Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 353: 246-247

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Book IX

cut in two pieces, so that half a helping of the jewel might be in each of the ears of Venus in the Pantheon at Rome.

LIX. Theya will not carry off this trophy,An earlier pearl-story. and will be robbed even of the record for luxury! A predecessor had done this at Rome in the case of pearls of great value, Clodius, the son of the tragic actor Aesopus, who had left him his heir in a vast estate; so that Antony cannot take too much pride in his triumvirate when compared with one who was virtually an actor, and who had indeed been led on to this display not by any wager—which would make it more royal—but to discover by experiment, for the honour of his palate, what is the exact flavour of pearls; and when they proved marvellously acceptable, in order not to keep the knowledge to himself he gave his guests also a choice pearl apiece to swallow.

Fenestella records that they came into commonWhen introduced at Rome. use at Rome after the reduction of Alexandria under our sway,b but that small and cheap pearls first came in about the period of Sullac—which is clearly a mistake, as Aelius Stilo states that the distinctive name was given to large pearls just at the time of the warsd of Jugurtha.

LX. And nevertheless this article is an almost everlasting piece of property—it passes to its owner’s heir, it is offered for public sale like some landed estate; whereas every hour of use wears away robes of scarlet and purple, which the same mother, luxury, has made almost as costly as pearls. Purples live seven years at most. They stayHabits of the purple and the murex. in hiding like the murex for 30 days at the time of the rising of the dog-star. They collect into shoals in spring-time, and their rubbing together causes

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938