Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 33
I. OUR topic now will be metals, and the actual resources employed to pay for commoditiesresources 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 trembleas if forsooth it were not possible that this may be an expression of the indignation of our holy parent. 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! 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!
II. 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. 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.
III. 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 lifehow 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. 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, saying that Glaucus exchanged gold armour worth 100 beeves with that of Diomede worth 9 beeves. And as a result of this custom even at Rome a fine under the old laws is priced in cattle.
IV. 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? 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. 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 Tarquin 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.' 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. This was the way in which Gaius Marius celebrated his triumph over Jugurtha, and it is recorded that he did not assume Jan.1, a gold ring till his third tenure of the consulship. 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 earringswithout mentioning finger-rings. 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, that men wore gold plaited in their hair and consequently I cannot say whether the use of gold originated from women.
V. 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 [390 B.C.] a thousand pounds' weight of gold could be produced. I am aware of the fact that in Pompey's 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 capturedthe 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. It follows that there was only 2,000 lbs. weight of gold at the outside when Rome was captured in its 364th year, although the census showed there were already 152,573 free citizens. From the same city 307 years later the gold that Gaius Marius [82 BC] the younger had conveyed to Palestrina from the conflagration of the temple of the Capitol and from all the other shrines amounted to 14,000 lbs., which with a placard above it to that effect was carried along in his triumphal procession by Sulla, as well as [81BC] 6,000 lbs. weight of silver. Sulla had likewise on the previous day carried in procession 15,000 lbs. of gold and 115,000 lbs. of silver as the proceeds of all the rest of his victories.
VI. 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 tbe general public to ascertain by daily enquiry from a few of the leading citizens; and this won him such great popularity with the common peoplehe 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 themthat he was appointed a curule aedile as a colleague of Quintus Anicius of Palestrina, 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. 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 [305 BC] and Lucius Sulpicius. 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. This event took place in the 449th year from the foundation of the city, and [305 B.C.] 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. 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 prietor wore an iron ring to the end of their livesfor instance, as recorded by Fenestella, Calpurnius and Manilius, the latter having been lieutenant-general under Gaius Marius in the war [112-106 BC] with Jugurtha, and, according to many authorities, the Lucius Fufidius to whom Scaurus dedicated his Autobiographywhile 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.
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) 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! 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. [AD. 41-5] 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.
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. 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. 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 slavesa 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. 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. Still the [523 BC] 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.
VII. 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 Praeconiuus, 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: when his late lamented Majesty 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. 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.
VIII. Finally in the ninth year in office of the Emperor Tiberius the Order of Knights was united [AD. 14-37] into a single body; and in the Consulship of Gaius [AD. 22]. Asinius Pollio and Gaius Antistius Vetus, 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. 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 [AD. 37-41] a fifth panel, and so much conceit has this occasioned that the panels which under his late lamented Majesty Augustus it had not been possible cases of men who are actually liberated slaves making to fill will not hold that order, and there are frequent 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 a member [AD 48] 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. It was the Gracchi who first instituted the name of Justices or Judges as the distinguishing name of that order of knightsseditiously 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.
IX. 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 Tuscany nine miles this side of Volsinii; and the name survived till after the time of Gaius Gracehus. At all events in the writings left by Junius, who owing to his friendship with Gaius Gracchus was called Gracehanus, 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.
X. 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.
XI. 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, who when the camp of the Latins at Lake Regillus had been [497 BC] 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 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.
XII. 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 braceletscalled 'Dardania' because the fashion came from the Dardanithe Celtic name for them is 'viriolae' and the Celtiberian 'viriae'; 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! 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 [AD 41-54] 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 informations; but all of this was however entirely abolished by the opportune rise to power of the Emperor Vespasian, by making the [AD 69-79] emperor equally accessible to all. Let this suffice for a discussion of the subject of gold rings and their employment.
XIII. 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 [275 BC] Pyrrhus. The as weighed one poundhence 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,' 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 'poundweighers,' 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.
Silver was first coined in the 485th year of the city. [269-8 BC] in the consulship of Quintus Ogulnius and Gaius Fabius, 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 sesterce 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. 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 dictator [217 BC] ship of Quintus Fabius Maximus, 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. 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 asses [89 B.C.] 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 [c. 104 B.C.] 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. The first gold coin was struck 51 years later than [217 B.C.] 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 sesterce. It was afterwards decided to coin denarii at the rate [49 B.C.] 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 [AD 54-68] the pound.
XIV. 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, 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! 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! 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 foreignersKing 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!
XV. 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, 800,000 [202 BC] 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 found booty consisting of 24,000 [546-5 BC] 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. The Egyptian talent according to Marcus Varro amounts to 80 pounds of gold. Sadaces the descendant of Aectes 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.
XVI. 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 to use nothing but silver for the appointments of the arenait 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 is in the [AD. 37-41] circus which had on it 124,000 pounds weight of silver. His successor Claudius when celebrating a triumph after the conquest of Britain, advertised by placards [AD. 43] 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 [AD. 54-68] Pompey 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!
