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We have already stated, in the Seventh1 Book, who were the first discoverers of gold, as well as nearly all the other metals. The highest rank has been accorded to this substance, not, in my opinion, for its colour, (which in silver is clearer2 and more like the light of day, for which reason silver is preferred for our military ensigns, its brightness being seen at a greater distance); and those persons are manifestly in error who think that it is the resemblance of its colour to the stars3 that is so prized in gold, seeing that the various gems4 and other things of the same tint, are in no such particular request. Nor yet is it for its weight or malleability5 that gold has been preferred to other metals, it being inferior in both these respects to lead—but it is because gold is the only6 substance in nature that suffers7 no loss from the action of fire, and passes unscathed through conflagrations and the flames of the funeral pile. Nay, even more than this, the oftener gold is subjected to the action of fire, the more refined in quality it becomes; indeed, fire is one test of its goodness, as, when sub- mitted to intense heat, gold ought to assume a similar colour, and turn red and igneous in appearance; a mode of testing which is known as "obrussa."8

The first great proof, however, of the goodness of gold, is its melting with the greatest difficulty: in addition to which, it is a fact truly marvellous, that though proof against the most intense fire, if made with wood charcoal, it will melt with the greatest readiness upon a fire made with chaff;9 and that, for the purpose of purifying it, it is fused with lead.10 There is another reason too, which still more tends to enhance its value, the fact that it wears the least of all metals by continual use: whereas with silver, copper, and lead, lines may be traced,11 and the hands become soiled with the substance that comes from off them. Nor is there any material more malleable than this, none that admits of a more extended division, seeing that a single ounce of it admits of being beaten out into seven hundred and fifty12 leaves, or more, four fingers in length by the same in breadth. The thickest kind of gold-leaf is known as "leaf of Præncste,"it still retaining that name from the excellence of the gilding upon the statue of Fortune13 there. The next in thickness is known as the "quæstorian leaf." In Spain, small pieces of gold are known by the name of "striges."14

A thing that is not the case with any other metal, gold is found pure in masses15 or in the form of dust;16 and whereas all other metals, when found in the ore, require to be brought to perfection by the aid of fire, this gold that I am speaking of is gold the moment it is found, and has all its component parts already in a state of perfection. This, however, is only such gold as is found in the native state, the other kinds that we shall have to speak of, being refined by art. And then, more than anything else, gold is subject to no rust, no verdigris,17 no emanation whatever from it, either to alter its quality or to lessen its weight. In addition to this, gold steadily resists the corrosive action of salt and vinegar,18 things which obtain the mastery over all other substances: it admits, too, beyond all other metals, of being spun out and woven19 like wool.20 Verrius tells us that Tarquinius Priscus celebrated a triumph, clad in a tunic of gold; and I myself have seen Agrippina, the wife of the Emperor Claudius, on the occasion of a naval combat which he exhibited, seated by him, attired in a military scarf21 made entirely of woven gold without any other material. For this long time past, gold has been interwoven in the Attalic22 textures, an invention of the kings of Asia.

1 Chapter 57.

2 In fact, no colour at all.

3 In this climate, the light of most of the stars has the complexion, not of gold, but of silver.

4 The topaz, for instance.

5 For ductility and malleability, both which terms may perhaps be included in the "facilitas" of Pliny, gold is unrivalled among the metals. As to weight, it is heavier than lead, the specific gravity of gold being 19.258, and that of lead 11 352. Pliny is therefore wrong in both of these assertions.

6 He forgets asbestus here, a substance which he has mentioned in B. xix. c. 4.

7 Chlorine, however, and nitro-muriatic acid corrode and dissolve gold, forming a chloride of gold, which is soluble in water. Ajasson remarks, that gold becomes volatilized by the heat of a burning glass of three or four feet in diameter; and that when it acts as the conductor of a strong current of electricity, it becomes reduced to dust instantaneously, presenting a bright greenish light.

8 The gold thus tested was called "obrussum," "obryzum," or "obrizum," from the Greek ὄβρυζον, meaning "pure gold."

9 See B. xviii. c. 23, where he calls the chaff used for this purpose by the name of "acus."

10 The present mode of assaying the precious metals, is by fusing them upon a cupel with lead.

11 For which purpose, lead was used, no doubt, in drawing the lines in the MSS. of the ancients. See Beckmann's Hist. Inv. Vol. 11. p. 389, Bohn's Ed.

12 This is far surpassed at the present day, its malleability being such that it may be beaten into leaves not more than one two hundred and eighty thousandth of an inch in thickness, and its ductility admitting of one grain being drawn out into five hundred feet of wire. For further particulars as to the gold leaf of the ancients, and the art of gilding, as practised by them, see Beckmann's Hist. Inv. Vol. II. p. 391, et seq. Bohn's Edition.

13 See B. xxxvi. c. 64.

14 He alludes to what are now known as pepitas, oval grains of rivergold. "Striges" is the reading in the Bamberg MS., "strigles" in the former editions.

15 "Massa." As we should say at the present day, "nuggets."

16 "Ramentum."

17 The contrary is now known to be the case; gold is sometimes, though rarely, found in an oxidized state.

18 As to the solvents of gold, see Note 2 above. Stahl says that three parts of sub-carbonate of potash, dissolved in water, and heated with three parts of sulphur and one part of gold, will yield a complete solution of the metal.

19 Aldrovandus relates, in his "Museum Metallicum," that the grave of the Emperor Honorius was discovered at Rome about the year 1544, and that thirty-six pounds' weight of gold were procured from the mouldering dress that covered the body. See, on the subject of gold threads, Beckmann's Hist. Inv. Vol. I. p. 415. Bohn's Edition.

20 The "cloth of gold" of the present day, is made of threads of silk or hair, wound round with silver wire flattened and gilded.

21 "Paludamento."

22 See B. viii. c. 74. Beckmann is of opinion, from a passage of Silius Italicus, B. xiv. 1. 661, that the cloth of Attalns was embroidered with the needle. See this subject fully discussed in his Hist. Inv. Vol. I. p. 415. See also Dr. Yates's "Textrinum Antiquorum," pp. 371, 464.

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