Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 37
I. IN order that the work that I have undertaken may be complete, it remains for me to discuss gemstones. Here Nature's grandeur is gathered together within the narrowest limits; and in no domain of hers evokes more wonder in the minds of many who set such store by the variety, the colours, the texture and the elegance of gems that they think it a crime to tamper with certain kinds by engraving them as signets, although this is the prime reason for their use; while some they consider to be beyond price and to deft evaluation in terms of human wealth. Hence very many people find that a single gemstone alone is enough to provide them with a supreme and perfect aesthetic experience of the wonders of Nature.
The origin of the use of gemstones and the beginning of our present enthusiasm for them, which has blazed into so violent a passion, I have already discussed to some extent in my references to gold and to rings. According to the myths, which offer a pernicious misinterpretation of Prometheus' fetters, the wearing of rings originated on the crags of the Caucasus. It was of this rock that a fragment was for the first time enclosed in an iron bezel and placed on a finger; and this, we are told, was the first ring, and this the first gemstone.
II. Hence arose the esteem in which gemstones are held; and this soared into such a passion that to Polycrates of Samos, the overlord of islands and coasts, the voluntary sacrifice of a single gemstone seemed a sufficient atonement for his prosperity, which even he himself, the happy recipient, owned to he excessive. Thereby he hoped to settle his account with the fickleness of Fortune. Clearly he supposed that he would be fully indemnified against her ill-will if he, who was weary of unremitting happiness, suffered this one unhappy experience. Accordingly, he put out in a boat and threw the ring into deep water. The ring, however, was seized as bait by a huge fish, fit for a king, which restored the ring as an evil omen to its owner in his own kitchen, thanks to Fortune's treacherous intervention. The gem, it is agreed, was a sardonyx and is displayed in Rome (if we can believe that this is the original stone) in the temple of Concord, set in a golden horn. It was presented by the empress and is ranked almost last in a collection containing many gems that are valued more highly.
III. After this ring, the most renowned gemstone is that of another king, the famous Pyrrhus who [319-272 BC] fought a war against Rome. He is said to have possessed an agate on which could be seen the Nine Muses with Apollo holding his lyre. This was due not to any artistic intention, but to nature unaided; and the markings spread in such a way that even the individual Muses had their appropriate emblems allotted to them. Apart from these stones, my authorities can produce no gems famous enough to be specially recorded. They merely state that Ismenias the pipe-player was in the habit of wearing a large number of brilliant stones and that there is a story associated with his vanity. In Cyprus a 'smaragdus' with the figure of Amymone engraved upon it was offered for sale at a price of six gold pieces. Ismenias ordered the sum to be paid and, when two of the pieces were returned to him, he exclaimed, 'Heavens! I've been done. The stone has been robbed of much of its value.' It is Ismenias who appears to have brought in the fashion whereby all musical accomplishments came to be assessed partly in terms of this kind of lavish display. This was the case with his contemporary and rival Dionysodorus. Consequently, Ismenias seemed to be equalled through this very circumstance by a man who was only third among the musicians of the time. As for Nicomachus, he is said to have possessed merely large numbers of stones chosen without any discrimination.
But it is more or less accidentally that in prefacing the present volume I have quoted these instances as a criticism of those despicable people who in making such a display of their gems claim the right to show the world that their vanity and conceit is that of a piper.
IV. And now to resume: the gemstone displayed as that of Polycrates is in its natural state, unmarked by engravings. In the time of Ismenias, many years later, it seems evident that it had become customary to engrave even 'smaragdi.' This impression is supported, moreover, by an edict of Alexander the Great forbidding his likeness to be engraved on this stone by anyone except Pyrgoteles, who was undoubtedly the most brilliant artist in this field. Next to him in fame have been Apollonides, Cronius and the man who made the excellent likeness of Augustus of Revered Memory which his successors have used as their seal, namely Dioscurides. Sulla as dictator always used a signet representing the surrender of Jugurtha. We learn from our authorities also that the native of Intercatia, whose father had been slain by Scipio Aemilianus after challenging him to single combat, used a. signet representing this fight. Hence the familiar witticism made by Stilo Praeconinus, who remarked, 'What would he have done if Scipio had been killed by his father?' Augustus of Revered Memory at the beginning of his career used a signet engraved with a sphinx, having found among his mother's rings two such signets which were so alike as to be indistinguishable. During the Civil Wars, one of these was used by his personal advisers, whenever he himself was absent, for signing any letters and proclamations which the circumstances required to be despatched in his name. The recipients used to make a neat joke saying 'the Sphinx brings its problems.' Of course, the frog signet belonging to Maecenas was also greatly feared because of the contributions of money that it demanded. In later years Augustus, wishing to avoid insulting comments about the sphinx, signed his documents with a likeness of Alexander the Great.
V. The first Roman to own a collection of gemstones (for which we normally use the foreign term 'dactyliotheca,' or 'ring cabinet') was Sulla's stepson Scaurus. For many years there was no other until Pompey the Great dedicated in the Capitol among his other offerings a ring cabinet that had belonged to King Mithridates. This, as Varro and other authorities of the period confirm, was far inferior to that of Scaurus. Pompey's example was followed by Julius Caesar, who during his dictatorship consecrated six cabinets of gems in the temple of Venus Genetrix, and by Marcellus, Octavia's son, who dedicated one in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine.
VI. However, it was this victory of Pompey over Mithridates that made fashion veer to pearls and gemstones. The victories of Lucius Scipio and of Cnaeus Manlius had done the same for chased silver, garments of cloth of gold and dining couches inlaid with bronze; and that of Mummius for Corinthian bronzes and fine paintings. To make my point clearer, I shall append statements taken directly from official records of Pompey's triumphs. Thus, Pompey's third triumph was held on his own birthday, September 29th of the year in which Marcus Piso and Marcus Messala were consuls, to celebrate his [61 B.C.] conquest of the pirates, Asia, Pontui and all the peoples and kings mentioned in the seventh volume of this work. In this triumph, then, there was carried in the procession a gaming-board complete with a set of pieces, the board being made of two precious minerals and measuring three feet broad and four feet long. And in case anyone should doubt that our natural resources have become exhausted seeing that today no gems even approach such a size, there rested on this board a golden moon weighing 30 pounds. There were also displayed three gold dining couches; enough gold vessels inlaid with gems to fill nine display stands; three gold figures of Minerva, Mars and Apollo respectively; thirty-three pearl crowns; a square mountain of gold with deer, lions and every variety of fruit on it and a golden vine entwined around it; and a grotto of pearls, on the top of which there was a sundial. Furthermore, there was Pompey's portrait rendered in pearls, that portrait so pleasing with the handsome growth of hair swept back from the forehead, the portrait of that noble head revered throughout the worldthat portrait, I say, that portrait was rendered in pearls. Here it was austerity that was defeated and extravagance that more truly celebrated its triumph. Never, I think, would his surname 'the Great' have survived among the stalwarts of that age had he celebrated his first triumph in this fashion! To think that it is of pearls, Great Pompey, those wasteful things meant only for women, of pearls, which you yourself cannot and must not wear, that your portrait is made! To think that this is how you make yourself seem valuable! Is not then the trophy that you placed upon the summit of the Pyrenees a better likeness of yourself? This, to be sure, would have been a gross and foul disgrace were it not rather to be deemed a cruel omen of Heaven's wrath. That head, so ominously manifested without its body in oriental splendour, bore a meaning which even then could not be mistaken. But as for the rest of that triumph, how worthy it was of a good man and true! 200,000,000 sesterces were given to the State, 100,000,000 to the commanders and quaestors who had guarded the coasts and 6000 to each soldier. However, he merely made it easier for us to excuse the conduct of the Emperor Gaius when, apart from other effeminate articles of clothing, he wore slippers sewn with pearls, or that of the Emperor Nero, when he had sceptres, actors' masks and travelling couches adorned with pearls. Why, we seem to have lost even the right to criticize cups and other pieces of household equipment inlaid with gems or, again, rings with stones set in open bezels. For compared with Pompey's, there is no extravagance that can be considered to have been so harmful.
VII. It was the same victory that brought myrrhine ware for the first time to Rome. Pompey was the first to dedicate myrrhine bowls and cups, which he set aside from the spoils of his triumphs for Jupiter of the Capitol. Such vessels immediately passed into ordinary use, and there was a demand even for display stands a and tableware. Lavish expenditure on this fashion is increasing every day ... an ex-consul, drank from a myrrhine cup for which he had given 70,000 sesterces, although it held just three pints. He was so fond of it that he would gnaw its rim; and yet the damage he thus caused only enhanced its value, and there is no other piece of myrrhine ware even today that has a higher price set upon it. The amount of money squandered by this same man upon the other articles of this material in his possession can be gauged from their number, which was so great that, when Nero took them away from the man's children and displayed them, they filled the private theatre in his gardens across the Tiber, a theatre which was large enough to satisfy even Nero's desire to sing before a full house at the time when he was rehearsing for his appearance in Pompey's theatre. It was at this time that I saw the pieces of a single broken cup included in the exhibition. It was decided that these, like the body of Alexander, should be preserved in a kind of catafalque for display, presumably as a sign of the sorrows of the age and the ill-will of Fortune. When the exconsul Titus Petronius was facing death, he broke, to spite Nero, a myrrhine dipper that had cost him 300,000 sesterces, thereby depriving the Emperor's dining-room table of this legacy. Nero, however, as was proper for an emperor, outdid everyone by paying 1,000,000 sesterces for a single bowl. That one who was acclaimed as a victorious general and as Father of his Country should have paid so much in order to drink is a detail that we must formally record.
VIII. Myrrhine vessels come to us from the East. There the substance is found in several otherwise unremarkable localities, particularly within the kingdom of Parthia. It is in Carmania, however, that the finest specimens exist. The substance is thought to be a liquid which is solidified underground by heat. In size the pieces are never larger than a small display stand, while in bulk they rarely equal the drinking vessels that we have discussed. They shine, but without intensity; indeed, it would be truer to say that they glisten rather than shine. Their value lies in their varied colours: the veins, as they revolve, repeatedly vary from purple to white or a mixture of the two, the purple becoming fiery or the milk-white becoming red as though the new colour were passing through the vein. Some people particularly appreciate the edges of a piece, where colours may be reflected such as we observe in the inner part of a rainbow. Others prefer thick veins (any trace of transparency or fading is always a fault) and also specks and spots. These spots do not protrude, but are usually flattened, like warts on the body. The smell of the substance is also a merit.
IX. A cause contrary to the one mentioned is responsible for creating rock-crystal, for this is hardened by excessively intense freezing. At any rate, it is found only in places where the winter snows freeze most thoroughly; and that it is a kind of ice is certain: the Greeks have named it accordingly. Rock-crystal also comes to us from the East, for that of India is preferred to any other. It is found also in Asia Minor, where a very poor variety occurs around Alabanda and Orthosia and in the neighbouring districts, and likewise in Cyprus: in Europe excellent rock-crystal occurs in the ranges of the Alps. Juba assures us that it is to be found also on an island called Necron, or Island of the Dead, in the Red Sea facing Arabia, as well as on the neighbouring one which produces peridot: here, according to him, a piece measuring a cubit in length was dug up by Ptolemy's officer Pythagoras. Cornelius Bocchus mentions, furthermore, that rock-crystal of quite exceptional weight was found in Portugal, in the Ammacensian mountains, when wells were being sunk to water-level. The surprising remark is made by Xenocrates of Ephesus a that in Asia Minor and Cyprus rock-crystal is turned up by the plough, for previously it was not thought to occur in soil, but only amidst rocks. A more plausible statement made by the same Xenocrates is that it is also often carried down by torrents. Sudines maintains that it occurs only in places that face south. What is certain is that it is not found in well-watered localities, however cold the district may be, even if it is one where the rivers freeze down to the bed. The inevitable conclusion is that rock-crystal is formed of moisture from the sky falling as pure snow. For this reason, it cannot stand heat and is rejected except as a receptacle for cold drinks. Why it is formed with hexagonal faces cannot be readily explained; and any explanation is complicated by the fact that, on the one hand, its terminal points are not symmetrical and that, on the other, its faces are so perfectly smooth that no craftsmanship could achieve the same effect.
X. The largest mass of rock-crystal ever seen by us is that which was dedicated in the Capitol by Livia, the wife of Augustus: this weighs about 150 pounds. Xenocrates, just mentioned, records that as. he saw a vessel that could hold six gallons, and some authors mention one from India with a capacity of 4 pints. What I myself can unequivocally affirm is that among the rocks of the Alps it generally forms in such inaccessible places that it has to be removed by men suspended from ropes. Experts are familiar with the signs that indicate its presence. Pieces of rock-crystal are impaired by numerous defects, for example by rough, solder-like excrescences, cloudy spots, occlusions of moisture that are sometimes hidden within it, or hard yet brittle cores, and also what are known as 'salt-specks.' Some specimens display a bright red rust, and others fibres that look like flaws. These can be concealed by the engraver. Pieces, however, that have no defects are preferably left unengraved: these are known to the Greeks as 'acenteta,' or 'lacking a core,' and their colour is that of clear water, not of foam. Finally, the weight of a piece is a part of its value. I find that among doctors there is considered to be no more effective method of cauterizing parts that need such treatment than by means of a crystal ball so placed as to intercept the sun's rays. Rock-crystal provides yet another instance of a crazy addiction, for not many years ago a respectable married woman, who was by no means rich, paid 150,000 sesterces for a single dipper.
