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Alexandrinus quoted above. These weighty rings were probably badges of office under the Empire, for we find one specified among the various insignia and allowances, some singular enough,7 ordered by the Emperor Valerian to be made to Claudius Gothicus on his appointment as Tribune of the Fifth Legion—(Treb. Pollio Valerian). "Two brooches in silver-gilt; one brooch in gold, with a copper pin; one double-gemmed ring of an ounce weight; one bracelet of seven ounces; one neckchain of one pound." This term annulus bigemmem is difficult to explain, for no antique rings occur set with two gems, though they do with three. I suspect that bigemmem refers to the stone itself, and means a gem of two colours, as the Nicolo, so often found in these massy rings. One weighing an ounce was found, 1836, near Bristol, set with an Onyx, engraved with a head of Augustus in a good style; and Caylus V., cxn., gives one of very elegant form, the gem of which is a Nicolo engraved with the letters Q.b.h. The shape of these rings at once shews for which finger they were designed, being nearly triangular, the base of the triangle being the head of the ring; so that in spite of their weight they sit very comfortably on the little finger and on that alone, and are much less inconvenient to wear than one would have expected from their bulky proportions. Some Etruscan rings occur, in which the face of the ring is an elliptical plate adorned with figures in outline, generally Sphinxes: these were merely intended as ornamental, not as signet rings. I have met with but one Etruscan intaglio, not a scarab, in its antique gold setting, which was a large case of thin gold plate, in which the Sard was fixed and surrounded by several folds of plaited wire, forming a broad bizzel around the stone. The shank was a thick round wire
7 As " dims eximias mulieres ex captivis."
soldered on to the side of the case, with two gold balls on each side of the junction.
We have seen Pliny's remark that the Gauls and Britons were the only nations who wore rings on the middle finger (which he appears to consider a truly barbarian fashion), but what these rings were is not known, unless the large bronze plain hoops, so often found amongst ancient remains in this country, were of this nature. Perhaps the smaller specimens of the so-called "Ring Money" were used for this purpose, for nothing like an intaglio8 ring can be assigned to these nations before the period of their subjugation by the Eomans; although numerous relics attest their skill in working gold into various tasteful ornaments. The abundance of this metal in Gaul was such in ancient times that the produce of Caesar's campaigns in that region lowered the value of gold at Rome by nearly one-third.
The Gallic gold coins of native unrefined metal, rude imitations of the staters of Philip, are still numerous in cabinets, and appear to have been current in Gaul even under the latest emperors. In no other way can we explain the edict of Majorian, "Let no tax-collector refuse to take a solidus of full weight, except it be that Gallic solidus which is rated at a lower value on account of the quality of the gold." Now these ancient autonomous pieces are all coined of the metal in its native state, containing a large percentage of silver (which can only be separated by a skilful metallurgist); whereas all the imperial gold currency, even of the Gallic tyrants, as Postumus and Victorinus, is of the purest metal.9 It is my belief that most of the "King Money " was used as articles of personal ornament, and that the form with large cup-shaped extremities served as a button for fastening round the neck the large and heavy (iallic "sagum" or mantle, each end passing through an opposite button-hole like a pair of modern studs.
"One intaglio, however, has come also lately seen a silver ring, of an
under my notice which was consi- extremely grotesque and barbarous
dered by its owner (whose opinion fabric, the shank being an attempted
is of the greatest weight with me) representation of caryatid figures;
to have been the work of a Gallic instead of an engraved stone it was
artist. It was an oval bead, of pale set with a large silver coin, one of
Amethyst, engraved with a wild the common imitations of the di
boar, and in a very peculiar style, drachm of Philip, and both its make
exactly agreeing with that of the and its substitute for a gem fully
same type so often occurring on the indicate its Celtic origin. reverse of the Gallic coins. I have
Let us now speak of Iron Rings, the common wear of the Romans of all degrees under the republic, the ornament of the martial metal well beseeming the descendants of the god of war. Here too we can appropriately introduce the poet's fabled origin of this decoration of the hand. "Jupiter having at length been moved to release Prometheus from his chains, in which he had sworn to keep him for ever, to save his conscience and yet keep his oath to the letter, obliged the freed prisoner to wear always on his finger a ring made out of the iron of his fetters and set with a fragment
9 Such continued the rule till late century are equal to our present in the Byzantine period, even the standard for the sovereign, bezants of the Comneni in the 12th
of the rock to which he had been chained." When Marius rode in triumph, both the general, and the slave standing behind, had iron rings on their fingers, and the fashion continued universal to the very end of the Republic. This fact explains the existence of the large number of good intagli we meet with that have been originally set in iron, though the rings themselves have generally been reduced to masses of shapeless rust. A few, however, having chanced to be buried in dry sand have come down to us uninjured, and in some of them it will be observed that the gem was set open; an example of which was a fine and large Carbuncle engraved with a Canopic vase, now in the Fould Collection. This mode of setting intagli was very unusual with the ancients: in most rings the stones were backed with a plate of gold to prevent the rust from shewing through and thus marring the beauty of the gem. One of the finest Koman intagli I have ever met with is set open in an iron ring, and is a portrait of Massanissa; perhaps has been worn by Scipio himself; the merit of the engraving proves that it must have been executed for a person of high position.
Under the early republic the senators alone had the privilege of wearing rings of gold, for they are said to have taken off their rings to mark their sense of what they considered a public calamity—the publication of the Dies Fasti, by Cn. Flavius, the secretary of Appius Caucus, and liis election as tribune of the people in consequence, B.C. 305. On the same occasion the knights laid aside their silver horsetrappings, for a gold ring was not made the distinction of that class until the reign of Tiberius; for even under Augustus the greater part of that body still wore the ancient ring of iron. By the law passed under Tiberius, no one was allowed to wear one of gold unless he was of free birth, his father and grandfather rated at 400 sestertia (40002.), and had the right of sitting among the fourteen rows in the theatre allotted by the Julian law to the Equestrian Order (Pliny, xxiii 8). Before this law was passed any one might wear a gold ring who pleased, by which fact Pliny explains the three bushels of gold rings collected at Cannae, as showing how universal the fashion had become at that time; and C. Sulpicius Galba, under Tiberius, had complained that the very tavern-keepers presumed to usurp this ornament. But even under Augustus some senators (old Conservatives no doubt) still retained the republican ring of iron, as Calpuruius, and Mauilius who had been lieutenant of Marius in the Jugurthine war, and L. Fufidius. In the family of the Quinctii not even the ladies were allowed to wear any ornaments of gold. The Lacedemonians of Pliny's age also adhered to the precept of Lycurgus, and only wore rings of iron, which custom they retained to a much later period; for Phlegon, writing in the next century, wliile relating his most ghastly of all ghost stories,10 with which his book on 'Wonderful Things' opens, speaks of the iron ring of Machatas, exchanged by him for the gold one with which Philinnion, his spectre-bride, had been buried. But under the empire rings of this metal had soon become degraded into a badge of servitude with the Romans; for Apnleius, in mentioning a money bag sealed by a slave, speaks of the iron signet ring which he, as a slave, was wearing on his finger. Hence the wealthy freedmen used to wear them gilt. Many of these are still preserved. They went by the name of Sainothracian rings in that age. Thus the rich Trimalchio, originally a slave, though he proves to his admiring guests, by actually weighing them in their presence, that the gold