Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 394: 20-21

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Pliny: Natural History

vero neque ab ea parte, qua digito occultantur,1 auro clusit aurumque millis2 lapillorum vilius fecit. contra vero multi nullas admittunt gemmas auroque ipso signant. id Claudii Caesaris principatu repertum. nec non et servitia iam ferrum auro cingunt—alia per sese mero auro decorant—, cuius licentiae origo nomine ipso in Samothrace id institutum declarat.


Singulis primo digitis geri mos fuerat, qui sunt minimis proximi. sic in Numae et Servi Tullii statuis videmus. postea pollici proximo induere, etiam in3 deorum simulacris, dein iuvit et minimo dare. Galliae Brittanniaeque medio dicuntur usae. hic nunc solus excipitur, ceteri omnes onerantur, atque 25etiam privatim articuli minoribus aliis. sunt qui uni tantum minimo congerant, alii vero et huic tantum unum, quo signantem signent. conditus ille, ut res rara et iniuria usus indigna, velut e sacrario promitur, ut et unum in minimo digito habuisse pretiosioris in recondito supellectilis ostentatio sit. iam alii pondera eorum ostentant. aliis plures quam unum gestare labor est, alii bratteas



sealing documents!a Some gems indeed luxury has left showing in the gold even on the side of the ring that is hidden by the finger, and has cheapened the gold with collars of little pebbles. But on the contrary many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Cæsar was emperor.a.d. 41–54. Moreover even slaves nowadays encircle the iron of their ringsb with gold (other articles all over them they decorate with pure gold), an extravagance the origin of which is shown by its actual namec to have been instituted in Samothrace.

It had originally been the custom to wear rings on one finger only, the one next the little finger; that is how we see them on the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius. Afterwards people put them on the finger next the thumb, even in the case of statues of the gods, and next it pleased them to give the little finger also a ring. The Gallic Provinces and the British Islands are said to have used the middle finger. At the present day this is the only finger exempted, while all the others bear the burden, and even each finger-joint has another smaller ring of its own. Some people put all their rings on their little finger only, while others wear only one ring even on that finger, and use it to seal up their signet ring, which is kept stored away as a rarity not deserving the insult of common use, and is brought out from its cabinet as from a sanctuary; thus even wearing a single ring on the little finger may advertise the possession of a costlier piece of apparatus put away in store. Some again show off the weight of their rings; others count it hard work to wear more than one; and others consider that filling the gold tinsel

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938