia, whose father had been slain by Scipio Aemilianus after challenging him to single combat, used a. signet representing this fight. Hence the familiar witticism made by Stilo Praeconinus, who remarked, 'What would he have done if Scipio had been killed by his father?' [10] The deified Augustus at the beginning of his career used a signet engraved with a sphinx, having found among his mother's rings two such signets which were so alike as to be indistinguishable. During the Civil Wars, one of these was used by his personal advisers, whenever he himself was absent, for signing any letters and proclamations which the circumstances required to be despatched in his name. The recipients used to make a neat joke saying 'the Sphinx brings its problems.' Of course, the frog signet belonging to Maecenas was also greatly feared because of the contributions of money that it demanded. In later years Augustus, wishing to avoid insulting comments about the sphinx, signed his documents with a likeness of Alexander the Great.

{5.} L   [11] The first Roman to own a collection of gemstones (for which we normally use the foreign term 'dactyliotheca,' or 'ring cabinet') was Sulla's stepson Scaurus. For many years there was no other until Pompeius the Great dedicated in the Capitol among his other offerings a ring cabinet that had belonged to King Mithridates. This, as Varro and other authorities of the period confirm, was far inferior to that of Scaurus. Pompeius' example was followed by Julius Caesar, who during his dictatorship consecrated six cabinets of gems in the temple of Venus Genetrix, and by Marcellus, Octavia's son, who dedicated one in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine.

{6.} L   [12] However, it was this victory of Pompeius over Mithridates that made fashion veer to pearls and gemstones. The victories of Lucius Scipio and of Gnaeus Manlius {189 BC} had done the same for chased silver, garments of cloth of gold and dining couches inlaid with bronze; and that of Mummius {146 BC} for Corinthian bronzes and fine paintings. To make my point clearer, I shall append statements taken directly from official records of Pompeius' triumphs. [13] Thus, Pompeius' third triumph was held on his own birthday, September 29th of the year in which Marcus Piso and Marcus Messala were consuls {61 BC}, to celebrate his conquest of the pirates, Asia, Pontus and all the peoples and kings mentioned in the seventh volume of this work { 7.98 }. In this triumph, then, there was carried in the procession a gaming-board complete with a set of pieces, the board being made of two precious minerals and measuring three feet broad and four feet long. And in case anyone should doubt that our natural resources have become exhausted seeing that today no gems even approach such a size, there rested on this board a golden moon weighing 30 pounds. [14] There were also displayed three gold dining couches; enough gold vessels inlaid with gems to fill nine display stands; three gold figures of Minerva, Mars and Apollo respectively; thirty-three pearl crowns; a square mountain of gold with deer, lions and every variety of fruit on it and a golden vine entwined around it; and a grotto of pearls, on the top of which there was a sundial. Furthermore, there was Pompeius' portrait rendered in pearls, that portrait so pleasing with the handsome growth of hair swept back from the forehead, the portrait of that noble head revered throughout the world - that portrait, I say, that portrait was rendered in pearls. Here it was austerity that was defeated and extravagance that more truly celebrated its triumph. [15] Never, I think, would his surname 'the Great' have survived among the stalwarts of that age had he celebrated his first triumph {81 BC} in this fashion! To think that it is of pearls, Great Pompeius, those wasteful things meant only for women, of pearls, which you yourself cannot and must not wear, that your portrait is made! To think that this is how you make yourself seem valuable! Is not then the trophy that you placed upon the summit of the Pyrenees a better likeness of yourself? [16] This, to be sure, would have been a gross and foul disgrace were it not rather to be deemed a cruel omen of Heaven's wrath. That head, so ominously manifested without its body in oriental splendour, bore a meaning which even then could not be mistaken. But as for the rest of that triumph, how worthy it was of a good man and true! 200,000,000 sesterces were given to the State, 100,000,000 to the commanders and quaestors who had guarded the coasts and 6000 to each soldier. [17] However, he merely made it easier for us to excuse the conduct of the Emperor Gaius when, apart from other effeminate articles of clothing, he wore slippers sewn with pearls, or that of the Emperor Nero, when he had sceptres, actors' masks and travelling couches adorned with pearls. Why, we seem to have lost even the right to criticize cups and other pieces of household equipment inlaid with gems or, again, rings with stones set in open bezels. For compared with Pompeius', there is no extravagance that can be considered to have been so harmful.

{7.} L   [18] It was the same victory that brought myrrhine ware for the first time to Rome. Pompeius was the first to dedicate myrrhine bowls and cups, which he set aside from the spoils of his triumphs for Jupiter of the Capitol. Such vessels immediately passed into ordinary use, and there was a demand even for display stands and tableware. Lavish expenditure on this fashion is increasing every day ..., an ex-consul, drank from a myrrhine cup for which he had given 70,000 sesterces, although it held just three pints. He was so fond of it that he would gnaw its rim; and yet the damage he thus caused only enhanced its value, and there is no other piece of myrrhine ware even today that has a higher price set upon it. [19] The amount of money squandered by this same man upon the other articles of this material in his possession can be gauged from their number, which was so great that, when Nero took them away from the man's children and displayed them, they filled the private theatre in his gardens across the Tiber, a theatre which was large enough to satisfy even Nero's desire to sing before a full house at the time when he was rehearsing for his appearance in Pompeius' theatre. It was at this time that I saw the pieces of a single broken cup included in the exhibition. It was decided that these, like the body of Alexander, should be preserved in a kind of catafalque for display, presumably as a sign of the sorrows of the age and the ill-will of Fortune. [20] When the ex-consul Titus Petronius was facing death, he broke, to spite Nero, a myrrhine dipper that had cost him 300,000 sesterces, thereby depriving the Emperor's dining-room table of this legacy. Nero, however, as was proper for an emperor, outdid everyone by paying 1,000,000 sesterces for a single bowl. That one who was acclaimed as a victorious general and as Father of his Country should have paid so much in order to drink is a detail that we must formally record.