XVII. The gold contained in the national treasury of Rome in the consulship of Sextus Julius and Lucius Aurelius, seven years before the third Punic War, amounted to 17,410 lbs., the silver to 22,070 lbs., and in specie there was 6,135,400 sesterces; in the consulship of Sextus Julius and Lucius Marcius, that is to say, at the beginning of the war with the allies, there was ... lbs. of gold and 1,620,831 lbs. of silver. Gaius Julius Caesar, on first entering Rome during the civil war that bears [49 BC] his name, 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.
XVIII. 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 after the fall of Carthage. [146 B.C.] 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.
XIX. We have already said in Book VII  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. 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 it goodness, making it assume a similar red hue and itself becomes the colour of fire; this process is called assaying. 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. 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 Palestrina leaf, still bearing the name taken from the faithfully gilded statue of Fortune in that place. 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. 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.
XX. 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. 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. 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.
XXI. Gold in our part of the worldnot to speak of the Indian gold obtained from ants or the gold dug up by griffins in Scythia 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.
People seeking for gold begin by getting up segellumthat 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 [AD 54-68] 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.
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. 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.
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 lampsthe 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. 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 lbs. 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, 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. 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.
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. 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 ft. each way and 10 ft. deep. In these there are left five sluices with apertures measuring about a yard 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? There is also yet another task to perform on the level ground. Trenches are excavated for the water to flow throughthe Greek name for them means 'leads'; and these, which descend by steps, are floored with gorsethis 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. 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. According to some accounts Asturia and Callaecia and Lusitania produce in this way 20,000 lbs. 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.
XXII. 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 [AD. 37-41] 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.
XXIII. 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 Albnerara 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. Electrum also held a high position in old times, as is evidenced by Homer 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.
XXIV. 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, that goddess' deity being held in the highest reverence by those races. This statue was taken as booty during the campaigns of [c. 36 B.C.] 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 his late lamented Majesty Augustus at Bologna. 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. So great were the profits to be made by teaching the art of oratory!
XXV. 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. 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.
XXVI. Gold-solder is a liquid found in the shafts we spoke of, flowing down along a vein of gold, solder. 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. 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. 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 wellthose being the names of two drugs producing absorption.
XXVII. 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. 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: 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.
XXVIII. 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.
XXIX. 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 Cvprian 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.
XXX. 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.
XXXI. After these details let us speak about the varieties of silver ore, the next madness of mankind. Silver is only found in deep shafts, and raises no hopes of its existence by any signs, giving off no shining sparkles such as are seen in the case of gold.
The ore is sometimes red, sometimes ash-coloured. It cannot be smelted except when combined with lead or with the vein of lead, called galena, lead ore, which is usually found running near veins of silver ore. Also when submitted to the same process of firing, part of the ore precipitates as lead while the silver floats on the surface, like oil on water.
Silver is found in almost all the provinces, but the finest is in Spain, where it, as well as gold, occurs in sterile ground and even in the mountains; and wherever one vein is found another is afterwards found not far away. This indeed also occurs in the ease of almost every metal, and accounts it seems for the word metals used by the Greeks. It is a remarkable fact that the shafts initiated by Hannibal all over the Spanish provinces are still in existence; they are named from the persons who discovered them; one of these mines, now called after Baebcio, furnished Hannibal with 300 pounds weight of silver a day, the tunnelling having been carried a mile and a half into the mountain. Along the whole of this distance watermen are posted who all night and day in spells measured by lanterns bale out the water and make a stream. The vein of silver nearest the surface is called the 'raw.' In early days the excavations used to stop when they found alum, and no further search made; but recently the discovery of a vein of copper under the alum has removed all limit to men's hopes. The exhalations from silver mines are dangerous to all animals, but specially to dogs. Gold and silver are more beautiful the softer they are. It surprises most people that silver traces black lines.
XXXII. There is also a mineral found in these veins of silver which contains a humour, in round drops, that is always liquid, and is called quicksilver. It acts as a poison on everything, and breaks vessels by penetrating them with malignant corruption. All substances float on its surface except gold, which is the only thing that it attracts to itself; consequently it is also excellent for refining gold, as if it is briskly shaken in earthen vessels it rejects all the impurities contained in it. When these blemishes have been thus expelled, to separate the quicksilver itself from the gold it is poured out on to hides that have been well dressed, and exudes through them like a kind of perspiration and leaves the gold behind in a pure state. Consequently when also things made of copper are gilded, a coat of quicksilver is applied underneath the gold leaf and keeps it in its place with the greatest tenacity: hut if the gold-leaf is put on in one layer or is very thin it reveals the quicksilver by its pale colour. Consequently persons intending this fraud adulterated the quicksilver used for this purpose with white of egg; and later they falsified also hydrargyrum or artificial quicksilver, which we shall speak about in its proper place. Otherwise quicksilver is not to be found in any large quantity.