Nero, on receiving a message that all was lost, broke two crystal cups in a final outburst of rage by dashing them to the ground. This was the vengeance of one who wished to punish his whole generation, to make it impossible for any other man to drink from these cups. Once it has been broken, rock-crystal cannot be mended by any method whatsoever. Glass-ware has now come to resemble rock-crystal in a remarkable manner, but the effect has been to flout the laws of Nature and actually to increase the value of the former without diminishing that of the latter.
XI The next place among luxuries, although as yet it is fancied only by women, is held by amber. All the three substances now under discussion enjoy the same prestige as precious stones; but whereas there are proper reasons for this in the case of the two former substances, since rock-crystal vessels are used for cold drinks and myrrhine-warc for drinks both hot and cold, not even luxury has yet succeeded in inventing a justification for using amber.
Here is an opportunity for exposing the falsehoods of the Greeks. I only ask my readers to endure these with patience since it is important for mankind just to know that not all that the Greeks have recounted deserves to be admired. The story how, when Phaethon was struck by the thunderbolt, his sisters through their grief were transformed into poplar trees, and how every year by the banks of the River Eridanus, which we call the Po, they shed tears of amber, known to the Greeks as 'electrum,' since they call the sun 'Elector' or 'the Shining One'this story has been told by numerous poets, the first of whom, I believe, were Aeschylus, Philoxenus, Euripides, Nicander and Satyrus. Italy provides clear evidence that this story is false. More conscientious Greek writers have mentioned islands in the Adriatic named the Electrides, to which, they say, amber is carried along by the Po. It is quite certain, however, that no islands of this name ever existed there, and indeed that there are no islands so situated as to be within reach of anything carried downstream by the Po. Incidentally, Aeschylus says that the Eridanus is in Iberiathat is, in Spainand that it is also called the Rhone, while Euripides and Apollonius, for their part, assert that the Rhone and the Pu meet on the coast of the Adriatic. But such statements only make it easier to pardon their ignorance of amber when their ignorance of geography is so great. More cautious but equally misguided writers have described how on inaccessible rocks at the head of the Adriatic there stand trees which at the rising of the Dog-star shed this gum. Theophrastus states that amber is dug up in Liguria, while Chares states that Phaethon died in Ethiopia on an island the Greek name of which is the Isle of Arnmon, and that here is his shrine and oracle, and here the source of amber. Philemon declares that it is a mineral which is dug up in two regions of Scythia, in one of which it is of a white, waxy colour and is called 'electrum,' while in the other it is tawny and known as 'snaliternicum.' Demonstratus calls amber 'lyncurium,' or 'lynx-urine,' and alleges that it is formed of the urine of the wild beasts known as lyxnes, the males producing the kind that is tawny and fiery in colour, and the females, that which is fainter and light in colour. According to him, others call it 'langurium' and state that the beasts, which live in Italy, are 'languri.' Zenothemis calls the same beasts 'langes' and assigns them a habitat on the banks of the Po, while Sudines writes that a tree which produces amber in Liguria is called 'lynx.' Metrodorus also holds the same opinion. Sotacus believes that it flows from crags in Britain called the Electrides. Pytheas speaks of an estuary of the Ocean named Metuonis and extending for 750 miles, the shores of which are inhabited by a German tribe, the Guiones. From here it is a day's sail to the Isle of Abalus, to which, he states, amber is carried in spring by currents, being an excretion consisting of solidified brine. He adds that the inhabitants of the region use it as fuel instead of wood and sell it to the neighbouring Teutones. His belief is shared by Timaeus, who, however, calls the island Basilia. Philemon denies the suggestion that amber gives off a flame. Nicias insists on explaining amber as moisture from the sun's rays, as follows: he maintains that as the sun sets in the west its rays fall more powerfully upon the earth and leave there a thick exudation, which is later cast ashore in Germany by the tides of the Ocean. He mentions that amber is formed similarly in Egypt, where it is called 'sacal,' as well as in India, where the inhabitants find it more agreeable even than frankincense; and that in Syria the women make whorls of it and call it 'harpax,' or 'the snatcher,' because it picks up leaves, straws and the fringes of garments. Theochrestus holds that it is washed up on the capes of the Pyrenees by the Ocean in turmoil, a view which is shared by Xenocrates, the most recent writer on the subject, who is still living. Asarubas records that near the Atlantic is a Lake Cephisis, called by the Moors Electrum, which, when thoroughly heated by the sun, produces from its mud amber that floats upon the surface of its waters. Mnaseas speaks of a district in Africa called Sicyon and of a River Crathis flowing into the Ocean from a lake, on the shores of which live the birds known as Meleager's Daughters or Penelope Birds. Here amber is formed in the manner described above. Theomenes tells us that close to the Greater Syrtes is the Garden of the Hesperides and a pool called Electrum, where there are poplar trees from the tops of which amber falls into the pool, and is gathered by the daughters of Hesperus. Ctesias states that in India there is a River Hypobarus, a name which indicates that it is the bringer of all blessings. It flows from the north into the eastern Ocean near a thickly wooded mountain, the trees of which produce amber. These trees are called 'psitthacorae,' a word which means 'luscious sweetness.' Mithridates writes that off the coast of Carmania there is an island called Serita covered with a kind of cedar, from which amber flows down on to the rocks. Xenocrates asserts that amber in Italy is known not only as 'sucinum,' but also as 'thium'; and in Scythia as 'sacrium,' for there too it is found. He states that others suppose that it is produced from mud in Numidia. But all these authors are surpassed by the tragic poet Sophocles, and this greatly surprises me seeing that his tragedy is so serious and, moreover, his personal reputation in general stands so high, thanks to his noble Athenian lineage, his public achievements and his leadership of an army. Sophocles tells us how amber is formed in the lands beyond India from the tears shed for Meleager by the birds known as Meleager's Daughters. Is it not amazing that he should have held this belief or have hoped to persuade others to accept it? Can one imagine, one wonders, a mind so childish and naive as to believe in birds that weep every year or that shed such large tears or that once migrated from Greece, where Meleager died, to the Indies to mourn for him? Well then, are there not many other equally fabulous stories told by the poets? Yes; but that anyone should seriously tell such a story regarding such a substance as this, a substance that every day of our lives is imported and floods the market and so confutes the liar, is a gross insult to man's intelligence and an insufferable abuse of our freedom to utter falsehoods.
It is well established that amber is a product of islands in the Northern Ocean, that it is known to the Germans as 'glaesum' and that, as a result, one of these islands, the native name of which is Austeravia, was nicknamed by our troops Glaesaria, or Amber Island, when Caesar Germanicus was conducting operations there with his naval squadrons. To resume, amber is formed of a liquid seeping from the interior of a species of pine, just as the gum in a cherry tree or the resin in a pine bursts forth when the liquid is excessively abundant. The exudation is hardened by frost or perhaps by moderate heat, or else by the sea, after a spring tide has carded off the pieces from the islands. At all events, the amber is washed up on the shores of the mainland, being swept along so easily that it seems to hover in the water without settling on the seabed. Even our forebears believed it to be a 'sucus,' or exudation, from a tree, and so named it 'sucinum.' That the tree to which it belongs is a species of pine is shown by the fact that it smells like a pine when it is rubbed, and burns like a pine torch, with the same strongly scented smoke, when it is kindled. It is conveyed by the Germans mostly into the province of Pannonia. From there it was first brought into prominence by the Veneti, known to the Greeks as the Enetoi, who are close neighbours of the Pannonians and live around the Adriatic. The reason for the story associated with the River Po is quite clear, for even today the peasant women of Transpadane Gaul wear pieces of amber as necklaces, chiefly as an adornment, but also because of its medicinal properties. Amber, indeed, is supposed to be a prophylactic against tonsillitis and other affections of the pharynx, for the water near the Alps has properties that harm the human throat in various ways. The distance from Carnuntum in Pannonia to the coasts of Germany from which amber is brought to us is some 600 miles, a fact which has been confirmed only recently. There is still living a Roman knight who was commissioned to procure amber by Julianus when the latter was in charge of a display of gladiators given by the Emperor Nero. This knight traversed both the trade-route and the coasts, and brought back so plentiful a supply that the nets used for keeping the beasts away from the parapet of the amphitheatre were knotted with pieces of amber. Moreover, the arms, biers and all the equipment used on one day, the display on each day being varied, had amber fittings. The heaviest lump that was brought by the knight to Rome weighed 13 pounds. It is certain that amber is to be found also in India. Archelaus, who was king of Cappadocia, relates that it is brought from India in the rough state with pine bark adhering to it, and that it is dressed by being boiled in the fat of a sucking-pig. That amber originates as a liquid exudation is shown by the presence of certain objects, such as ants, gnats and lizards, that are visible inside it. These must certainly have stuck to the fresh sap and have remained trapped inside it as it hardened.
XII. There are several kinds of amber. Of these, the pale kind has the finest scent, but, like the waxy kind, it has no value. The tawny is more valuable; and still more so if it is transparent, but the colour must not be too fiery: not a fiery glare, but a mere suggestion of it, is what we admire in amber. The most highly approved specimens are the 'Palernian,' so called because they recall the colour of the wine: they are transparent and glow gently, so as to have, moreover, the agreeably mellow tint of honey that has been reduced by boiling. However, it ought to be generally known also that amber can be tinted, as desired, with kid-suet and the root of alkanet. Indeed, it is now stained even with purple dye. To resume, when rubbing with the fingers draws forth the hot exhalation, amber attracts straw, dry leaves and linden-bark, just as the magnet attracts iron. Moreover, amber chippings, when steeped in oil, burn brighter and longer than the pith of flax. Its rating among luxuries is so high that a human figurine, however small, is more expensive than a number of human beings, alive and in good health; and as a result it is quite impossible for a single rebuke to suffice. In the case of Corinthian bronzes, we are attracted by the appearance of the bronze, which is alloyed with gold and silver; and in the case of chased metalwork, by artistry and inventiveness. Vessels of fluorspar and rock-crystal have beauties which we have already described. Pearls can be carded about on the head, and gems on the finger. In short, every other substance for which we have a weakness pleases us because it lends itself either to display or to practical use, whereas amber gives us only the private satisfaction of knowing that it is a luxury. Among the other portentous events of his career is the fact that Domitius Nero bestowed this name on the hair of his wife Poppaea, even going so far as to call it in one of his poems 'sucint' or 'amber-coloured,' for no defect lacks a term that represents it as an asset. From that time, respectable women began to aspire to this as a third possible colour for their hair.
However, amber is found to have some use in pharmacy, although it is not for this reason that women like it. It is of benefit to babies when it is attached to them as an amulet. Callistratus says that it is good also for people of any age as a remedy for attacks of wild distraction and for strangury, both taken in liquid and worn as an amulet. This writer also introduces a fresh distinction, giving the name 'chryselectrum,' or 'gold amber,' to a kind which is golden in colour and has a most delightful appearance early in the day, but which very easily catches fire and flares up in a moment when it is close to flames. According to Callistratus, this kind of amber cures fevers and diseases when worn as an amulet on a necklace, affections of the ears when powdered and mixed with honey and rose oil, as well as weak sight if it is powdered and blended with Attic honey, and affections even of the stomach if it is either taken as a fine powder by itself or swallowed in water with mastic. Amber plays an important part also in the making of artificial transparent gems, particularly artificial amethysts, although, as I have mentioned, it can be dyed any colour.
XIII. It is the obstinacy of our authorities that compels me to speak next of lyncurium, since, even when they refrain from asserting that this lyncurium is amber, they still claim that it is a gemstone, stating that it is formed indeed from the urine of the lynx, but also from a particular kind of earth. They say that the creature, bearing a grudge towards mankind, immediately conceals its urine, which forms a stone in the same place. The stone is said to have the same fiery colour as amber, to be capable of being engraved and to attract not merely leaves or straws, but also shavings of copper and iron, a belief which even Theophrastus accepts on the authority of a certain Diocles. I for my part am of the opinion that the whole story is false and that no gemstone bearing this name has been seen in our time. Also false are the statements made simultaneously about its medical properties, to the effect that when it is taken in liquid it breaks up stone in the bladder, and that it relieves jaundice if it is swallowed in ;vine or even looked at.
XIV. Now I shall discuss those kinds of gemstones that are acknowledged as such, beginning with the finest. And this shall not be my only aim, but to the greater profit of mankind I shall incidentally confute the abominable falsehoods of the Magi, since in very many of their statements about gems they have gone far beyond providing an alluring substitute for medical science into the realms of the supernatural.
