Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 353: 242-243


Book IX

more than one scruple. It is established that small pearls of poor colour grow in Britain,a since the late lamented Julius desired it to be known that the breastplate which he dedicated to Venus Genetrix in her temple was made of British pearls.

LVIII. I have seen Lollia Paulina, who becamePearls of exceptional value. the consort of Gaius, not at some considerable or solemn ceremonial celebration but actually at an ordinary betrothal banquet, covered with emeralds and pearls interlaced alternately and shining all over her head, hair, ears, neck and fingers, the sum total amounting to the value of 40,000,000 sesterces,b she herself being ready at a moment’s notice to give documentary proof of her title to them; nor had they been presents from an extravagant emperor, but ancestral possessions, acquired in fact with the spoil of the provinces. This is the final outcome of plunder, it was for this that Marcus Lollius disgraced himself by taking gifts from kings in the whole of the East, and was cut out of his list of friends by Gaius Caesar son of Augustus and drank poison—that his granddaughter should be on show in the lamplight covered with 40,000,000 sesterces! Now let some one reckon up on one side of the account how much Curius or Fabricius carried in their triumphs, and picture to himself the spoils they displayed, and on the other side Lollia, a single little lady reclining at the Emperor’s side—and would he not think it better that they should have been dragged from their chariots than have won their victories with this result? Nor are these the topmost instances of luxury. There have been two pearls that were theCleopatra’s pearls. largest in the whole of history; both were owned by Cleopatra, the last of the Queens of Egypt—they

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938