BOOK 33. GOLD AND SILVER IN ROMAN SOCIETY
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BOOK 33. GOLD AND SILVER IN ROMAN SOCIETY book
The Moral and Social Significance of Gold After this not very encouraging introduction Pliny proceeds to gold and silver, the subjects of Book 33, but instead of treating these metals in a metallurgical context he expands on the thought of the moral implications from the introduction:
Gold and silver are extracted along with gold-solder, which has kept its name, derived from the word gold, to make it seem more valuable than it is. For it would have been too insignificant only to have found one source for the destruction oflife when in fact there also was some value in the liquid excretion of gold. In our avarice we sought silver and we were content to have found minium by the way and thought of an application for this red earth. What a waste of intellect. In how many ways have we not made the prices rise. The art of drawing were added, and we made gold and silver more valuable by engraving. Man has learned to challenge Nature. The means to excite our vices has also advanced art, and people entertain themselves by
Proxime dicantur aeris metalla, cui et in usu proximum est pretium .... and 35, 1: Metallorum, quibus opes constant
170. 33, 2-3: lmus in uiscera et in sede manium opes quaerimus, tamquam parum benigna fertilique qua calcatur. Et inter haec minimum remediorum gratia scrutamur; quoto enim cuique fodiendi causa medicina est? Quamquam et hoc summa sui parte tribuit ut fruges, largafacilisque in omnibus quaecumque prosunt. IlIa nos peremunt, ilia nos ad inferos agunt, quae occultauit atque demersit, ilia quae non nascuntur repente, ut mens ad inane euolans reputet, quae deindefutura sitfinis omnibus saeculis exhauriendi eam, quo usque penetratura auaritia. Quam innocens, quam beata, immo uero etiam delicata esset uita, si nihil aliunde quam supra terras concupisceret, breuiterque, nisi quod secum est! Cf. Hor. Od. 3, 3, 49-50 and Sen. Ep. 94, 56 (about Nature): Nihil qua auaritiam nostram inritaret posuit in aperto.