XV. The most highly valued of human possessions, Adosse let alone gemstones, is the 'adamas,' which for long was known only to kings, and to very few of them. 'Adamas' was the name given to the 'knot of gold' found very occasionally in mines in association with gold and, so it seemed, formed only in gold. Our ancient authorities thought that it was found only in the mines of Ethiopia between the temple of Mercury and the island of Meroe, and stated that the specimens discovered were no larger than a cucumber seed and not unlike one in colour. Now, for the first time, as many as six kinds of 'adamas' are recognized. There is the Indian, which is not formed in gold and has a certain affinity with rock-crystal, which it resembles in respect of its transparency and its smooth faces meeting at six corners. It tapers to a point in two opposite directions and is all the more remarkable because it is like two whorls joined together at their broadest parts. It can be as large even as a hazel nut. Similar to the Indian, only smaller, is the Arabian, which is, moreover, formed under similar conditions. The rest have a silvery pallor and are liable to be formed only in the midst of the finest gold. All these stones can be tested upon an anvil, and they are so recalcitrant to blows that an iron hammer head may split in two and even the anvil itself be unseated. Indeed, the hardness of 'adamas' is indescribable, and so too that property whereby it conquers fire and never becomes heated. Hence it derives its name, because, according to the meaning of the term in Greek, it is the unconquerable force. One of these stones is called in Greek 'cenchros,' or millet seed, and is like a millet seed in size. A second is known as the Macedonian and is found in the goldmines of Philippi. This is equal in size to a cucumber seed. Next comes the so-called Cyprian, which is found in Cyprus and tends towards the colour of copper, but has potent medical properties, which I shall describe later. After this, there is the 'siderites,' or 'iron stone,' which shines like iron and exceeds the rest in weight, but has different properties. For it can not only be broken by hammering but also be pierced by another 'adamas.' This can happen also to the Cyprian kind, and, in a word, these stones, being untrue to their kind, possess only the prestige of the name they bear. Now throughout the whole of this work I have tried to illustrate the agreement and disagreement that exist in Nature, the Greek terms for which are respectively 'sympathia,' or 'natural affinity,' and 'antipathia,' or 'natural aversion.' Here more clearly than anywhere can these principles be discerned. For this 'unconquerable force' that defies Nature's two most powerful substances, iron and fire, can be broken up by goat's blood. But it must be steeped in blood that is fresh and still warm, and even so needs many hammer blows. Even then, it may break all but the best anvils and iron hammers. To whose researches or to what accident must we attribute this discovery? What inference could have led anyone to use the foulest of creatures for testing a priceless substance such as this? Surely it is to divinities that we must attribute such inventions and all such benefits. We must not expect to find reason anywhere in Nature, but only the evidence of will! When an '`adamas' is successfully broken it disintegrates into splinters so small as to be scarcely visible. These are much sought after by engravers of gems and are inserted by them into iron tools because they make hollows in the hardest materials without difficulty. The 'adamas' has so strong an aversion to the magnet that when it is placed close to the iron it prevents the iron from being attracted away from itself. Or again, if the magnet is moved towards the iron and seizes it, the 'adamas' snatches the iron and takes it away. 'Adamas' prevails also over poisons and renders them powerless, dispels attacks of wild distraction and drives groundless fears from the mind. For this reason the Greeks sometimes call it 'anancites,' or 'compulsive.' Metrodorus of Scepsis is alone, so far as I know from my awn reading, in stating that 'adamas' is found likewise in Germany, namely on the island of Basilia, which also produces amber, and in preferring this 'adamas' to that of Arabia. There can be no doubt that this statement is untrue.
XVI. Next in value in our estimation come the pearls of India and Arabia, which we discussed in Book IX  among the products of the sea. The third rank among gemstones is assigned for several reasons to the 'smaragdus.' Certainly, no colour has a more pleasing appearance. For although we gaze eagerly at young plants and at leaves, we look at 'smaragdi' with all the more pleasure because, compared with them, there is nothing whatsoever that is more intensely green. Moreover, they alone of gems, when we look at them intently, satisfy the eye without cloying it. Indeed, even after straining our sight by looking at another object, we can restore it to its normal state by looking at a 'smaragdus'; and engravers of gemstones find that this is the most agreeable means of refreshing theft eyes: so soothing to their feeling of fatigue is the mellow green colour of the stone. Apart from this property, 'smaragdi' appear larger when they are viewed at a distance because they reflect their colour upon the air around them? They remain the same in sunlight, shadow or lamplight, always shining gently and allowing the vision to penetrate to their further extremity owing to the ease with which light passes through them, a property that pleases us also in respect of water. 'Smaragdi' are generally concave in shape, so that they concentrate the vision. Because of these properties, mankind has decreed that 'smaragdi' must be preserved in their natural state and has forbidden them to be engraved. In any case, those of Scythia and Egypt are so hard as to be unaffected by blows. When 'smaragdi' that are tabular in shape are laid flat, they reflect objects just as mirrors do. The Emperor Nero used to watch the fights between gladiators in a reflecting 'smaragdus.'
XVII. There are twelve kinds of 'smaragdus.' The most notable is the Scythian, so called from the nation in whose territory it is found. No kind is deeper in colour or more free from defects: it differs as widely in quality from the other 'smaragdi' as they from the other gems. Next to this in esteem, as also in locality, is the Bactrian. These stones are said to be gathered by the natives in the fissures of rocks when the Etesians blow. For at this season the ground is uncovered and the stones glitter here and there because the sands of the desert are shifted violently by these winds. These stones, however, are said to be much smaller than the Scythian. Third in order come those of Egypt, which are dug near Coptos, a city of the Thebaid, from mines in the hills.
The other kinds are found in copper-mines, and so the first place among them is held by the stones of Cyprus. Their special asset is their colour, which is limpid without being at all faint. On the contrary, it combines body and clarity, and, wherever one peers through the stones, reproduces the transparency of seawater, the stones being in an equal degree translucent and brilliant. In other words, they dissipate their colour and also allow the sight to penetrate within. There is a story that in this island there stood on the burial-mound of a prince named Hermias, not far from the tunny-fisheries, the marble statue of a lion, into which had been inserted eyes made of 'smaragdus'; and these, it is said, blazed so brightly, even far below the surface of the sea, that the tunnies fled in tenor, and the fishermen were long puzzled by this strange behaviour until finally they changed the gemstones in the eye-sockets.
XVIII. But since high prices are so freely paid for these stones, it is only right that we should point out their defects, some of which are common to every kind, while others are regional peculiarities, as with human beings. Thus the Cyprian stones show various shades of sea-green, and these may be more or less intense in different parts of the same 'smaragdus,' so that the stones do not always maintain the familiar uniform deep colour of the Scythian variety. Moreover, some stones are traversed by a 'shadow'; this makes the colour dull, and the fainter the colour, the more serious the defect. In accordance with these defects, 'smaragdi' are divided into classes, some, which are called 'blind,' being opaque, while others, instead of being transparent to translucent, are sub-opaque. Some again are variegated, and some enveloped in a 'cloud.' This differs from the 'shadow' mentioned above. 'Cloud' is a defect belonging to a stone with a whitish hue in it, when the green appearance does not pervade the whole stone, but the vision is either blocked beneath the surface or intercepted at the surface by this white inclusion. Filaments, specks like salt and inclusions resembling lead are also defects; and these are common to nearly all varieties.
Next in esteem to the Cyprian 'smaragdi' come the Ethiopian, which, according to Juba, are found at a distance of twenty-five days' journeying from Coptos, and are bright green, although they are rarely flawless or uniform in Democritus includes in this class the Thermiaean and Persian stones! He states that the former are massive and convex, while the Persian stones, although they are not transparent, satisfy the eye with their agreeably uniform colour without allowing it to see within. He compares them to the eyes of cats and leopards, which likewise shine without being transparent, and mentions, moreover, that the stones are dimmed in sunlight, glisten in shadow and shine farther than other stones. All these varieties have a further defect in that their colour may be that of gall or rancid oil, so that they may be bright and clear, and yet not green. These faults are particularly noticeable in the Attic stones found in the silver-mines at a place called Thoricus. They are always less massive than the others, but are more handsome when seen at a distance. These stones too are often marred by lead-like inclusions, as a result of which they resemble lead when they are seen in sunlight. One peculiarity is that some of these stones show the effects of age as their green colour gradually fades away and, moreover, are damaged by exposure to the sun. After these come the Median stones, which show a great variety of tints and on occasion are even blended to some extent with lapis lazuli. These stones have undulating bands and contain inclusions resembling various objects, for example, poppy heads, birds, the young of animals or feathers. Such stones, in spite of their varied colours, seem to be green by nature, since they may be improved by being steeped in oil and there is no variety that displays larger specimens. The 'smaragdi' of Chalcedon have perhaps completely disappeared now that the copper-mines in the district have failed; and, in any case, they were always worthless and very small. Moreover, they were brittle and of a nondescript colour, this being more or less bright according to the angle at which it was viewed, like the green feathers in a peacock's tail or on a pigeon's neck. Furthermore, they were marked with veins and were scaly. They had also a characteristic defect called 'sarcion,' that is a kind of fleshy growth on the stone. There is a mountain known as Smaragdites, or Emerald Mountain, near Chalcedon, on which they used to be gathered. Juba states that a 'smaragdus' known as 'chlora,' or 'green stone,' is used as an inlay in decorating houses in Arabia; and likewise the stone which the Egyptians call 'alabastrites.' Several of our most recent authorities mention not only Laconian 'smaragdi,' which are dug on Mount Taygetus and resemble the Median variety, but also others that are found in Sicily.
XIX. Among the 'smaragdi' we include also a gem that comes from Persia known as the 'tanos,' which is of an ugly shade of green and is full of flaws within and another from Cyprus, the 'chalcosmaragdna,' or 'copper smaragdus,' which is clouded by veins resembling copper. Theophrastus records that in Egyptian records are to be found statements to the effect that to one of the kings a king of Babylon once sent as a gift a 'smaragdus' measuring four cubits in length and three in breadth; and that there existed in Egypt in a temple of Jupiter an obelisk made of four 'smaragdi' and measuring forty cubits in height and four cubits in breadth at one extremity and two at the other. He states, moreover, that at the time when he was writing there existed in the temple of Hercules at Tyre a large square pillar of 'smaragdus,' unless this was rather to be regarded as a 'false smaragdus'; for, according to him, this is another variety that is found.
He mentions also that there was once discovered in Cyprus a stone of which half was a 'smaragdus' and half an 'iaspis,' because the liquid matter had not yet been completely transformed. Apion, surnamed Plistonices, or 'the Cantankerous,' has lately left on record the statement that there still exists in the Egyptian labyrinth a large statue of Serapis, nine cubits high, made of 'smaragdus.'
XX. Many people consider the nature of beryls to be similar to, if not identical with, that of emeralds. Beryls are produced in India and are rarely found elsewhere. All of them are cut by skilled craftsmen to a smooth hexagonal shape since their colour, which is deadened by the dullness of an unbroken surface, is enhanced by the reflection from the facets. If they are cut in any other way they lack brilliance. The most highly esteemed beryls are those that reproduce the pure green of the sea, while next in value are the so-called 'chrysoberyls.' These are slightly paler, but have a vivid colour approaching that of gold. A variety closely akin to these, but still a little paler and by some regarded as a special kind is the so-called 'chrysoprasus.' Fourth in order are reckoned the 'hyacinthizontes,' or 'sapphire-blue beryls,' and fifth the so-called 'aeroides,' or 'sky-blue' variety. After these come the 'waxy' and then the 'oily' beryls, that is, beryls coloured like olive oil. Finally, there are those that resemble rock-crystal. These beryls generally contain filaments and impurities, and besides are faint in colour; and all these features like are defects. The Indians are extraordinarily fond of elongated beryls and claim that they are the only precious stones that are preferably left without a gold setting. Consequently, they pierce them and string them on elephants' bristles. They are all agreed that a stone of perfect quality should not be pierced, and in this case they merely enclose the head of the stone in a convex gold cap. They prefer to shape beryls into long prisms rather than into gems simply because length is their most attractive feature. Some people are of the opinion that they are formed from the very start as prisms and also that their appearance is improved by perforation, when a white cloudy core is removed and there is, in addition, the reflection from the gold or, in any case, the thickness of the material through which the light must penetrate is reduced. Besides those already mentioned, beryls show the same defects as 'smaragdi,' and also spots like whitlows. In our part of the world beryls, it is thought, are sometimes found in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea. The Indians have found a way of counterfeiting various precious stones, and beryls in particulars by staining rock-crystal.
XXI. Beryls differ very little, and also very considerably, from opals, stones which yield precedence only to the 'smaragdus.' India, likewise, is the sole producer of these stones and combining, as they do, the brilliant qualities of the most valuable gems, they above all others description. They display the more subtle fires of the 'carbunculus,' the flashing purple of the amethyst and the sea-green tint of the 'smaragdus,' all combined together in incredible brilliance. For some people the vivid colours resemble in their general effect the pigment known as azurite; for others, the flames from burning sulphur or from a fire that has been kindled with olive oil. The size of the stone is that of a hazel nut. Even among us history makes it famous, since there still exists even today a precious stone of this variety which caused Antony to outlaw a senator, Nonius, the son of the Nonius Struma who made the poet Catullus so indignant when he saw him seated in the magistrate's chair, and the grandfather of Servilius Nonianus, who was consul in my time. This Nonius, when outlawed, fled, taking with him this ring alone of all his many possessions. There is no doubt that at that time the value of the ring was 2,000,000 sesterces; but how amazing was Antony's savagery and extravagant caprice in outlawing a man for the sake of a gemstone, and, equally, how extraordinary was the obstinacy of Nonius in clinging to his 'doom,' when even wild creatures are believed to buy their safety by biting off the member which, as they know, endangers their lives, and leaving it behind for their pursuers!
