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With a beginning such as this, the value set upon precious stones increased to such a boundless extent, that Polycrates,1 the tyrant of Samos, who ruled over the islands and the adjacent shores, when he admitted that his good fortune had been too great, deemed it a sufficient expiation for all this enjoyment of happiness, to make a voluntary sacrifice of a single precious stone; thinking thereby to balance accounts with the inconstancy of fortune, and, by this single cause for regret, abundantly to buy off every ill-will she might entertain. Weary, therefore, of his continued prosperity, he embarked on board a ship, and, putting out to sea, threw the ring which he wore into the waves. It so happened, however, that a fish of remarkable size, one destined for the table of a king, swallowed the jewel, as it would have done a bait; and then, to complete the portentous omen, restored it again to the owner in the royal kitchen, by the ruling hand of a treacherous2 fortune.

The stone in this ring, it is generally agreed, was a sardonyx,3 and they still show one at Rome, which, if we believe the story, was this identical stone. It is enclosed in a horn of gold, and was deposited, by the Emperor Augustus, in the Temple of Concord, where it holds pretty nearly the lowest rank among a multitude of other jewels that are preferable to it.

1 See B. xxxiii. c. 6.

2 For ultimately, Oroetes, the satrap of Sardes, contrived to allure him into his power, and had him crucified, B.C. 522. Fuller, in his Worthies, p. 370, tells a very similar story of the loss and recovery of his ring by one Anderson, a merchant of Newcastle-on-Tyne; and Zuinglius gives a similar statement with reference to Arnulph, duke of Lorraine, who dropped his ring into the Moselle, and recovered it from the belly of a fish.

3 See Chapter 23. According to Herodotus, Pausanias, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Suidas, the stone was an emerald; and Lessing thinks that there was no figure engraved on it. See Chapter 4 of this Book. Without vouching for the truth of it, we give the following extract from the London Journal, Vol. xxiii. No. 592. "A vine-dresser of Albano, near Rome, is said to have found in a vineyard, the celebrated ring of Polycrates.—The stone is of considerable size, and oblong in form. The engraving on it, by Theodore of Samos, the son of Talikles, is of extraordinary fineness and beauty. It represents a lyre, with three bees flying about; below, on the right, a dolphin; on the left, the head of a bull. The name of the engraver is inscribed in Greek characters. The upper surface of the stone is slightly concave, not highly polished, and one corner broken. It is asserted that the possessor has been offered 50,000 dollars for it."

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