XXXIII. In the same mines as silver there is found what is properly to be described as a stone, made of white and shiny but not transparent froth; several names are used for it, stirni, stibi, alabastrum and sometimes larbasis. It is of two kinds, male and female. The female variety is preferred, the male being more uneven and rougher to the touch, as well as lighter in weight, not so brilliant, and more gritty; the female on the contrary is bright and friable and splits in thin layers and not in globules.
XXXIV. Antimony has astringent and cooling properties, but it is chiefly used for the eyes, since this is why even a majority of people have given it a Greek name meaning 'wide-eye,' because in beauty-washes for women's eyebrows it has the property of magnifying the eyes. Made into a powder with powdered frankincense and an admixture of gum it checks fluxes and ulcerations of the eyes. It also arrests discharge of blood from the brain, and is also extremely effective with a sprinkling of its powder against new wounds and old dog-bites and against burns if mixed with fat and litharge of silver, or lead acetate and wax. It is prepared by being smeared round with lumps of ox and burnt in ovens, and then cooled down with women's milk and mixed with rain water and pounded in mortars. And next the turbid part is poured off into a copper vessel after being purified with soda. The lees are recognized by being full of lead, and they settle to the bottom of the mortars and art thrown away. Then the vessel into which the turbid part was poured off is covered with a cloth and left for a night, and the next day anything floating on the surface is poured off or removed with a sponge. The sediment on the bottom is considered the choicest part and is covered with a linen cloth and put to dry in the sun but not allowed to become very dry, and is ground up a second time in the mortar and divided into small tablets. But it is above all essential to limit the amount of heat applied to it, so that it may not be turned into lead. Some people do not employ dung in boiling it but fat. Others pound it in water and strain it through three thicknesses of linen cloth and throw away the dregs, and pour off the liquor that comes through, collecting all the deposit at the bottom, and this they use as an ingredient in plasters and eyewashes.
XXXV. The slag in silver is called by the Greeks the 'draw-off.' It has an astringent and cooling effect on the body, and like sulphuret of lead, of which we shall speak in dealing with lead, it has healing properties as an ingredient in plasters, being extremely effective in causing wounds to close-up, and when injected by means of syringes, together with myrtle-oil, as a remedy for straining of the bowels and dysentery. It is also used as an ingredient in the remedies called emollient plasters used for proud flesh of gathering sores, or sores caused by chafing or running ulcers on the head.
The same mines also produce the mineral called scum of silver. Of this there are three kinds, with Greek names meaning respectively golden, silvery and leaden; and for the most part all these colours are found in the same ingots. The Attic kind is the most approved, next the Spanish. The golden scum is obtained from the actual vein, the silvery from silver, and the leaden from smelting the actual lead, which is done at Pozzuoli, from which place it takes its name. Each kind however is made by heating its raw material till it melts, when it flows down from an upper vessel into a lower one and is lifted out of that with small iron spits and then twisted round on a spit in the actual flame, in order to make it of moderate weight. Really, as may be inferred from its name, it is the scum of a substance in a state of fusion and in process of production. It differs from dross in the way in which the scum of a liquid may differ from the lees, one being a blemish excreted by the material when purifying itself and the other a blemish in the metal when purified. Some people make two classes of scum of silver which they call 'scirerytis' and 'peumene,' and a third, leaden scum which we shall speak of under the head of lead.
XXXIV. To make the scum available for use it is boiled a second time after the ingots have been broken up into pieces the size of finger-rings. Thus after being heated up with the bellows to separate the cinders and ashes from it it is washed with vinegar or wine, and cooled down in the process. In the case of the silvery kind, in order to give it brilliance the instructions are to break it into pieces the size of a bean and boil it in water in an earthenware pot with the addition of wheat and barley wrapped in new linen cloths, until the silvery scum is cleaned of impurities. Afterwards they grind it in mortars for six days, three times daily washing it with cold water and, when they have ceased operations, with hot, and adding salt from a salt-mine, an obol weight to a pound of scum. Then on the last day they store it in a lead vessel. Some boil it with white beans and pearl-barley and dry it in the sun, and others boil it with beans in a white woollen cloth till it ceases to discolour the wool; and then they add salt from a salt-mine, changing the water from time to time, and put it out to dry on the 40 hottest days of summer. They also boil it in a sow's paunch in water, and when they take it out rub it with soda, and grind it in mortars with salt as above. In some cases people do not boil it but grind it up with salt and then add water and rinse it. It is used to make an eyewash and for women's skins to remove ugly scars and spots and as a hair-wash. Its effect is to dry, to soften, to cool, to act as a gentle purge, to fill up cavities caused by ulcers, and to soften tumours; it is used as an ingredient in plasters serving these purposes, and for the emollient plasters mentioned above. Mixed with rue and myrtle and vinegar, it also removes erysipelas, and likewise chilblains if mixed with myrtle and wax.