XXII. The defects of the opal are a colour tending towards that of the flower of the plant called heliotrope, or of rock-crystal or hail, as well as the occurrence of salt-like specks or rough places or dots that distract the eye. There is no stone which is harder to distinguish from the original when it is counterfeited, in glass by a cunning craftsman. The only test is by sunlight. When a false opal is held steadily between the thumb and finger against the rays of the sun there shines through the stone one unchanging colour which is spent at its source, whereas the radiance of the genuine stone continually changes and at different times scatters its colours more intensely from different parts of the stone, shedding a bright light on the fingers where it is held. Owing to its exceptional beauty, this stone is commonly known by the Greek term 'paederos,' or 'Favourite,' but those who regard the 'paederos' as a separate variety a say that the Indian name for it is 'sangenon.' The 'paederos' is said to be found in Egypt and Arabia, in Pontus, where the quality is very poor, and also in Galatia, Thasos and Cyprus. Exceptional specimens of these latter stones have the charm of an opal, but they shine more softly and rarely lack roughness. The dominant colour of the 'paederos' is a mixture of sky-blue and purple, and the green of the 'smaragdus' is absent. Those in which the brilliance is darkened by the colour of wine are superior to those in which it is diluted with a watery tint.
XXIII. Up to this point there is agreement as to which stones are supreme, the question having been largely settled by a decree of our Women-councillors of State. There is less certainty regarding the stones about which men too pass judgement. In the case of men, it is an individual's caprice that sets a value upon an individual stone, and, above all, the rivalry that ensues. A case in point is that of the Emperor Claudius, when he took to wearing a 'smaragdus' or a sardonyx. But according to Demostratus, the first Roman to adopt a sardonyx was the elder Africanus, and hence arose the esteem which this gemstone enjoys at Rome. And so it is to this stone that I shall award the next place after the opal.
Formerly, as is clear from the very name, sardonyx meant a stone with a layer of carnelian resting on a layer of white, that is, like flesh superimposed on a human fingernail, both parts of the stone being translucent. Such is the character of the Indian sardonyx according to Ismenias, Demostratus, Zenothemis and Sotacus. The last two writers call such other varieties of the stone as are opaque 'blind sardonyx.' Those stones that have now usurped the name although they lack all trace of the carncian of the Indian stones come from Arabia; and the sardonyx has come to be recognized in the guise of several colours, the base being black or else having the colour of azurite, while the 'nail' above is coloured vermilion and is banded with a thick white line, not without a suggestion of purple where the white shades into vermilion. Zenothemis writes that the sardonyx was not held in high regard by the Indians, though it might be actually large enough to be commonly made into sword hilts. Indeed, as is generally known, in India the stone is exposed to view by the mountain streams. He states that in our part of the world, however, the sardonyx was popular from the beginning because it was almost the only gemstone which, when engraved as a signet, did not carry away the sealing wax with it. Later we persuaded the Indians to share our appreciation of it. There the common folk wear it pierced on a necklace; and this perforation is now a proof of Indian origin. The Arabian stones are remarkable for their whiteness, the band being brilliant and quite thick: it does not glimmer in the depths of the stone or on its sloping side, but shines on the convex surface of the gem and is, moreover, set off by a lower layer of the deepest black. In the Indian stones we find that this layer has the colour of azure or horn. Moreover, their white band can have a kind of iridescent shimmer, while the surface is red like the shell of a crawfish. Incidentally, if the stones are coloured like honey or wine lees (the latter term in itself implying a defect) they are condemned; and again, also, if the white band is blurred instead of being defined, and similarly if it contains an intrusive patch of some other colour. For no colour must be broken by another in its own layer. There is also an Armenian sardonyx which is acceptable in every respect apart from the faintness of its (white) band.
XXIV. I must describe too the character of the onyx proper, which shares its name with the sardonyx. Elsewhere, this name is given to a stone, but here it is that of a gem. Sudines states that in onyx one finds a white band resembling a human fingernail, as well as the colour of the 'chrysolith,' the sard and the iaspis, while Zenothemis mentions that the Indian onyx has several different colours, fiery red, black and that of horn, surrounded by a white layer as in an eye, and in some cases traversed by a slanting layer. Sotacus records also an Arabian onyx which differs from the Indian in that the latter displays a small fiery red layer surrounded by one or more white bands (the arrangement being unlike that of the Indian sardonyx, where the top red layer is a circle, and not, as in this instance, a dot). On the other hand, the Arabian onyx, according to him, is found to be black with white bands. Satyrus states that there is an Indian onyx that is flesh-coloured, with a part of it resembling the 'carbunculus,' and a part, the 'chrysolith' and the amethyst. This kind he wholly rejects as spurious, asserting that a genuine onyx has several bands of different colours combined with others that are milk-white, the colours as the bands shade into each other being quite indescribable as they are reduced to a harmonious and delightfully agreeable unity.
We must not, however, postpone too long our discussion of the sard, which is similarly a separate component of the name it shares with the onyx; and as we make our way to this topic, we must describe the properties of all the other fiery red gemstones.
XXV. The first rank among these is held by 'carbunculi,' so-called because of their fiery appearance, although they are not affected by fire and are therefore sometimes known as 'acaustoe,' or 'incombustible' stones. Two kinds of 'carbunculi' are the Indian and the Garamantic: the latter was called in Greek the Carthaginian because it was associated with the wealth of Great Carthage. To these Varieties are added the Ethiopian and that of Alabanda, the latter being found, it is said, at Orthosia in Carla, but treated at Alabandai. Furthermore, in each Variety there are so-called 'male' and 'female' stones, of which the former are the more brilliant, while the latter have a weaker lustre.
Among the male stones, moreover, are to be observed some that are clearer than usual or of an unusually dark red glare, and some that shine from deep beneath their surface and blaze with exceptional brilliance in sunlight, while the best are the 'amethyst-coloured stones,' namely those in which the fiery red shade passes at the edge into amethyst-violet, and the next best, known as 'Syrtitae,' or 'Stones of Syrtis,' have a bright feathery lustre. All these stones are said to reveal themselves in ground where sunlight is reflected most powerfully. Satyrus asserts that Indian 'carbunculi' lack brilliance and look generally flawed, with a 'parched' lustre; and that the Ethiopian stones look greasy and shed no lustre at all, but burn with a fire that is compressed within them. Callistratus holds that a 'carbunculus' ought to east a brilliant, colourless refulgence, so that when placed on a surface it enhances the lustre of other stones that are clouded at the edges, thanks to its own glowing brilliance. Hence many people call such a stone the white 'carbunculus,' and the kind that shines more faintly the 'lignyzon,' or 'murky' stone. Callistratus adds that Carthaginian 'carbunculi' are much smaller than others, and that the Indian stones can be hollowed into vessels holding as much as a pint. Archelaus writes that the Carthaginian stones have a somewhat swarthy appearance, but light up more intensely than the rest when they are viewed by firelight or sunlight, and at an angle. He mentions also that they appear purple indoors in shadow, and flame-red in the open air; that they sparkle when they are held against the sun, and that, when they are used as signets, they melt the wax, even in a very dark place. Many writers state that the Indian stones arc brighter than the Carthaginian, and that conversely they become dull when viewed at an angle. They add that the male Carthaginian stones have a blazing star inside them, while the female stones shed all their radiance externally; and that the 'carbunculi' of Alabanda are darker than the rest, and rough. Around Miletus also, the earth produces stones of the same colour, which are not at all affected by fire. Theophrastus assures us that 'carbunculi' are found both at Orchomenos in Arcadia and in Chios, the former, of which mirrors are made, being the darker. According to him, there are variegated stones, interspersed with white spots, from Troezen, and likewise from Corinth although the white in these Corinthian stones is yellowish. He mentions that 'carbuneuli' are imported also from Marseilles. Bocchus writes that they are dug up too in the neighbourhood of Lisbon, but only with great difficulty, because the soil, which is clay, is baked hard by the sun.
XXVI. Nothing is harder than the attempt to distinguish the varieties of this stone, so great is the scope that they afford for the exercise of cunning, when craftsmen force the opaque stones to become translucent by placing foil beneath them. The duller stones, it is said, when steeped in vinegar for fourteen days shine with a lustre that persists for as many months. 'Carbunculi' are counterfeited very realistically in glass, but, as with other gems, the false ones can be detected on a grindstone, for their substance is softer and brittle. Artificial stones containing cores are detected by using grindstones and scales, stones made of glass paste being less heavy. On occasion, moreover, they contain small globules which shine like silver.
XXVII. There is also a stone called 'anthracitis,' which is dug up in Thesprotia and resembles charcoal. Statements that it is found in Liguria I consider to be false, unless it is a fact that it was found there when the statements were made. Among these stones there are said to be some that are surrounded by a white vein. The 'anthracitis' has the fiery colour of the stones previously mentioned, but it possesses one peculiar property: when it is touched its glow dies away and disappears, but when, on the other hand, it is soaked with water it blazes forth again.
XXVIII. A stone that is closely akin to 'carbonculi' is the 'sandastros,' sometimes known also as the Garamantic stone in virtue of its character. It occurs in a part of India that hears the same name, and is found also in Southern Arabia. Its chief merit is that its fiery brilliance, displayed, as it were, in a transparent casing, glitters with golden particles that shine like stars within the stone, and always inside its structure and never upon its surface. Furthermore, there are religious associations attached to these stones, and we are told of their affinity with the stars, which exists because the starry particles with which they are embellished generally conform in their numbers and arrangement to the constellations of the Pleiades and Hyades. For this reason, they are regarded by astrologers as ritual objects. Here too, the male stones may be distinguished by their deep colour and by a certain vitality, which imparts a tint to objects placed close to them. The Indian stones, it is said, even weaken the sight. The fire of the female stones is more mellow, and glows rather than kindles. Some prefer the Arabian stones to the Indian, and compare the former to the smoky 'chrysolithus.' Ismenias declares that because of its softness the 'sandastros' cannot be polished, and so fails to fetch a high price. Some people call the stone 'sandrisites.' What is universally agreed is that, the larger the number of starry particles, the higher the price. Sometimes misunderstanding is caused by the similarity of the term 'sandaresus,' applied to a stone which Nicander calls 'sandaserion' and others 'sandaresos,' although there are certain writers who actually call this stone 'sandastros,' and our former stone 'sandaresus.' This latter stone likewise is found in India and preserves the name of its place of origin. Its colour is that of a green apple or green oil, and it is generally despised!
XXIX. To the same class of fiery red stones belongs the 'lychnis,' so called from the kindling of lamps, because at that time it is exceptionally beautiful. It is found around Orthosia and throughout Caria and the neighbouring regions, but occurs at its finest in India. 'Mild carbuncle' is the term sometimes applied to 'lychnis' of the second grade resembling the so-called 'Flower of Jove.' I find that there are other varieties as well, one of which has a purple and the other a scarlet sheen! These, when heated in the sun or by being rubbed between the fingers, are said to attract straws and papyrus fibres.
XXX. It is said that the same power is exerted by the Carthaginian stone, although it is far less valuable than those previously mentioned. It is formed in the mountain country of the Nasamones by rains of divine origin, as the inhabitants like to think. The stones are found when they reflect the moonlight, particularly at full moon, and in former times were exported to Carthage. Archelaus records that brittle stones, full of veins and resembling a dying ember, are found in Egypt near Thebes. I find that drinking vessels used commonly to be made from this stone and from 'lychnis.' All these varieties, however, obstinately resist engraving and, when used as signets, retain a portion of the wax.
XXXI. On the contrary, sard, which shares a part of its name with sardonyx, is extremely useful for this purpose. The stone itself is a common one and was first discovered at Sardis, but the most valuable specimens are found near Babylon. When certain quarries are being opened up the stones come to light adhering to the rock like heart-wood. This mineral is said to be now exhausted in Persia, but sards are found in several other localities, for example in Paros and at Assos. In India it occurs in three varieties: there are red stones, those known as 'pioniae,' or 'fatty stones,' because of their greasy lustre, and finally a third kind that is backed with silver foil. The Indian stones are translucent, whereas the Arabian are somewhat opaque. Others are found also in Epirus near Leucas and in Egypt; and these are backed with gold foil. Among sards too there are male and female stones, of which the former shine the more intensely, while the latter are less lively and have a duller lustre. In ancient times no gemstone was more commonly used than the sardthis, at any rate, is the gem that is flaunted in the plays of Menander and Philemonand no other translucent gems lose their lustre less readily when they are covered with moisture: olive oil affects them more than any other liquid. Of these stones, the honey-coloured meet with disapproval, which is even stronger in the case of those that look like earthenware.
XXXII. Peridot still preserves its special reputation. It is a greenish variety of its own and, when first discovered, was preferred to any other. Once some Troglodytes, or Cave-dwellers, who were pirates, came ashore, exhausted by hunger and stormy weather, on an Arabian island, the name of which was Cytis; and it so happened that, while they were digging up plants and roots, they unearthed a peridot. This, at least, is the account accepted by Archelaus. Juba states that Topazos is the name of an island situated in the Red Sea at a distance of some 35 miles from the mainland. According to him, the island is fog-bound: consequently sailors often have to search for it, and this is why it has acquired its name; for in the Troglodyte language topazin means 'to seek.' Juba records that the stone was first brought from here as a gift for Queen Berenice, the mother of Ptolemy the Second, by his governor [285-246 B.C.] Philo; and that, because the king greatly admired it, a statue 4 cubits high was later made of peridot in honour of this Ptolemy's wife, Arsinoe, and consecrated in the shrine which was named after her the Arsinoeum. Our most recent authorities assert that the stone is found also near Alabastrum, a town in the Thebaid, and divide it into two varieties, the 'prasoides,' or 'leek-like,' and the 'chrysopteros,' or 'golden-feathered,' of which the latter resembles the 'chrysoprasus.' In general, the colour tends to resemble the tints of the leek. Incidentally, the peridot is the largest of gemstones. Also, it is the only precious stone that is affected by an iron file, whereas all others have to be smoothed with Naxian stone and emery. Moreover, peridot is worn away by use.
