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The marbles are too well known to make it necessary for me to enumerate their several colours and varieties; and, indeed, so numerous are they, that it would be no easy task to do so. For what place is there, in fact, that has not a marble of its own? In addition to which, in our description of the earth and its various peoples,1 we have already made it our care to mention the more celebrated kinds of marble. Still, however, they are not all of them produced from quarries, but in many instances lie scattered just beneath the surface of the earth; some of them the most precious even, the green Lace-dæmonian marble, for example, more brilliant in colour than any other; the Augustan also; and, more recently, the Tiberian; which were first discovered, in the reigns respectively of Augustus and Tiberius, in Egypt. These two marbles differ from ophites2 in the circumstance that the latter is marked with streaks which resemble serpents3 in appearance, whence its name. There is also this difference between the two marbles themselves, in the arrangement of their spots: the Augustan marble has them undulated and curling to a point; whereas in the Tiberian the streaks are white,4 not involved, but lying wide asunder.

Of ophites, there are only some very small pillars known to have been made. There are two varieties of it, one white and soft, the other inclining to black, and hard. Both kinds, it is said, worn as an amulet, are a cure for head-ache, and for wounds inflicted by serpents.5 Some, too, recommend the white ophites as an amulet for phrenitis and lethargy. As a counter-poison to serpents, some persons speak more particularly in praise of the ophites that is known as "tephrias,"6 from its ashy colour. There is also a marble known as "memphites," from the place7 where it is found, and of a nature somewhat analogous to the precious stones. For medicinal purposes, it is triturated and applied in the form of a liniment, with vinegar, to such parts of the body as require cauterizing or incision; the flesh becoming quite benumbed, and thereby rendered insensible to pain.

Porphyrites,8 which is another production of Egypt, is of a red colour: the kind that is mottled with white blotches is known as "leptospsephos."9 The quarries there are able to furnish blocks10 of any dimensions, however large. Vitrasius Pollio, who was steward11 in Egypt for the Emperor Claudius, brought to Rome from Egypt some statues made of this stone; a novelty which was not very highly approved of, as no one has since followed his example. The Egyptians, too, have discovered in Æthiopia the stone known as "basanites;"12 which in colour and hardness resembles iron, whence the name13 that has been given to it. A larger block of it has never been known than the one forming the group which has been dedicated by the Emperor Vespasianus Augustus in the Temple of Peace. It represents the river Nilus with sixteen children sporting around it,14 symbolical of the sixteen cubits, the extreme height15 to which, in the most favourable seasons, that river should rise. It is stated, too, that in the Temple of Serapis at Thebes, there is a block not unlike it, which forms the statue of Memnon16 there; remarkable, it is said, for emitting a sound each morning when first touched by the rays of the rising sun.

1 Books III. IV. V. and VI.

2 The modern Ophite, both Noble, Serpentine, and Common.

3 From the Greek ὄφις, a "serpent."

4 This would appear to be a kind of Apatite, or Augustite, found in crystalline rocks.

5 A superstition, owing solely to the name and appearance of the stone.

6 From the Greek τέφρα, "ashes." The modern Tephroite is a silicate of manganese.

7 Memphis, in Egypt.

8 A variety of the modern Porphyry, possibly; a compact feldspathic base, with crystals of feldspar. Ajasson refuses to identify it with porphyry, and considers it to be the stone called Red antique, of a deep uniform red, and of a very fine grain; which also was a production of Egypt.

9 "Small stone."

10 Of porphyrites.

11 "Procurator."

12 See B. xxxvi. c. 38. See also the Lydian stone, or touchstone, mentioned in B. xxxiii. c. 43.

13 From βάσανος, a "touchstone."

14 Philostratus gives a short account of this group, and copies of it are to be seen in the Vatican, and in the grounds of the Tuilleries.

15 See B. v. c. 10.

16 The Egyptians called it, not Memnon, but Amenophis, and it is supposed that it represented a monarch of the second dynasty. This is probably the statue still to be seen at Medinet Abou, on the Libyan side of the Nile, in a sitting posture, and at least 60 feet in height. The legs, arms, and other parts of the body are covered with inscriptions, which attest that, in the third century of the Christian era, the priests still practised upon the credulity of the devotees, by pretending that it emitted sounds. It may possibly have been erected for astronomical purposes, or for the mystic worship of the sun. The Greek name "Memnon" is supposed to have been derived from the Egyptian Mei Amun, "beloved of Ammon."

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