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The stone of the ring1 which is now shown as that of Polycrates, is untouched and without engraving. In the time of Ismenias, long2 after his day, it would appear to have become the practice to engrave smaragdi even; a fact which is established by an edict of Alexander the Great, forbidding his portrait to be cut upon this stone by any other engraver than Pyrgoteles,3 who, no doubt, was the most famous adept in this art. Since his time, Apollonides and Cronius have excelled in it; as also Dioscurides,4 who engraved a very excellent likeness of the late Emperor Augustus upon a signet, which, ever since, the Roman emperors have used. The Dictator Sylla, it is said, always made use of a seal5 which represented the surrender of Jugurtha. Authors inform us also, that the native of Intercatia,6 whose father challenged Scipio Æmilianus,7 and was slain by him, was in the habit of using a signet with a representation of this combat engraved upon it; a circumstance which gave rise to the well-known joke of Stilo Præconinus,8 who naively enquired, what he would have done if Scipio had been the person slain?

The late Emperor Augustus was in the habit, at first, of using the figure of a Sphinx9 for his signet; having found two of them, among the jewels of his mother, that were perfectly alike. During the Civil Wars, his friends used to employ one of these signets, in his absence, for sealing such letters and edicts as the circumstances of the times required to be issued in his name; it being far from an unmeaning pleasantry on the part of those who received these missives, that the Sphinx always brought its enigmas10 with it. The frog, too, on the seal of Mæcenas, was held in great terror, by reason of the monetary imposts which it announced. At a later period, with the view of avoiding the sarcasms relative to the Sphinx, Augustus made use of a signet with a figure upon it of Alexander the Great.

1 This is said with reference to the one in the Temple of Concord, mentioned in Chapter 2.

2 But see Exodus xxvii. 9, et. seq., where it is shown that the practice existed many hundreds of years before.

3 See B. vii. c. 38; where marble is the substance named. There are still two gems in existence said to have been engraved by this artist; but by some they are thought to be spurious.

4 There are many precious stones with his name, still extant: but only six appear to have been really engraved by him.

5 This signet is mentioned also by Plutarch and Valerius Maximus.

6 See B. iii. c. 4.

7 The younger Africanus. This circumstance is mentioned in the Epitome of Livy, B. xlviii.

8 See B. xxxiii. c. 5, and end of Book ix.

9 In reference to the ambiguous part which he acted, Ajasson thinks, in the early part of his career.

10 In reference to the story of Œdipus and the Sphinx.

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