XXXIII. With this stone is associated, but more closely in respect of similarity in appearance than of esteem, the pale-green 'callaina.' It occurs in the hinterland beyond India among the inhabitants of the Caucasus, the Hyrcani, Sacae and Dahae. It is of exceptional size, but is porous and full of flaws. A far purer and finer stone is found in Cannania. In both localities, however, 'callaina' occurs amidst inaccessible icy crags, where it is seen as an eye-shaped swelling loosely adhering to the rocks, as though it had been attached to them, rather than formed upon them. Thus tribes accustomed to riding on horseback and too lazy to use their feet find it irksome to climb in search of the stones; and they are also deterred by the risks. They, therefore, shoot at them from a distance with their slings and dislodge them, moss and all. This is the article that pays their taxes, this they acknowledge to be the most beautiful thing that can be worn on neck or fingers, from this they derive their wealth, this is their pride and joy as they boast of the number that they have shot down since their childhood, an operation in which success varies, seeing that some win fine stones with their first shot, while many reach old age without obtaining one. Such, then, is the way in which they hunt the 'callaina.' Subsequently, the stone is shaped by the drill, being in other respects an easy stone to deal with. The best stones have the colour of 'smaragdus,' so that it is obvious, after all, that their attractiveness is not their own. They are enhanced by being set in gold, and no gem sets off gold so well. The finer specimens lose their colour if they are touched by oil, unguents or even undiluted wine, whereas the less valuable ones preserve it more steadfastly. No gemstone is more easily counterfeited by means of imitations in glass. Some authorities say that 'callainae' are found in Arabia inside the nests of the birds known as 'melancoryphi,' or 'black caps.'
XXXIV. There are also many other kinds of green stones. A member of the commoner class is the prase. A second variety of this stone differs in respect of its blood-red spots, and a third, because it is sharply marked with three white streaks. Preference, however is given to the 'chrysoprasus,' or 'golden prase,' which likewise reproduces the tint of a leek, although in this case the tint veers slightly from that of peridot towards gold. This stone, moreover, may be large enough to be made even into small cups, and it is very commonly cut into cylinders.
XXXV. India produces not only these stones, but also the 'nilios,' which differs from the 'chrysoprasus' in showing a weak lustre and one that is elusive when it is looked at closely. Sudines states that it is found also in the Siberus, a river in Attica. Its colour is that of smoky, or on occasion honey-coloured, peridot. Juba records that the stone is formed on the banks of the river known to us as the Nile, from which its name, according to him, is derived.
XXXVI. Malachite is an opaque stone of a rather deep green shade and owes its name to its colour, which is that of the mallow. It is warmly recommended because it makes an accurate impression as a signet, protects children, and has a natural property that is a prophylactic against danger.
XXXVII. A green stone that is often translucent is the 'iaspis,' which still preserves the reputation that it enjoyed in the past, even though it now yields to many others. Numerous countries produce it. India produces a variety resembling 'smaragdus,' Cyprus one that is hard and dull greyish-green in colour, and Persia one that is like the blue sky and is therefore called 'aeizusa,' or 'sky-blue.' A similar kind comes from the Caspian region. A deep-blue variety is found near the River Thermodon in Phrygia a purple one, and in Cappadocia another that is purplish-blue, sombre and without lustre. From Amisos comes a kind similar to the Indian, and from Chalcedon one that is cloudy. But it is not so important to distinguish countries of origin as excellences. The best stone is that which has a shade of purple, the next has one of rose, and the next again of 'smaragdus.' The Greeks have applied epithets to each kind in accordance with its character. The fourth variety is known among them as 'boria,' or 'north-wind iaspis,' because it is like the sky on an autumn morning. This will be identical with the kind that is called 'arizusa.' There is also the 'terebinthizusa,' or 'turpentine iaspis,' the epithet being inappropriate, in my opinion, because the stone is, as it were, compounded of many gems of the same variety, for it is not only like a sard, but also resembles in its colour a violet. There are just as many kinds that remain to be described, but all are blue to a fault, or else are like rock-crystal or a sebesten plum. Consequently the better specimens are set in an open bezel so that they may remain exposed on both faces, with only their edges clasped by the gold. A defect found in them is their weak lustre and failure to shine at a distance, and also specks resembling salt, as well as all the faults that occur in other gemstones. They too can be counterfeited in glass, and the deception becomes obvious when the brightness of a stone is scattered abroad instead of being concentrated within. The remaining varieties are called 'sphragides,' or 'signets,' the common Greek name for a gemstone being thus bestowed on these alone because they are excellent for sealing documents. However, all the peoples of the East are said to wear them as amulets. That variety of 'iaspis' which resembles 'smaragdus' is often surrounded in the middle by a slanting white line, and is therefore called 'monogrammos,' or 'single-lined': if there are several such lines the stone is 'polygrammos,' or 'many-lined.' In passing, it gives me pleasure to refute here, as elsewhere, the falsehoods of the Magi, who tell us that this stone is helpful to public speakers. There is also an 'iaspis' combined with onyx known as 'iasponyx,' or 'jasper onyx,' a stone that has a cloudy inclusion in it and specks on it that look like snow, and is spangled with red dots. There is also an 'iaspis' that resembles Megarian salt and is stained as though with smoke: hence it is called 'capnias,' or 'smoky.' I myself have seen a figure, representing Nero in a breastplate, that was made of this stone and was 16 inches high.
XXXVIII. We shall now give a separate account of 'cyanus,' for a short time ago we applied this name to an 'iaspis' owing to its blue colour. The best kind is the Scythian, then comes the Cyprian and lastly there is the Egyptian. It is very commonly counterfeited by tinting other stones, and this is a famous achievement of the kings of Egypt, whose records also mention the name of the king who first tinted stones in this way 'Cyanus,' too, is divided into male and female varieties. Sometimes inside cyanus there is a golden dust, which, however, differs from that which occurs inside lapis lazuli; for there the gold glistens as dots.
XXXIX. Lapis lazuli also is blue and is only rarely tinged with purple. The best is found in Persia, but nowhere are there any transparent stones. Moreover, they are useless for engraving, because cores like rock-crystal interfere with this. Lapis lazuli which is of the colour of azurite is regarded as a male variety.
XL. Next, we shall assign to another category purple stones or those varieties that deviate from them. Here the first rank is held by the amethysts of India, although amethysts are found also in that part of Arabia, known as Petra, which borders on Syria, as well as in Lesser Armenia, Egypt and Galatia, while the most imperfect and worthless specimens occur in Thasos and Cyprus. The name 'amethyst' has been explained by the supposed fact that the brilliant colour of the stone closely approaches that of wine, but stops short of absorbing it and ends in a violet shade. Others, again, offer the explanation that the characteristic purple colour contains an element that is not quite bright red, but fades into the colour of wine. However this may be, all amethysts are transparent and are of a handsome violent tint, and all are easy to engrave. The Indian amethyst has the perfect shade of Tyrian purple at its best, and it is this stone that the dye-factories aspire to emulate. The stone, when examined, sheds a gentle, mellow colour, which does not, like that of the 'carbunculus,' dazzle the eye. A second kind of amethyst deviates towards the sapphire. Its colour is known to the Indians as 'soeos,' and the variety of gem as 'soeondios.' A fainter variety of the same stone is called 'sapenos' and also, in the districts adjacent to Arabia, 'pharanitis' after the name of a tribe. A fourth kind has the colour of red wine, while a fifth degenerates nearly into rock-crystal, since its purple fades away towards colourlessness. This is the least valuable kind, since a fine stone should, when held up to the light, display in its purple colour a rosy tint shining forth gently as though from a 'carbuneulus.' Some people prefer to call such stones 'paederotes,' or 'favourites,' others 'anterotes,' or 'love requited,' and many 'eyelid of Venus.' The Magi falsely claim that the amethyst prevents drunkenness, and that it is this property that has given it its name. Moreover, they say that, if amethysts are inscribed with the names of the sun and moon and are worn hanging from the neck along with baboons' hairs and swallows' feathers, they are a protection against spells. Again, they assert that, however they are used, amethysts will assist people who are about to approach a king as suppliants, and that they keep off hail and locusts if they are used in conjunction with an incantation which they prescribe. Moreover, they have made similar claims on behalf of the 'smaragdus,' provided that it is engraved with an eagle or a scarab beetle. I can only suppose that in committing these statements to writing they express a derisive contempt for mankind.
XLI. There is a considerable difference between the amethyst and the 'hyacinthus,' which, however, shows only a slight deviation from a closely related tint. The difference lies in the fact that the brilliant violet radiance that is characteristic of the amethyst is here diluted with the tint of the hyacinth flower; and although at first sight the colour is agreeable, it loses its power before we can take our fill of it and, indeed, is so far from satisfying the eye that it almost fails to strike it and droops more rapidly than the flower of the same name.
XLII. Besides the 'hyacinthus,' the 'chrysolithus,' a bright golden, transparent stone, comes to us from Ethiopia. Preference over this variety, however, goes to the Indian and, if the colour is uniform, to the Tibarene stones! The worst stones are the Arabian, for these are murky and mottled, with their brilliance broken up by cloudy spots. Even the clear stones that have come to light are full of a kind of powder. The best specimens are those which, placed alongside gold, make it assume a white, silvery appearance. These stones are set in an open bezel so as to remain fully transparent, while the rest are backed with brass foil.
XLIII. Although they have now ceased to be used as gems, there are certain stones to be mentioned that are called 'chrysoelectri,' or 'golden amber.' Their colour passes into that of amber, but only in morning light. Those from Pontus are betrayed by their light weight. Some of these stones are hard and reddish, while some are soft and full of flaws. Bocchus assures us that they have been found also in Spain, in the place where, according to his previous account, rock-crystal is dug up from shafts sunk to water-level, and adds that he saw a 'chrysolithus' weighing twelve pounds.
XLIV. There occur also 'leucochrysi,' or 'golden-white' stones, which are traversed by a bright white vein; and there is also the 'capnias,' or 'smoky stone' belonging to this class. There are, moreover, stones closely resembling those made of glass-paste, their colour being a kind of bright saffron-yellow. They can be so convincingly counterfeited in glass that the difference cannot be observed, although it may be detected by touch, since the glass-paste feels warmer.
XLV. In the same class is the 'melichrysus,' or 'honey-gold stone,' which looks like pure honey seen through a clear film of gold. This stone, a product of India, is brittle, although hard, but is by no means unpleasing. India produces also the 'xuthos' or 'brownish-yellow stone,' a gem regarded there as fit only for the common folk.
XLVI. White stones are headed by the 'paederos,' or 'favourite,' although we may ask to which colour we should assign a stone bearing a name that is so often bandied about among beautiful objects of different kinds a that the mere term has become a guarantee of beauty. However, the species which the name claims as its very own likewise fulfils our great expectations. Here, indeed, with the transparency of the rock-crystal are associated a characteristic sky-green tint, along with a brilliant glint of purple and of golden wine, of which the last colour is always the last to be seen, but always has a purple halo. All these colours, both individually and collectively, seem to pervade the stone; and there is no gemstone that can match its clarity, which is delightfully agreeable to the eye. The most highly valued kind is found in India, where it is known as 'sangenon,' while the second-best occurs in Egypt, where the name used is 'tenites.' Third in order is a variety found in Arabia, but this kind is rough. Then there is the 'paederos' from Pontus, which has a weaker lustre, and the kind from Thasos, which is still weaker. Finally, there are the stones of Galatia, Thrace and Cyprus. The defects of the 'paederos' are faintness and the intrusion of uncharacteristic colours, as well as those that belong to all other gems.
XLVII. Next among the bright colourless stones is the 'asteria,' or 'star stone,' which holds its high position owing to a natural peculiarity, in that a light is enclosed in it, stored in something resembling the pupil of the eye. This light is transmitted and, as the stone is tilted, is displayed successively in different places, as if capable of locomotion within. When it is held up to the sun the same stone reflects bright beams radiating as if from a star; and thus it has acquired its name. The stones found in India are difficult to engrave, and those from Carmania are preferred.
XLVIII. A similarly bright colourless stone is the 'astrion,' or 'little star,' which closely resembles rock-crystal, and occurs in India and on the coasts of Patalene. It has inside it at the centre a star shining brightly like the full moon. The name is sometimes explained by the fact that the stone, when held up to the stars, is supposed to catch their glitter and reflect it. It is said that the best variety is found in Carmania, and that no kind of gem is less liable to possess defects. We are told that there is also a variety known as 'ceraunia,' or 'thunder-stone,' which is inferior, and that the worst of all recalls the glimmer of a lantern.
XLIX. Another stone that is much esteemed is the 'astriotes,' again a star stone. It is recorded that Zoroaster proclaimed the remarkable merits of this stone when used in the practice of magic.
L. The 'astolos' according to Sudines, resembles the eye of a fish and sheds brilliant white beams like the sun.
LI. Among the bright colourless stones there is also the one called 'ceraunia' ('thunder-stone') which catches the glitter of the stars and, although in itself it is like rock-crystal, has a brilliant blue sheen. It is found in Carmania. Zenothernis admits that it is colourless, but describes it as 'containing a twinkling star.' He mentions that there are also to be found dull 'cerauniae' which if steeped in soda and vinegar for several days form such a star, which, however, fades away again after as many months. Sotacus distinguishes also two other varieties of the stone, a black and a red, resembling axe-heads. According to him, those among them that are black and round are supernatural objects; and he states that thanks to them cities and fleets are attacked and overcome, their name being 'baetuli,' while the elongated stones are 'cerauniae.' These writers distinguish yet another kind of 'ceraunia' which is quite rare. According to them, the Magi hunt for it zealously because it is found only in a place that has been struck by a thunderbolt.
