Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

If we see very little relation between the countries I have fewn, and those from which the ancients obtained their diamonds, we fhall find still lefs refemblance between the properties they attribute to these stones, and those we now find in them. According to Pliny, the diamond resisted the hammer, and cven made the anvil shake on which they beat it ". They looked upon it as a piece of luck to be able to break it, and it was not poflible to do it but by softening it in hot goats blood, into which they put it to steep p. We do not find any of these properties in our diamonds. Their hardness is not so great, but they will be broke by the hammer as often as you will put them to the proof. They are broken, and even bruised very easily. With regard to the goats blood, we should try in vain to foften our diamond with that receipt; we can only work it with its own powder; that is the only agent that will take hold of this stone.

And I am persuaded, moreover, that it has been the same in all ages. If we find any difference between our diamonds and those of the ancients, it is because all that they have said on this subject is romantic, and little to be depended upon. These inaccuracies are a further proof of the little knowledge they had in antiquity of this precious stone.

The same defects take place in almost all that the ancients have written on precious stones 4. If we were to depend upon what they have written, for example, about emeralds, we must say that they knew a species different from ours, and which we have not. They reckon twelve sorts of these precious stones, which they distinguish by the names of the kingdoms or provinces from whence they believed they were got. I shall not stop to give the particulars of them, we may see it in Pliny'. I fhall only say, that, ac

"L. 37. fe&t. 15.

Et cum feliciter tiimipere contingit, &c. ibid. p. 733. See also Senec. de conftant. fapieni. c. 3. t. 1. p. 395.

P Plin. p. 733.; Paur. 1.8. c. 18. p. 636.
9 See Diod. 1. 3. p. 236.; Strabo, l. 16. p. 1115.
* L. 37. sect. 16.
Vol. II.

Q

cording cording to this author, the emeralds of Scythia and Egypt were the most esteemed f.

We at present only know two sorts of emeralds, the oriental and occidental. Some authors have added a third, which they call the emerald of the old rock. They are much divided about the places from whence these precious stones come to us. According to Herbelot, it is in the neighbourhood of Asuan, a town situated in the Upper Egypt, that they find the only mine of oriental emeralds known in the whole world u. But there is room to doubt of this fact. It is certain that we still find in Egypt many eme, rald mines; but befides that their colour is not beautiful, they are so soft that it is not posible to work them . According to Tavernier, Peru is the only place from whence emeralds come: he affirms that the east never produced anyy, and he is not singular in his opinion ?. Chardin, on the contrary, says, that they now get them in Pegu, in the kingdom of Golconda, and on the coast of Coromandel -. We may add the kingdom of Calcutta and the ille of Ceylon, where Pyrard allures us they find many, and those most beautifulb. With regard to emeralds of the old rock, Chardin says he has seen in Persia many of this fort, which they told him came from an ancient mine in Egypt, the knowledge of which is at present lost«,

In fact, it is very dubious whether we know at present any of the twelve sorts of emeralds named by the ancients. For it is very problematical as to those at present got from the east, many persons believing they only come from America.

We no longer find the qualities in our emeralds, which the ancients attributed to some of these stones. Pliny affirms, that the emeralds of Scythia and Egypt were so hard that they could not be worked d. On the contrary, we have no stone more tender nor which fçratches more easily; 'tis for this reason that they do not often risk the ingraving it. An artist who has not a steady hand, is in perpetual danger of rubbing off the brilliant angles *. Besides, we cannot comprehend on what was founded the observation of Pliny, that in general it was not allowed to ingrave on the emerald e. Ancient history fays quite the contrary. The ring which Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, threw into the sea, and which was afterwards found again in the belly of a fish, was an emerald ingraved by Theodorus, a celebrated artist of antiquity.f. Theophrastus also relates that many persons used to have emerald seals to please the fight s. Lastly, Pli. ny himself had before him many examples of these stones ingraved.

i Plin. fect. 17.
· Mercure Indien. c. 7. p. 18.; Taver. part. 2. 1. 2. C. 10. p. 228.
u Bibl. orient. voce Aju111, p. 141.
* Maillet, defcript. de l’Egypte, p. 307, & 318.
y Second part. I. 2. c. 19. P. 293. & 29.1.
2 See le Miercure Indien. c. 7. a T. 4. p. 70.
6 Voyage de F. Pyrard part. 1. p. 286. part. 2. p. 89.
ET, 2. p. 239. T. 4. p. 69. & 70.

that

The ancients have thought proper to propagate many tales about emeralds. They say, that, in the isle of Cyprus, there was on the sea-shore a lion of marble whose eyes were of emeralds. These stones they pretend were fo lively, that their lustre penetrated to the bottom of the fea. The tunny filh were frightened by them, and deserted that thore. The fishermen not knowing what to attribute this accident to, suspected that it might be occasioned by the emeralds of which the eyes of the lion in question were made. They took them away, and immediately the fishes returned in as greaty plenty as before i.