XXXVI. Minium or cinnabar also is found in silver mines; it is of great importance among pigments at the present day, and also in old times it not only had the highest importance but even sacred associations among the Romans. Verrius gives a list of writers of unquestionable authority who say that on holidays it was the custom for the face of the statue of Jupiter himself to be coloured with cinnabar. as well as the bodies of persons going in a triumphal procession, and that Camillus was so coloured in his triumph, and that under the same ritual it was usual even in their day for cinnabar to be added to the unguents used at a banquet in honour of a triumph, and that one of the first duties of the Censors was to place a contract for painting Jupiter with cinnabar. For my own part I am quite at a loss to explain the origin of this custom, although at the present day the pigment in question is known to be in demand among the nations of Ethiopia whose chiefs colour themselves all over with it, and with whom the statues of the gods are of that colour. On that account we will investigate all the facts concerning it more carefully.
XXXVII. Theophrastus states that cinnabar was discovered by an Athenian named Callias, 90 years before the archonship of Praxibulus at [405 B.C.] Athensthis date works out at the 349th year of our city, and that Callias was hoping that gold could by firing be extracted from the red sand found in silver mines; and that this was the origin of cinnabar, although cinnabar was being found even at that time in Spain, but a hard and sandy kind, and likewise in the country of the Colchi on a certain inaccessible rock from which the natives dislodged it by shooting javelins, but that this is cinnabar of an impure quality whereas the best is found in the Cilbian territory beyond Ephesus, where the sand is of the scarlet colour of the kermes-insect; and that this is ground up and then the powder is washed and the sediment that sinks to the bottom is washed again; and that there is a difference of skill, some people producing cinnabar at the first washing while with others this is rather weak and the product of the second washing is the best.
XXXVIII. I am not surprised that the colour had an important rank, for as far back as Trojan times red ochre was highly valued, as evidenced by Homer, who speaks of it as a distinguished colour for ships, although otherwise he rarely alludes to colours and paintings. The Greek name for it is 'miltos,' and they call minium 'cinnabar.' This gave rise to a mistake owing to the name 'Indian cinnabar,' for that is the name the Greeks give to the gore of a snake crushed by the weight of dying elephants, when the blood of each animal gets mixed together, as we have said; and there is no other colour that properly represents blood in a picture. That kind of cinnabar is extremely useful for antidotes and medicaments. But our doctors, I swear, because they give the name of cinnabar to minium also, employ this minium, which as we shall soon show is a poison.
XXXIX. In old times 'dragon's-blood' cinnabar was used for painting the pictures that are still called monochromes, 'in one colour.' Cinnabar from Ephesus was also used for painting, but this has been given up because pictures in that colour were a great amount of trouble to preserve. Moreover both colours were thought excessively harsh; consequently painters have gone over to red-ochre and Sinopic ochre, pigments about which I shall speak in the proper places. Cinnabar is adulterated with goat's blood or with crushed service-berries. The price of genuine cinnabar is 50 sesterces a pound.
XL. Juba reports that cinnabar is also produced in Carmania, and Timagenes says it is found in Ethiopia as well, but from neither place is it exported to us, and from hardly any other either except from Spain, the most famous cinnabar mine for the revenues of the Roman nation being that of Almaden in the Baetic region, no item being more carefully safeguarded: it is not allowed to smelt and refine the ore upon the spot, but as much as about 2000 lbs. per annum is delivered to Rome in the crude state under seal, and is purified at Rome, the price in selling it being fixed by law established at 70 sesterces a pound, to prevent its going beyond limit. But it is adulterated in many ways, which is a source of plunder for the company. For there is in fact another kind a of minium, found in almost all silver-mines, and likewise lead-mines, which is made by smelting a stone that has veins of metal running through it, and not obtained from the stone the round drops of which we have designated quicksilverfor that stone also if fired yields quicksilverbut from other stones found at the same time. These have no quicksilver and are detected only by their leaden colour, and only when they turn red in the furnaces, and after being thoroughly smelted they are pulverized by hammering. This gives a minium of second rate quality, which is known to very few people, and is much inferior to the natural sands we have mentioned. It is this then that is used for adulterating real minium in the factories of the company, but a cheaper kind is adulterated with Syrian: the preparation of the latter will be described in the proper place; but the process of giving cinnabar and red-lead a treatment of Syrian is detected by calculation when the one is weighed against the other. Cinnabar also, with red-lead, affords an opportunity for pilfering by painters in another way, if they wash out their brushes immediately when full of paint; the cinnabar or the red-lead settles at the bottom of the water and stays there for the pilferers. Pure cinnabar ought to have the brilliant colour of the scarlet kermes-insect, while the shine of that of the second quality when used on wall-paintings is affected by rust, although this is itself a sort of metallic rust. In the cinnabar mines of Almaden the vein of sand is pure, without silver. It is melted like gold; it is assayed by means of gold made red hot, as if it has been adulterated it turns black, but if genuine it keeps its colour. I find that it is also adulterated with lime, and this can be detected in a similar way with a sheet of red-hot iron if there is no gold available. A surface painted with cinnabar is damaged by the action of sunlight and moonlight. The way to prevent this is to let the wall dry and then to coat it with Punic wax melted with olive oil and applied by means of brushes of bristles while it is still hot, and then this wax coating must be again heated by bringing near to it burning charcoal made of plant-galls, till it exudes drops of perspiration, and afterwards smoothed down with waxed rollers and then with clean linen cloths, in the way in which marble is given a shine. Persons polishing cinnabar in workshops tie on their face loose masks of bladder-skin, to prevent their inhaling the dust in breathing, which is very pernicious, and nevertheless to allow them to see over the bladders. Cinnabar is also used in writing books, and it makes a brighter lettering for inscriptions on a wall or on marble even in tombs.
XLI. Of secondary importance a is the fact that experience has also discovered a way of getting hydrargyrum or artificial quicksilver as a substitute for real quicksilver; we postponed the description of this a little previously. It is made in two ways, not by pounding red-lead in vinegar with a copper pestle in a copper mortar, or it is put in an iron shell in flat earthenware pans, and covered with a convex lid smeared on with clay, and then a fire is lit under the pans and kept constantly burning by means of bellows, and so the surface moisture (with the colour of silver and the fluidity of water) which forms on the lid is wiped off it. This moisture is also easily divided into drops and rains down freely with slippery fluidity. And as cinnabar and red-lead are admitted to be poisons, all the current instructions on the subject of its employment for medicinal purposes are in my opinion decidedly risky, except perhaps that its application to the head or stomach arrests haemorrhage, provided that it does not find access to the vital organs or come in contact with a lesion. In any other way for my own part I would not recommend its employment.
XLII. At the present time silver is almost the only substance that is gilded with artificial quicksilver, though really a similar method ought to be used in coating copper. But the same fraudulence which is so extremely ingenious in every department of life has devised an inferior material, as we have shown.
XLIII. With the mention of gold and silver goes a description of the stone called the touch stone, formerly according to Theophrastus not usually found anywhere but in the river Tmolus, but now found in various places. Some people call it Heraclian stone and others Lydian. The pieces are of a moderate size, not exceeding four inches in length and two in breadth. The part of these pieces that has been exposed to the sun is better than the part on the ground. When experts using this touchstone, like a file, have taken with it a scraping from an ore, they can say at once how much gold it contains and how much silver or copper, to a difference of a scruple, their marvellous calculation not leading them astray.
XLIV. There are two points in which silver shows a variation. A shaving that remains perfectly white when placed on white-hot iron shovels is passed as good, while if it turns red it is of the next quality, and if black it has no value at all. But fraud has found its way even into this test; if the shovels are kept in men's urine the silver shaving is stained by it during the process of being burnt, and counterfeits whiteness. There is also one way of testing polished silver in a man's breathif it at once forms surface moisture and dissipates the vapour.
XLV. It has been believed that only the best silver is capable of being beaten out into plates and producing an image. This was formerly a sound test, but nowadays this too is spoiled by fraud. Still, the property of reflecting images is marvellous; it is generally agreed that it takes place owing to the repercussion of the air which is thrown back into the eyes. In a similar way, owing to the same force, in employing a mirror if the thickness of the metal has been polished and beaten out into a slightly concave shape the size of the objects reflected is enormously magnified: such a difference does it make whether the surface welcomes the air in question or flings it back. Moreover bowls can be made of such a shape, with a number of looking-glasses so to speak beaten outward inside them, that if only a single person is looking into them a crowd of images is formed of the same number as the facets in question. Ingenuity even devises vessels that do conjuring tricks, for instance those deposited as votive offerings in the temple at Smyrna: this is brought about by the shape of the material, and it makes a very great difference whether the vessels are concave and shaped like a bowl or convex like a Thracian shield, whether their centre is recessed or projecting, whether the oval is horizontal or oblique, laid flat or placed upright, as the quality of the shape receiving the shadows twists them as they come: for in fact the image in a mirror is merely the shadow arranged by the brilliance of the material receiving it. And in order to complete the whole subject of mirrors in this place, the best of those known in old days were those made at Brindisi of a mixture of stagnum and copper. Silver mirrors have come to be preferred; they were first made by Pasiteles in the period of Pompey the Great. But it has recently come to be believed that a more reliable reflection is given by applying a layer of gold to the back of glass.
XLVI. The people of Egypt stain their silver so as to see portraits of their god Anubis in their vessels; and they do not engrave but paint their silver. The use of that material thence passed over even to our triumphal statues, and, wonderful to relate, its price rises with the dimming of its brilliance. The method adopted is as follows: with the silver is mixed one third its amount of the very line Cyprus copper called chaplet-copper and the same amount of live sulphur as of silver, and then they are melted in an earthenware vessel smeared round with potter's clay; the heating goes on till the lids of the vessels open of theft own accord. Silver is also turned black by means of the yolk of a hardboiled egg, although the black can be rubbed off with vinegar and chalk.
The triumvir Antony alloyed the silver denarius with iron, and forgers put an alloy of copper in silver coins, while others also reduce the weight, the proper coinage being 84 denarii from a pound of silver. Consequently a method was devised of assaying the denarius, under a law that was so popular that the common people unanimously district by district voted statues to Marius Gratidianus. And it is a remarkable thing that in this alone among arts spurious methods are objects of study, and a sample of a forged denarius is carefully examined and the adulterated coin is bought for more than genuine ones.