LII. The name that appears in these writers immediately after 'ceraunia' is that of the so-called 'iris,' or 'rainbow stone.' It is dug up on an island in the Red Sea 60 miles distant from the city of Berenice. In every other respect it is merely rock-crystal, and is sometimes called 'root of crystal' for this reason. It is known as 'iris' in token of its appearance, for when it is struck by the sunlight in a room it casts the appearance and colours of a rainbow on the walls near by, continually altering its tints and ever causing more and more astonishment because of its extremely changeable effects. It is agreed that it has hexagonal faces, like the rockcrystal, but some people assert that it has rough faces and unequal angles; and that in full sunlight it scatters the beams that shine upon it, and yet at the same time lights up adjacent objects by projecting a kind of gleam in front of itself. But, as I have said, it does not produce any colours except in a dark place; and even then, the effect is not as though the stone itself contained the colours, but rather as though it were forcing them to rebound from the wall. The best kind is that which produces the spectra that are the largest in size with the closest resemblance to a rainbow. There is also another 'rainbow stone,' the 'iritis,' which is similar to the former in every respect except that it is very hard. According to Orus, this when burnt and crushed to a powder cures ichneumon bites, but is actually found in Persis.
LIII. A stone that is similar in its appearance but different in its effects is the so-called 'leros,' or 'trifle,' in which there is a white and a black streak traversing the rock-crystal.
LIV. I have now discussed the principal gemstones, classifying them according to their colour, and shall proceed to describe the rest in alphabetical order.
The agate was once held in high esteem, but now enjoys none. It was first discovered in Sicily near the river of the same name, but was later found in many countries. Its size can be exceptional, and its varieties are very numerous. The descriptive terms applied to it vary accordingly. For example, it is given names like 'jasper-agate,' 'wax-agate,' 'emerald-agate,' 'blood-agate,' 'white agate,' 'tree-agate' (which is distinguished by marks resembling small trees), 'anti-agate' (which, when burnt, smells like myrrh) and 'coral-agate,' which is sprinkled with golden particles like those of lapis lazuli and is a variety that is very plentiful in Crete. Another name for it is 'sacred agate,' since it is thought to counteract the bites of spiders and scorpions. This I would in any ease believe to be true of the Sicilian stones, since the venom of scorpions is destroyed by a mere hint of a breeze from that province. The agates found in India are also effective in this way and have other very remarkable qualifies besides. For they exhibit the likenesses of rivers, woods and draught-animals; and from them also are made dishes, statuettes, horse-trappings and small mortars for the use of pharmacists, for merely to look at them is good for the eyes. Moreover, if placed in the mouth, they allay thirst. The Phrygian agates contain no green, while those found at Egyptian Thebes lack red and white veins, but these again are effective against scorpions. Those of Cyprus are similarly esteemed. Some people warmly approve of the transparent glassy portions of these last stones. Agates are found too in Trachis near Mount Oeta, on Parnassus, in Lesbos, in Messenia (where they look like flowers on a field-path) and in Rhodes. Other differences among agates arc found in the writings of the Magi. Stones are found that resemble a lion's skin, and these, they claim, are effective against scorpions. But in Persia, according to them, the fumes from these stones, when they are burnt, avert storms and waterspouts and stop the flow of rivers, the test of a genuine stone being that it should cool the water when placed in a cauldron that is on the boil. But they insist that, if the stones are to do good, they should be tied to hairs from a lion's mane. Incidentally, when attached to hairs from a hyena's mane, they avert discord in the household. According to the Magi, there is an agate of one single colour that makes athletes invincible. The method of testing such a stone is to throw it into a pot full of oil with various pigments: when it has been heated for no more than two hours it should have reduced all the pigments to a single shade of vermilion.
The 'acopos,' or 'reviver,' which in colour resembles soda, is porous and spangled with gold particles. Oil heated along with this stone and applied as an embrocation dispels fatigue, or so we are led to believe.
'Alabastritis,' which is found at Alabastrum in Egypt and at Damascus in Syria, is a white stone interspersed with various colours. When burnt with rock salt and pounded, it is said to alleviate bad breath caused by the mouth and teeth. 'Alectoriae,' or 'cock stones,' is the name given to stones found in the gizzards of cocks. In appearance they are like rock-crystal, and in size like beans; and it is claimed that Milo of Croton owes to his use of these stones his reputation as one who was never worsted in a contest. The 'androdamas,' or 'man tamer,' has a silvery glint, like 'adamas,' and always resembles small cubes. The Magi suppose that its name has been applied to it in virtue of the fact that it subdues violence and hot temper in men. Whether the 'argyrodamas,' or 'silver tamer,' is the same, or a different, stone, is not made clear by our authorities. 'Antipathes,' or the 'contrary stone,' is black and opaque. Its genuineness is tested by boiling it in milk, to which it gives the appearance of myrrh. One might perhaps be entitled to expect something prodigious of this stone; for there are many instances of 'antipathetic ` substances, and yet it has been granted exclusive possession of the name. The Magi claim that it helps to counteract witchcraft. The Arabian stone closely resembles ivory, and would pass for it if its hardness did not forbid this. According to the Magi, it helps its possessors when they have pains in their sinews. The 'aromatitis,' or 'aromatic stone,' is also found in Arabia, but likewise in Egypt near Philae. It is always stony and, since it has the colour and scent of myrrh, it is much used by queens. 'Asbestos,' which is found in the mountains of Arcadia, has the colour of iron. 'Aspisatis,' according to Democritus, occurs in Arabia and is of a fiery red colour. He recommends that sufferers from an enlarged spleen should wear it as an amulet with camel dung. However that may be, he states that it is found in the nests of Arabian birds, and that another stone bearing the same name and found in Arabia on Cape Leucopetra has a darting silvery lustre and is effective in counteracting attacks of wild distraction. The Atizoe, he writes, is found in India and on Mount Acidane in Persis. He describes it as shining brightly like silver, as being just over two inches in length with the shape of a lentil and an agreeable scent, and as being indispensable for the Magi at the installation of a king. The 'augitis' is supposed by many to be identical with the 'callaina.' 'amphidanes' is the stone otherwise known as 'chrysocolla.' It occurs in the region of India where gold is dug up by ants. The stone is found actually in the gold, being similar to gold and having the shape of a cube. Its nature is positively stated to be the same as that of the magnet, except that, according to tradition, it also causes gold to increase. The 'aphrodisiac' stone is red mixed with white. As for the 'apsyetos,' or 'uncooled stone,' it retains its warmth for seven days if it is thoroughly heated in a fire, and is black, heavy and marked with red veins. It is thought to counteract cold. By the 'Aegyptilla,' or 'little Egyptian stone,' Iaechus understands a stone in which the white layer is traversed by bands of carnelian and black, but the term is commonly applied where there is a black ground and an upper layer of blue. It is named after the country where it is found.
LV. As to the 'balanites,' or 'acorn-stone,' there are two varieties, of which one is greenish and the other like Corinthian bronze in its colour. The former comes from Coptos and the latter from the Cave-dwellers' country, and both are intersected through the middle by a bright red layer. The 'batrachites,' or 'frog-stone,' also comes from Coptos: one variety has a colour like that of a frog, a second is similar and also has veins, while a third is red mixed with black. The 'baptes,' or 'dipper,' has an exceptionally pleasant scent, but is otherwise an ordinary soft stone. The 'Eye of Baal' has a whitish ground surrounding a dark eye which sends out a golden gleam from its midst. Because of its appearance, the stone is consecrated to the holiest god of the Assyrians. There is another 'Baal stone,' as it is called, which, according to Democritus, is found at Arbela and is as large as a walnut, with a glassy appearance. 'Baroptenus,' also known as 'baripe,' is a black stone with blood-red and white nodules.
As an amulet it is rejected because it is liable to cause monstrous births. 'Botryitis,' or `'grape-cluster,' occurs in two varieties, of which one is dark and the other has the colour of a vine, and resembles a young grape. 'Bostrychitis' is the name given by Zoroaster to a stone that somewhat resembles the locks of a woman's hair. 'Bucardia,' resembling an ox-heart, is found only at Babylon. 'Brontea,' or 'thunder stone,' which is like the head of a tortoise, is supposed to fall from thunderclaps and to extinguish fires where lightning has struck, or so we are led to believe. The 'bolos,' or 'clod,' is found in the river Ebro and is like a clod of earth.
LVI. 'Cadmitis' is identical with the so-called 'ostracitis,' except that the latter is sometimes surrounded with blue globules. 'Callais` is similar to lapis lazuli, except that its colour is lighter, like that of the sea close inshore. 'Capnitis,' or 'smoke stone,' is regarded by some as a separate variety, but many people treat it as a smoky 'iaspis,' as I have described it in the appropriate place. The 'Stone of Cappadocia' occurs there and in Phrygia, and is like ivory. The 'callaica' is so called from its colour, which is that of a clouded 'callais,' and it is said that several of these stones are always found joined together. The 'catochitis,' or 'clinging stone,' belongs to Corsica and is larger than other precious stones, and more remarkable, if the reports are true, because, if the hand rests on it the stone sticks to it like gum. The 'catoptritis,' or 'mirror-stone,' which occurs in Cappadocia, reflects images from its bright colourless surface. The 'cepitis,' also known as 'cepolatitis,' is white, with lines of veins that meet at a single point. The 'ceramitis,' or 'pottery-stone,' has the colour of earthenware. or 'cinaedus stones,' are white, oblong stones found in the brain of the fish so named. They have a remarkable effect if only we can believe the statement that they predict conditions at sea, foretelling mist or calm as the case may be. 'Ceritis' reminds us of wax, 'circos' of a hawk, 'corsoides' of grey hair, and 'coralloachates,' or 'coral-agate,' of coral. This has markings like drops of gold. The 'corallis' resembles vermilion, and occurs in India and at Aswan. The 'erateritis,' or 'strong stone,' has a colour between that of yellow sapphire and of amber, and is very hard. The 'crocallis' reproduces exactly the appearance of the cells of a honeycomb. 'Cyitis,' or cyitts 'pregnant stone,' which is found in the neighbourhood of Coptos, is white and seems to be pregnant with another stone, the presence of which is in fact perceived by a rattling sound. The 'chalcophonos,' or 'brazen-voiced stone,' which is black, rings like bronze when it is dashed against anything; and actors of tragedies are urged to wear it. As to 'chelidoniae,' or 'swallow-stones,' there are two varieties, both of which are swallow-coloured with purple on one side, but in one variety the purple is interspersed with black markings. The 'chelonia,' Chelon, 'tortoise-stone,' is the eye of the Indian tortoise and, according to the false allegations of the Magi, is the most miraculous of all stones. For they claim that the stone, if it is placed on the tongue after the mouth has been rinsed with honey, confers powers of prophecyat full moon or new moon, during the whole of the day; when the moon is waning, before sunrise only; and at other times, from dawn to midday. There are also tortoise-stones which are the eyes of other tortoises and resemble the tortoise-stone previously mentioned; and according to their guidance the Magi often pronounce prophetic incantations in order to cause storms to subside. The variety, however, that is sprinkled with gold drops is said by them to generate storms if it is dropped into boiling water with a scarab beetle. The 'chloritis,' or 'greenstone,' which is of a grassy colour, is said by the Magi to be found as a congenital growth in the crop of the water-wagtail. They recommend that it should be set in an iron bezel so as to produce certain of their all too familiar miracles. The 'choaspitis,' which is named after the river Choaspes, is of a brilliant gold colour mixed with green. The 'chrysolampis,' or 'golden gleam,' which found in Ethiopia, is generally pale, but fiery by night. The 'chrysopis,' or 'golden face,' looks just like gold. The 'Cetionis' is found in Aeolis at Atarneus, now a village, but once a town. It is a transparent stone of many colours. The hue is sometimes that of glass, sometimes of rock-crystal and sometimes of 'iaspis,' but even the stones with flaws in them have so brilliant a lustre that they reflect an image as if they were mirrors.
LVII. The 'daphnea,' or 'laurel stone,' is prescribed by Zoroaster as a cure for epilepsy. The 'diadochos,' or 'substitute,' resembles beryl. The 'diphyes' is a stone of twofold character. It is subdivided into a black and a white, a male and a female variety, each of the two varieties bearing an outline that distinctively portrays the organ of its sex. The 'Dionysias,' or 'stone of Dionysus,' a hard stone, the colour of which is black intermingled with red spots, produces the flavour of wine when it is ground to powder and mixed with water, and is supposed to be an antidote to drunkenness. The 'draconitis,' otherwise known as 'dracontias,' the 'snake stone,' is obtained from the brains of snakes, but unless the head is cut off from a live snake, the substance fails to turn into a gem, owing to the spite of the creature as it perceives that it is doomed. Consequently, the beast's head is lopped off while it is asleep. Sotacus, who writes that he saw such a gem in the possession of a king, states that those who go in search of it ride in two-horsed chariots, and that when they see the snake they scatter sleeping-drugs and so put it to sleep before they cut off its head. According to him, the stone is colourless and transparent, and cannot subsequently be polished or submitted to any other skilful process.
