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Our forefathers imagined that onyx1 was only to be found in the mountains of Arabia, and nowhere else; but Sudines2 was aware that it is also found in Carmania.3 Drinking-vessels were made of it at first, and then the feet of beds and chairs. Cornelius Nepos relates that great was the astonishment, when P. Lentulus Spinther exhibited amphoræ made of this material, as large as Chian wine-vessels in size; "and yet, five years after," says he, "I saw columns of this material, no less than two-and-thirty feet in height." At a more recent period again, some change took place4 with reference to this stone; for four5 small pillars of it were erected by Cornelius Balbus in his Theatre6 as something quite marvellous: and I myself have seen thirty columns, of larger size, in the banquetting-room which Callistus7 erected, the freedman of Claudius, so well known for the influence which he possessed.

(8.) This8 stone is called "alabastrites"9 by some, and is hollowed out into vessels for holding unguents, it having the reputation of preserving them from corruption10 better than anything else. In a calcined state, it is a good ingredient for plaisters.11 It is found in the vicinity of Thebes in Egypt and of Damascus in Syria, that of Damascus being whiter than the others. The most esteemed kind, however, is that of Carmania, the next being the produce of India, and then, those of Syria and Asia. The worst in quality is that of Cappadocia, it being utterly destitute of lustre. That which is of a honey colour is the most esteemed, covered with spots curling in whirls,12 and not transparent. Alabastrites is considered defective, when it is of a white or horn colour, or approaching to glass in appearance.

1 Ajasson remarks that under this name the ancients meant, first, yellow calcareous Alabaster, and secondly, Chalcedony, unclassified.

2 See end of the present Book.

3 See B. vi. cc. 27, 23, 32.

4 "Variatum est."

5 Ajasson thinks that these columns, in reality, were made, in both instances, of yellow jasper, or else yellow sardonyx, a compound of sard and chalcedony.

6 Erected A.U.C. 741.

7 See B. xxxiii. c. 47.

8 The reading here is doubtful, and it is questionable whether he considers the two stones as identical.

9 Probably calcareous Alabaster, Ajasson thinks. See B. xxxvii. c. 54.

10 See B. xiii. c. 3.

11 Plaster of Paris is made of gypsum or alabaster, heated and ground.

12 A feature both of jasper and of sardonyx.

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