XLVII. In old days there was no number standing for more than 100,000, and accordingly even today we reckon by multiples of that number, using the expression times 'ten times one hundred thousand' or larger multiples. This was due to usury and to the introduction of coined money, and also on the same lines we still speak of money owed as 'somebody else's copper.' Afterwards 'Dives,' 'Rich,' became a family surname, though it must be stated that the man who first received this name ran through his creditors' money and went bankrupt. Afterwards Marcus Crassus, who was a member of the Rich family, used to say that nobody was a wealthy man except one who could maintain a legion of troops on his yearly income. He owned landed property worth two hundred million sesterces, being the richest Roman citizen after Sulla. Nor was he satisfied without getting possession of the whole of the Parthians' gold as well; and although it is true he was the first to win lasting reputation for wealthit is a pleasant task to stigmatize insatiable covetousness of that sortwe have known subsequently of many liberated slaves who have been wealthier, and three at the same time not long before our own days in the period of the emperor Claudius, namely Callistus, Pallas and Narcissus. And to omit these persons, as if they were still in sovereign power, there is Gaius Caecilius Isidorus, the freedman of Gaius Caecilius who in the consulship of Gaius Asinius Gallus and Gaius Marcius Censorinus executed a will dated January 27 in which he declared that in spite of heavy losses in the civil war he nevertheless left 4116 slaves, 3600 pairs of oxen, 257,000 head of other cattle, and 60 million sesterces in cash, and he gave instructions for 1,100,000 to be spent on his funeral. But let them amass uncountable riches, yet what fraction will they be of the riches of the Ptolemy who is recorded by Varro, at the time when Pompey was campaigning in the regions adjoining Judea, to have maintained 6000 horse at his own charges, to have given a lavish feast to a thousand guests, with 1,000 gold goblets, which were changed at every course; and then what fraction would his own estate have been (for I am not speaking about kings) of that of the Bithynian Pythes, who presented the famous gold plane tree and vine to King Darius, and gave a banquet to the forces of Xerxes, that is 788,000 men, with a promise of five months' pay and corn on condition that one at least of his five children when drawn for service should be left to cheer his old age? Also let anyone compare even Pythes himself with King Croesus! What madness it is (damn it all!), to covet a thing in our lifetime that has either fallen to the lot even of slaves or has reached no limit even in the desires of Kings!
XLVIII. The Roman nation began lavishing donations in the consulship of Spurius Postumius and Quintus Marcius: so abundant was money at that date that they contributed funds for Lucius Scipio to defray the cost of games which he celebrated. As for the national contribution of one-sixth of an its per head for the funeral of Menenius Agrippa, I should consider this as a mark of respect and also a measure rendered necessary by Agrippa's poverty, and not a matter of lavish generosity.
XLIX. Fashions in silver plate undergo marvellous variations owing to the vagaries of human taste, no kind of workmanship remaining long in favour. At one time Furnian plate is in demand, at another Clodian, at another Gratianfor we make even the factories feel at home at our tablesat another time the demand is for embossed plate and rough surfaces, where the metal has been cut out along the painted lines of the designs, while now we even fit removable shelves on our sideboards to carry the viands, and other pieces of plate we decorate with filigree, so that the file may have wasted as much silver as possible. The orator Calvus complainingly cries that cooking-pots are made of silver; but it is we who invented decorating carriages with chased silver, and it was in our day that the emperor Nero's wife Poppaea had the idea of even having her favourite mules shod with gold.
L. The younger Africanus left his heir thirty-two pounds weight of silver, and the same person paraded 4370 pounds of silver in his triumphal procession after the conquest of Carthage. This was the amount of silver owned by the whole of Carthage, Rome's rival for the empire of the world, yet subsequently beaten in the show of plate on how many dinner-tables! Indeed after totally destroying Numantia the same Africanus at his triumph gave a largess of seven denarii a head to his troopswarriors not unworthy of such a general who were satisfied with that amount! His brother Allobrogicus was the first person who ever owned 1000 lbs. weight of silver, whereas Livius Drusus when tribune of the people had 10,000 lbs. For that an old warrior, honoured with a triumphal procession, incurred the notice of the censors for possessing ten pounds weight of silverthat nowadays seems legendary, and the same as to Catus Aelius's not accepting the silver plate presented to him by the envoys from Aetolia who during his consulship had found him eating his lunch off earthenware, and as to his never till the last day of his life having owned any other silver but the two bowls given to him by his wife's father Lucius Paulus in recognition of his valour at the time when King Perseus was conquered. We read that the Carthaginian ambassadors declared that no race of mankind lived on more amicable terms with one another than the Romans, inasmuch as in a round of banquets they had found the same service of plate in use at every house! But, good heavens, Pompeius Paulinus the son of a Knight of Rome at Aries and descended on his father's side from a tribe that went about clad in skins, to our knowledge had 12,000 lbs. weight of silver plate with him when on service with an army confronted by tribes of the greatest ferocity;
LI. while we know that ladies' bedsteads have for a long time now been entirely covered with silver plating, and so for long have banqueting-couches also. It is recorded that Carvilius Pollio, Knight of Rome, was the first person who had silver put on these latter, though not so as to plate them all over or make them to the Delos pattern, but in the Carthaginian style. In this latter style he also had bedsteads made of gold, and not long afterwards silver bedsteads were made, in imitation of those of Delos. All this extravagance however was expiated by the civil war of Sulla.
