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Gagates1 is a stone, so called from Gages, the name of a town and river in Lycia.2 It is asserted, too, that at Leucolla3 the sea throws it up, and that it is found over a space twelve stadia in extent. It is black, smooth, light, and porous, differs but little from wood in appearance,4 is of a brittle texture, and emits a disagreeable odour5 when rubbed. Marks made upon pottery with this stone cannot be effaced. When burnt, it gives out a sulphureous smell; and it is a singular fact, that the application of water ignites it, while that of oil quenches it.6 The fumes of it, burnt, keep serpents at a distance, and dispel hysterical affections: they detect a tendency also to epilepsy,7 and act as a test of virginity.8 A decoction of this stone in wine is curative of tooth-ache; and, in combination with wax, it is good for scrofula. The magicians, it is said, make use of gagates in the practice of what they call axinomancy;9 and they assure us that it will be sure not to burn, if the thing is about to happen as the party desires.

1 Our jet, which somewhat resembles cannel-coal, and is found in clay soils.

2 See B. v. c. 28, where a place called "Gagæ" is mentioned. In Note 5 to that Chapter, "gagates" is erroneously rendered "agate."

3 See B. v. c. 26.

4 This comparison is not inapt, as it is closely akin to Lignite, or brown coal.

5 A bituminous and animal odour, Ajasson says, quite peculiar to itself.

6 He has borrowed this erroneous assertion, probably, from Nicander, who, with Pliny, says the same of the "Thracian stone," which has not been identified, but is supposed to have been a sort of coal. See B. xxxiii. c. 30.

7 This is, probably, the meaning of "sonticus morbus," a disease, which, according to the jurists, excused those affected with it, from attending in courts of justice.

8 Albertus Magnus, De Mineral, B. ii., says that if it is given in water to a female, it will have a diuretic effect immediately, if she is not in a state of virginity, and that the contrary will be the case if she is.

9 See B. xxx. c. 5. According to Dalechamps, this was practised by placing the jet upon a hatchet at a red heat.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Harper's, Philiscus
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GAGAE
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