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CHAP. 31. (6.)—SILVER.

After stating these facts, we come to speak of silver ore, the next1 folly of mankind. Silver is never found but in shafts sunk deep in the ground, there being no indications to raise hopes of its existence, no shining sparkles, as in the case of gold. The earth in which it is found is sometimes red, sometimes of an ashy hue. It is impossible, too, to melt2 it, except in combination with lead3 or with galena,4 this last being the name given to the vein of lead that is mostly found running near the veins of the silver ore. When submitted, too, to the action of fire, part of the ore precipitates itself in the form of lead,5 while the silver is left floating on the surface,6 like oil on water.

Silver is found in nearly all our provinces, but the finest of all is that of Spain; where it is found, like gold, in uncultivated soils, and in the mountains even. Wherever, too, one vein of silver has been met with, another is sure to be found not far off: a thing that has been remarked, in fact, in the case of nearly all the metals, which would appear from this circumstance to have derived their Greek name of "metalla."7 It is a remarkable fact, that the shafts opened by Hannibal8 in the Spanish provinces are still worked, their names being derived from the persons who were the first to discover them. One of these mines, which at the present day is still called Bæbelo, furnished Hannibal with three hundred pounds' weight of silver per day. The mountain is already excavated for a distance of fifteen hundred9 paces; and throughout the whole of this distance there are water-bearers10 standing night and day, baling out the water in turns, regulated by the light of torches, and so forming quite a river.

The vein of silver that is found nearest the surface is known by the name of "crudaria."11 In ancient times, the excavations used to be abandoned the moment alum12 was met with, and no further13 search was made. Of late, however, the discovery of a vein of copper beneath alum, has withdrawn any such limits to man's hopes. The exhalations from silver-mines are dangerous to all animals, but to dogs more particularly. The softer they are, the more beautiful gold and silver are considered. It is a matter of surprise with most persons, that lines traced14 with silver should be black.

1 In due succession to gold.

2 See B. xxxiv. cc. 17, 53.

3 "Plumbum nigrum"—"Black lead," literally: so called by the ancients, in contradistinction to "plumbum album," white lead," our "tin," probably.

4 Lead ore; identified with "molybdæna" in B. xxxiv. c. 53. Native sulphurate of lead is now known as "galena." See Beckmann's Hist. Inv. Vol. II. p. 211, where this passage is commented upon.

5 This Beckmann considers to be the same as the "galena" above mentioned; half-vitrified lead, the "glätte" of the Germans.

6 The specific gravity of lead is 11.352, and of silver only 10.474.

7 From the words μετ̓ ἄλλα, "one after another."

8 It is supposed that these shafts were in the neighbourhood of Castulo, now Cazlona, near Linares in Spain. It was at Castulo that Hannibal married his rich wife Himilce; and in the hills north of Linares there are ancient silver mines still known as Los Pozos de Anibal.

9 A mile and a half.

10 The proper reading here, as suggested by Sillig, is not improbably "aquatini," "water-carriers." That, however, found in the MSS. is "Aquitani;" but those were a people, not of Spain, but of Gaul. Hardouin suggests that "Accitani" may be the correct reading, a people of that name in Spain being mentioned in B. iii. c. 5.

11 Meaning "raw" silver, apparently.

12 "Alumen." See B. xxxv. c. 52.

13 Kircher speaks of this being still the case in his time.

14 See Chapter 19 of this Book.

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