LII. In fact it was shortly before this period that silver dishes were made weighing a hundred pounds, and it is well-known that there were at that date over 150 of those at Rome, and that many people were sentenced to outlawry a because of them, by the intrigues of people who coveted them. History which has held vices such as these to be responsible for that civil war may blush with shame, but our generation has gone one better. Under the Emperor Claudius his slave Drusillanus, who bore [AD. 41-54] the name of Rotundus, the Emperor's steward of Nearer Spain, possessed a silver dish weighing 500 lbs., for the manufacture of which a workshop had first been specially built, and eight others of 250 lbs. went with it as side-dishes, so that how many of his fellow-slaves, I ask, were to bring them in or who were to dine off them? Cornelius Nepos records that before the victory won by Sulla there were only two silver dinner-couches at Rome, and that silver began to be used for decorating sideboards within his own recollection. And Fenestella who died towards the end of the principate of Tiberius says that tortoiseshell sideboards also came into fashion at that time, but a little before his day they had been solid round structures of wood, and not much larger than tables; but that even in his boyhood they began to be made square and of planks mortised together and veneered either with maple or citrus wood, while later silver was laid on at the corners and along the lines marking the joins, and when he was a young man they were called 'drums,' and then also the dishes for which the old name had been magides came to be called basins from their resemblance to the scales of a balance.
LIII. Yet it is not only for quantities of silver that there is such a rage among mankind but there is an almost more violent passion for works of fine handicraft; and this goes back a long time, so that we of today may excuse ourselves from blame.
Gaius Gracchus had some figures of dolphins for which he paid 5000 sesterees per pound, while the orator Lucius Crassus had a pair of chased goblets, [140-91 BC] the work of the artist Mentor, that cost 100,000; yet admittedly he was too ashamed ever to use them. It is known to us that he likewise owned some vessels that he bought for 6000 sesterces per pound. It was the conquest of Asia that first introduced luxury into Italy, inasmuch as Lucius Scipio carried in procession at his triumph 1400 lbs. of chased silverware and vessels of gold weighing 1500 lbs.: this was in the 565th year from the foundation of the city of Rome. But receiving Asia also as a gift [189 BC] dealt a much more serious blow to our morals, and the bequest of it that came to us on the death of King Attaius was more disadvantageous than the victory of Scipio. For on that occasion all scruples entirely disappeared in regard to buying these articles at the auctions of the king's effects at Romethe date was the 622nd year of the city, and in the interval of 57 years our community had learnt not merely to admire but also to covet foreign opulence; an impetus having also been given to manners by the enormous shock of the conquest of Achaia, that victory itself also having during this interval of time introduced the statues and pictures won in the 608th year of the city. That nothing might be lacking, luxury came into being simultaneously, with the downfall of Carthage, a fatal coincidence that gave us at one and the same time a taste for the vices and an opportunity for indulging in them. Some of the older generation also sought to gain esteem from these sources. It is recorded that Gaius Marius after his victory over the Cimbrians drank from Bacchic tankards, in imitation of Father Liberhe, the ploughman of Arpino who rose to the position of general from the ranks!
LIV. The view is held that the extension of the use of silver to statues was made in the case of statues of his late lamented Majesty Augustus, owing to the sycophancy of the period, but this is erroneous. We find that previously a silver statue of Pharnaces the First, King of Pontus, was carried in the triumphal procession of Pompey the Great, as well as one of Mithridates Eupator, and also chariots of gold and silver were used. Likewise silver has at some periods even supplanted gold, female luxury among the plebeians having its shoe buckles made of silver, as wearing gold buckles would be prohibited by the more common fashion. We have ourselves seen Arellius Fuscus (who was expelled from the Equestrian order on a singularly grave charge) wearing silver rings when he sought to acquire celebrity for his school for youths. But what is the point of collecting these instances, when our soldiers' sword hilts are made of chased silver, even ivory not being thought good enough; and when their scabbards jingle with little silver chains and their belts with silver tabs, nay nowadays our schools for pages lust at the point of adolescence wear silver badges as a safeguard, and women use silver to wash in and scorn sitting-baths not made of silver, and the same substance does service both for our viands and for our baser needs? If only Fabricius could see these displays of luxurywomen's bathrooms with floors of silver, leaving nowhere to set your feetand the women bathing in company with menif only Fabricius, who forbade gallant generals to possess more than a dish and a saltcellar of silver, could see how nowadays the rewards of valour are made from the utensils of luxury, or else are broken up to make them! Alas for our present mannersFabricius makes us blush!
