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It does not appear that rings were in common use before the time of Cneius Flavius, the son of Annius. This Flavius was the first to publish a table1 of the days for pleading,2 which till then the populace had to ascertain each day from a few great personages.3 The son of a freedman only, and secretary to Appius Cæcus,4 (at whose request, by dint of natural shrewdness and continual observation, he had selected these days and made them public),5 he obtained such high favour with the people, that he was created curule ædile; in conjunction with Quintus Anicius Prænestinus, who a few years before had been an enemy to Rome,6 and to the exclusion of C. Pœtilius and Domitius, whose fathers respectively were of consular rank.7 The additional honour was also conferred on Flavius, of making him tribune of the people at the same time, a thing which occasioned such a degree of indignation, that, as we find stated in the more ancient Annals, "the rings8 were laid aside!"

Most persons, however, are mistaken in the supposition that on this occasion the members of the equestrian order did the same: for it is in consequence of these additional words, "the phaleræ,9 too, were laid aside as well," that the name of the equestrian order was added. These rings, too, as the Annals tell us, were laid aside by the nobility, and not10 by the whole body of the senate. This event took place in the consulship of P. Sempronius and P. Sulpicius.11 Flavius made a vow that he would consecrate a temple to Concord, if he should succeed in reconciling the privileged orders with the plebeians: and as no part of the public funds could be voted for the purpose, he accordingly built a small shrine of brass12 in the Græ- costasis,13 then situate above the Comitium,14 with the fines which had been exacted for usury. Here, too, he had an inscription engraved upon a tablet of brass, to the effect that the shrine was dedicated two hundred and three years after the consecration of the Capitol. Such were the events that happened four hundred and forty-nine years after the foundation of the City, this being the earliest period at which we find any traces of the common use of rings.

A second occasion, however, that of the Second Punic War, shows that rings must have been at that period in very general use; for if such had not been the case, it would have been impossible for Hannibal to send the three15 modii of rings, which we find so much spoken of, to Carthage. It was through a dispute, too, at an auction about the possession of a ring, that the feud first commenced between Cæpio16 and Drusus,17 a dispute which gave rise to the Social War,18 and the public disasters which thence ensued. Not even in those days, however, did all the senators possess gold rings, seeing that, in the memory of our grandsires, many personages who had even filled the prætorship, wore rings of iron to the end of their lives; Calpurnius,19 for example, as Fenestella tells us, and Manilius, who had been legatus to Caius Marius in the Jugurthine War. Many historians also state the same of L. Fufidius, he to whom Scaurus dedicated the history of his life.

In the family of the Quintii,20 it is the usage for no one, not the females even, ever to wear a ring; and even at the present day, the greater part of the nations known to us, peoples who are living under the Roman sway, are not in the habit of wearing rings. Neither in the countries of the East,21 nor in Egypt, is any use made of seals, the people being content with simple writing only.22

In this, as in every other case, luxury has introduced various fashions, either by adding to rings gems of exquisite brilliancy, and so loading the fingers with whole revenues, as we shall have further occasion to mention in our Book on Gems;23 or else by engraving them with various devices: so that it is in one instance the workmanship, in another the material, that constitutes the real value of the ring. Then again, in the case of other gems, luxury has deemed it no less than sacrilege to make a mark24 even upon them, and has caused them to be set whole, that no one may suppose that the ring was ever intended to be employed as a signet. In other instances, luxury has willed that certain stones, on the side even that is concealed by the finger, should not25 be closed in with gold, thus making gold of less account than thousands of tiny pebbles. On the other hand again, many persons will admit of no gems being set in their rings, but impress their seal with the gold26 itself, an invention which dates from the reign of Claudius Cæsar. At the present day, too, the very slaves even, incase their iron rings with gold (while other articles belonging to them, they decorate with pure gold),27 a licence which first originated in the Isle of Samothrace,28 as the name given to the invention clearly shows.

