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Gold is dug out of the earth, and, in close proximity to it, chrysocolla,1 a substance which, that it may appear all the more precious, still retains the name2 which it has borrowed from gold.3 It was not enough for us to have discovered one bane for the human race, but we must set a value too upon the very humours of gold.4 While avarice, too, was on the search for silver, it congratulated itself upon the discovery of minium,5 and devised a use to be made of this red earth.

Alas for the prodigal inventions of man! in how many ways have we augmented the value of things!6 In addition to the standard value of these metals, the art of painting lends its aid, and we have rendered gold and silver still more costly by the art of chasing them. Man has learned how to challenge both Nature and art to become the incitements to vice! His very cups he has delighted to engrave with libidinous subjects, and he takes pleasure in drinking from vessels of obscene form!7 But in lapse of time, the metals passed out of fashion, and men began to make no account of them; gold and silver, in fact, became too common. From this same earth we have extracted vessels of murrhine8 and vases of crystal,9 objects the very fragility of which is considered to enhance their value. In fact, it has come to be looked upon as a proof of opulence, and as quite the glory of luxury, to possess that which may be irremediably destroyed in an instant. Nor was even this enough;—we now drink from out of a mass of gems,10 and we set our goblets with smaragdi;11 we take delight in possessing the wealth of India, as the promoter of intoxication, and gold is now nothing more than a mere accessory.12

1 "Chrysocolla" is fully described in Chapter 26 of this Book.—B.

2 Meaning "gold glue," or "gold solder."

3 There is considerable variation in the text of this passage, as found in the different editions. In that of Dalechamps, the Variorum, and those of De Laët and Sillig, the sentence concludes with the words "nomen ex auro custodiens;" while in those of Valpy, Lemaire, Poinsinet, Ajasson, and others, we find substituted for them the words, "Non natura," "Nomen natura," "Nomine natura," or "Nomen naturam."—B. The first reading is warranted by the Bamberg MS.

4 "Auri sanies." More properly speaking, "the corrupt matter discharged by gold." See Chapter 26.

5 "Minium" is treated of in Chapter 36 of this Book.—B.

6 "Pretia rerum." The value of the raw material.

7 Pliny here refers both to the art of producing figures in relief on drinking vessels made of the precious metals, and also of giving them particular forms. A well-known line of Juvenal, Sat. ii. 1. 95, affords a striking illustration of the depraved taste which existed in his time.—B. Lampridius also speaks of vessels of silver "defiled with representations of a most libidinous character;" and Capitolinus speaks of "phallovitroboli," glass drinking vessels shaped like a phallus.

8 "Murrhina" or "myrrhina," are described in B. xxxvii. c. 8; they were, perhaps, onyxes or opals, though possibly the term was not strictly confined to these substances, but signified any transparent minerals, that exhibited a variety of colours. Salmasius, however, ridicules the idea of their being onyxes, and is of opinion that these vessels were made of porcelain; Exer. Plin. p. 144.—B.

9 See B. xxxvii. c. 9.

10 He alludes to the cups known as "chrysendeta," adorned with circlets of gold, exquisite chasings, and groups of precious stones. See Juvenal, Sat. v. 1. 42.

11 The "Smaragdus" is described in B. xxxvii. c. 13.

12 "Et aurum jam accessio est."

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