LV. It is a remarkable fact that the art of chasing gold has not brought celebrity to anyone, whereas persons celebrated for chasing silver are numerous. The most famous however is Mentor of whom we spoke above. Four pairs of goblets were all that he ever made, but it is said that none of them now survive, owing to the burning of the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus and of the Capitol. Varro says in his writings that he also possessed a bronze statue by this sculptor. Next to Mentor the artists most admired were Acragas, Boethus and Mys. Works by all of these exist at the present day in the island of Rhodesone by Boethus in the temple of Athena at Lindus, some goblets engraved with Centaurs and Bacchants by Acragas in the temple of Father Liber or Dionysus in Rhodes itself, goblets with Sileni and Cupids by Mys in the same temple. Hunting scenes by Acragas on goblets also had a great reputation. After these in celebrity is Calamis, and Diodorus who was said to have placed in a condition of heavy sleep rather than engraved on a bowl a Slumbering Satyr for Antipater. Next praise is awarded to Stratonicus of Cyxicus, Tauriscus, also Ariston and Eunicus of Mitylene, and Hecataeus, and, around the period of Pompey the Great, Pasiteles, Posidonius of Ephesus, Hedys, Thracides who engraved battle scenes and men in armour, and Zopyrus who engraved the Athenian Council of Areopagus and the Trial of Orestes on two goblets valued at 12,000 sesterees. There was also Pytheas, one of whose works sold at the price of 10,000 denarii for two ounces: it consisted of an embossed base of a bowl representing Odysseus and Diomede in the act of stealing the Palladium. The same artist also carved some very small drinking cups in the shape of cooks known as 'The Chefs in Miniature,' which it was not allowed even to reproduce by casts, so liable to damage was the fineness of the work. Also Teucer the artist in embossed work attained celebrity, and all of a sudden this art so declined that it is now only valued in old specimens, and authority attaches to engravings worn with use even if the very design is invisible.
Silver becomes tarnished by contact with water from springs containing minerals and by the salt breezes, as happens also even in the interior regions of Spain.
LVI. In gold and silver mines also are formed the pigments yellow ochre and blue. Yellow ochre is strictly speaking a slime. The best kind comes from what is called Attic slime; its price is two denarii a pound. The next best is marbled ochre, which costs half the price of Attic. The third kind is dark ochre, which other people call Scyric ochre, as it comes from the island of Scyros, and nowadays also from Achaia, which they use for the shadows of a painting, price two sesterces a pound, while that called clear ochre, coming from Gaul, costs two asses less. This and the Attic kind they use for painting different kinds of light, but only marbled ochre for squared panel designs, because the marble in it resists the acridity of the lime. This ochre is also dug up in the mountains 20 miles from Rome. It is afterwards burnt, and by some people it is adulterated and passed off as dark ochre; but the fact that it is not genuine and has been burnt is shown by its acridity and by its crumbling into dust.
The custom of using yellow ochre for painting was first introduced by Polygnotus and Micon, but they only used the kind from Attica. The following period employed this for representing lights but ochre from Scyros and Lydia for shadows. Lydian ochre used to be sold at Sardis, but now it has quite gone out.
LVII. The blue pigment is a sand. In old days there were three varieties: the Egyptian is thought most highly of; next the Scythian mixes easily with water, and changes into four colours when ground, lighter or darker and coarser or finer; to this blue the Cyprian is now preferred. To these were added the Pozzuoli blue, and the Spanish blue, when blue sand-deposits began to be worked in those places. Every kind however undergoes a dyeing process, being boiled with a special plant and absorbing its juice; but the remainder of the process of manufacture is the same as with gold-solder.
From blue is made the substance called blue wash, which is produced by washing and grinding it. Blue wash is of a paler colour than blue, and it costs 10 denarii per pound, while blue costs 5 denarii. Blue is used on a surface of clay, as it will not stand lime. A recent addition has been Vestorian blue, called after the man Vestorius who invented it; it is made from the finest part of Egyptian blue, and costs 11 denarii per pound. Pozzuoli blue is employed in the same way, and also near windows; it is called cyanos. Not long ago Indian blue or indigo began to be imported, its price being 7 denarii; painters use it for dividing-lines, that is, for separating shadows from light. There is also a blue wash of a very inferior kind, called ground blue, valued at 5 asses.
The test of genuine Indian blue is that when laid on burning coal it should blaze; it is adulterated by boiling dried violets in water and straining the liquor through linen on to Eretrian earth. Its use as a medicament is to clean out ulcers; consequently it is employed as an ingredient in plasters, and also in cauteries, but it is extremely difficult to pound up. Yellow ochre used as a drug has a gently mordant and astringent effect, and fills up ulcers. To make it beneficial it is burnt in earthenware vessels.
We are not unaware that the prices of articles which we have stated at various points differ in different places and alter nearly every year, according to the shipping costs or the terms on which a particular merchant has bought them, or as some dealer dominating the market may whip up the selling price; we have not forgotten that, under the emperor Nero, Demetrius was prosecuted before the [AD. 54-68] Consuls by the entire Seplasia. Nevertheless I have found it necessary to state the prices usual at Rome, in order to give an idea of a standard value of commodities.