, poet., Verg. Georg
3.464, 6.896). African ivory was known to the
ancients, through Phoenician trade, long before the elephant (from Libya in
the time of Pheidias: Hermipp. fr.
61 M.; Paus. 1.12
Accordingly, early writers--Homer, Hesiod, Pindar--speak of the material
only. Herodotus, indeed, was aware of its origin (4.191; Plin. Nat. 8.7
), but the Greeks generally
only became acquainted with the animal from the Macedonian expeditions into
Asia, the Romans with the arrival of Pyrrhus in Italy. Both words ἐλέφας,
probably contain the Egyptian âb
(ivory, elephant). (O. Schrader,
Linguist. histor. Forsch. zur Handelsgesch.
The use of ivory in the manufacture of small objects of use or ornament, and
for purposes of decoration, is earliest in Egypt and Assyria. There have
been found, for instance, castanets, stick-handles, hilts and hefts, combs,
flutes, sceptres, caskets, statuettes, made of the tusk, and many different
articles of furniture inlaid with it. In Homer, besides its employment when
carved in mass, it is referred to in connexion with walls, doors, harness,
&c., and was then probably attached in plates by nails to a metal or
wooden ground. The chest of Kypselos, which was of cedar embellished with
ivory reliefs, was probably an example of the latter method; so also perhaps
the bedstead of Hippodameia (Paus. 5.17
). In later times, true inlaying
was resorted to, and almost every kind of furniture, as
beds, sofas, thrones, carriages even, enriched with the precious material.
It is probable that at the time of the Empire the use of ivory in the arts
was much more extensive than at the present day, and the supply abundant.
Among objects not enumerated above may be mentioned masks and
writing-tablets. The latter (δέλτοι,
), with two, three, or more
leaves (diptycha, triptycha, pentaptycha,
&c.), were either entirely, or had their covers only, of ivory.
Those extant are chiefly of later Roman age. They are of two classes,
distinguished by the subjects of the carvings
on their covers, the former being figures of consuls at the pompa circensis, missiones,
&c., while the
latter are of a biblical nature (Müller, Arch. d.
§ 312, n. 3). They were presented to officers and
dignitaries to commemorate their appointment. [DIPTYCHA
For further information, see H. Blümner, Kunstgew. im
1.113, &c., 2.64; id. Technol. u.
Terminol. d. Gewerbe,
&100.2.361-375, where there is a
full bibliography. Compare, CHRYSELEPHANTINA