{8.} L   [21] Myrrhine vessels come to us from the East. There the substance is found in several otherwise unremarkable localities, particularly within the kingdom of Parthia. It is in Carmania, however, that the finest specimens exist. The substance is thought to be a liquid which is solidified underground by heat. In size the pieces are never larger than a small display stand, while in bulk they rarely equal the drinking vessels that we have discussed. They shine, but without intensity; indeed, it would be truer to say that they glisten rather than shine. Their value lies in their varied colours: the veins, as they revolve, repeatedly vary from purple to white or a mixture of the two, the purple becoming fiery or the milk-white becoming red as though the new colour were passing through the vein. [22] Some people particularly appreciate the edges of a piece, where colours may be reflected such as we observe in the inner part of a rainbow. Others prefer thick veins (any trace of transparency or fading is always a fault) and also specks and spots. These spots do not protrude, but are usually flattened, like warts on the body. The smell of the substance is also a merit.

{9.} L   [23] A cause contrary to the one mentioned is responsible for creating rock-crystal, for this is hardened by excessively intense freezing. At any rate, it is found only in places where the winter snows freeze most thoroughly; and that it is a kind of ice is certain: the Greeks have named it accordingly. Rock-crystal also comes to us from the East, for that of India is preferred to any other. It is found also in Asia Minor, where a very poor variety occurs around Alabanda and Orthosia and in the neighbouring districts, and likewise in Cyprus: in Europe excellent rock-crystal occurs in the ranges of the Alps. [24] Juba assures us that it is to be found also on an island called Necron, or Island of the Dead, in the Red Sea facing Arabia, as well as on the neighbouring one which produces peridot: here, according to him, a piece measuring a cubit in length was dug up by Ptolemy's officer Pythagoras. Cornelius Bocchus mentions, furthermore, that rock-crystal of quite exceptional weight was found in Portugal, in the Ammacensian mountains, when wells were being sunk to water-level. [25] The surprising remark is made by Xenocrates of Ephesus that in Asia Minor and Cyprus rock-crystal is turned up by the plough, for previously it was not thought to occur in soil, but only amidst rocks. A more plausible statement made by the same Xenocrates is that it is also often carried down by torrents. Sudines maintains that it occurs only in places that face south. What is certain is that it is not found in well-watered localities, however cold the district may be, even if it is one where the rivers freeze down to the bed. [26] The inevitable conclusion is that rock-crystal is formed of moisture from the sky falling as pure snow. For this reason, it cannot stand heat and is rejected except as a receptacle for cold drinks. Why it is formed with hexagonal faces cannot be readily explained; and any explanation is complicated by the fact that, on the one hand, its terminal points are not symmetrical and that, on the other, its faces are so perfectly smooth that no craftsmanship could achieve the same effect.

{10.} L   [27] The largest mass of rock-crystal ever seen by us is that which was dedicated in the Capitol by Livia, the wife of Augustus: this weighs about 150 pounds. Xenocrates, just mentioned, records that as. he saw a vessel that could hold six gallons, and some authors mention one from India with a capacity of 4 pints. What I myself can unequivocally affirm is that among the rocks of the Alps it generally forms in such inaccessible places that it has to be removed by men suspended from ropes. Experts are familiar with the signs that indicate its presence. [28] Pieces of rock-crystal are impaired by numerous defects, for example by rough, solder-like excrescences, cloudy spots, occlusions of moisture that are sometimes hidden within it, or hard yet brittle cores, and also what are known as 'salt-specks.' Some specimens display a bright red rust, and others fibres that look like flaws. These can be concealed by the engraver. Pieces, however, that have no defects are preferably left unengraved: these are known to the Greeks as 'acenteta,' or 'lacking a core,' and their colour is that of clear water, not of foam. Finally, the weight of a piece is a part of its value. I find that among doctors there is considered to be no more effective method of cauterizing parts that need such treatment than by means of a crystal ball so placed as to intercept the sun's rays. [29] Rock-crystal provides yet another instance of a crazy addiction, for not many years ago a respectable married woman, who was by no means rich, paid 150,000 sesterces for a single dipper.

Nero, on receiving a message that all was lost, broke two crystal cups in a final outburst of rage by dashing them to the ground. This was the vengeance of one who wished to punish his whole generation, to make it impossible for any other man to drink from these cups. Once it has been broken, rock-crystal cannot be mended by any method whatsoever. Glass-ware has now come to resemble rock-crystal in a remarkable manner, but the effect has been to flout the laws of Nature and actually to increase the value of the former without diminishing that of the latter.

{11.} L   [30] The next place among luxuries, although as yet it is fancied only by women, is held by amber. All the three substances now under discussion enjoy the same prestige as precious stones; but whereas there are proper reasons for this in the case of the two former substances, since rock-crystal vessels are used for cold drinks and myrrhine-warc for drinks both hot and cold, not even luxury has yet succeeded in inventing a justification for using amber.

[31] Here is an opportunity for exposing the falsehoods of the Greeks. I only ask my readers to endure these with patience since it is important for mankind just to know that not all that the Greeks have recounted deserves to be admired. The story how, when Phaethon was struck by the thunderbolt, his sisters through their grief were transformed into poplar trees, and how every year by the banks of the River Eridanus, which we call the Po, they shed tears of amber, known to the Greeks as 'electrum,' since they call the sun 'Elector' or 'the Shining One' - this story has been told by numerous poets, the first of whom, I believe, were Aeschylus, Philoxenus, Euripides, Nicander and Satyrus. Italy provides clear evidence that this story is false. [32] More conscientious Greek writers have mentioned islands in the Adriatic named the Electrides, to which, they say, amber is carried along by the Po. It is quite certain, however, that no islands of this name ever existed there, and indeed that there are no islands so situated as to be within reach of anything carried downstream by the Po. Incidentally, Aeschylus says that the Eridanus is in Iberia - that is, in Spain - and that it is also called the Rhone, while Euripides and Apollonius, for their part, assert that the Rhone and the Po meet on the coast of the Adriatic. But such statements only make it easier to pardon their ignorance of amber when their ignorance of geography is so great. [33] More cautious but equally misguided writers have described how on inaccessible rocks at the head of the Adriatic there stand trees which at the rising of the Dog-star shed this gum. Theophrastus states { de Lap. 29 } that amber is dug up in Liguria, while Chares states that Phaethon died in Ethiopia on an island the Greek name of which is the Isle of Ammon, and that here is his shrine and oracle, and here the source of amber. Philemon declares that it is a mineral which is dug up in two regions of Scythia, in one of which it is of a white, waxy colour and is called 'electrum,' while in the other it is tawny and known as 'sualiternicum.' [34] Demostratus calls amber 'lyncurium,' or 'lynx-urine,' and alleges that it is formed of the urine of the wild beasts known as lynxes, the males producing the kind that is tawny and fiery in colour, and the females, that which is fainter and light in colour. According to him, others call it 'langurium' and state that the beasts, which live in Italy, are 'languri.' Zenothemis calls the same beasts 'langes' and assigns them a habitat on the banks of the Po, while Sudines writes that a tree which produces amber in Liguria is called 'lynx.' [35] Metrodorus also holds the same opinion. Sotacus believes that it flows from crags in Britain called the Electrides. Pytheas speaks of an estuary of the Ocean named Metuonis and extending for 750 miles, the shores of which are inhabited by a German tribe, the Guiones. From here it is a day's sail to the Isle of Abalus, to which, he states, amber is carried in spring by currents, being an excretion consisting of solidified brine. He adds that the inhabitants of the region use it as fuel instead of wood and sell it to the neighbouring Teutones. [36] His belief is shared by Timaeus, who, however, calls the island Basilia. Philemon denies the suggestion that amber gives off a flame. Nicias insists on explaining amber as moisture from the sun's rays, as follows: he maintains that as the sun sets in the west its rays fall more powerfully upon the earth and leave there a thick exudation, which is later cast ashore in Germany by the tides of the Ocean. He mentions that amber is formed similarly in Egypt, where it is called 'sacal,' as well as in India, where the inhabitants find it more agreeable even than frankincense; [37] and that in Syria the women make whorls of it and call it 'harpax,' or 'the snatcher,' because it picks up leaves, straws and the fringes of garments. Theochrestus holds that it is washed up on the capes of the Pyrenees by the Ocean in turmoil, a view which is shared by Xenocrates, the most recent writer on the subject, who is still living. Asarubas records that near the Atlantic is a Lake Cephisis, called by the Moors Electrum, which, when thoroughly heated by the sun, produces from its mud amber that floats upon the surface of its waters. [38] Mnaseas speaks of a district in Africa called Sicyon and of a River Crathis flowing into the Ocean from a lake, on the shores of which live the birds known as Meleager's Daughters or Penelope Birds. Here amber is formed in the manner described above. Theomenes tells us that close to the Greater Syrtes is the Garden of the Hesperides and a pool called Electrum, where there are poplar trees from the tops of which amber falls into the pool, and is gathered by the daughters of Hesperus. [39] Ctesias states that in India there is a River Hypobarus, a name which indicates that it is the bringer of all blessings. It flows from the north into the eastern Ocean near a thickly wooded mountain, the trees of which produce amber. These trees are called 'psitthacorae,' a word which means 'luscious sweetness.' Mithridates writes that off the coast of Carmania there is an island called Serita covered with a kind of cedar, from which amber flows down on to the rocks. [40] Xenocrates asserts that amber in Italy is known not only as 'sucinum,' but also as 'thium'; and in Scythia as 'sacrium,' for there too it is found. He states that others suppose that it is produced from mud in Numidia. But all these authors are surpassed by the tragic poet Sophocles, and this greatly surprises me seeing that his tragedy is so serious and, moreover, his personal reputation in general stands so high, thanks to his noble Athenian lineage, his public achievements and his leadership of an army. Sophocles tells us how amber is formed in the lands beyond India from the tears shed for Meleager by the birds known as Meleager's Daughters. [41] Is it not amazing that he should have held this belief or have hoped to persuade others to accept it? Can one imagine, one wonders, a mind so childish and naive as to believe in birds that weep every year or that shed such large tears or that once migrated from Greece, where Meleager died, to the Indies to mourn for him? Well then, are there not many other equally fabulous stories told by the poets? Yes; but that anyone should seriously tell such a story regarding such a substance as this, a substance that every day of our lives is imported and floods the market and so confutes the liar, is a gross insult to man's intelligence and an insufferable abuse of our freedom to utter falsehoods.

[42] It is well established that amber is a product of islands in the Northern Ocean, that it is known to the Germans as 'glaesum' and that, as a result, one of these islands, the native name of which is Austeravia, was nicknamed by our troops Glaesaria, or Amber Island, when Caesar Germanicus was conducting operations there with his naval squadrons {AD 16} . To resume, amber is formed of a liquid seeping from the interior of a species of pine, just as the gum in a cherry tree or the resin in a pine bursts forth when the liquid is excessively abundant. The exudation is hardened by frost or perhaps by moderate heat, or else by the sea, after a spring tide has carded off the pieces from the islands. At all events, the amber is washed up on the shores of the mainland, being swept along so easily that it seems to hover in the water without settling on the seabed. [43] Even our forebears believed it to be a 'sucus,' or exudation, from a tree, and so named it 'sucinum.' That the tree to which it belongs is a species of pine is shown by the fact that it smells like a pine when it is rubbed, and burns like a pine torch, with the same strongly scented smoke, when it is kindled. It is conveyed by the Germans mostly into the province of Pannonia. From there it was first brought into prominence by the Veneti, known to the Greeks as the Enetoi, who are close neighbours of the Pannonians and live around the Adriatic. [44] The reason for the story associated with the River Po is quite clear, for even today the peasant women of Transpadane Gaul wear pieces of amber as necklaces, chiefly as an adornment, but also because of its medicinal properties. Amber, indeed, is supposed to be a prophylactic against tonsillitis and other affections of the pharynx, for the water near the Alps has properties that harm the human throat in various ways. [45] The distance from Carnuntum in Pannonia to the coasts of Germany from which amber is brought to us is some 600 miles, a fact which has been confirmed only recently. There is still living a Roman knight who was commissioned to procure amber by Julianus when the latter was in charge of a display of gladiators given by the Emperor Nero. This knight traversed both the trade-route and the coasts, and brought back so plentiful a supply that the nets used for keeping the beasts away from the parapet of the amphitheatre were knotted with pieces of amber. Moreover, the arms, biers and all the equipment used on one day, the display on each day being varied, had amber fittings. [46] The heaviest lump that was brought by the knight to Rome weighed 13 pounds. It is certain that amber is to be found also in India. Archelaus, who was king of Cappadocia, relates that it is brought from India in the rough state with pine bark adhering to it, and that it is dressed by being boiled in the fat of a sucking-pig. That amber originates as a liquid exudation is shown by the presence of certain objects, such as ants, gnats and lizards, that are visible inside it. These must certainly have stuck to the fresh sap and have remained trapped inside it as it hardened.

{12.} L   [47] There are several kinds of amber. Of these, the pale kind has the finest scent, but, like the waxy kind, it has no value. The tawny is more valuable; and still more so if it is transparent, but the colour must not be too fiery: not a fiery glare, but a mere suggestion of it, is what we admire in amber. The most highly approved specimens are the 'Palernian,' so called because they recall the colour of the wine: they are transparent and glow gently, so as to have, moreover, the agreeably mellow tint of honey that has been reduced by boiling. [48] However, it ought to be generally known also that amber can be tinted, as desired, with kid-suet and the root of alkanet. Indeed, it is now stained even with purple dye. To resume, when rubbing with the fingers draws forth the hot exhalation, amber attracts straw, dry leaves and linden-bark, just as the magnet attracts iron. Moreover, amber chippings, when steeped in oil, burn brighter and longer than the pith of flax. [49] Its rating among luxuries is so high that a human figurine, however small, is more expensive than a number of human beings, alive and in good health; and as a result it is quite impossible for a single rebuke to suffice. In the case of Corinthian bronzes, we are attracted by the appearance of the bronze, which is alloyed with gold and silver; and in the case of chased metalwork, by artistry and inventiveness. Vessels of fluorspar and rock-crystal have beauties which we have already described. Pearls can be carried about on the head, and gems on the finger. In short, every other substance for which we have a weakness pleases us because it lends itself either to display or to practical use, whereas amber gives us only the private satisfaction of knowing that it is a luxury. [50] Among the other portentous events of his career is the fact that Domitius Nero bestowed this name on the hair of his wife Poppaea, even going so far as to call it in one of his poems 'sucini' or 'amber-coloured,' for no defect lacks a term that represents it as an asset. From that time, respectable women began to aspire to this as a third possible colour for their hair.

However, amber is found to have some use in pharmacy, although it is not for this reason that women like it. It is of benefit to babies when it is attached to them as an amulet. [51] Callistratus says that it is good also for people of any age as a remedy for attacks of wild distraction and for strangury, both taken in liquid and worn as an amulet. This writer also introduces a fresh distinction, giving the name 'chryselectrum,' or 'gold amber,' to a kind which is golden in colour and has a most delightful appearance early in the day, but which very easily catches fire and flares up in a moment when it is close to flames. According to Callistratus, this kind of amber cures fevers and diseases when worn as an amulet on a necklace, affections of the ears when powdered and mixed with honey and rose oil, as well as weak sight if it is powdered and blended with Attic honey, and affections even of the stomach if it is either taken as a fine powder by itself or swallowed in water with mastic. Amber plays an important part also in the making of artificial transparent gems, particularly artificial amethysts, although, as I have mentioned, it can be dyed any colour.

{13.} L   [52] It is the obstinacy of our authorities that compels me to speak next of lyncurium, since, even when they refrain from asserting that this lyncurium is amber, they still claim that it is a gemstone, stating that it is formed indeed from the urine of the lynx, but also from a particular kind of earth. They say that the creature, bearing a grudge towards mankind, immediately conceals its urine, which forms a stone in the same place. [53] The stone is said to have the same fiery colour as amber, to be capable of being engraved and to attract not merely leaves or straws, but also shavings of copper and iron, a belief which even Theophrastus accepts { de Lap. 28 } on the authority of a certain Diocles. I for my part am of the opinion that the whole story is false and that no gemstone bearing this name has been seen in our time. Also false are the statements made simultaneously about its medical properties, to the effect that when it is taken in liquid it breaks up stone in the bladder, and that it relieves jaundice if it is swallowed in wine or even looked at.

{14.} L   [54] Now I shall discuss those kinds of gemstones that are acknowledged as such, beginning with the finest. And this shall not be my only aim, but to the greater profit of mankind I shall incidentally confute the abominable falsehoods of the Magi, since in very many of their statements about gems they have gone far beyond providing an alluring substitute for medical science into the realms of the supernatural.

{15.} L   [55] The most highly valued of human possessions, let alone gemstones, is the 'adamas,' which for long was known only to kings, and to very few of them. 'Adamas' was the name given to the 'knot of gold' found very occasionally in mines in association with gold and, so it seemed, formed only in gold. Our ancient authorities thought that it was found only in the mines of Ethiopia between the temple of Mercury and the island of Meroe, and stated that the specimens discovered were no larger than a cucumber seed and not unlike one in colour. [56] Now, for the first time, as many as six kinds of 'adamas' are recognized. There is the Indian, which is not formed in gold and has a certain affinity with rock-crystal, which it resembles in respect of its transparency and its smooth faces meeting at six corners. It tapers to a point in two opposite directions and is all the more remarkable because it is like two whorls joined together at their broadest parts. It can be as large even as a hazel nut. Similar to the Indian, only smaller, is the Arabian, which is, moreover, formed under similar conditions. The rest have a silvery pallor and are liable to be formed only in the midst of the finest gold. [57] All these stones can be tested upon an anvil, and they are so recalcitrant to blows that an iron hammer head may split in two and even the anvil itself be unseated. Indeed, the hardness of 'adamas' is indescribable, and so too that property whereby it conquers fire and never becomes heated. Hence it derives its name, because, according to the meaning of the term in Greek, it is the unconquerable force. One of these stones is called in Greek 'cenchros,' or millet seed, and is like a millet seed in size. A second is known as the Macedonian and is found in the goldmines of Philippi. This is equal in size to a cucumber seed. [58] Next comes the so-called Cyprian, which is found in Cyprus and tends towards the colour of copper, but has potent medical properties, which I shall describe later. After this, there is the 'siderites,' or 'iron stone,' which shines like iron and exceeds the rest in weight, but has different properties. For it can not only be broken by hammering but also be pierced by another 'adamas.' This can happen also to the Cyprian kind, and, in a word, these stones, being untrue to their kind, possess only the prestige of the name they bear. 

[59] Now throughout the whole of this work I have tried to illustrate the agreement and disagreement that exist in Nature, the Greek terms for which are respectively 'sympathia,' or 'natural affinity,' and 'antipathia,' or 'natural aversion.' Here more clearly than anywhere can these principles be discerned. For this 'unconquerable force' that defies Nature's two most powerful substances, iron and fire, can be broken up by goat's blood. But it must be steeped in blood that is fresh and still warm, and even so needs many hammer blows. Even then, it may break all but the best anvils and iron hammers. [60] To whose researches or to what accident must we attribute this discovery? What inference could have led anyone to use the foulest of creatures for testing a priceless substance such as this? Surely it is to divinities that we must attribute such inventions and all such benefits. We must not expect to find reason anywhere in Nature, but only the evidence of will! When an 'adamas' is successfully broken it disintegrates into splinters so small as to be scarcely visible. These are much sought after by engravers of gems and are inserted by them into iron tools because they make hollows in the hardest materials without difficulty. [61] The 'adamas' has so strong an aversion to the magnet that when it is placed close to the iron it prevents the iron from being attracted away from itself. Or again, if the magnet is moved towards the iron and seizes it, the 'adamas' snatches the iron and takes it away. 'Adamas' prevails also over poisons and renders them powerless, dispels attacks of wild distraction and drives groundless fears from the mind. For this reason the Greeks sometimes call it 'anancites,' or 'compulsive.' Metrodorus of Scepsis is alone, so far as I know from my own reading, in stating that 'adamas' is found likewise in Germany, namely on the island of Basilia, which also produces amber, and in preferring this 'adamas' to that of Arabia. There can be no doubt that this statement is untrue.

{16.} L   [62] Next in value in our estimation come the pearls of India and Arabia, which we discussed in the ninth book { 9.106 } among the products of the sea. The third rank among gemstones is assigned for several reasons to the 'smaragdus.' Certainly, no colour has a more pleasing appearance. For although we gaze eagerly at young plants and at leaves, we look at 'smaragdi' with all the more pleasure because, compared with them, there is nothing whatsoever that is more intensely green. [63] Moreover, they alone of gems, when we look at them intently, satisfy the eye without cloying it. Indeed, even after straining our sight by looking at another object, we can restore it to its normal state by looking at a 'smaragdus'; and engravers of gemstones find that this is the most agreeable means of refreshing their eyes: so soothing to their feeling of fatigue is the mellow green colour of the stone. Apart from this property, 'smaragdi' appear larger when they are viewed at a distance because they reflect their colour upon the air around them? They remain the same in sunlight, shadow or lamplight, always shining gently and allowing the vision to penetrate to their further extremity owing to the ease with which light passes through them, a property that pleases us also in respect of water. [64] 'Smaragdi' are generally concave in shape, so that they concentrate the vision. Because of these properties, mankind has decreed that 'smaragdi' must be preserved in their natural state and has forbidden them to be engraved. In any case, those of Scythia and Egypt are so hard as to be unaffected by blows. When 'smaragdi' that are tabular in shape are laid flat, they reflect objects just as mirrors do. The Emperor Nero used to watch the fights between gladiators in a reflecting 'smaragdus.'

{17.} L   [65] There are twelve kinds of 'smaragdus.' The most notable is the Scythian, so called from the nation in whose territory it is found. No kind is deeper in colour or more free from defects: it differs as widely in quality from the other 'smaragdi' as they from the other gems. Next to this in esteem, as also in locality, is the Bactrian. These stones are said to be gathered by the natives in the fissures of rocks when the Etesians blow. For at this season the ground is uncovered and the stones glitter here and there because the sands of the desert are shifted violently by these winds. These stones, however, are said to be much smaller than the Scythian. Third in order come those of Egypt, which are dug near Coptos, a city of the Thebaid, from mines in the hills.

[66] The other kinds are found in copper-mines, and so the first place among them is held by the stones of Cyprus. Their special asset is their colour, which is limpid without being at all faint. On the contrary, it combines body and clarity, and, wherever one peers through the stones, reproduces the transparency of seawater, the stones being in an equal degree translucent and brilliant. In other words, they dissipate their colour and also allow the sight to penetrate within. There is a story that in this island there stood on the burial-mound of a prince named Hermias, not far from the tunny-fisheries, the marble statue of a lion, into which had been inserted eyes made of 'smaragdus'; and these, it is said, blazed so brightly, even far below the surface of the sea, that the tunnies fled in tenor, and the fishermen were long puzzled by this strange behaviour until finally they changed the gemstones in the eye-sockets.

{18.} L   [67] But since high prices are so freely paid for these stones, it is only right that we should point out their defects, some of which are common to every kind, while others are regional peculiarities, as with human beings. Thus the Cyprian stones show various shades of sea-green, and these may be more or less intense in different parts of the same 'smaragdus,' so that the stones do not always maintain the familiar uniform deep colour of the Scythian variety. Moreover, some stones are traversed by a 'shadow'; this makes the colour dull, and the fainter the colour, the more serious the defect. [68] In accordance with these defects, 'smaragdi' are divided into classes, some, which are called 'blind,' being opaque, while others, instead of being transparent to translucent, are sub-opaque. Some again are variegated, and some enveloped in a 'cloud.' This differs from the 'shadow' mentioned above. 'Cloud' is a defect belonging to a stone with a whitish hue in it, when the green appearance does not pervade the whole stone, but the vision is either blocked beneath the surface or intercepted at the surface by this white inclusion. Filaments, specks like salt and inclusions resembling lead are also defects; and these are common to nearly all varieties.