It was the custom at first to wear rings on a single finger29 only, the one, namely, that is next to the little finger; and this we see the case in the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius In later times, it became the practice to put rings on the finger next to the thumb, even in the case of the statues of the gods; and more recently, again, it has been the fashion to wear them upon the little finger30 as well. Among the peoples of Gallia and Britannia, the middle finger, it is said, is used for this purpose. At the present day, however, among us, this is the only finger that is excepted, all the others being loaded with rings, smaller rings even being separately adapted for the smaller joints of the fingers. Some there are who heap several rings upon the little finger alone; while others, again, wear but one ring upon this finger, the ring that sets a seal upon the signetring itself, this last being kept carefully shut up as an object of rarity, too precious to be worn in common use, and only to be taken from the cabinet31 as from a sanctuary. And thus is the wearing of a single ring upon the little finger no more than an ostentatious advertisement that the owner has property of a more precious nature under seal at home!

Some, too, make a parade of the weight of their rings, while to others it is quite a labour32 to wear more than one at a time: some, in their solicitude for the safety of their gems, make the hoop of gold tinsel, and fill it with a lighter material than gold, thinking thereby to diminish the risks of a fall.33 Others, again, are in the habit of inclosing poisons beneath the stones of their rings, and so wear them as instruments of death; Demosthenes, for instance, that greatest of the orators of Greece.34 And then, besides, how many of the crimes that are stimulated by cupidity, are committed through the instrumentality of rings!35 How happy the times, how truly innocent, in which no seal was ever put to anything! At the present day, on the contrary, our very food even and our drink have to be preserved from theft36 through the agency of the ring: a result owing to those legions of slaves, those throngs of foreigners which are introduced into our houses, multitudes so numerous that we require the services of a nomenclator37 even, to tell us the names of our own servants. Very different was it in the times of our forefathers, when each person possessed a single servant only, one of his master's own lineage, called Marcipor or Lucipor,38 from his master's name, as the case might be, and taking all his meals with him in common; when, too, there was no occasion for taking precautions at home by keeping a watch upon the domestics. But at the present day, we not only procure dainties which are sure to be pilfered, but hands to pilfer them as well; and so far is it from being sufficient to have the very keys sealed, that the signet-ring is often taken from off the owner's finger while he is overpowered with sleep or lying on his death-bed.39

Indeed the most important transactions of life are now made to depend upon this instrument, though at what period this first began to be the case, I am at a loss to say. It would appear, however, so far as foreign nations are concerned, that we may admit the importance attached to it, from the days of Polycrates,40 the tyrant of Samos, whose favourite ring, after being thrown in the sea, was recovered from a fish that was caught; and this Polycrates, we know, was put to death41 about the year of our City, 230. The use of the ring must, of necessity, have become greatly extended with the increase of usury; one proof of which is, the usage still prevalent among the lower classes, of whipping off the ring42 the moment a simple contract is made; a practice which takes its date, no doubt, from a period when there was no more expeditious method of giving an earnest on closing a bargain. We may therefore very safely conclude, that though money was first introduced among us, the use of rings was introduced very shortly after. Of money, I shall shortly have occasion to speak further.43

1 Called the "Fasti;" probably because this was the first word of the title.

2 "Dies fasti." These were the days on which the courts sat, and the Prætor, who was the chief judge, gave his decisions. The word "fasti" is derived from the ancient Latin "for," or from the old Greek word φάω, both signifying "to speak:" consequently the "dies fasti" were "the speaking days," and the "dies nefasti" the "non-speaking days," in allusion to the restrictions put upon the judgments of the Prætor.

3 This complex state of the Roman Calendar long remained one of the sources from which the priesthood and the patrician order derived their power and influence over the plebeians. Having no other method of ascertaining what days were "fasti," and what were "nefasti," the lower classes were obliged either to apply to the priests and nobles for information, or to await the proclamation by the priests of the various festivals about to take place.

4 Appius Claudius Cæcus, the Censor and jurisconsult, who constructed the Appian Way.

5 A.U.C. 440, or B.C. 314.

6 In the war, probably, with the twelve nations of Etruria, who were conquered by the Consul Fabius A.U.C. 444. See Livy, B. ix.

7 The father of the former C. Pœtilius Libo, was Consul A.U.C. 428: the father of the latter, Cneius Domitius Calvinus, was Consul A.U.C. 432.

8 "Anulos abjectos."

9 The "phaleræ" were bosses of metal, often gold, attached to the harness of the horse. See B. vii. c. 29.

10 He would probably imply hereby that, as he states subsequently, at this period gold rings were not as yet worn by all the members of the senate.

11 A.U.C. 449.

12 "Ædiculam æream"—of brass or bronze.