LVIII. The 'encardia,' or 'heart stone,' has been given the epithet 'enaristera,' or 'left-side,' and shows the likeness of a heart in high relief on a black ground. Another variety bearing the same name displays the likeness of a heart in green, and a third in black, the rest of the stone being white. The 'enorchis' is white, and when it is split up into pieces reproduces exactly the shape of the testicles. 'Exhebenus' is, according to Zoroaster, a handsome white stone which goldsmiths use for polishing gold. 'Erythallis,' although it is white, looks red when it is tilted. The 'erotylos,' or 'love stone,' otherwise known as 'amphicomos' and 'hieromnemon,' is praised by Democritus in virtue of its use in prophecy. The 'eumeces,' or 'tall stone,' which is found in Bactria, resembles hard limestone, and, when it is placed beneath the head like a pillow, produces dreams that have the force of an oracle. The 'eumitres,' or 'fine headdress,' is held in high regard by the Assyrians as the jewel of Baal, the most holy of their gods. Its colour is that of the leek, and it is much favoured in religious observances. The 'eupetalos,' or 'leafy stone,' has four colours, blue, fiery red, shaped like an olive stone, is fluted like a seashell, vermilion, and apple-green. 'Eureos,' which is but is not so white. 'Eurotias,' or 'mouldy stone,' looks as if its black surface were covered with mildew. 'Eusebes,' or 'reverent stone,' is the kind of stone of which a seat in the temple of Hercules at Tyre is said to have been made, this seat being the one from which only the pious could rise without difficulty. 'Epimelas,' or 'black-on-top,' is an instance of a white gemstone that is overlaid with black.
LIX. 'Galaxias,' or 'milk stone,' which is sometimes known as 'galactites,' is similar to the stones next mentioned, but is traversed by blood-red or white streaks. 'Galactitis' is entirely milk-white, and is known also as 'leucogaea' ('white earth'), 'leucographitis' ('white chalk'), and 'synechitis' ('cohesive earth'). It is noteworthy for the fact that when rubbed between the fingers it exhibits a milky smear and flavour, and in the rearing of children it ensures wet-nurses a plentiful flow of milk. Moreover, when it is tied to the necks of babies as an amulet, it is said to make their saliva flow, but we are told that when placed in the mouth it melts and also causes loss of memory. Two rivers, the Nile and the Achelous, produce this substance. Some people apply the term 'galactites' to a 'smaragdus' that is banded with white streaks. 'Gallaica' is similar to 'argyrodamas,' but is somewhat less pure. Two or three stones are found joined together. The 'gassinnades,' which comes from Media, has the colour of wild vetch and looks as if it were sprinkled with flowers. It is found also at Arbela. This is yet another gem that is said to conceive, and to betray the presence of the stone in its womb if it is shaken. The 'embryo,' we are told, takes three months to develop. 'Glossopetra,' or 'tongue stone,' which resembles the human tongue, does not, we are told, form in the ground, but falls from the sky during the waning of the moon, and is indispensable to the moon-diviner. Our scepticism with regard to this account is reinforced by the falseness of the claim made for the stone; for it is stated that it checks gales. The 'Gorgonia,' or 'Gorgon's stone,' is merely coral. The reason for its name is that it is transformed into the hardness of stone after being softened in the sea. It is said to keep off thunderbolts and whirlwinds. The 'goniaea,' or 'faceted stone,' is guaranteed just as falsely to bring about the punishment of one's private enemies.
LX. The heliotrope, which is found in Ethiopia, Africa and Cyprus, is leek-green in colour, but is marked with blood-red streaks. The name is explained by the fact that, when the stone is dropped into a vessel of water and bright sunshine falls upon it, in reflecting the sunlight it changes it into the colour of blood. This is true especially of the Ethiopian variety. When it is out of water, the same stone catches the sunlight like a mirror and detects solar eclipses, showing the passage of the moon below the sun's disc. Here, moreover, we have quite the most blatant instance of effrontery on the part of the Magi, who say that when the heliotrope plant is joined to the stone and certain prayers are pronounced over them the wearer is rendered invisible. The 'Hephaestitis,' or 'Hephaestus stone,' is another that acts like a mirror in reflecting images, even though it is red. The test of its genuineness is that boiling water when poured over it should cool immediately; or, alternatively, that when placed in the sun it should immediately set fire to a parched substance. The stone is found at Corycus. The Hermuaedoeon, or 'sexual organ of Hermes,' is so called from its resemblance to the male organ, the gemstone on which the likeness appears being white or sometimes black, or pale yellow, and surrounded by a circular band of golden yellow. The 'hexecontalithos,' or 'sixty-stones-in-one,' contains many colours in a small compass, and so has appropriated its name. It is found in the Cave-dwellers' country. The 'hieracitis,' or 'kite stone,' is entirely covered with feathery scales, black ones alternating with others resembling a kite's feathers. 'Hammitis,' or 'sandy stone,' resembles fish roe, and there is another kind that looks as if it were composed of soda, but is otherwise just a very hard stone. 'Hammonis cornu,' or 'horn of Ammon,' which is among the most sacred stones of Ethiopia, has a golden yellow colour and is shaped like a ram's horn. The stone is guaranteed to ensure without fail dreams that will come true. The 'hormiscion,' or 'necklace stone,' which in its appearance is among the most pleasing of gemstones, reflects beams of gold from a fiery red ground, and these gold beams carry a white gleam at their tips. 'Hyaeniae,' or 'hyena stones,' are, it is said, obtained from the eyes of the hyena, which is actually attacked for the purpose. When the stones are placed under a man's tongue, they are alleged to foretell the future, if we are foolish enough to believe such a thing. 'Haematitis' of the finest quality occurs in Ethiopia, but the stone is found also both in Arabia and in Africa. It is blood-red in colour. We must not omit to mention the claims made for it, so that we may expose the treacherous frauds perpetrated by the Magi. Zachalias of Babylon, in the volumes which he dedicates to King Mithridates, attributes man's destiny to the influence of precious stones; and as for the 'haematitis,' he is not content to credit it with curing diseases of the eyes and liver, but places it even in the hands of petitioners to the king, allows it to interfere in lawsuits and trials, and proclaims also that to be smeared with an ointment containing it is beneficial in battle. There is another stone of the same kind which is sometimes called 'menui,' and sometimes 'xuthos,' or 'brownish-yellow' stone. This is the name given by the Greeks to stones that are. light brown.
LXI. 'Idaei dactyli,' or 'Fingers of Ida,' have the colour of iron and reproduce the shape of the human thumb. The 'icterias,' or 'jaundice stone,' is like the yellow skin of an apple, and is therefore considered to be beneficial in treating jaundice. There is also another stone of the same name, but of a more leaden colour. A third, resembling a leaf and flatter than the former varieties, is almost without weight and has dull yellow streaks. A fourth kind has dull yellow streaks spreading over a ground of a similar colour, but darker. 'Iovis gemma,' or 'Jupiter's gem,' is white, light in weight, and soft. It is known also as 'drosolithos,' or 'dew stone.' The 'Indica,' or 'Indian stone,' takes the name of its country of origin and is of a reddish hue, but when rubbed between the fingers exudes a purple liquid. Another stone of the same name is colourless and has a dusty appearance. The 'ion,' or 'violet stone,' is a violet-coloured stone found in India, but only rarely is its colour bright and deep.
LXII. The 'lepidotis,' or 'scaly stone,' mimics fish scales in various colours, while the 'Lesbias,' or 'stone of Lesbos,' resembles a clod of earth. It takes its name from its country of origin, but is found also in India. The 'leucophthalmos,' or 'white eye,' which is otherwise reddish, includes an eye-shaped layer which is white and black. The 'lencopoecilos,' or 'variegated white stone,' has a white ground marked with drops of vermilion mixed with gold. The 'libanochrus,' or 'colour-of-incense,' shows a resemblance to frankincense and gives off a honey-coloured streak. The 'limoniatis,' or 'meadow stone,' seems to be identical with the 'smaragdus.'
As for the 'liparea,' the only fact that is reported is that, when it is burnt, all beasts are flushed from their hiding-places by its fumes. The 'lysimachos' is similar to Rhodian marble with golden-yellow veins, and has to be considerably reduced in size by polishing so that its superfluous excrescences may be smoothed away. The 'leucochrysos,' or 'golden-white stone,' consists of a 'chrysolithos' interspersed with white.
LXIII. No description of the 'Memnonia,' or 'stone of Memnon,' exists. As for the 'Media,' a black stone found by the Media who is so famous in legend, it has veins of a golden-yellow colour, exudes saffron-yellow moisture and reproduces the flavour of wine. The 'meconitis,' or 'poppy stone,' closely resembles the poppy. 'Mithrax' comes from Persia and the mountains of the Persian Gulf. It is a stone of many colours and reflects their changing tints in sunlight. `Morochthos' is leek-green in colour and exudes milky moisture. 'Mormorion,' a very dark translucent stone from India, is also known as 'promnion'; but it is called 'Alexandrion,' or 'Alexander stone,' when the colour of garnet is mingled with it, and 'Cyprium,' when that of carnelian is present. It is found also at Tyre and in Galatia and, according to Xenocrates, occurs as well close to the Alps. These are gems which are eminently suitable for cameo-engraving. The 'myrrhitis,' or 'myrrh stone,' has the colour of myrrh and an appearance quite unlike that of a gemstone. It smells like an unguent and, when rubbed, even like spikenard. The 'black myrmecias,' or 'wart stone,' has excrescences like warts, while the 'myrsinitis,' or 'myrtle stone,' is honey-coloured and has the scent of myrtle. A stone is 'mesoleucos,' or 'white in the middle,' when a white band marks the middle of the gem; and is 'mesomelas,' or 'black in the middle,' when a black layer intersects a gem of any colour in the middle.
LXIV. The 'Nasamonitis,' or 'stone of the Nasamones,' is blood-red with black veins. The 'nebritis,' or 'fawn stone,' which is sacred to Father Liber, derives its name from its resemblance to a fawnskin, but there is another stone of the same kind that is black and white. 'Nipparene,' which gets its name from a city and tribe of Persia, is like the tooth of a hippopotamus.
LXV. The stone that bears the foreign name 'oica' is a pleasing mixture of black, reddish-brown, green and white. The 'ombria' ('rain stone'), otherwise known as 'notia' ('south-wind stone'), is said to fall, like the 'ceraurila' and the 'brontea,' in company with heavy rain and thunderbolts, and to have the same properties as these stones. But in addition, so we are told, it prevents offerings from being burnt away if it is placed on an altar. '`Onocardia,' or 'ass's heart,' is like the scarlet kermesinsect in colour, but we are told nothing further. 'Oritis,' or 'mountain stone,' sometimes known also as 'sideritis,' 'iron stone,' is spherical in shape and not affected by fire. 'Ostracias,' or 'sherd stone,' otherwise known as 'ostracitis,' resembles earthenware, but is harder than 'ceramitis.' It is like agate except that the latter has a greasy appearance when it has been polished. This 'ostracias' is so hard that other gemstones are engraved with pieces of it. The 'ostritis,' or 'oyster stone,' owes its name to its resemblance to an oyster-shell. 'Ophicardelos' is the foreign name for a black stone that is encircled by two white bands. Obsidian has already been discussed by me in an earlier book. There are also found gems bearing this same name and colour not merely in Ethiopia and India but also in Samnium and, as some people think, in Spain on the shores of the Atlantic.
LXVI. The 'panchrus,' or 'stone of all colours,' is composed of almost every colour. 'Pangonus,' or all-angles, is no longer than a finger, and it is only its more numerous plane faces that prevent it from being taken for rock-crystal. As for the 'paneros,' or 'all-love,' Metrodorus does not describe it, but he as cites quite a tasteful poem on the stone composed by Queen Timaris and dedicated to Venus. In this poem it is implied that the stone helped her to bear children. Some people call it 'panerastos,' or 'loved-by-all.' The Pontic stone occurs in several varieties. It is spangled sometimes with blood-red, sometimes with golden spots, and is regarded as a supernatural object. One variety has, instead of stars, similarly coloured lines, and another, figures recalling mountains and deep valleys. The 'phloginos,' or 'flame-coloured stone,' which is also known as 'chrysitis,' or 'gold stone,' resembles the yellow ochre of Attica and is found in Egypt. The 'phoenicitis,' or 'date-palm stone,' is so called from its resemblance to a date, and the 'phycitis,' or 'seaweed stone,' from its similarity to seaweed. A stone is 'perileucos,' or 'white-around,' when a white line descends (in a spiral) from the margin to the very base of the stone. The 'paeanis,' or 'Apollo stone,' otherwise known as 'gaeanis,' the 'earth stone,' is said to become pregnant and to give birth to another stone, and so is thought to relieve labour pains. Its birthplace is in Macedonia, near the tomb of Tiresias, and its appearance is that of ice.