[69] Next in esteem to the Cyprian 'smaragdi' come the Ethiopian, which, according to Juba, are found at a distance of twenty-five days' journeying from Coptos, and are bright green, although they are rarely flawless or uniform in tint. Democritus includes in this class the Thermiaean and Persian stones. He states that the former are massive and convex, while the Persian stones, although they are not transparent, satisfy the eye with their agreeably uniform colour without allowing it to see within. He compares them to the eyes of cats and leopards, which likewise shine without being transparent, and mentions, moreover, that the stones are dimmed in sunlight, glisten in shadow and shine farther than other stones. [70] All these varieties have a further defect in that their colour may be that of gall or rancid oil, so that they may be bright and clear, and yet not green. These faults are particularly noticeable in the Attic stones found in the silver-mines at a place called Thoricus. They are always less massive than the others, but are more handsome when seen at a distance. These stones too are often marred by lead-like inclusions, as a result of which they resemble lead when they are seen in sunlight. One peculiarity is that some of these stones show the effects of age as their green colour gradually fades away and, moreover, are damaged by exposure to the sun. [71] After these come the Median stones, which show a great variety of tints and on occasion are even blended to some extent with lapis lazuli. These stones have undulating bands and contain inclusions resembling various objects, for example, poppy heads, birds, the young of animals or feathers. Such stones, in spite of their varied colours, seem to be green by nature, since they may be improved by being steeped in oil and there is no variety that displays larger specimens. [72] The 'smaragdi' of Chalcedon have perhaps completely disappeared now that the copper-mines in the district have failed; and, in any case, they were always worthless and very small. Moreover, they were brittle and of a nondescript colour, this being more or less bright according to the angle at which it was viewed, like the green feathers in a peacock's tail or on a pigeon's neck. Furthermore, they were marked with veins and were scaly. [73] They had also a characteristic defect called 'sarcion,' that is a kind of fleshy growth on the stone. There is a mountain known as Smaragdites, or Emerald Mountain, near Chalcedon, on which they used to be gathered. Juba states that a 'smaragdus' known as 'chlora,' or 'green stone,' is used as an inlay in decorating houses in Arabia; and likewise the stone which the Egyptians call 'alabastrites.' Several of our most recent authorities mention not only Laconian 'smaragdi,' which are dug on Mount Taygetus and resemble the Median variety, but also others that are found in Sicily.

{19.} L   [74] Among the 'smaragdi' we include also a gem that comes from Persia known as the 'tanos,' which is of an ugly shade of green and is full of flaws within and another from Cyprus, the 'chalcosmaragdna,' or 'copper smaragdus,' which is clouded by veins resembling copper. Theophrastus records { de Lap. 24 } that in Egyptian records are to be found statements to the effect that to one of the kings a king of Babylon once sent as a gift a 'smaragdus' measuring four cubits in length and three in breadth; and that there existed in Egypt in a temple of Jupiter an obelisk made of four 'smaragdi' and measuring forty cubits in height and four cubits in breadth at one extremity and two at the other. [75] He states, moreover, that at the time when he was writing there existed in the temple of Hercules at Tyre a large square pillar of 'smaragdus,' unless this was rather to be regarded as a 'false smaragdus'; for, according to him, this is another variety that is found.

He mentions also { de Lap. 27 } that there was once discovered in Cyprus a stone of which half was a 'smaragdus' and half an 'iaspis,' because the liquid matter had not yet been completely transformed. Apion, surnamed Plistonices, or 'the Cantankerous,' has lately left on record the statement that there still exists in the Egyptian labyrinth a large statue of Serapis, nine cubits high, made of 'smaragdus.'

{20.} L   [76] Many people consider the nature of beryls to be similar to, if not identical with, that of emeralds. Beryls are produced in India and are rarely found elsewhere. All of them are cut by skilled craftsmen to a smooth hexagonal shape since their colour, which is deadened by the dullness of an unbroken surface, is enhanced by the reflection from the facets. If they are cut in any other way they lack brilliance. The most highly esteemed beryls are those that reproduce the pure green of the sea, while next in value are the so-called 'chrysoberyls.' These are slightly paler, but have a vivid colour approaching that of gold. [77] A variety closely akin to these, but still a little paler and by some regarded as a special kind is the so-called 'chrysoprasus.' Fourth in order are reckoned the 'hyacinthizontes,' or 'sapphire-blue beryls,' and fifth the so-called 'aeroides,' or 'sky-blue' variety. After these come the 'waxy' and then the 'oily' beryls, that is, beryls coloured like olive oil. Finally, there are those that resemble rock-crystal. These beryls generally contain filaments and impurities, and besides are faint in colour; and all these features like are defects. [78] The Indians are extraordinarily fond of elongated beryls and claim that they are the only precious stones that are preferably left without a gold setting. Consequently, they pierce them and string them on elephants' bristles. They are all agreed that a stone of perfect quality should not be pierced, and in this case they merely enclose the head of the stone in a convex gold cap. They prefer to shape beryls into long prisms rather than into gems simply because length is their most attractive feature. [79] Some people are of the opinion that they are formed from the very start as prisms and also that their appearance is improved by perforation, when a white cloudy core is removed and there is, in addition, the reflection from the gold or, in any case, the thickness of the material through which the light must penetrate is reduced. Besides those already mentioned, beryls show the same defects as 'smaragdi,' and also spots like whitlows. In our part of the world beryls, it is thought, are sometimes found in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea. The Indians have found a way of counterfeiting various precious stones, and beryls in particulars by staining rock-crystal.

{21.} L   [80] Beryls differ very little, and also very considerably, from opals, stones which yield precedence only to the 'smaragdus.' India, likewise, is the sole producer of these stones and combining, as they do, the brilliant qualities of the most valuable gems, they above all others description. They display the more subtle fires of the 'carbunculus,' the flashing purple of the amethyst and the sea-green tint of the 'smaragdus,' all combined together in incredible brilliance. [81] For some people the vivid colours resemble in their general effect the pigment known as azurite; for others, the flames from burning sulphur or from a fire that has been kindled with olive oil. The size of the stone is that of a hazel nut. Even among us history makes it famous, since there still exists even today a precious stone of this variety which caused Antony to outlaw a senator, Nonius, the son of the Nonius Struma who made the poet Catullus so indignant { Cat. 52.2 } when he saw him seated in the magistrate's chair, and the grandfather of Servilius Nonianus, who was consul in my time {AD 35} . This Nonius, when outlawed, fled, taking with him this ring alone of all his many possessions. [82] There is no doubt that at that time the value of the ring was 2,000,000 sesterces; but how amazing was Antony's savagery and extravagant caprice in outlawing a man for the sake of a gemstone, and, equally, how extraordinary was the obstinacy of Nonius in clinging to his 'doom,' when even wild creatures are believed to buy their safety by biting off the member which, as they know, endangers their lives, and leaving it behind for their pursuers!

{22.} L   [83] The defects of the opal are a colour tending towards that of the flower of the plant called heliotrope, or of rock-crystal or hail, as well as the occurrence of salt-like specks or rough places or dots that distract the eye. There is no stone which is harder to distinguish from the original when it is counterfeited, in glass by a cunning craftsman. The only test is by sunlight. When a false opal is held steadily between the thumb and finger against the rays of the sun there shines through the stone one unchanging colour which is spent at its source, whereas the radiance of the genuine stone continually changes and at different times scatters its colours more intensely from different parts of the stone, shedding a bright light on the fingers where it is held. [84] Owing to its exceptional beauty, this stone is commonly known by the Greek term 'paederos,' or 'Favourite,' but those who regard the 'paederos' as a separate variety a say that the Indian name for it is 'sangenon.' The 'paederos' is said to be found in Egypt and Arabia, in Pontus, where the quality is very poor, and also in Galatia, Thasos and Cyprus. Exceptional specimens of these latter stones have the charm of an opal, but they shine more softly and rarely lack roughness. The dominant colour of the 'paederos' is a mixture of sky-blue and purple, and the green of the 'smaragdus' is absent. Those in which the brilliance is darkened by the colour of wine are superior to those in which it is diluted with a watery tint.

{23.} L   [85] Up to this point there is agreement as to which stones are supreme, the question having been largely settled by a decree of our Women-councillors of State. There is less certainty regarding the stones about which men too pass judgement. In the case of men, it is an individual's caprice that sets a value upon an individual stone, and, above all, the rivalry that ensues. A case in point is that of the Emperor Claudius, when he took to wearing a 'smaragdus' or a sardonyx. But according to Demostratus, the first Roman to adopt a sardonyx was the elder Africanus {236-183 BC}, and hence arose the esteem which this gemstone enjoys at Rome. And so it is to this stone that I shall award the next place after the opal.

[86] Formerly, as is clear from the very name, sardonyx meant a stone with a layer of carnelian resting on a layer of white, that is, like flesh superimposed on a human fingernail, both parts of the stone being translucent. Such is the character of the Indian sardonyx according to Ismenias, Demostratus, Zenothemis and Sotacus. The last two writers call such other varieties of the stone as are opaque 'blind sardonyx.' [87] Those stones that have now usurped the name although they lack all trace of the carnelian of the Indian stones come from Arabia; and the sardonyx has come to be recognised in the guise of several colours, the base being black or else having the colour of azurite, while the 'nail' above is coloured vermilion and is banded with a thick white line, not without a suggestion of purple where the white shades into vermilion. Zenothemis writes that the sardonyx was not held in high regard by the Indians, though it might be actually large enough to be commonly made into sword hilts. [88] Indeed, as is generally known, in India the stone is exposed to view by the mountain streams. He states that in our part of the world, however, the sardonyx was popular from the beginning because it was almost the only gemstone which, when engraved as a signet, did not carry away the sealing wax with it. Later we persuaded the Indians to share our appreciation of it. There the common folk wear it pierced on a necklace; and this perforation is now a proof of Indian origin. The Arabian stones are remarkable for their whiteness, the band being brilliant and quite thick: it does not glimmer in the depths of the stone or on its sloping side, but shines on the convex surface of the gem and is, moreover, set off by a lower layer of the deepest black. [89] In the Indian stones we find that this layer has the colour of azure or horn. Moreover, their white band can have a kind of iridescent shimmer, while the surface is red like the shell of a crawfish. Incidentally, if the stones are coloured like honey or wine lees (the latter term in itself implying a defect) they are condemned; and again, also, if the white band is blurred instead of being defined, and similarly if it contains an intrusive patch of some other colour. For no colour must be broken by another in its own layer. There is also an Armenian sardonyx which is acceptable in every respect apart from the faintness of its (white) band.

{24.} L   [90] I must describe too the character of the onyx proper, which shares its name with the sardonyx. Elsewhere, this name is given to a stone, but here it is that of a gem. Sudines states that in onyx one finds a white band resembling a human fingernail, as well as the colour of the 'chrysolith,' the sard and the 'iaspis,' while Zenothemis mentions that the Indian onyx has several different colours, fiery red, black and that of horn, surrounded by a white layer as in an eye, and in some cases traversed by a slanting layer. Sotacus records also an Arabian onyx which differs from the Indian in that the latter displays a small fiery red layer surrounded by one or more white bands (the arrangement being unlike that of the Indian sardonyx, where the top red layer is a circle, and not, as in this instance, a dot). On the other hand, the Arabian onyx, according to him, is found to be black with white bands. [91] Satyrus states that there is an Indian onyx that is flesh-coloured, with a part of it resembling the 'carbunculus,' and a part, the 'chrysolith' and the amethyst. This kind he wholly rejects as spurious, asserting that a genuine onyx has several bands of different colours combined with others that are milk-white, the colours as the bands shade into each other being quite indescribable as they are reduced to a harmonious and delightfully agreeable unity.

We must not, however, postpone too long our discussion of the sard, which is similarly a separate component of the name it shares with the onyx; and as we make our way to this topic, we must describe the properties of all the other fiery red gemstones.

{25.} L   [92] The first rank among these is held by 'carbunculi,' so-called because of their fiery appearance, although they are not affected by fire and are therefore sometimes known as 'acaustoe,' or 'incombustible' stones. Two kinds of 'carbunculi' are the Indian and the Garamantic: the latter was called in Greek the Carthaginian because it was associated with the wealth of Great Carthage. To these varieties are added the Ethiopian and that of Alabanda, the latter being found, it is said, at Orthosia in Caria, but treated at Alabanda. Furthermore, in each variety there are so-called 'male' and 'female' stones, of which the former are the more brilliant, while the latter have a weaker lustre.

