). During the first three centuries of the Roman
Empire, and probably as early as the second century B.C., this word appears to have been used to indicate brass-i.e.
an artificial alloy of copper and zinc. The chief extant objects made of
this metallic compound are the sestertii
(sometimes known by
coin-collectors as “first” and “second” brass
coins) of Augustus and the earlier emperors. Of coins of this class Dr.
1.521-523) quotes the following
analyses:--(i.) Sestertius of Nero (Rome): Copper, 81.07; zinc, 17.81. (ii.)
Dupondius of Vespasian (Rome): Copper, 81.97; zinc, 18.68. (iii.) Titus,
brass coin (Rome): Copper, 83.04; zinc, 15.84. (iv.) Trajan (Greek Imperial
coin of Caria): Copper, 77.590; zinc, 20.700. (v.) Hadrian, brass coin:
Copper, 85.67; zinc, 10.85. (vi.) Caracalla (Greek Imperial, large size):
Copper, 74.24; zinc, 14.42. Most of the above coins also contain small
quantities of tin, lead, and iron. (Cp. Mommsen, Monn. rom.
3.37, 47; Lenormant, La Monnaie dans l'Ant.
i. p. 202; Plin. Nat. 34.2
.) The coins of the Roman Republic--other than those in gold and
silver--are, on the other hand, not of brass, but mainly an alloy of copper
and tin, i. e. bronze.
Orichalcum, though not a costly metal, had the appearance of gold (Cic. de Off. 3.2. 3
hence the mistaken orthography aurichalcum
the derivation from aurum,
which are sometimes
found (cp. Fest. 9, 4; Isid. 16.20, 3). Orichalcum is the Greek ὀρείχαλκος,
apparently “copper found in
the mountains.” The word ὀρείχαλκος
first occurs in [Hom.] Hymn. in Ven.
9, where earrings of it are mentioned. It is also found in Hesiod,
122 ( “greaves” ); Plat. Critias,
p. 114 E, p. 116 B (described as a metal no
longer existent);--Ps.-Aristot. Mir. ausc.
58, p. 834 B, 22;
49, p. 834 A, 1; 62, p. 835 A, 9;--Callim. Lavacr. Pall.
“mirror” ); Apollon.
, and Schol.; Strabo xiii. p.610
; Anon. Peripl. m.
6 (Müller, Geog. Gr. Min.
262); Paus. 2.37
Hesychius, Photius, Suidas, s. v. ὀρείχαλκος;
C. I. G.
vol. i. p. 286; Ἀθήϝαιον
(periodical), vii. (1879), p. 87, No. 2, line 24 f.
). For a
discussion of the meaning of ὀρείχαλκος
individual passages, the reader must be referred to the commentaries and to
the pages of Rossignol and Blümner. Generally, it may be said that
the Greek writers intended a
bright metal resembling gold in appearance, and one of which the exact
nature was uncertain or unknown to them. Probably in some instances a
mixture (whether artificial or natural cannot be determined) of copper and
zinc (i. e. brass) was indicated by the word.
In the Latin writers, from Plautus onwards, the word orichalcum
is frequently found; generally, it would seem,
with the meaning of brass. The chief passages are as follows:--Plaut.
1.3, 46 (202); Mil.
3.1, 69 (660);
2.3, 22 (688); Cic.
de Off. 3.2. 3
, 92 ( “Si quis aurum
vendens, orichalcum se putet vendere” ); Verg. A. 12.87
( “Auro squalentem alboque orichalco
Circumdat humeris” ). Blümner supposes this “white
orichalcum” to have been an alloy, like prince's metal, and
compares the χαλκὸς λευκὸς
4, 71; Etym. M.
p. 630, 51; Tzetz.
202 ( “Tibia non ut nunc orichalco
vincta” ); Plin. Nat. 37.126
Stat. Theb. 10.660
orichalcum); Suet. Vitell.
5 ( “Proque auro et argentum
stannum et aurichalcum supposuisse” ), &c.
(For copious references to ancient and modern writers on the subject, see
Rossignol, Les Métaux dans l'Antiquité,
Paris, 1863; and Blümner, Technologie,
iv. p. 91; p.
192, note 4; and p. 193 ff.)