LXVII. 'Solls gemma,' or 'gem of the sun,' is a bright colourless stone that sheds its beams in such a way as to resemble the sun's shining disc. 'Sagda' is the name given by the astrologers to a leek-green stone which they find, so they say, attached to ships' hulls. 'Samothrax,' or 'stone of Samothrace,' is produced in the island after which it is named, and is black, light in weight and like wood. The 'sauritis,' or 'lizard stone,' is stated to be found in the belly of a green lizard when it has been slit with a reed. The 'sarcitis,' or 'fleshy stone,' closely resembles ox-flesh. The 'selenitis,' or 'moonstone,' a transparent, colourless stone with a honey-coloured sheen, contains a likeness of the moon, and reproduces, if the report is true, the very shape of the moon as it waxes or wanes from day to day. It is thought to occur in Arabia. The 'sideritis,' or 'iron stone,' resembles iron and likewise causes some people to quarrel when it is brought to a dispute. It is found in Ethiopia. The 'sideropoecilos,' or 'mottled iron stone,' is a variety of this stone, mottled with specks. 'Spongitis,' or 'sponge stone,' is absolutely true to its name. The 'synodontitis' comes from the brain of the fish known as 'synodus.' The 'Syrtitis,' or 'stone of Syrtis,' is found on the shores of the Gulf of Sidra, and indeed, moreover, in Lucania. It is honey-coloured with a saffron-yellow sheen and contains faint starry spots inside it. 'Syringitis,' or 'pipe stone,' which resembles the length of a stalk between two of its joints, is hollow, with a tube running right through it.
LXVIII. The 'trichrus,' or 'three-coloured' stone, which comes from Africa, is black, but gives off streaks of three colours, black at the base, blood-red in the middle and yellow at the top. The 'thelyrrhizos,' or 'lady root,' is ashen or red in colour and is distinguished by its white base. The 'thelycardios,' or 'lady heart,' which displays the colour of a heart, gives great pleasure to the Persians, among whom it is found. Their name for it is 'mucul.' The 'Thracia,' or 'Thracian gem,' occurs in three varieties, emerald-green or alternatively paler, while the third has blood-red spots on it. 'Tephritis,' or 'ash stone,' displays a likeness of the new moon with curving horns, but on a ground that is the colour of ash. The 'tecolithos,' or 'solvent stone,' looks like an olive stone and has no value as a gem, but when sucked breaks up and disperses stone in the bladder.
LXIX. 'Veneris crinis,' or 'the lock of Venus,' is a very dark, brilliant stone, which has an inclusion resembling a lock of red hair. The 'Veientana,' which is an Italian gemstone found at Veii, has a black ground defined by a white edge.
LXX. The 'zathenes,' according to Democritus, is an amber-coloured stone found in Media, and if it is ground with palm wine and saffron softens like wax and has a most agreeable smell. The 'zamilampis,' Zamilar which is found in the Euphrates, is like the marble from the island of Marmara, but is greyish-green in the centre. 'Zoraniscaea' is said to be a gem found in the river Indus and used by the Magi, but, apart from this, nothing is reported about it.
LXXI. There is still another way of classifying precious stones, and it is one which I should like to employ, now that I have already from time to time varied my method of presenting my theme. For there are stones named after parts of the body, for example 'hepatitis' after the liver, and numerous past kinds of steatitis after the fat found in one animal or another. We find 'Adad's kidney,' 'Adad's eye' and 'Adad's finger,' Adad also being a god who is worshipped by the Syrians. Again, 'triophthalmos' is a variety of onyx that displays the likeness of three human eyes simultaneously.
LXXII. Precious stones are named after animals; for example 'carcinias' takes its name from the colour of the crab, and 'echitis' from that of the viper. 'Scorpitis' is so named because it displays the colour or else the likeness of a scorpion, 'scaritis,' similarly, of a parrot-wrasse, and 'triglitis,' of a red mullet. 'Aegophthalmos' takes its name from a goat's eye, and another stone likewise from a pig's eye. 'Geranitis' owes its name to the crane's neck, 'hieracitis' to the kite and 'atitis' to the colour of the white-tailed eagle. 'Myrmecitis' displays a naturally formed likeness of a crawling ant, and 'cantharias' that of scarab beetles. 'Lycophthalmos' is a stone of four colours, red mixed with blood-red, while in the middle it has black encircled by white, like a wolf's eye. 'Taos' is like a peacock; and a stone which I find bearing the name 'timictonia' similarly resembles an asp in colour.
LXXIII. A resemblance to inanimate objects is found in 'ammochrysus,' or 'sand-gold,' which looks like gold mixed with sand; in 'cenchrites,' or 'millet stone,' which looks as if it were sprinkled with grains of millet; and in 'dryites,' or 'oak stone,' which resembles the trunk of an oak. Moreover, this stone burns like wood. The 'cissitis,' or 'ivy stone,' is a transparent, colourless stone in which ivy leaves are visible, and these cover the whole stone. 'Narcissitis' is marked with veins coloured like narcissus, and has also its scent. 'Cyarnias,' or 'bean stone,' is black, but when broken produces from its interior an object resembling a bean. The 'pyren' is so called because it is like an olive stone: sometimes it looks as if it contains fish bones. The 'phoenicitis' is like a date. 'Chalazias,' or 'hail stone,' has the whiteness arid the shape of hailstones, and is as hard as 'adamas,' so that even when it is placed in a lire it is said to retain its natural coolness. 'Pyritis,' or 'fire stone,' even though it is black, scorches the fingers when it is rubbed. 'Polyzonos,' or 'many-banded stone,' is marked with a number of white bands on a black ground, while the 'astrapaea,' or 'lightning stone,' on a colourless or blue ground is traversed in the centre by beams like lightning flashes. The 'phlogitis,' or 'flame stone,' seems to have burning inside it a flame which, however, is not released, while the 'anthracitis,' or 'carbuncle stone,' appears to have sparks running in different directions through it. The 'enhygros,' or 'stone with moisture inside it,' has a white, smooth ground, and is always perfectly round. When it is shaken, liquid moves to and fro inside it, as in an egg. The 'polythrix,' or 'hairy stone,' displays hairy streaks on a green ground, but, in spite of its appearance, is said to make one's hair fall out. There are also the so-called 'lion-skin' and 'leopard-skin' stones. Colours too have lent their names to stones. 'Drosolithos,' or 'dew stone,' takes its name from its grass-green tint, 'melichrus,' of which there are several kinds, from its honey colour, 'melichlorus,' or 'honey-yellow stone,' from two tints combined, because it is partly yellow and partly honey-coloured; while 'crocias' is sprinkled as if with saffron, 'polias' with a greyishwhite tint, and 'spartopolias' with markings of a greyish-white more dispersed. 'Rhoditis' is 'rose-coloured,' melitis 'apple-coloured,' 'chalcitis' copper coloured and 'sychitis' 'fig-coloured'. 'Bostrychitis' has white or blood-red leaves branching out on a black ground, while 'chernitis' presents the appearance of white hands clasping each other on stone. The 'anancitis,' or 'compulsive stone,' it is said, is used in divination by water to conjure up divine apparitions, while the 'synochitis,' or 'holding stone,' so we are told, holds the shades of the dead when they have been summoned from below. As for the white 'dendritis,' or 'tree stone,' it is said that if it is buried beneath a tree that is being felled the edges of the axes will not be blunted. There are many more stones that are even more magical; and these have received foreign names from men who have thus betrayed the fact that they are ordinary, worthless stones, and not precious stones at all. But I shall here remain content with having exposed the abominable falsehoods of the Magi.
LXXIV. New, unnamed precious stones come into existence quite unexpectedly, like one which, according to Theophrastus, was once found in the gold mines near Lampsacus and was sent to King Alexander owing to its great beauty. Moreover, 'Cochlides,' or 'shell stones,' are now very common, but are really artificial rather than natural. In Arabia they are found as huge lumps, and these are said to be boiled in honey without interruption for seven days and nights. Thus all earthy and other impurities are eliminated; and the lump, cleansed and purified, is divided into various shapes by clever craftsmen, who are careful to follow up the veins and elongated markings in such a way as to ensure the readiest sale. Formerly, these lumps were produced in such large sizes that in the East they were made into frontlets for kings' horses aud into pendants to serve as trappings for them. In general, all gems are rendered more colourful by being boiled thoroughly in honey, particularly if it is Corsican honey, which is unsuitable for any other purpose owing to its acidity. Cunning and talented artists succeed also in cutting away parts of variegated stones so as to obtain novelties; and in order that these selfsame stones may not bear their usual name, they call them 'physis,' or 'works of nature,' and offer them for sale as natural curiosities.
But there is no end to the names given to precious stones, and I have no intention of listing them in full, innumerable as they are, thanks to the wanton imagination of the Greeks. Now that I have mentioned the precious stones, and also some, indeed, that are common, I must be content with having given emphasis to the rarer varieties that deserve notice. One point only should be remembered, that, according to the different marks and excrescences that appear on the surface of stones, and according to the varied tracks and colours of the bands that traverse them, names are often altered when the material is commonly the same.
LXXV. Now I shall make some general observations which concern our study of any precious stone; and here I shall adopt the notions of our authorities.
Concave or convex stones are considered less valuable than those with a plane surface. An elongated shape is the most valuable; then what is called the lenticular; and then a flat, round shape. Stones with sharp angles find the least favour.
To distinguish genuine and false gemstones is extremely difficult, particularly as men have discovered how to make genuine stones of one variety into false stones of another. For example, a sardonyx can be manufactured so convincingly by sticking three gems together that the artifice cannot be detected: a black stone is taken from one species, a white from another, and a vermilion-coloured stone from a third, all being excellent in their own way. And furthermore, there are treatises by authorities, whom I at least shall not deign to mention by name, describing how by means of dyestuffs emeralds and other transparent coloured gems are made from rock-crystal, or a sardonyx from a sard, and similarly all other gemstones from one stone or another. And there is no other trickery that is practised against society with greater profit.
LXXVI. I, on the other hand, am prepared to explain the methods of detecting false gems, since it is only fitting that even luxury should be protected against deception. Apart, then, from the details that I have given in describing the best stones of each class, it is recommended that transparent stones in general should be tested early in the morning or, if necessary, np to ten o'clock, but on no account later than this. Tests are made in many different ways: first by weight, because genuine stones are heavier; then by coolness, since genuine stones also feel colder in the mouth; and after this by structure. For artificial stones show globules deep below the surface, rough patches on the surface itself, filaments, an inconsistent lustre and a brightness that fails to strike the eye. The most effective test is to knock off a piece of the stone so that it can be baked on an iron plate, but dealers in precious stones not unnaturally object to this, and likewise to testing with a file. Flakes of obsidian will not scratch a genuine stone, but on a false stone every scratch leaves a white mark. Furthermore, there is a great difference as between one stone and another in that some cannot be engraved with an iron tool and some only with a blunt iron tool, although all can be worked with a diamond point. But what is most effective in working gemstones is the heat generated by the drill.
The rivers that produce gems are the Chenab and the Ganges, and of all the lands that produce them India is the most prolific.
LXXVII. For now that I have completed my survey of Nature's works, it is right that I should make a critical assessment of her products, as well of the lands that produce them. This, then, I declare: in the whole world, wherever the Vault of heaven turns, there is no land so well adorned with all that wins Nature's crown as Italy, the ruler and second mother of the world, with her men and women, her generals and soldiers, her slaves, her pre-eminence in arts and crafts, her wealth of brilliant talent, and, again, her geographical position and her healthy, temperate climate, the easy access which she offers to all other peoples, her shores with their many harbours, and the kindly winds that blow upon her. All these benefits accrue to her from her situationfor the land juts out in the direction that is most advantageous, midway between the East and the Westand from her abundant supply of water, her healthy forests, her mountains with their passes, her harmless wild creatures, her fertile soil and her rich pastures. Nowhere are the things that man is entitled to expect more excellentcrops, wine, olive oil, wool, flax, cloth and young cattle. Even the native breed of homes is preferred to any other on the training-ground. In ores, whether of gold, silver, copper or iron, no country surpassed her so long as it was lawful to work them. Now she keeps them within her womb, and all her bounty lies in the many different liquors and the diverse savours of crops and fruits that she lavishes upon us. Next to Italy, if we leave aside the fabulous marvels of India, I would place Spain, or at least the districts where Spain is bordered by the sea. For although the country is partly rough desert, yet all its productive regions are rich in crops, oil, wine, horses and every kind of ore. So far, Gaul is Spain's equal. But it is Spain's deserts that give her the advantage; for here we find esparto grass, selenite and even luxuryin the form of pigments; here is a place where there is an incentive to toil, where slaves can be schooled, where men's bodies are hard and their hearts passionately eager.
LXXVIII. However, to return to products pure and simple, the most costly product of the sea is the pearl; of the earth's surface, rock-crystal; of the earth's interior, diamonds, emeralds, gemstones and vessels of fluorspar; of the earth's increase, the scarlet kermes-insect and silphium, with spikenard and silks from leaves, citrus wood from trees, cinnamon, cassia and amomum from shrubs, amber, balsam, myrrh and frankincense, which exude from trees or shrubs, and costus from roots. As for those animals which are equipped to breathe, the most costly product found on land is the elephant's tusk, and on sea the turtle's shell. Of the hides and coats of animals, the most costly are the pelts dyed in China and the Arabian she-goat's tufted beard which we call 'ladanum.' Of creatures that belong to both land and sea, the most costly products are scarlet and purple dyes made from shell-fish. Birds are credited with no outstanding contribution except warriors' plumes and the grease of the Commagene goose. We must not forget to mention that gold, for which all mankind has so mad a passion, comes scarcely tenth in the list of valuables, while silver, with which we purchase gold, is almost as low as twentieth.
Hail, Nature, mother of all creation, and mindful that I alone of the men of Rome have praised thee in all thy manifestations, be gracious unto me.