[93] Among the male stones, moreover, are to be observed some that are clearer than usual or of an unusually dark red glare, and some that shine from deep beneath their surface and blaze with exceptional brilliance in sunlight, while the best are the 'amethyst-coloured stones,' namely those in which the fiery red shade passes at the edge into amethyst-violet, and the next best, known as 'Syrtitae,' or 'Stones of Syrtis,' have a bright feathery lustre. All these stones are said to reveal themselves in ground where sunlight is reflected most powerfully. [94] Satyrus asserts that Indian 'carbunculi' lack brilliance and look generally flawed, with a 'parched' lustre; and that the Ethiopian stones look greasy and shed no lustre at all, but burn with a fire that is compressed within them. Callistratus holds that a 'carbunculus' ought to cast a brilliant, colourless refulgence, so that when placed on a surface it enhances the lustre of other stones that are clouded at the edges, thanks to its own glowing brilliance. Hence many people call such a stone the white 'carbunculus,' and the kind that shines more faintly the 'lignyzon,' or 'murky' stone. [95] Callistratus adds that Carthaginian 'carbunculi' are much smaller than others, and that the Indian stones can be hollowed into vessels holding as much as a pint. Archelaus writes that the Carthaginian stones have a somewhat swarthy appearance, but light up more intensely than the rest when they are viewed by firelight or sunlight, and at an angle. He mentions also that they appear purple indoors in shadow, and flame-red in the open air; that they sparkle when they are held against the sun, and that, when they are used as signets, they melt the wax, even in a very dark place. [96] Many writers state that the Indian stones arc brighter than the Carthaginian, and that conversely they become dull when viewed at an angle. They add that the male Carthaginian stones have a blazing star inside them, while the female stones shed all their radiance externally; and that the 'carbunculi' of Alabanda are darker than the rest, and rough. Around Miletus also, the earth produces stones of the same colour, which are not at all affected by fire. [97] Theophrastus assures us { de Lap. 33 } that 'carbunculi' are found both at Orchomenus in Arcadia and in Chios, the former, of which mirrors are made, being the darker. According to him, there are variegated stones, interspersed with white spots, from Troezen, and likewise from Corinth although the white in these Corinthian stones is yellowish. He mentions that 'carbunculi' are imported also from Marseilles. Bocchus writes that they are dug up too in the neighbourhood of Olisipo, but only with great difficulty, because the soil, which is clay, is baked hard by the sun.

{26.} L   [98] Nothing is harder than the attempt to distinguish the varieties of this stone, so great is the scope that they afford for the exercise of cunning, when craftsmen force the opaque stones to become translucent by placing foil beneath them. The duller stones, it is said, when steeped in vinegar for fourteen days shine with a lustre that persists for as many months. 'Carbunculi' are counterfeited very realistically in glass, but, as with other gems, the false ones can be detected on a grindstone, for their substance is softer and brittle. Artificial stones containing cores are detected by using grindstones and scales, stones made of glass paste being less heavy. On occasion, moreover, they contain small globules which shine like silver.

{27.} L   [99] There is also a stone called 'anthracitis,' which is dug up in Thesprotia and resembles charcoal. Statements that it is found in Liguria I consider to be false, unless it is a fact that it was found there when the statements were made. Among these stones there are said to be some that are surrounded by a white vein. The 'anthracitis' has the fiery colour of the stones previously mentioned, but it possesses one peculiar property: when it is touched its glow dies away and disappears, but when, on the other hand, it is soaked with water it blazes forth again.

{28.} L   [100] A stone that is closely akin to 'carbonculi' is the 'sandastros,' sometimes known also as the Garamantic stone in virtue of its character. It occurs in a part of India that hears the same name, and is found also in Southern Arabia. Its chief merit is that its fiery brilliance, displayed, as it were, in a transparent casing, glitters with golden particles that shine like stars within the stone, and always inside its structure and never upon its surface. Furthermore, there are religious associations attached to these stones, and we are told of their affinity with the stars, which exists because the starry particles with which they are embellished generally conform in their numbers and arrangement to the constellations of the Pleiades and Hyades. For this reason, they are regarded by astrologers as ritual objects. [101] Here too, the male stones may be distinguished by their deep colour and by a certain vitality, which imparts a tint to objects placed close to them. The Indian stones, it is said, even weaken the sight. The fire of the female stones is more mellow, and glows rather than kindles. Some prefer the Arabian stones to the Indian, and compare the former to the smoky 'chrysolithus.' Ismenias declares that because of its softness the 'sandastros' cannot be polished, and so fails to fetch a high price. Some people call the stone 'sandrisites.' What is universally agreed is that, the larger the number of starry particles, the higher the price. [102] Sometimes misunderstanding is caused by the similarity of the term 'sandaresus,' applied to a stone which Nicander calls 'sandaserion' and others 'sandaresos,' although there are certain writers who actually call this stone 'sandastros,' and our former stone 'sandaresus.' This latter stone likewise is found in India and preserves the name of its place of origin. Its colour is that of a green apple or green oil, and it is generally despised.

{29.} L   [103] To the same class of fiery red stones belongs the 'lychnis,' so called from the kindling of lamps, because at that time it is exceptionally beautiful. It is found around Orthosia and throughout Caria and the neighbouring regions, but occurs at its finest in India. 'Mild carbuncle' is the term sometimes applied to 'lychnis' of the second grade resembling the so-called 'Flower of Jove.' I find that there are other varieties as well, one of which has a purple and the other a scarlet sheen. These, when heated in the sun or by being rubbed between the fingers, are said to attract straws and papyrus fibres.

{30.} L   [104] It is said that the same power is exerted by the Carthaginian stone, although it is far less valuable than those previously mentioned. It is formed in the mountain country of the Nasamones by rains of divine origin, as the inhabitants like to think. The stones are found when they reflect the moonlight, particularly at full moon, and in former times were exported to Carthage. Archelaus records that brittle stones, full of veins and resembling a dying ember, are found in Egypt near Thebes. I find that drinking vessels used commonly to be made from this stone and from 'lychnis.' All these varieties, however, obstinately resist engraving and, when used as signets, retain a portion of the wax.

{31.} L   [105] On the contrary, sard, which shares a part of its name with sardonyx, is extremely useful for this purpose. The stone itself is a common one and was first discovered at Sardis, but the most valuable specimens are found near Babylon. When certain quarries are being opened up the stones come to light adhering to the rock like heart-wood. This mineral is said to be now exhausted in Persia, but sards are found in several other localities, for example in Paros and at Assos. In India it occurs in three varieties: there are red stones, those known as 'pioniae,' or 'fatty stones,' because of their greasy lustre, and finally a third kind that is backed with silver foil. [106] The Indian stones are translucent, whereas the Arabian are somewhat opaque. Others are found also in Epirus near Leucas and in Egypt; and these are backed with gold foil. Among sards too there are male and female stones, of which the former shine the more intensely, while the latter are less lively and have a duller lustre. In ancient times no gemstone was more commonly used than the sard - this, at any rate, is the gem that is flaunted in the plays of Menander and Philemon {c. 300 BC} - and no other translucent gems lose their lustre less readily when they are covered with moisture: olive oil affects them more than any other liquid. Of these stones, the honey-coloured meet with disapproval, which is even stronger in the case of those that look like earthenware.

Following sections (107-205)



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