Herodotus assures us that he had seen in the temple of Hercules, at Tyre, a column of only one emerald which gave a very great light at night. Theophrastus reports, , from the Egyptian annals, but without appearing to give

L. 37. feet. 16. * See Mariette traité des pierres, t. 1. p. 166. Loco fupra, cit. f Herod. lib. 3. 1. 41.; Paus.l. 8. C.14. & Delapid. p. 39-4.

See l. 37. sect. 3. P: 765. 1 Plin. l. 37. Sect. 17. p. 775. k L. 2. n. 44.

Theophrastus, who speaks of this column, adds, that it was very large; but does not say that it spread a light in the night; belides, he suspects that perhaps it was not a true enterald, but a bastard Rone, a falfe emerald. De lpid. p. 394. & 395. Q2

much

much credit to them, that a king of Babylon had made a present to a king of Egypt, of an emerald four cubits long and three broad'. He, adds that the Egyptians boasted also of having in their temple of Jupiter an obelisk of forty cubits in height and four in breadth, composed of four emeraldsm. Another writer pretends, that, in his time, they still had in the labyrinth of Egypt a colossal statue of the god Serapis, nine cubits high, which was only of one emerald ". Cedrenus lastly assures us, that, in the reign of the Emperor Theodosius, they saw at Constantinople a statue of Minerva of one emerald four cubits high. This was, say they, a present made formerly by Sesostris to the King of the Lydi. ans •. Tradition also says that Hermes Trismegisthus had graved upon one of these stones the process for the great work, and had it buried with him p. Without doubt these rclations appear very fabulous and greatly exaggerated. We fhould be tempted, at first light, absolutely to reject them. But yet let us examine what could produce them, and what could have been the foundation of them.

I know not at present of any emeralds in any place of the size of those I have mentioned, nor even that come near them. They shew, it is true, at Genoa a vase of a considerable size, which they pretend is an emerald. But I think I have strong reasons to doubt whether it be truly a fine stone * : I shall therefore range it in the class of those works to which they have improperly given the name of emerald 9. But whence comes the error? what can have occasioned it? 'Tis about this I am going to propose some conjectures.

We might say that all the astonishing works of which I

1 Ibid. p. 394:

[ocr errors]

m Ibid. n Apion. apud. Plin. l. 37. sect. 19. p. 776.

Page 322. P This is what the alchymists call even at this time the emerald table. See Conringius de Hermet, Med. 1. 1. c. 3. P. 31.; Fabricius, bibl. Gr. t. 1. 1. 1. C. 10. p. 68.

* This vase is full of blasts and bubbles, a proof that it is only coloured glass. Mercure de France, Aout 1757. p. 149. & 150.

9 See l’Escarbot hift. de la N. France, p. 847.; Le Mercure Indien. c. 7. p. 21.; Joum. des fcay. Nov. 1685. p. 282.

have spoken, were made of that species of stone called base emerald. It is found in pieces of a considerable size; we may have seen tables of a very great extent. This explication is not absolutely without probability, and in some sort would clear up the difficulty. But I prefer the following one.

The art of making glass is a discovery which goes back to very remote antiquity. The ancients used to work and cast pieces much more considerable than we do at present. I shall only give for example those columns of glass with which the theatre built by the care of Scaurus was ornamented". The ancients knew likewise the art of giving to glass all sorts of colours. I should think then that those astonishing works which Herodotus, Pliny, and the other authors say were of emerald, were only coloured glass. The facts, by this means, become probable. By this hypothesis, it is easy, for example, to explain the particularities of the column which was seen in the temple of Hercules of Tyre. Herodotus says it was of emerald, and that it gave at night a great light. Now, in my opinion, it was a column of glass, of the colour of an emerald. It might be hollow, and they might put lamps within which would make it look luminous during the night.

I find in an ancient author a fact which confirms perfely the explication I propose. We read in the seventh book of the recognitions of Saint Clement ", that St Peter was desired to go into a temple in the isle of Arad *, to see there a work worthy of admiration. These were columns of glass of an extraordinary height and fize. Is it not probable that Herodotus meant some such work as this? But the Greeks, instead of speaking just the fact, have, according to their custom, imagined a column of emerald, which thon during the night. Let us add likewise, that it might happen that Herodotus was deceived by the artifice of the Tyrian priests.

[ocr errors]

• Plin. l. 36. sect. 24. p. 744.

i Ibid. sect. 66.67. & l. 37. fect. 26., t L. 2. 3. 44: ų N. 12. t. 1. p. 555. apud patres apostolic. edit. Antuerp. 1698. in fo!. * It was in this ise that the Tyre of which Herodotus speaks was built.

« ElőzőTovább »