13 For the explanation of this term, see B. vii. c. 60.

14 See B. x. c. 2. Livy tells us that this shrine or temple was built in the area or place of Vulcan.

15 Livy, B. xxiii. speaks of one modius as being the real quantity. Florus, B. ii. c. 16, says two modii: but Saint Augustin, De Civit. Dei. B. iii. c. 19, and most other writers, mention three modii.

16 Q. Servilius Cæpio. He and M. Livius Drusus had been most intimate friends, and each had married the other's sister. The assassination of Drusus was supposed by some to have been committed at the instigation of Cæpio. The latter lost his life in an ambush, B.C. 90.

17 See B. xxviii. c. 41.

18 See B. ii. c. 85.

19 M. Calpurnius Flamma. See B. xxii. c. 6.

20 A patrician family; branches of which were the Cincinnati, the Capitolini, the Crispini, and the Flaminini.

21 This is an erroneous assertion, both as to the East, and as to Egypt. See instances to the contrary in Genesis, c. xli. v. 42; and in Esther, c. iii. verses 10, 12, and c. viii. verses 2, 8, 10.

22 "Literis contenta solis."

23 The Thirty-seventh Book. See also his remarks in B. ii. c. 63: "We tear out earth's entrails in order to extract the gems with which we may load our fingers. How many hands are worn down that one little joint may be ornamented!" Martial, Epigr. B. v. Ep. 11, speaks of his friend Stella as wearing on the joint of one finger sardonyxes, emeralds, and jaspers.

24 "Violari." See B. xxxvii. c. 1.

25 A fashion much followed at the present day.

26 This also is a not uncommon fashion at the present day.

27 From the "Trinummus" of Plautus, A. iv. s. 4, we learn that the ring worn by slaves was called "condalium." From the "Truculentus" of Plautus we learn also that these rings were sometimes made of bronze. The "jus anuli," or right of wearing a gold ring, was never conceded to slaves.

28 See B. iv. c. 23. In the Origines of Isidorus Hispalensis, B. xix. c. 32, we find mention made of "A Samothracian gold ring, with an iron bezil, so called from the place of its invention." Pliny has already made allusion to the luxurious habits of the slaves, in B. xiii. c. 4; and B. xviii. c. 2; a subject upon which Juvenal enlarges in his Third Satire.

29 The reasons are mentioned by Ateius Capito, as quoted by Macrobius, Saturnal. B. vii. c. 13: also by Apion the Grammarian, as quoted by Aulus Gellius, B. x. c. 10.

30 The ring of each finger had its own appropriate name.

31 The "dactyliotheca," or "ring-box."

32 Juvenal, Sat. i. l. 26, et. seq., speaks of the summer rings of the Roman fops, and their fingers sweating beneath the weight.

33 Martial, Epigr. B. xiv., speaks of the numerous accidents to which a weighty ring was liable.

34 Hannibal, too, for instance, as mentioned in Note 51 to the preceding Chapter.

35 He alludes, probably, to forgeries perpetrated through the agency of false signets.

36 Plautus, Cicero, Horace, and Martial, each in his own age, bears testimony to the truth of this statement.

37 Or remembrancer; a slave whose duty it was to remind his master of the name of each member of his household; see B. xxix. c. 8. Athenæus, B. vi., speaks of as many as twenty thousand slaves belonging to one household. Demetrius, the freedman of Pompey, mentioned in B. xxxv. c. 58, had a retinue of slaves equal to an army in amount.

38 Meaning "Marci puer," or "Luci puer"—"Marcius' boy," or "Lucius' boy."

39 Suetonius says, c. 73, that Tiberius, in his last illness, awoke after a long lethargy, and demanded his signet-ring, which his son-in-law, Caligula, had removed from his finger, under the supposition that he was dead. Macro, to avoid any unpleasant results in the way of punishment, caused the emperor to be smothered with the pillows and bedclothes.

40 This famous and somewhat improbable story of the ring of Polycrates is told by Valerius Maximus, B. vi. c. 9; Herodotus, B. iii.; and Cicero, De Finibus, B. iv. Pliny again mentions it in B. xxxvii. cc. 2, 4.

41 He was crucified by Oroetes, the Persian satrap of Sardis.

42 "Anulo exsiliente."

43 In Chapter 13 of this Book.

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