previous next


Having now described the principal precious stones, classified according to their respective colours, I shall proceed to mention the rest of them in their alphabetical order.

(10.) Achates1 was a stone formerly in high esteem, but now held in none. It was first found in Sicily, near a river of that name; but has since been discovered in numerous other localities. In size it exceeds any other stones of this class, and the varieties of it are numerous, the name varying accordingly. Thus, for example, we have iaspachates,2 cerachates,3 smaragdachates,4 hæmachates,5 leucachates,6 dendrachates,7 marked with small shrubs, as it were; autachates,8 which when burnt has a smell like that of myrrh; and coralloachates,9 spotted all over, like sapphiros, with drops of gold, and commonly found in Crete, where it is also known as "sacred" achates. This last, it is thought, is good for wounds inflicted by spiders and scorpions; a property which I could really believe to belong to the stones of Sicily, for, the moment they breathe the air of that province, scorpions lose their venom.

The stones, too, that are found in India are possessed of similar properties, and of other great and marvellous properties as well; for they present the appearance in them of rivers,10 woods,11 beasts of burden, and forms even, like ivy12 and the trappings of horses. Medical men, too, make grinding-hones13 of these stones, and indeed the very sight of them is beneficial for the eyes: held in the mouth, they allay thirst. Those found in Phrygia have no green in them, and those of Thebes in Egypt are destitute of red and white veins. These last are good as a counterpoison to the venom of the scorpion, and the stones of Cyprus are held in similar repute. Some persons set the highest value upon those stones which present a transparency like that of glass. They are found also in Trachinia, in the vicinity of Mount Œta, upon Mount Parnassus, in the Isle of Lesbos, in Messene, where they resemble the flowers that grow in the hedges, and at Rhodes.

The magicians make other distinctions in reference to these stones: those, they tell us, which have spots upon them like the spots on the lion's skin, are efficacious as a protection against scorpions; and in Persia, they say, these stones are used, by way of fumigation, for arresting tempests and hurricanes, and for stopping the course of rivers, the proof of their efficacy being their turning the water cold, if thrown into a boiling cauldron. To be duly efficacious, they must be attached to the body with hairs from a lion's mane. The hair, however, of the hyæna is held in abomination for this purpose, as being a promoter of discord in families. The stone that is of an uniform colour renders athletes invincible, they say; the way of testing it is to throw it, along with colouring matter, into a pot full of oil; after being kept for a couple of hours gently on the boil, if genuine, it will impart an uniform colour of vermilion to the mixture.

Acopos14 is a stone like nitre15 in appearance, porous, and starred with drops of gold: gently boiled with oil and applied as an unguent, it relieves lassitude, if we choose to believe it. Alabastritis16 is a stone which comes from Alabastron in Egypt and Damascus in Syria: it is of a white colour, spotted with various other tints. Calcined with fossil salt and pulverized, it is a cure for affections of the mouth and teeth, it is said. Alectoria17 is the name given to a stone that is found in the crop of poultry, like crystal in appearance, and about as large as a bean in size; Milo18 of Crotona, some will have it, was thought to be in the habit of carrying this stone about him, a thing that rendered him invincible in his athletic contests. Andradamas19 has the shining colour of silver, like adamas;20 it is always quadrangular, like small cubes in shape. The magicians are of opinion that it was thus named from the fact that it subdues anger and violence in man. Whether argyrodamas21 is the same stone or not, authors do not inform us. Antipathes22 is a black stone, and not transparent: the mode of testing it, is by boiling it in milk, to which, if genuine, it imparts a colour like that of myrrh. A person might probably expect to find some extraordinary virtues in this stone, seeing that, among so many other substances possessed of antipathetic properties, it is the only one that bears this name. The magicians will have it that it possesses the power of counteracting fascinations.

Arabica23 is a stone which closely resembles ivory in appearance, and, indeed, might easily be taken for it, were it not for its superior hardness: persons who have this stone about them, it is thought, will experience a cure of diseases of the sinews. Aromatitis,24 too, is a stone that is found in Arabia, as also in the vicinity of Phiræ in Egypt: it is always full of small stones, and like myrrh in colour and smell, a thing that makes it much in request with ladies of rank.25 Asbestos26 is found in the mountains of Areadia, and is of an iron colour. Democritus informs us that aspisatis27 is a native of Arabia, that it is of a fiery colour, and that patients should wear it attached to the body with camels' dung; he says, too, that it is found in the nests of certain birds28 in Arabia. The same writer also mentions another stone of this name, that is found at Leucopetra in the same country, of a silver colour, radiant, and an excellent preservative against delirium. In India, he says, and on Mount Acidane in Persia, there is a stone found that is known as "atizoë29 of a silver lustre, three fingers in length, like a lentil in shape, possessed of a pleasant smell, and considered necessary by the Magi at the consecration of a king. Augetis30 is thought by many to be identical with callaina.31 Amphidanes,32 which is also known as "chrysocolla,"33 is a stone found in that part of India where the ants34 throw up gold, and in it there are certain square pieces, like gold in appearance. The nature of this stone, it is asserted, is similar to that of the magnet; in addition to which, it is said to have the property of increasing gold.

Aphrodisiaca35 is a stone of a reddish white colour. Apsyctos,36 when heated by fire, retains the warmth so long as seven days; it is black and ponderous, and is streaked with red veins. It is good too, it is thought, as a preservative against cold. According to Iacchus, Ægyptilla37 is a kind of white and black sarda, intersected with veins; but the stone commonly known by that name is black at the lower part, and azure on the surface. It takes its name from the country that produces it.

1 A general name for Agate, and possibly some other stones not now included under the name.

2 "Jasper agate:"

3 "Wax agate." The modern Orange agate, probably.

4 "Smaragdus agate." Emerald-coloured agate.

5 "Blood agate." Agate sprinkled with spots of red jasper.

6 "White agate."

7 "Tree agate." Moss agate or Mocha stone, coloured by oxide of iron.

8 Probably the reading should be "Stactachates," "Myrrh agate."

9 "Coralline agate." See Chapter 56.

10 Undulated agate.

11 Moss agate, probably. See Note 24 above.

12 Sillig is of opinion that the reading here is corrupt.

13 "Coticulas." Stones for grinding drugs.

14 "Refreshing" stone. Hardly any of these stones appear to be identified.

15 As to the "nitrum" of Pliny, see B. xxxi. c. 46.

16 Probably the same as the Alabastrites of B. xxxv. c. 12.

17 From the Greek,ἀλέκτωρ, a "cock."

18 See B. vii. c. 19.

19 "Man-subduing," Identified by some with Marcasite, or White iron pyrites.

20 See Chapter 15 of this Book.

21 "Silver-subduing."

22 "Counteracting-stone."

23 Probably the stone mentioned in B. xxxvi. c. 41.

24 "Aromatic stone." Cæsalpinus is of opinion that this is grey or clouded amber.

25 "Reginis."

26 See B. xix. c. 4, and B. xxxvi. c. 31.

27 The reading is doubtful.

28 "Called "melancoryphi" in Chapter 33.

29 Ajasson thinks that the reading should be "Aeizoe," from the Greek ἀειζώη, long lived."

30 "Shining stone," apparently.

31 See Chapter 33 of this Book.

32 The reading is doubtful.

33 See B. xxxiii. c. 2: where a fossil Chrysocolla is also mentioned.

34 See B. xi. c. 36, and B. xxxiii. c. 21.

35 "Gem of Aphrodite" or "Venus." Thought by Dalechamps and Hardouin to have been a kind of agate.

36 "Which never grows cold."

37 A kind of Onyx, Dalechamps thinks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), LESBOS
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: